CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION
I. Before His Conversion.
I. The Name: "Saul who was also called Paul." The fact that he whom we Commonly call Paul bore also the name Saul has been accounted for in various ways. Some have supposed that he obtained the name from his connection with the conversion of Sergius Paulus, the proconsul of Cyprus, of which we have an account in the 13th chapter of Acts. This opinion has been held by many eminent scholars, both ancient and modern. But it does not seem to the present writer at all probable that either Paul himself or his friends adopted the name because of the part which he had in the conversion of the Roman governor of Cyprus. To have immortalized his elation over the event in any such way as this would have been utterly unlike Paul. Others have held that the name which his mother gave him was Saul, that being a name well known in the tribe of Benjamin to which he belonged, but that in his early humanity he came to be called Paulus because he was small of stature. The most probable explanation of the two names is that "Saul" was his Aramaic or Hebrew name, the name which his Jewish parents gave him on the day of his circumcision, and that later on when he came to be known by Gentiles, perhaps even before his conversion, he also received the Roman name Paul. It had never been uncommon for Israelites to receive two names, as in the case of Abraham, Jacob, Solomon, Daniel, etc., and at this period of their history many Jews also received names of Greek or Roman origin. Peter, the distinguished apostle, bore a Greek name, as did also Philip and Stephen. Forever severed, as he was, from Judaism., both in his beliefs and in his apostolic labors, it is not strange that he should have preferred his Gentile name. And by this name in his Epistles he always called himself He began to be in a pre-eminent sense the apostle to the Gentiles when he landed on Cyprus, the scene of his first foreign missionary labors, and from that time onward his Gentile friend and companion, Luke, speaks of him as Paul. It is probable also that his Roman name would serve him a better purpose in his capacity of Roman citizen than would his Hebrew name. When Luke wrote the Acts, Paul was an old man, worn and weary, and languishing perhaps in a Roman prison. When he first appears in history as the young and violent persecutor of the cause for which he afterward gave his life, he is introduced as " Saul who is also Paul; " and the brief formula would be enough to make Gentile or Jewish readers, who had not known it before, pause and think that so great a transition from the man "Saul" to the man "Paul" could not be brought about unless the cause were also a great reality.
2. His Birthplace. Tarsus, the birthplace of the writer of the Epistle to the Romans, was about five hundred miles almost due north of Jerusalem. It was situated near the shore of the Mediterranean, on both banks of the cool and swift Cydnus. At the time of Paul's birth it had been no mean city for hundreds of years. Rawlinson tells us on the authority of ancient inscriptions, that it was founded by the Assyrian king Sennacherib about B.C. 685; and from Xenophon, who wrote about B.C. 400, we learn that it was already a great and flourishing city. Subsequently it became the seat of a school of philosophy and general education more famous even than the schools of Alexandria or of Athens, and which sent forth teachers to Rome itself and other distant places. The great Stoic philosopher, Athenodorus, the teacher of the Emperor Augustus, taught in the school at Tarsus, as did also the Platonic Nestor a little later on, or about the time when the young Saul was first walking the thronged streets of the great city.
Tarsus became a Roman city B.C. 66, receiving its freedom from Anthony, and the dignity of being classed as a metropolis from Augustus. It was the capital of a rich province, and in its harbor might be seen ships from all parts of the Mediterranean. Greeks, Romans, and Jews abounded there -- "the three peoples of God's election," through whose unconscious agency was to be brought about the fullness of time, and the chief instrument in the world-wide proclamation of the gospel of this fullness was also to be the young citizen of Tarsus, whose name was Saul. But for the most part, " the inhabitants were vain, efieminate and luxurious, more like Phoenicians than Greeks, Their sensuous Eastern religion in these golden days of affluence had more attraction for them than the grave philosophy of the Porch, and the legend supposed to be graven on the statue of Sardanapalus, at the neighbor city of Anchiale, ' let us eat and drink, for to-following day we die,' which Paul quotes in I Cor. XV. 32, might have been the motto of the mass of the townsmen."
