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Apr 18, 2012

Ephesians Study: Who was Paul?

Who was Paul?
Before I dive into Ephesians I believe its first important to know about its author, Paul.

Saul of Tarsus
Roman Empire


The voice was clear. "Yes Lord," Ananias answered.

"Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you arrive, ask for a man from Taurus. His name is Saul. He has just had a vision in which he saw a man named Ananias come in and lay hands on him so he could see again."

"But Lord," Ananias exclaimed, " everyone's been talking about this man and the terrible things he's done to the believers in Jerusalem. And now he's shown up here in Damascus with papers from the Chief Priest, authorizing him to arrest every believer in town."

But Jesus said, "Go! I've picked Saul as my personal representative to take My message to the Gentiles, to kings, and to the people of Israel. I'm about to show him what he must suffer for My name."

Ananias obeyed Jesus and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, whom you saw on your way here, sent me so you could see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit." Instantly, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up, was baptized, and then sat down and ate a hearty meal.

Saul stayed with the believers in Damascus for a few days. Then he went right to work, preaching in the meeting places, saying, "Jesus is the Son of God!" 

Everyone who heard him was amazed. "Isn't this the same man who persecuted Jesus' followers so badly in Jerusalem? Didn't he come here to drag more Christians off to jail?"

Saul preached boldly in the name of the Lord all over Jerusalem. When the Jews there attempted to kill him, the other believers got him safely out of town, took him Caesarea, and then sent him on to his hometown of Tarsus.

It was God's plan for Paul to write the Bible, not to die as a zealous new convert!

In the following years, Saul, who had changed his name to Paul, escaped death repeatedly. An angry mob in Iconium tried to stone him along with his friend Barnabas, but they were able to escape to Lystra. Another time, the Jews from Iconium who were chasing Paul and Barnabas were able to turn a murderous mob against them.  They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, leaving him for dead. But when the disciples gathered around him, Paul was miraculously able to stand and walk back into the city. The next morning Paul and Barnabas left for Derbe.

Time and again, Paul was caught, and time and again, he escaped. He was thrown into prison in Philippi, but in the night God sent and earthquake. The prison doors were opened and Paul's chains fell off. Later, he was imprisoned in Jerusalem until forty men swore to neither eat nor drink until they saw Paul dead. When the Romans found out, they moved him to Caesarea. He was in jail there for two years, then sent to Rome to be tried there before Caesar. On the way, he survived shipwreck only to be bitten by a deadly snake. Paul shook off the snake into the fire, preached the Gospel, and many were saved.

In a brief letter to the Corinth, Paul gives a brief account of all his sufferings: "I have worked harder, been put in jail more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jews gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and day adrift at sea."

"I have traveled many miles. I have faced danger from flooded rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the stormy seas. I have faced danger from men who claim to be Christians and are not. I have lived with weariness and pain and sleepless nights. Often I have been hungry and thirty and have gone without food. Often I have shivered with cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm" (2 Corinthians 11:23-27).

Paul survived all this and finally reached Rome around 55AD. There, he was put under house arrest until his trial before Caesar. Most ancient writers agree that, although nearly all his friends left him, he defended himself before Caesar so cleverly that he was set free for a time. After more missionary journeys, he was again arrested, and by this time being a follower of Jesus carried the death penalty.

As Paul's execution drew near, God prepared his heart. He wrote his spiritual son Timothy, "Now the time has come for me to die. My life is like a drink offering being poured out on the alter. I have fought well, I have finished the race, and I have been faithful. So a crown will be given to me for pleasing the Lord" (2Timothy 4:6-8).

Finally, Paul was sentenced to death. Because he was a Roman citizen, he was not tortured like so many of the believers were during Nero's reign, but was beheaded outside the city. He was approximately 64 years old.

Grace to You,

Jesus Freaks by DC Talk and The Voice of the Martyrs
Chronology of Apostle Paul's Journey

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