Apostle Paul

St Paul: 14th-century mosaic from the Kariye Church, Istanbul.

The Apocryphal book, "The Acts of Paul and Thecla," describes the mighty apostle as "A man rather small in size, bald-headed, bow-legged, with meeting eyebrows, a large, red and somewhat hooked nose." Yet the power of the man was unmistakable. "Strongly-built," the account goes on, "he was full of grace, for at times he looked like a man, at times like an angel."

By the time he was martyred in Rome, Paul helped to form an almost globe-spanning distribution of the gospel. It is almost unbelievable when you consider that, to begin with, Paul was a Roman citizen, and his original encounter with the cause of Christ was to persecute it. Paul did not have the chance, as many of the apostles did, to know Christ first-hand. He became a Christian only after an experience with the living Christ on the road to Damascus. It changed his life.

In the book of Acts, Paul is called by his Hebrew name, Saul, until his clash with the wizard Bar-Jesus on the island of Cyprus. As a Roman citizen, he was probably called by both names, which was common for Jews during this time. The change from the Hebrew, "Saul," to the Greco-Roman, "Paul," was appropriate for his mission to the Gentiles. Paul's upbringing as a Jewish Pharisee made him respected among the Jews and his Roman citizenship, likewise, gave him esteem among the Gentiles.

Grace is the key word for Paul. He writes in Ephesians 2:8, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God." There is nothing you have to do and nothing you can do to earn it. He continues in Ephesians 2:9, "not by works, so that no one can boast." With his background, a Pharisee and Roman citizen, Paul certainly could have boasted, but it was only through the grace of God that he received salvation. "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10). Paul encounters pain and hardships, floggings and imprisonments, ridicule, persecution and eventually death, yet he knows it is all within God's plan. To Paul, "To live is Christ and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21).

Reference: http://unbound.biola.edu. Used with permission.
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