The Messiah Comes
At long last, Jesus the Messiah had been born in Bethlehem. He came out of Nazareth preaching, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The long-awaited Davidic King had not met the expectations of the Jews, He had not raised a sword, but had been crucified on a cross (Passover, Friday, April 3, A.D. 33).
On the third day, Sunday, He rose triumphantly from the dead. Forty days after Passover, He ascended into heaven. Ten days passed and Pentecost arrived and so did the promised Holy Spirit. Christ’s eleven apostles plus one untimely born were entrusted with the Good News of the New Covenant and they turned the world upside down. This is a study of the apostle untimely born and his teachings.
The Champion of Christianity
Very early in the history of Christianity there came a time when it seemed in danger of withering into just another sect of Judaism, such as the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes and Zealots. Christianity looked like it might even be destroyed by a persecutor named Saul. Ironically, that very man would champion its great role as a world religion.
The apostle Paul stands forever as the foremost ambassador of Christ, the ablest advocate of Christianity, its most constructive aptitude, its dominant animation, its most fearless champion, its most illustrious and influential theologian, preacher, teacher, missionary, traveler, and its most distinguished prisoner and martyr.
It is by his Roman name that history knows Paul (paulov Paulos “small or little”). But the name his Hebrew parents gave him when on the eighth day of life he was circumcised is Saul (saulov Saulos “desired). Additionally, he would have had a family name but it is unknown. From Acts 13:9 forward, Saul is known by his Roman name Paul, which appears 209 times.
Paul, first known as Saul of Tarsus, was born a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin. His upbringing was thoroughly Jewish in every way. He was also particularly fortunate in being born into a family on which Roman citizenship had been conferred, and He was especially proud of this privilege. Like many of the Jews in Tarsus he inherited Roman citizenship, probably granted by the Romans as a reward for mercenary service in the previous century.
He was educated in the city of Jerusalem at the school of the famous teacher Gamaliel, according to the strictest interpretation of the Jewish Law as laid down by the Pharisees. He boasted that he was a Hebrew of Hebrews, and of descent from Abraham. He was so zealous for the traditions of his people that he soon advanced in his religious faith far beyond most of his contemporaries. He could even claim to be almost faultless in his obedience to the Old Testament Law. (Acts 21:39; 22:3; 22:28; Galatians 1:13-14; Philippians 3:5-6).
Paul’s thirteen letters constitute one fourth of the NT. These letters written over the span of eighteen years establish Paul as the most prominent theologian of Christianity. His writings provide the framework within which Christian faith and life are seen to be in harmony with, yet distinct, from the system of faith life found in the OT.
Chapters 13-28 of Acts are as much the story of Paul as the spread of Christianity to the ends of earth— the two being inseparable. Acts documents Paul’s three missionary journeys and his trip to Rome as a prisoner. The events of Paul’s life are gleaned from his letters, Acts and historical events, but many dates are best guesses. See details on chart: Chronology of Paul’s Life.
Conversion & Damascus 34
Arabia & Damascus 34-36
First Visit to Jerusalem 37
Tarsus, Cilicia & Syria 37-48
Antioch of Syria 46
Second Visit to Jerusalem 47
First Missionary Journey 48-49
Antioch of Syria 50
Conference at Jerusalem 50
Second Missionary Journey 51-53
Third Missionary Journey 54-57
Arrest in Jerusalem 57
Prisoner at Caesarea 57-59
Voyage to Rome 59-60
Arrival in Rome 60
Release from House Arrest 62
Fourth Missionary Journey 62-66
Second Imprisonment at Rome 66
Martyred by Nero 67