Paul the Apostle

This lesson looks at the early years of the first century AD (the letters AD are the initials for “Anno Domini”, which is Latin for the English phrase “the year of our Lord”). Jesus Christ has lived, died, been raised from death by God, never to die again, and is now in heaven. You can read in Acts 1:11 how Jesus went to heaven to be with God. And how Jesus will return to the earth again.

Jesus had special helpers, the twelve apostles, who were told that it was their job to tell everyone the good news about Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth. They were given God’s Holy Spirit to help them.

Lesson 40

Lesson 40 read out in full

However, the Jewish leaders were very angry about the way the new church of Jesus was growing. They wanted it stopped. If the church grew strong then it could take over the running of the country. What they did not know was that God was in control.

The early life of Paul

One of the followers of Jesus at this time was a man called Stephen. He was arrested and brought before the Jewish court. But the judges in the court hated the message of Jesus so much, that when Stephen told them that they had to change their evil ways, they lost control, and they stoned Stephen.

The first time we read of Saul (or Paul, his name in Greek) is Acts 7:58 and Acts 8:1. He was there watching while Stephen was killed by the angry crowd. Saul was willing to see the terrible death of a follower of Jesus.

Verse 3 of Acts 8 tells us that Saul began to destroy the followers of Jesus – “dragging off men and women and putting them in prison”. Saul did not realize that he was fighting against God. Saul thought that he was doing the right thing. The Jewish Law (in the Old Testament) taught the Jews to destroy anyone who tried to change things. And this Jesus had been a man who tried to change things.

Saul was in for a shock!

The conversion of Paul

Saul decided to go to the city of Damascus, about 250 kilometres away. He planned to arrest anyone who followed Jesus and bring them back to Jerusalem to be tried before the Jewish courts.

Turn to Acts 9:1-19 to see what amazing thing happened as Saul went to Damascus.

And so Saul, or Paul as he called himself then, became a follower of Jesus. He had tried to destroy Jesus, but now he had been turned around.

Paul’s mission – teach the Gentiles
Paul teaching

Soon after this, Paul travelled to the deserts of Arabia. He spent three years alone, getting ready for his new life as a follower of Jesus Christ. He began the work God had given him to do. Paul spent the rest of his life teaching anyone who would listen about Jesus. Jesus gave him the job of teaching the Gentiles about his message (see Galatians 1:11-17)

Paul was well qualified for the job. He had been taught the Jewish Law from a young boy. He had learned a trade as a tentmaker, so he could earn money when he needed to. He spoke the Greek language, and because of where he was born, he was a Roman citizen. In those times, citizens of Rome had special privileges.

Paul travelled through the countries of Asia Minor on foot and by ship. He taught everywhere he went, setting up churches. He visited them to check how they were going. Paul’s adventures are in the rest of the book of Acts, and they are exciting to read. His life was not easy, and he was often in danger. He suffered many times. Turn to 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 to see what Paul went through because of his love for Jesus.

The letters of Paul
The writings of Paul

The beautiful letters that he wrote to the new churches make up most of the New Testament of our Bible. Some of these letters were written while Paul was under arrest in Rome. His letters encouraged the people in the new churches to keep their faith. He gave answers to their problems and arguments, and warned them not to go back to their old pagan ways.

Read an example of Paul’s wise advice in his letter to the church at Colosse: Colossians 3:12-17.

Paul’s words about the Lord Jesus, and his advice have been kept for us through hundreds of years. The words are just as helpful to us today as they were nearly 2000 years ago to the first Christians. Human beings have not changed much! You might like to read some of the letters yourself.

It is sad Paul was executed for following Jesus. But, just as he had been happy to suffer pain for Jesus, he was happy to die for Jesus, the Lord he loved so much.

His confidence and faith in God can inspire us to follow Jesus in good times and in bad times.

Please read 2 Tim 4:6-8.