3. His early life, It had long been "the time of the dispersion," and we know not when nor from what place Paul's father or forefather went to Tarsus. We are told in the Acts that Paul was a Roman citizen, and he himself also informs us that he was born a freeman. But no clew is given us to the ground on which this exceptional distinction was based, and for the reason that the statement concerning his citizenship is only made incidentally in the course of the narrative, and is nowhere the special topic of the historian's treatment, it is extremely far-fetched, therefore, to doubt the reality of his citizenship, as some have done, merely because the ground of it is not given. It was probably due to some distinguished service which one of the family in former days had rendered to some distinguished Roman ; though the most that can be affirmed with considerable certainty is that it was not due to the fact that he was born in Tarsus ; for this city did not possess such rank in the list of Roman cities as to confer the privilege of citizenship as a mere matter of birthright. As a rule it had to be either earned or bought ; and the fact that it had been earned or bought by one of Paul's ancestors of near or remoter degree is a proof that his family was one of some social distinction.
The exact date of Paul's birth is not known, to us. He speaks of himself as an old man when in the year A.D. 62, he was lying in prison at Rome. He is spoken of as a young man when in the year A.D. 33, he participated in the stoning of Stephen. Hence he must have been born very nearly the same time as Jesus. "When the boy Jesus was playing in the streets of Nazareth, the boy Paul was playing in the streets of his native town, away on the other side of the ridges of Lebanon. They seemed likely to have totally different careers, yet by the mysterious arrangements of Providence these two lives, like streams flowing from opposite watersheds, were one day, as river and tributary, to mingle together." And both Paul and Jesus carried with them into their subsequent ministries as Master and disciple, the influences, apparently, which were about them in their early years. Jesus loved the country, and much of his ministry was spent in places where nature was more visible than the work of man. He loved to draw his illustrations from rural sources -- the birds of the air, the lilies of the field, the shepherd leading his sheep, the sower sowing in the field by the wayside, the tares, the house built upon the sand, or upon a rock, and the vineyard, and the husbandman, etc. And the nature of his earthly ministry was in deepest harmony with these influences of his boyhood. But with Paul we are in a different atmosphere. He was born and reared in the great city. He was used to scenes of tramp and hurry, and monuments of human energy; and is thus wisely fitted to become the bearer of Christianity to the world's great centers of population and power. He preaches and writes to the people gathered at Antioch, and Ephesus, and Thessalonica, and Corinth, and Rome. He is equally at home with Jew, and Greek, and Roman, and barbarian of nameless blood. And we see that his speech abounds in illustrations drawn from scenes of busy life -- the athlete engaged in the wrestle or the race, the soldier panoplied in full armor, the swordsman who fights not as one beating the air, and many others of like sort, all of which were matters of daily observation to those whom he addressed. Jesus himself consecrated this Paul to his ministry among the Gentiles of many cities and many nationalities ; and both in respect to his mission and the grandeur of zeal, and energy, and judgment, with which he accomplished it, no man in the New Testament history is more unique than he.
We do not know how much of his education Paul received in the schools at Tarsus. It is probable, however, that he lived there until he was at least twelve years of age ; and that he attended the Jewish school in connection with the synagogue, learning the principal facts in regard to the history of his own remarkable nation, and reading the Old Testament Scriptures in the Alexandrian Greek version, from which he afterward made the most of his quotations when writing his epistles. His father being a man of some prominence, as his Roman citizenship may imply, and being doubtless also a Pharisee of the straightest type, would lay no small stress on the importance of his son's knowing the literature and traditions of his own people. He must also have acquired a practical knowledge of the I^atin tongue,as well as of the native dialects of Cilicia. The fact that in his writings he rarely quoted from the Greek literature does not argue a want of acquaintance with it ; and the fact that in two instances at least he does quote from Greek poets does argue a greater degree of familiarity with the literature than was possessed by the vast majority even of the better class of Jews. It is not at all likely that even a stray copy of Aratus, or Cleanthus, or any Greek poet or philosopher, was often on sale in the Jerusalem book market.
At Tarsus Paul learned the trade of tent-making out of the Cilician hair-cloth so extensively manufactured there. From this, however, we can infer nothing as to the poverty or wealth of his father, for in view of the uncertainties of human fortune, it was the excellent custom of every Jewish parent to teach his son a trade. Even the most learned doctors of the law had their trade, and it was not regarded as disreputable for the most learned rabbi to make his living by working with his hands. Indeed, it was regarded as a degradation of the law for a Jew to make his living by teaching the law. The combination of some secular business with the study of the law was especially recommended by the great Gamaliel. But whether, as a matter of expediency or otherwise, the trade which Paul learned in his youth served him an excellent purpose in his after years ; and in the light of the peculiar civilization of his day it was not regarded as a strange or pathetic thing that the apostle, even in his old age, should preach gratuitously and earn his living by making tents. In the light of his Jewish training and surroundings, his saying that the laborer in the gospel " is worthy of his hire," is very significant, and one which not even apostolic authority could have insisted upon in his day.
