The Apostle Paul
THE LAST APOSTLE
(Ministry from roughly 35AD to 65AD)
Scene from the movie: Paul – Apostle of Christ
Paul wrote most of the New Testament, 14 letters in all. Because of their importance, they are placed directly after the historical books (the 4 Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles). His letters to the churches are arranged in order of length (longest to shortest). Then come the personal letters he wrote to individuals. Finally the book of Hebrews, since about three centuries into church history some began to argue that Paul did not write this letter, even though the earliest church happily accepted it as his writing. His letters therefore are as follows:
I & II THESSALONIANS
I & II TIMOTHY
Paul's unique insight
Paul is different from the other apostles in that he was the only one converted after Jesus' resurrection. This means that he was not a disciple of Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry. Instead Paul was taught his doctrine by divine revelation from heaven - from the risen, glorified Lord. This gave him a uniquely heavenly perspective on both Christianity and the divinity of Jesus Christ. We believe this is the reason he had such deep insight, so that even the other apostles could not add anything to his doctrine.
Paul was originally called Saul of Tarsus, a well educated, fervent Pharisee who saw the Christian church as a threat to Judaism. He persecuted and martyred Christians in Jerusalem and had just received the licence to take his mission further abroad to Damascus, when (in roughly 34AD), Jesus appeared to him along the road. He was struck blind and powerfully converted. After receiving back his sight, he went into Arabia and spent 3 years alone, being taught by the Lord. Then he visited Jerusalem to speak with the Apostle Peter for 15 days, presumably to confirm his understanding of the gospel. After this he returned to his home town of Tarsus where he preached the gospel for 14 years. Barnabas then brought him to minister in Antioch (which became his new home-base from then on). Roughly a year later, Paul and Barnabas travelled to Jerusalem taking the church supplies to relieve the famine they were experiencing. It was in Jerusalem that Paul was given the right hand of apostolic fellowship by the three leading apostles, namely Peter, John and James.
From there the Lord called Paul and Barnabas and sent them out to minister the gospel. Pauls missionary trips are summarised below.
All the cities Paul went to during his apostolic travels
First missionary trip
Paul's first mission trip is recorded in the book of Acts, chapters 13 and 14 (see map below). After being sent out by the Lord, he and Barnabas travelled to Asia Minor establishing churches as far as they went. But in every city the Jews rose against them and threatened them until they finally ended up in Derbe. From there they retraced their steps, revisiting and strengthening the new churches on their way back home.
Map showing Paul's 1st missionary trip
Second missionary trip
Paul's second mission trip is recorded in the book of Acts, chapters 15 and 18 (see map below). Paul and Silas traveled to Asia Minor, visiting cites Paul had previously established with Barnabas. After travelling to Phrygia the Holy Spirit would not let them turn south to visit the rest of the churches in Asia Minor, nor north to Bithynia. Instead Paul was given a vision that he should travel on to Macedonia. They remained in Philippi for a while until the deliverance of a demon possessed girl caused an uproar against them, and they were beaten and thrown in prison. An earthquake opened the prison doors for them but they did not try to escape. This act converted the prison guard (who would had been killed under Roman law, if they had escaped under his watch). They went on to Thessalonica, but after preaching there for three weeks had to escape for their lives by night. So they moved on to Berea where their message was much better received.
Paul went ahead to Athens where he had a great debate with the Greek philosophers, and finally on to Corinth, where Silas rejoined him. They stayed in Corinth for nearly two years. From there to Ephesus, and finally to Jerusalem before returning home to Antioch.
Map showing Paul's 2nd missionary trip
Third missionary trip
Paul was home a short while when he wanted to go and strengthen the churches once again. His third mission trip is recorded in the book of Acts, chapters 18 and 21 (see map below). He spent a full two years at Ephesus, and such great wonders were done there through him there, that the craftsmen who made idols stirred the whole city into a riot, saying Paul threatened their great temple of Diana. So Paul left Ephesus to visit the churches in Macedonia and Achaia again before making his way to Jerusalem. On route to the holy city, Paul was warned many times that chains were waiting for him there. He went anyway.
Map showing Paul's 3rd missionary trip
Paul's capture, Roman house-arrest and eventual martyrdom
When Paul arrived in Jerusalem he was imprisoned and held there for two years while it was being decided what to do with him. But Paul appealed to Caesar for his trial, because he was a Roman citizen. He was finally handed over to Roman officials and after a treacherous journey, arrived in Rome 60AD. He was kept there under house arrest for another two years, awaiting trial. The book of Acts closes there. From extra-Biblical literature we are told that he was released and possibly travelled to Spain to preach the gospel before returning to Rome. In the mean time, in 64AD a great fire had devastated Rome and Emperor Nero had placed the blame on the shoulders of the Christians. And so began his great persecution which took the lives of both Peter and Paul in 65AD.