He lived from: 5 A.D. – 67 A.D
Feast Day: 29th June
Feast of his Conversion: 25th January
“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
The Conversion of Saul to Paul
Saul was born in Tarsus in Turkey in 5 A.D. to a wealthy Jewish family who were Roman citizens. In time, he trained as a tentmaker and his customers would have been shepherds and soldiers. After a few years he became a Pharisee strictly following the Jewish Laws and practices. He began to be concerned about the increasing number of people who were following the words of a man named Jesus. These followers were known as Christians. Saul was so opposed to these teachings, that he became a persecutor, dragging men and women off to prison and requesting they be stoned to death.
As Saul of Tarsus, he not only witnessed the stoning of Stephen in Jerusalem, but also ordered his execution. Moving from house to house, Saul arrested as many Christians as he could. He was so keen to stem the spread of the new faith that he asked the High Priest for a letter allowing him to arrest Christians in other cities so that they could be brought to trial in Jerusalem. So why did Saul act so violently against others? To zealous Jews, it would have been intolerable to think that God’s special messenger had been a poor man called Jesus , who had suffered and died a criminal’s death. Jews had been called to be a light to all the nations, but this story of Jesus and how He had been treated would give them a very bad reputation and hold Judaism up to criticism. So to get rid of the Christians Saul attempted to make this small movement containing the followers of Christ disappear.
As Saul neared the end of his 150 mile journey along the road to Damascus, he was blinded by a light and fell to the ground.
A voice cried out: “Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul asked who was calling to him “Jesus” he is told. The voice then tells Saul to get up, enter the city and stay there until he is told what to do next. As he is now blind, he is led by others who had accompanied him on the journey. He remained in the city for three days, neither drinking nor eating.
Meanwhile in Damascus a believer named Ananias had a vision of Jesus, who told him to go to Saul and heal his blindness. At first, Ananias objected because Saul was a notorious persecutor of Christians. Then Jesus told him He had chosen Saul to spread His word to Gentiles, Kings and the people of Israel. Obeying Him, Ananias went to the house of a man named Judas living on Straight Street, where he found Saul. He tells him that Jesus has sent him to restore his sight. The scales fall from Saul’s eyes. He is healed, baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit.
After this conversion, Saul started to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. People were amazed by what they heard because Saul had originally been the man who had come to kill those who believed in Christ, but now he was preaching that he believed in Jesus. Some Jews were very angry at his words and planned to kill him. With the help of his followers, Saul escaped death by being lowered through a hole in a wall in a basket. Eventually he made his way to Jerusalem, met Barnabas who introduced him to the Apostles.
There are a few varying views on when Saul became Paul. The one explanation which stands out from the others is that Saul is a Jewish name. He was also a Roman citizen so the equivalent name is Paul The name Paul means – the humble one. At the age of 29, he travelled thousands of miles around the Mediterranean spreading the Word of God. It was Paul who through his missionary work, turned Christianity from a small sect into the worldwide faith we know today.
There is so much more to write about St Paul – a letter writer and theologian. Especially the crafting of his words and their delivery to the increasing masses of people who came to hear him speak. This article provides just a flavour of who he was and his profound belief in God.
His accomplishments are many. In Acts written by Luke, we can read about Paul’s evangelising during his world-wide trips. His beautiful, encouraging and insightful letters particularly in Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians, Galations, Thessalonians, Colossians (written whilst he was in prison) and Phillipians we see someone totally commited to spreading the Word. He is considered to be one of the greatest religious leaders of all time.
It was in Rome during 67 A.D. that Paul was beheaded as a martyr for the faith by Emperor Nero. Paul is buried at the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls in Rome which was built by the Emperor Constantine. This is the largest church in Rome after St Peter’s.
“I have completed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.”
2 Timothy 4:7
Thank you for reading and God Bless,