At the age of twelve the Jewish boy became what was technically called bar mitsoah, or " son of the law," which meant that he was then expected to begin to observe the Mosaic law like older people, and was taken up to the temple feasts, and began to observe the feasts, especially the great day of Atonement. It may have been about this time that the young Saul began his career at Jerusalem as a student under the great doctors of the law, of whom Rabban Gamaliel was at that time the most distinguished. But whatever may have been the exact date, the ardent youth must have entered upon his studies with the greatest enthusiasm, and it would seem that his zeal never abated. While the young Saul was thus pushing forward with the utmost eagerness to the day of his graduation in the college at Jerusalem, the young Jesus, with whom he was afterward to be so intimately associated, was quietly abiding his time, growing in favor with God and man, in the life of obscurity at Nazareth. It was the custom of the youthful rabbis, on completing their studies, to scatter abroad over the world wherever there were Jews, for the purpose of beginning their practical work. Of course we do not know when Paul received his degree and left Jerusalem, nor do we know where he went, but it must have been about the time that Jesus began his public ministry, and he must have gone to a city which Jesus did not visit, for he himself tells us that he never saw Jesus in the flesh. Had he remained in Jerusalem, so zealous and rigid a Pharisee would doubtless have met him who attracted so much attention in the temple and rebuked the Pharisees so scathingly. But after a while he came back. Jesus, the Nazarene, was no longer there in person, but in his stead there was a hated sect of Nazarenes, followers of Jesus, and Saul began to persecute them bitterly. They did not hold his views concerning the Mosaic law, nor did they hold their own views silently. Paul's was an astute mind, but he forgot during at least one short period of his life that the best way to destroy a supposed wrong is to build up the opposite right. No error, whether real or unreal, can ever be eradicated by dragging its advocates to prison either in the literal or figurative sense.
There is no conclusive evidence that Saul ever became a member of the Sanhedrin, and it is probable that he never did. He was an intense Pharisee, he had a profound knowledge of the law, he was skilled in legal disputations, he was an active and violent persecutor of the first Christians, he had the confidence of Jews in authority, and this is all that can be said with certainty in respect to this ever open question. And it is a question, after all, of no importance. It is probable, however, that he would have become a member, or else greater than a member, had he not become a Christian. Nor can it ever be shown that he was, or was not, at any period of his life a married man. It is quite certain that he had no wife while he was an apostle, but anyone is at liberty to suppose that he was a widower. Paul himself nowhere says anything that is opposed to such a supposition. It was a rule that members of the Sanhedrin should be married men, but as his membership in that body is an open question, so also is this other insofar as it depends upon the former. Of Paul's family in Jerusalem all that we know is, that he had a married sister there, and that she had a son who was instrumental on one occasion in rescuing his uncle from the violence of the Jews.
