apostle paul

Apostle Paul: The Final Story of a Life Lived for the Lord

I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:13

When Paul returned to Jerusalem, he was initially well-received. He had brought money for the local community from the many churches he had started. But over time, his desire to speak of the heart of God as opposed to the law of God irritated some of the more traditional locals. Eventually, he was run out of a local temple and nearly killed. Centurions rescued him because of his birth status as a Roman citizen.

He was whisked off to Caesarea and imprisoned from 57 AD to 59 AD. During this time, a new Roman governor took control and opened Paul’s case. Not wanting to be tried in Caesarea, Paul asked if, as a Roman citizen, he could be sent back to Rome to stand trial.

He was.

The journey to Rome was difficult; he was shipwrecked near Malta. The people of Malta showed him unusual kindness before he continued on to Rome. While in Rome, he was put under house arrest but given the freedom to preach while he waited for his trial. By then, three years had passed, and it was now 62 AD. Paul’s biblical story ends here.

One legend has it that he was freed and traveled to Spain to continue to spread the good news of the Bible. Other legends say he was beheaded on orders from Nero.

It is believed that, after his death, he was buried outside the walls of Rome, and in 325 AD, Emperor Constantine built a church on his gravesite.

What had Paul accomplished in his lifetime? In the beginning, he was the great persecutor of the early members of The Way, but he was ultimately converted and evangelized throughout the Roman empire.

Fourteen of the books in the New Testament were either written by or attributed to Paul—more than half of the twenty-seven books in the New Testament. Scholars are sure he personally wrote Romans, first and second Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, first Thessalonians, and Philemon.

When you read these books, you are actually reading letters that Paul wrote to churches.

Amazing!

While Romans is first in the New Testament, it was actually written after the other six books. Romans was written in 57 AD, while the others range from between 50 and 56 AD. Scholars believe Romans was chosen as the first book because of its matured theology.

The book of Romans, more formally known as the Epistle to the Romans, is considered Paul’s masterpiece. It is a wonderful book filled with subtleties and extensive theology. The Epistle is believed to be have been written in Corinth. Even though Paul had not been to Rome at the time of the writing, he knew of those in Rome who had started to believe. This letter was designed to help them grow in their faith.

Galatians, written earlier, is similar to Romans but less dense and shows Paul’s developing theology. But its impact on Romans is very profound.

The other seven books, Colossians, Second Thessalonians, Ephesians, First and Second Timothy, Titus, and Hebrews, were written by students of Paul, who used his name. It was common in the first few centuries after the birth of Christ to write in someone else’s name. It wasn’t considered wrong, but honorific.

Besides Paul’s impact on the Bible, he was the person directly responsible for changing a backwater sect of Judaism— called The Way—into Christianity.

Ironically, the roads the Romans used to control their empire were the same roads Paul walked. In turn, the religion the Romans tried to suppress for many years was grown because of their own infrastructure. In the early part of the fourth century, after centuries of persecution, Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire. It would later become known as the Holy Roman Empire, which controlled most of Europe for the next millennium.

There are many facets to the story of Paul.

He was the first brave missionary of a worldwide faith that now has over two billion followers. By 2050, this small group of believers from Judea will have grown from two billion in 2019, to nearly three billion believers. Paul started the journey that many others are now finishing.

The End

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Dr. Bruce L. Hartman is the author of Jesus & Co. and Your Faith Has Made You Well.

Photo by Adrian Dascal on Unsplash