Saul of Tarsus was a persecutor of the early church. Later he became Paul the Apostle after his conversion in Damascus (Acts 9).
The acts of Paul take up most of the book of Acts, and his letters make up about a third of the New Testament.
Overview: Paul writes as a man inspired by the Holy Spirit, a highly qualified scholar in his own right; a man worried about false teachers and their heresies; a man of rough journeys and almost unendurable hardships; a man passionate to make up for his past mistakes; a man driven by gratitude for God’s grace; a man totally under the spell of Christ who called him and chose him for a most special apostleship.
Paul’s Names and Titles
Saul was the name of the Benjaminite who became first king of Israel (1Sam 9:15-17). Paul was also a Benjaminite (Philippians 3:4-5), and his given name was Saul, the same name as the king of old.
The name "Paul" comes from the Latin for "little" (the root of our English words "pauper" and "paucity"). To give up the kingly name Saul and take up the name Paul meaning "little", shows humility. But Paul is even more humble, for he does not stop at the name. He writes, "I Paul a servant..." (Colossians 1:23,25).
To Paul, the word "apostle" was not a fancy title, but a description of his duty. He was duty conscious, not title conscious. When he said, "I am an apostle", he meant, "I have a duty to speak"(Colossians 4:4,1Corinthians 9:16).
Paul’s Conversion to Christ
Luke records the conversion of Saul in Damascus. Saul was assisted by Ananias a devout disciple of Christ (Acts 9:1-19).
Ananias commanded Saul, "Arise and be baptised and wash away your sins calling on the name of the Lord"(Acts 22:16). Notice it was in baptism, not before it, that the blood of Christ washed away Paul’s sins.
Paul’s Journeys and Mission
Luke records Paul’s first experiences as a disciple of Christ (Acts 9 :20-31).
Paul’s First Missionary Journey was between the two Antiochs, from Antioch in Syria to Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13 and 14).
Paul’s Second Missionary Journey was from Syria to Macedonia and Greece (Acts 15:36 to 18:22).
Paul's Third Missionary Journey was from from Syria to Galatia, Macedonia, Greece, Ephesus and Jerusalem (Acts 18:23 to 21:22).
Paul’s Fourth Journey. was from Jerusalem to Rome as a prisoner (Acts 21-28).
In Paul’s review of his work among the Thessalonians, we can find at least twelve important aspects of his ministry (1Thessalonians 2:1 to 3:11).
Paul was a prisoner at times. He refers to "the mystery of Christ for which I am in chains"(Colossians 4:3,18).
Paul was sick at times. He refers to his "thorn in the flesh"(2Corinthians 12:7).
Paul tells of many sufferings and perils that he endured (2Corinthians 11:3-28).
Paul says, "I rejoice in my sufferings"(Colossians 1:24). He is glad to suffer for the Saviour who suffered so much for him.
Contrary to popular theology, Paul makes good works a part of faith. He calls it "obedience to the faith"(Romans 1:5, 16:26). Although Christians are free from the law and saved by grace, they must keep the commandments of Christ. Paul shows this effort, this "work of faith", to be essential to a faith that saves (1Thessalonians 1:3).
Paul very strongly believed in a future resurrection. He wrote to the Philippians about his desire and effort to "attain to the resurrection from the dead". Paul believed in a transformation from a humble bodily state to a glorious one (Philippians 3:10-11, 20-21).
Paul was dogmatic about the gospel he preached "Though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed"(Galatians 1:8-9).
Paul’s Endorsement by Peter
The apostle Peter bears witness to the truth of Paul’s doctrine (2Peter 3:15-16).:
Peter refers to Paul as "our beloved brother"
Peter ommends "the wisdom given to Paul"
Peter's only criticism of Paul (if indeed it is a criticism) is that Paul "says some things which are hard to understand".
Peter claims Paul's teaching has been twisted by the untaught and unstable.
Peter lays "all his letters" (the letters of Paul) alongside "the rest of the scriptures". Here Peter makes it plain that he regarded all Paul’s letters as belonging to the scriptures.
Paul’s Agreement with James
Paul does not contradict James regarding faith and works.
Paul teaches that you cannot be saved by works devoid of faith(Romans 3:20-23) and James would agree.
James teaches that you cannot be saved by faith devoid of works(James 2:22,24) and Paul would agree.