II. Saul's Conversion.
I. The Preparation, Saul's conversion was not as sudden as it may usually seem to the casual reader to have been. That is to say, it did not take place without a previous mental or spiritual preparation therefore. He was not breathing out threatenings against the Christians when he was converted, nor for some little while before. The journey from Jerusalem to Damascus was a many days' journey, and it is a fact quite worthy of notice that he was not converted near Jerusalem. One may easily do in the excitement of the moment and when the object of his rage is at hand that which he can not do after calm reflection. On the long and silent journey there was opportunity for the still small voice. It could assert itself in the calm of the Syrian plain as it could not do amid the passionate and whirling life at Jerusalem. Saul's zeal as a persecutor brought him to his critical moment, and at the critical moment his zeal failed him. But it is not probable that he was satisfied thoroughly with himself when he left Jerusalem. He wanted to be in a state of harmony with God, and he felt that he was not, and his zeal in persecuting the sect which he thought was obnoxious to God did not bring him that sense of inward peace which he may have thought it would ; and his going to Damascus to engage in further persecutions was only with the hope of buying at a larger price in the same coin the peace which he desired and had not obtained. It was as Luther doing small penances and then walking over the mountains to Rome that he might do larger ones, seeking peace and finding it not. There were, however, plenty of Pharisees at Jerusalem who were restful enough of heart -- restful because they were dead. The commandment had not come to them, and hence they had no consciousness of sin or of being in discord with God. But Saul's profound knowledge of the whole Mosaic law, and his keen appreciation of its spiritual import, would by no means permit him to be satisfied with the dead formality of mere outward observance. When the seed which Gamaliel sowed fell into Paul's heart it fell into deeper and richer soil than the average, and it was destined to spring up and produce fruit which Gamaliel himself did not dream of And the subject of the address of Stephen, in whose martyrdom he himself had participated, was the spiritual significance of the law. Saul had too keen and profound an intellect, and too sensitive a nature, not to see the point of the address plainly. And his unrest was made only the more unrestful. He had opportunity to think on all these things deliberately and at length as he traveled toward Damascus; and the vision of the martyr's face " as it had been that of an angel," was doubtless often before him in the quiet hours, and the memory of his dying words, " Father, lay not this sin to their charge," must have abided with him. Years afterward in one of his references to his life before his conversion the only event which he mentions in particular was the fact that he had participated in the stoning of Stephen. The words would seem to have been spoken as with a suppressed sob. " You knowest that I consented to the death of your martyr." The central thought of Stephen's preaching, and his prayer, and his death, were the blows which Saul could not resist. And so at last, far away from Jerusalem on the road to Damascus, the conflict with his weakening Pharisaism on the one hand and his increasing convictions on the other culminated in the everlasting downfall of Saul the Pharisee. Such was the natural process which led to his conversion, and through such a process, differing perhaps only in the intensity of the struggle, has many another man been caused to pass. The Law is always the Slave who must lead man to Christ. There is a light, as real as any light, which we can not see with our usual eyes; there is a voice, as real as any voice, which we can not hear with our usual ears. And when the darkness hitherto has been dark enough, and the conviction and struggle suddenly culminate in the overthrow of our old selves, then our other eyes may be opened to the Light from heaven, and our other ears to the voice of Him whom we had persecuted ; and it is no doubt true that this quickening of our spiritual senses may, if intense enough, produce a temporary paralysis of our physical senses. There may have been more than all this in the incidents connected with Saul's conversion ; but whether so or not all this is sufficient to meet the demands of the narrative which has been furnished by Paul himself and the historian Luke. Paul related the incidents as he actually experienced them, and he regarded the experience as abundant proof that he really had been persecuting the glorified Son of God, And all the logic of Jerusalem and the Jewish world could not force him to gainsay his own experience. He knew his past mental conflict, he knew his present peace, he remembered the Light which had flashed upon him, and the Voice which he had heard, too well for further debate with himself.
2. From What to What, But from what was Saul converted and to what was he converted? it being understood that we use the term conversion here, not in the sense of regeneration or the change "from nature to grace." His new birth differed in no essential respect from the regeneration, or new birth of any other man. But when we speak of Saul's conversion, from what do we understand that he was converted, and to what? It is not quite right to say that he was converted from Judaism to Christianity. That is what Paul's Jewish enemies were always affirming, and it is what Paul himself often felt it necessary to deny. Strictly speaking he was not converted from Judaism, for in the true sense of that term he was always more faithful to Judaism than the Jews who opposed him. Christianity and the genuine old Judaism from Abraham to Moses, and onward were only two phases of one and the same thing. Paul knew very well that justification, harmony with God, salvation in short, which was the end ostensibly aimed at by both Jew and Christian, was attained in precisely the same way in the Old Testament as it was according to the teachings of Stephen, himself, and other Christians. It was the Jew who had perverted the teaching of the law, who had failed to recognize the spirit of the law, and not Paul. He, having seen it himself, meant to call his brother Jew back to the true spiritual interpretation of the law, such indeed as he might often have read in the great Psalmist (Psalm li. 17, 19 ; and the great Prophet Isaiah i. 1 1-16, etc.). There could, in the very nature of the case, be but one way for man to have peace with God, and this way was as open to one man as to another. The old Judaism recognized this, as Stephen and Paul well knew. It was the scribe and Pharisee who by their manifold traditions had made the law of no effect. It was these who had criminally failed to understand their own Scriptures, forsaking the old landmarks, and also leading the people away. So far as the outward form of Judaism was concerned, circumcision and all the other details, Paul cared very little for these one way or another, neither on the part of himself nor of his converts, provided only the inward spirit could be duly recognized. The continuation of the old ordinances was quite consistent with Paul's views, but they were really not essential, and there was really no reason why the converts, whether Jews or Gentiles, should be encumbered with them, they were in the first place only tokens and memorials of the divine purpose of salvation, and of their own relation to this purpose; and a much simpler system of tokens and memorials, as for instance an organized community of those who held to Judaism in its spirit, with a few simple rites, would do just as well now as the old elaborate system had formerly done. And indeed a good deal better, for the simpler system would not be so burdensome, nor so likely to conceal from view the true inner core of the matter -- which was that, whatever outward forms there might be, the only way after all for any man to be in a state of harmony with God, and hence really happy, was to have that disposition toward God which is often expressed by the one word, Faith. It was in part then, these views to which Paul was converted, and it was the lifeless and prevalent Pharisaism from which he was converted.
