The Apostle Paul

We learn much from the Apostle Paul.  He wrote in Philippians 3:17 “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.”  You and I are not the apostle Paul.  He had a special role that Jesus chose for him.  Remember he was met by Jesus on the road to Damascus.  At that time, his name was Saul.  Acts 9:3-6 “As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven.  Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’  And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’  Then the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’  So he, trembling and astonished, said, ‘Lord, what do You want me to do?’  Then the Lord said to him, ‘Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’”  Paul was blinded and led to Damascus.  In the city, Ananias was told to go to Saul.  Acts 9:15-16 “But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.  For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.’”  Yes, Saul (or Paul) was specially chosen.  Yet his life holds many examples for you and me to follow.  Books have been written about Paul, but let us take a quick look at a few areas of his life.

Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:10-11 “But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra — what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me.”  Timothy knew the life that Paul had lived.  We also know much about Paul.  The second half of the book of Acts (chapters 13-28) and his 13 letters included in the Bible describe the manner of his life.  We read how he traveled through much of the known world of his day, preaching to people who didn’t know about Christ.  Romans 15:20 “And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man’s foundation.”  It wasn’t easy, his work for Christ.  He described his ministry in 2 Corinthians 11:26-27 “In journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.”

As a result of his preaching the gospel among pagan idolaters as well as among Jews that didn’t believe in Christ, he was severely persecuted.  2 Corinthians 11:23-25 “Are they ministers of Christ? — I speak as a fool — I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often.  From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep.”  They tried to kill him multiple times.  Especially noteworthy is the time in the city of Lystra when the people threw stones at Paul to try to kill him.  They dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.  But he revived and went back into the city (Acts 14:19-20).

In addition to preaching the gospel, Paul also worked hard night and day to provide food for himself and those with him.  2 Thessalonians 3:7-9 “For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.”  His work was making tents.  Acts 18:1-3 “After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth.  And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome); and he came to them. So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers.”

He was not a great public speaker.  Physically, he seemed weak.  2 Corinthians 10:10-11 “’For his letters,’ they say, ‘are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.’  Let such a person consider this, that what we are in word by letters when we are absent, such we will also be in deed when we are present.”  He had a “thorn in the flesh”, perhaps some physical disease or injury that Jesus refused to take from him.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10 “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  He learned to trust Christ for his strength. Yet he was bold and stood up to the apostle Peter when he needed to.  Galatians 2:11 “Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed.”

There are many other things we could consider about him, but thank God for the apostle Paul.  My encouragement to you is to let some of the manner of life of Paul rub off on you.  Tell others about the good news of Jesus.  Don’t be afraid to stand up for Christ, even if it means hardship and persecution.  Work hard to provide for your family.  Even if you are not the most talented individual, be sure to use what God has given you to serve Him and others.  Trust Christ for your strength.