Saul of Tarsus was another Jew from the tribe of Benjamin. He was trained as a Pharisee under a man named Gamaliel. The Bible describes Gamaliel as a doctor of the law and a distinguished member of the Jewish Council.
Gamaliel was an unexpected ally for Peter and the other Apostles. Once, the Apostles were put in prison for miraculously healing people and attracting multitudes of new believers, the angel of the Lord opened their prison doors and brought them out. He instructed them to go to the temple and speak to the people regarding Jesus the Messiah. The high priest and the council were furious and intended to kill them. Gamaliel stood up and said,:
“Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counselor this work be of men, it will come to nothing: but if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it; lest haply you be found even to fight against God” (Acts 5:38-39).
While he may have saved their lives, Gamaliel’s real motive was to keep the Council from being divided over them and to avoid arousing the Romans.
Saul showed no such restraint with dealing with the new Christian disciples. Stephen was one of these early disciples. He was a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit. Stephen was stoned to death by the Jewish religious leaders for his condemnation of them regarding their unbelief and murder of Jesus.
“When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.
Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.
And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep” (Acts 7:57-60).
The Bible says Saul was consenting unto his death. At that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem . Most of the disciples were scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria.
“As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison” (Acts 8:3).
“Saul even went to the high priest and received letters to travel all the way to Damascus in Syria to bring back Christians in chains to Jerusalem. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: and he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ And he said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’
And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you persecute: it is hard for you to kick against the pricks. [The phrase means that Saul was only hurting himself in his actions because he was rebelling against God.]And he trembling and astonished said, ‘Lord, what will you have me do?’ And the Lord said unto him, ‘Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told you what you must do.’
And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.”
The Lord spoke by way of a vision to a disciple by the name of Ananias, and told him where he was to find Saul of Tarsus. Ananias was quite concerned because Saul’s reputation as a persecutor of Christians preceded him:
“But the Lord said unto him, Go your way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: for I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:15).
Ananias did as the Lord commanded. He found Saul and relayed this message:
“Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto you in the way as you came, has sent me, that you might receive your sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 9:17). “And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized” (Acts 9:18).
Saul began preaching in the synagogues at Damascus , that Jesus is the Son of God. Those that heard him were amazed that this was the same man that had been persecuting the disciples in Jerusalem. The religious Jews in Damascus were so infuriated that they made plans to kill Saul, but he discovered their plot and escaped. Saul left Damascus and traveled to Arabia , where he lived for three years.
As a result of this miraculous transformation, Saul became known as Paul (his Greek name). Paul spent time in Arabia, Damascus, Jerusalem, Syria and his native Cilicia, and Barnabas enlisted his help to teach those in the church in Antioch (Acts 11:25). Ironically, the Christians driven out of Palestine by Saul of Tarsus founded this multiracial church (Acts 11:19-21).
Eventually, Paul became known as “the apostle to the Gentiles” as he traveled throughout the Middle East and even to Rome proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. Along the way, he duplicated many of Jesus’ miracles; including healings, freeing people of demon possession, and even raising of the dead. He did this in Jesus’ name and by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Paul wrote many of the New Testament books. Most theologians are in agreement that he wrote Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Philemon, Ephesians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. These 13 “letters” (books) make up the “Pauline Authorship (Epistles)” and are the primary source of his theology. Some scholars believe he also wrote Hebrews.
The book of Acts gives us a historical look at Paul’s life and times. The apostle Paul spent his life proclaiming the risen Christ Jesus throughout the Roman world, often at great personal peril (2 Corinthians 11:24-27). Paul became the greatest missionary, evangelist, and author the world has ever known. It is assumed that Paul died a martyr’s death in the mid-to-late 60s A.D. in Rome .
Saul/Paul started out in life as a success in the eyes of the world. He was a devout religious Jew (a Pharisee), a scholar, and also a Roman citizen. But in the eyes of the Lord, he was an utter failure in spiritual matters. He was merely a religious zealot …killing and imprisoning Jesus’ followers/believers because they did not conform to his interpretation of the law of Moses.
It took an act of God for Paul to understand His truth and to do His will. And what is the will of God?
“And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which sees the Son, and believes on him may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40).
Saul/Paul may not have started out well (spiritually) in God’s view, but he sure did finish well! He finished his life as one of God’s great champions of the faith. Here are a few of Paul’s own quotes regarding the subject of doing God’s will unto the very end:
“Know you not that they which run in a race run all, but one receives the prize? So run, that you may obtain. And every man that strives for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible.
I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beats the air: but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, myself should be a castaway” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
“But this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).
“For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
Are you ready for your crown of righteousness as a son or daughter of the most High God? Here is what you have to do according to the Bible: Finish the race, finish the fight, and finish your life well by doing the will of God and believing in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.
It’s that simple.