But having been turned about to such an extent as this, Paul could not fail also to see that the salvation for which he had longed was the right no less of the Gentile than of the Jew, for how could God prefer one sinful person to another sinful in the same sense and in the same degree ? And this led him to the grasp of Israel's real mission, which was, not the selfish enjoyment of a gift given to it only, but that it should be the means of distributing the knowledge of a common gift to all men, and of bringing all men into actual possession of it. It was this farther step that widened and deepened the chasm between Paul and the Pharisees.
Paul had seen the germs of these views to which he was converted in the teachings of Jesus as represented in the preaching of Stephen and other first Christians in Jerusalem, and he had detected their significance and tendency with a keener insight perhaps than the majority of these earliest preachers themselves had done; and the very moment he became convinced that this Jesus was really the Messiah, by witnessing for himself his glorified humanity, the question was settled forever with him. He did not abandon the Old Testament, for he constantly quoted from it in confirmation of his views, and hence he did not abandon Judaism. He simply abandoned its perversions, linking in his teaching the true old with the new phase, and endeavoring in a life-long effort, so far as his relation to his brother Jews was concerned, to call them back to the ancient doctrine of a world-wide salvation by grace through faith, rather than a Jewish salvation by works consisting in legal observances. But never was any man more misunderstood by his own countrymen than was Paul. Savonarola, John Huss, Jerome, and some others, have in a small way, lived a little in advance of their day ; but Paul was eighteen centuries in advance of his people -- and how much more than this? for the Jews as a people have not yet moved up abreast of Paul. 3. Paul's Relation to Other Apostles. But we might as well ask just here, in what doctrinal attitude did this conversion of Paul, as above defined, place him in respect to the other apostles -- Peter and and James in particular. And we feel obliged to answer the question by saying that they occupied essentially the same ground, though they did not see their position so clearly as Paul saw his, nor did they have so thorough a grasp of its details and tendencies. Like Paul, Peter and James held that that which after a while was called the gospel was, not something essentially different from Judaism, but only another phase of Judaism ; and a phase at that with which the old ordinances were not at all inconsistent. Circumcision and the rest, thought they, can serve their proper end as symbols and memorials of God's redemptive purpose no less truly under the new phase than they did under the old. But Paul reached his conclusion in regard to the share which the Gentiles might have in this salvation in advance of Peter and James, and with a greater degree of mental assurance of the correctness of his position. And at last when these two leading apostles did advance so far as to see that the gospel might be preached also to the Gentiles, they were still a good deal more dim sighted than Paul in regard to the question of the old ordinances. With Paul the matter of their observance or non-observance, whether by Gentile or Jewish convert, was a mere matter of expediency, while with Peter and James it was, for a considerable time at least, rather a matter of conscience. The Holy Spirit was leading the apostles into all the truth, was leading them gradually. Every mind is not so constituted that it can be caused to reach the truth at a single bound; nor indeed had Paul himself so reached it. The usual method of the Spirit in leading the Church forward from truth to truth is the gradual method of the rising sun.
Had the Jews as a people intelligently accepted the new phase of Judaism, or of what is commonly called the Old Testament dispensation, introduced by Christ and his apostles, they might, without any violence whatever to the doctrines of the gospel have kept up the old Mosaic ordinances. Circumcision and baptism might still have been employed as tokens of membership, and the sacrifices, and the Lord's-supper might still have been employed as tokens of faith in the broken body and the shed blood of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. That was what the sacrifices used to be, or at least that was their original attention -- memorials of God's promise and purpose of redemption, though the old Israelites did not always so regard them. It was easy enough doctrinally thus to retain the ordinances, and at the same time admit all that was involved in the Messiahship of Jesus ; and Peter and James, at first at least, were in favor of doing this. But Paul was more progressive and bolder, seeing clearly that so much symbolism had already, under its abuses, concealed the truth from the people to a greater extent than it would reveal it ; and seeing also that there could be no manner of use in encumbering the new phase of Mosaism which they preached with such a mass of burdensome and already perverted ordinances. Some minds can not thrive on the truth without the aid of outward symbols of truth, but Paul's was not such a mind. And so at the very outset of his ministry he differed with Peter and James -- not at all in regard to the inner and essential truth, but only in regard to the question as to whether they ought to employ a certain set of outward symbols. Paul's field of labor evidently did not lie within the walls of Jerusalem, and it was a blessed thing for the Gentile world that it did not. That was the providential place of the much more conservative James, for the Jews of Jerusalem also must have at least a briefly lingering opportunity.
III. After His Conversion.
I. Preaching Jesus as the Son of God. After the culminating point in his conversion was reached on the road near Damascus, and the sight of the living and glorified body of Jesus of Nazareth, and the incidents which occurred in the house of Ananias, Paul straightway preached this Jesus in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. This truth was the one of fundamental importance in the new phase of the Old Testament religion called the gospel, and of which we spoke in the foregoing section. To admit the divine Sonship of Jesus, was to admit everything that constituted the gospel. So it was, at least, with any Jew, though not so perhaps with the modern Gentile who is also nominally a Christian. He may be indisposed to doubt the historical evidence in favor of the divinity of Jesus, and yet be anything else than a Christian at heart. If Paul could induce his hearers, whether Jewish or Gentile, to believe that Jesus was really the Son of God the fundamental point would be gained, for though it might not set them right in all matters of private morals and religious worship, it would be equivalent to the full committal of themselves to the gospel. He could make no progress, therefore, in winning converts until this doctrinal point was gained, and hence the emphasis which he so often places in his preaching on the evidential value of the facts pertaining to Jesus, particularly his resurrection, of which he himself had ocular proof. " If Christ be not risen our hope is vain." If Christ be not risen we have no proof that he was the Son of God; if he was not the Son of God his death was of no avail, and there is no basis of hope for peace or harmony with God -- no more than if the world had never heard or dreamed of Christ. The first preaching of the apostle was therefore necessarily Christological and argumentative, the heart and the life having to be reached through that mental faculty which apprehends evidence.
How long Paul continued to preach at Damascus we have no possible means of knowing, the "many days" mentioned in the account in the Acts being indefinite. It was three years, however, before he returned to Jerusalem. He went from Damascus into Arabia, but to what place or ^places it is useless to inquire. No man will ever know. But it is not probable that he went in order that he might in solitude adjust himself to his new convictions, or receive revelations concerning what he afterward called his gospel. He was already adjusted most thoroughly to his new convictions, and he received revelations from time to time during his ministry as he needed them. He may have gone into Arabia for the purpose of preaching Jesus as the Savior, and the way of peace with God to a city or people not mentioned in connection with his ministry ; or he may have gone for the purpose of obtaining the rest and strength which would doubtless be much needed after so long a period of intense mental conflict and excitement as that through which he had just passed. We know not. We can only say that this retirement of Paul from history was no period of idle and listless wandering.
After a while he returned to Damascus where he preached Jesus with such earnestness and boldness that the Jews took counsel as to how they might slay him, as they in Jerusalem had for the same cause slain Stephen. But his time was not come, and he fled to Jerusalem. Although it had been three years since he had left Jerusalem, and although the whole current of his life had changed, the brethren there, it seems, had received no information concerning him, they were afraid to receive him, for Saul, the fierce persecutor of the Christians, was still fresh in their memory. He might now be only a wolf in sheep's clothing. But Barnabas knew him ; and so Paul began to preach to that same audience of Grecian Jews which a few years before had been addressed by Stephen, and of which* he himself had been one. But only fifteen days had passed before he was obliged to flee again for his life. He went to Cesarea and thence, perhaps by ship, to Tarsus.
2. Cilicia and Syria, For four or five years more Paul disappears from history. The great work of his life as the recognized apostle to the Gentile world is not yet open to him. We can easily infer, however, that during this long interval of silence on the part of the historian, Paul is engaged in preaching the gospel in unofficial ways in his native Tarsus and other parts of Cilicia. At last Barnabas is sent to Antioch by the Church in Jerusalem to engage in the great work that was going on there. And Barnabas remembers Saul, and going on to Tarsus in search of him again brings him into the sphere of the Church's work. For one whole year he and Saul preach the gospel in the power and demonstration of the Spirit to the multitudes of Grecian Jews and others who thronged the synagogues in the great Syrian city near the sea. This year's work brought Paul face to face with what was to be his life's mission. The Spirit said ''Separate to me Barnabas and Saul." The Church placed itself into what we may call official relation with the heathen world. The gates were opened; and Saul sailed from Antioch to Cyprus, and thence to various points in Asia Minor on his first great missionary tour. From now onhe is pre-eminently the recognized missionary to the Gentiles, and henceforth he is in labors and suffering ''more abundant than they all," founding churches all along from the Cydnus to Italy, and perhaps beyond, and having on his shoulders the burden of them all. He wrote for the benefit of the Churches which he established, or which were under his direct influence, and for the benefit of the Church of all subsequent ages, epistles making in all nearly twice as much as the apostle John wrote, and nearly a third of the entire New Testament. It was largely through Paul and his subordinate workers that Asia Minor, the islands of the Mediterranean Sea, and the western Roman world, were conquered for Christ.
3. Other Missionary Labors. From the time of Paul's conversion to the date of his first missionary tour from Antioch was a period of seven or eight, years. From the beginning of this tour to the supposed date of his martyrdom by Nero, was a period of about twenty years. Four of these years, or on the hypothesis of a second imprisonment at Rome even more than four, were spent in captivity as the " prisoner of Christ;" and with the chain about his arm, the other end of which was fastened to a Roman soldier, the apostle, whose zeal could by no means be quenched, preached Christ and wrote immortal epistles. Sometimes he was in perils of the sea. Sometimes he might be seen working as a day-laborer at tent-making so that he might enable himself to preach the gospel. Sometimes he was in peril of wild beasts, whether on his journeys or in the gladiatorial arena, forced to fight for the amusement of a Roman or barbarian rabble. Sometimes he might be seen lying by the roadside as one dead, stoned by the brutal mob. Sometimes he was collecting funds from the Churches which he founded, for the benefit of the impoverished members of the mother Church at Jerusalem which was always loath to receive him. Sometimes he was lying in a Roman jail, beaten with as many stripes as the law would allow. And at last when the end was near at hand he could say in looking back over it all, "I have fought a good fight, I have kept the faith;" and no man who was ever born into this world could say it with more truth than did Paul. In point of suffering and self-sacrifice, the labors of the greatest evangelists of our country pale into trifles and shame as compared with his. And yet it is surprising how little space is devoted in the biblical narrative and epistles to the details concerning Paul's privations and sufferings. If Paul had been what some of his modtour from Antioch was a period of seven or eight, years. From the beginning of this tour to the supposed date of his martyrdom by Nero, was a period of about twenty years. Four of these years, or on the hypothesis of a second imprisonment at Rome even more than four, were spent in captivity as the " prisoner of Christ;" and with the chain about his arm, the other end of which was fastened to a Roman soldier, the apostle, whose zeal could by no means be quenched, preached Christ and wrote immortal epistles. Sometimes he was in perils of the sea. Sometimes he might be seen working as a day-laborer at tent-making so that he might enable himself to preach the gospel. Sometimes he was in peril of wild beasts, whether on his journeys or in the gladiatorial arena, forced to fight for the amusement of a Roman or barbarian rabble. Sometimes he might be seen lying by the roadside as one dead, stoned by the brutal mob. Sometimes he was collecting funds from the Churches which he founded, for the benefit of the impoverished members of the mother Church at Jerusalem which was always loath to receive him. Sometimes he was lying in a Roman jail, beaten with as many stripes as the law would allow. And at last when the end was near at hand he could say in looking back over it all, "I have fought a good fight, I have kept the faith;" and no man who was ever born into this world could say it with more truth than did Paul. In point of suffering and self-sacrifice, the labors of the greatest evangelists of our country pale into trifles and shame as compared with his. And yet it is surprising how little space is devoted in the biblical narrative and epistles to the details concerning Paul's privations and sufferings. If Paul had been what some of his modtour from Antioch was a period of seven or eight, years. From the beginning of this tour to the supposed date of his martyrdom by Nero, was a period of about twenty years. Four of these years, or on the hypothesis of a second imprisonment at Rome even more than four, were spent in captivity as the " prisoner of Christ;" and with the chain about his arm, the other end of which was fastened to a Roman soldier, the apostle, whose zeal could by no means be quenched, preached Christ and wrote immortal epistles. Sometimes he was in perils of the sea. Sometimes he might be seen working as a day-laborer at tent-making so that he might enable himself to preach the gospel. Sometimes he was in peril of wild beasts, whether on his journeys or in the gladiatorial arena, forced to fight for the amusement of a Roman or barbarian rabble. Sometimes he might be seen lying by the roadside as one dead, stoned by the brutal mob. Sometimes he was collecting funds from the Churches which he founded, for the benefit of the impoverished members of the mother Church at Jerusalem which was always loath to receive him. Sometimes he was lying in a Roman jail, beaten with as many stripes as the law would allow. And at last when the end was near at hand he could say in looking back over it all, "I have fought a good fight, I have kept the faith;" and no man who was ever born into this world could say it with more truth than did Paul. In point of suffering and self-sacrifice, the labors of the greatest evangelists of our country pale into trifles and shame as compared with his. And yet it is surprising how little space is devoted in the biblical narrative and epistles to the details concerning Paul's privations and sufferings. If Paul had been what some of his modern critics have presumed to pronounce him -- the uninspired leader of a mere anti-Judaising sect -- we should have had much more of his autobiography and much less of his gospel, whether in the Acts or in the Epistles. He conceals the one that he may reveal the other.
4. His Person and Character, It is commonly supposed that Paul possessed no graces of person. He himself informs us incidentally that he was insignificant in stature, and mentions in the same manner his physical infirmities. But he did possess the graces of Jewish and Greek culture. The specimens of his oral addresses which Luke has preserved for us do not show any want of the graces of the orator. He never on any occasion betrays any assumption of contempt for the proprieties of speech or personal bearing. Through all his ministry he was a man of abounding earnestness, but he was also everywhere and under all circumstances the Christian gentleman. He neither wrote nor spoke the polished Greek of the classic Athens of former days. That sort of Greek was practically obsolete in his time; and when he addressed the Athenians on Mars Hill the great philosophers and poets were gone long ago, and it is not probable that there were any in his audience whose Greek was any better than his -- though many may have thought so.
But whatever may be said of his person and outward culture, in character and spirit his converts might well have afforded to imitate him even as he also imitated Christ. Life had no value for him apart from the privilege and the daily act of living for Christ. He was always serious and yet always cheerful. He was always earnest, admitting of no half measures. He was always zealous and yet always prudent. He was as firm as adamant and yet as tender as a nursing mother. He was liberal of spirit, having nothing in him of the intolerant and narrow bigot. He was perfectly willing for the Jewish Christian to observe his ceremonial scruples, but he would fight to his dying day for the untrammeled privilege of offering an untrammeled gospel to the heathen. He was as high-minded as a prince, and yet he was ever clothed with the garments of humility. He was always considerate and courteous in all his relations with others whether of high or low degree. He was not perfect; but he was a higher type of man than Augustine, or Luther, or Calvin. He approached more nearly to the perfect character of the Christ who was absolutely all to him than any other man that has lived on this earth since his day.
From The Epistle to the Romans by Dr. R. V. Foster. Lightly updated to the language of the 21st century by D. N. Pham. (c) 2012. The update is not complete.
Insights of the past for the present
To the Romans - R.V. Foster
ON THE BOOK SHELF
May your insights be worthy.