From Saul to Paul, the life of the Apostle Paul

Saint Paul. His Life, His Evangelism and His Legacy

St Paul

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

These words were written by Paul to the church at Corinth (1st Corinthians 13:4). It tells us a great deal about Paul, the man, and the personal journey he had made from an earlier period in his life, when he was full of hatred for the followers of Christ, to a man filled with the Holy Spirit, passion and love.

Because of his steadfast faith in God and Jesus Christ, Paul was lead by the Holy Spirit to be the most important evangelist of Christianity the world would ever know. Through him, the Word of God, including God's plans for mankind, was made known to the entire world. Although Paul was a Jew, he knew the Jewish era, with its adherance to the Law, was at an end and the new era of Christianiity, based on the teachings of Christ had begun. Paul didn't discard the Jewish teachings though, he used them to help the new followers of Christ understand how God's people, starting with Abraham, were chosen from amoung mankind and how the coming of Jesus the Messiah was foretold by the Jewish Profits. Jesus said, 'Do not think that I am come to destroy the Law, or the Prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill them' (Mathew 5:17). Paul's teachings therefore were based on the teachings of Jesus Christ and the 'Fulfilment' of God's plans for mankind, not just for Jews but for eveyone.

Paul travelled extensively throughout the Roman world, preaching and teaching as he went, and establishing Churches in key places where the Word of God could be heard by the majority of the people. As he moved on to establish new congregations he never forgot the ones he had already established and he wrote to those Churches with encouragement, correction and teaching.

Fourteen of the letters he wrote (also known as epistles) were included into the New Testament of the Bible and are available for us to read today. They are: Romans, 1st Corinthians, 2nd Corinthians, Galations, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1st Thessalonians, 2nd Thessalonians, 1st Timothy, 2nd Timothy, Titus, Philemon and Hebrews.

These fourteen letters, written by St Paul are among the earliest written books of the New Testament. They contain guidance of what Christians should believe and how we should live our lives. They are in fact the first written account of what it means to be a Christian.

Early life of St Paul

What do we know?

In his early (Jewish) life he was known as Saul, which was probably pronounced Sha'ul.

The Acts of the Apostles (Acts 22:3) tells us Saul was born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, southern Turkey which in biblical times was part of the Hittite empire. It was a large, successful trading city and had its own administration, elected magistrates and even its own currency. In 66BC the city had opposed Cassius (the assassin of Julius Caesar) and was thus rewarded by Mark Anthony who made it a Free City and therefore not subject to taxes. It was located on the busy trading route from Asia Minor and Asia further to the east. Along this route would come traders selling silks, spices from the Orient and linens, which could explain why his chosen trade was a Tent Maker, see Acts 18:2-3.

Tarsus in Turkey, birthplace of St Paul

It seems his parents were granted Roman Citizenship which they handed down to Saul so he was both a Jew and a Roman Citizen which would help him later as a persecuted follower of Christ. The bible does not tell us where his parents came from but St Jerome tells us his parents came from Gischala, a small town in Galilee and were extradited to Tarsus by the Romans. We have no way to verify this claim by St Jerome and we don't know where he came by this information but it's quite possible that they came from Galilee.

Saul was brought up a Jew and probably studied under the famous rabbi Rabban Gamaliel, a leading authority in the Sanhedrin. Tarsus was well known for its intellectual learning environment and Saul would have grown up studying the scriptures in strict compliance with the Jewish Law as handed down from Moses. He was in fact a member of the Pharisees, a Jewish faction that promoted very strict orthodox adherence to the Law. In his own words, recorded in Philippians 3:5 he tells us he was circumcised on the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the Tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews and a Pharisee. He would have taken great pride in being of the Tribe of Benjamin as it was this tribe that produced Saul, the first king of Israel.

Being brought up in Tarsus, he would have been taught numerous languages from an early age to enable him to communicate with the ethnically diverse population and traders. This would certainly have included Hebrew during his Jewish education, although Hebrew was no longer in popular usage by that time. Greek would have been the main language used by most people, similar to the way English is used across the world today. He would also have be taught Latin as Tarsus was a part of the Roman Empire. Perhaps he spoke many other languages but we have no way of knowing.

It's worth considering his life as a Pharisee as they were ultra orthodox adherents to the Law of Moses which was handed down in oral form over many decades, eventually being written down from the 2nd century BC becoming known as The Talmud. It was these Pharisees who fanatically imposed the law onto the rest of the Jewish population. There were many laws but those laws concerning food, the animals that could be eaten, the way food was stored, cooked and consumed were considered very important and symbolically defined what it was to be a Jew. Saul would have followed these laws to the letter and firmly believed that Jews were a chosen people, chosen by God and separate from the rest of humanity. In fact, to Jews there were only two types of people, Jews and Gentiles.

We know from Acts 23:16 that he had a sister and a nephew. We also know from Acts 9:11 that he had connections with The House of Judas in Straight Street in Tarsus.

Straight Street, Tarsus today

Straight Street in Tarsus today

Persecutor of believers in Jesus the Messiah

Saul was zealously involved in the earliest persecutions of the followers of Jesus in an attempt to destroy the new faith. He probably went around the synagogues advising his Jewish colleagues and friends not to get involved in this new belief that Jesus is the Messiah. Acts 22:4 goes on to tell us 'Paul persecuted this way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women'.

Acts 7:58 tells us he witnessed the stoning to death of Stephen the deacon and the first Christian martyr. Acts 22:20 says; And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him.

Yes, you read it correctly, he even held their coats while they stoned Stephen to death!

Acts 8:1-3 reads: And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. He probably approved the use of torture in an attempt to get the converts to deny Jesus as the Messiah. When they refused they were put to death.

Stephen is stoned to death while Saul looks on

Stephen, the first Christian martyr, is stoned to death

The Road to Damascus

Intent on exterminating the fledgeling Christian faith, Saul decided to travel from Jerusalem to Damascus to carry on his mission to eradicate the believers in Jesus. Damascus was about 250Km from Jerusalem and the first large town to the north. He would have known Damascus very well as it would have been on his route from Jerusalem to Tarsus, a journey he probably made often to see his parents and friends. There were two routes that he could have taken, one would have taken him to the east of the Sea of Galilee, the other to the west which would have taken him through the valley of Jezreel and through Capernaum where Jesus spent much of his ministerial life. I suspect the latter route would have been chosen as it was cooler, being at a higher altitude. Much of the eastern route, along the Jordan Valley, was below sea level and therefore baking hot during the day. Perhaps he even thought of Jesus as he passed through Capernaum, we will never know for sure.

However, on this 'Road to Damascus' his life was about to be turned upside down. His journey was going to plan but as he drew close to Damascus he suddenly encountered the risen Jesus in a dazzling vision of light, so bright that it left him temporarily blind.

Acts 9:3-8 tells us,

'And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus'.

Luke goes on to tell us what happened next in Acts 9:9-18

'And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink. And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake. And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized'

Conversion of Paul on the Road to Damascus

Paul is blinded by the light on the road to Damascus

The great vision of God's glory that Paul witnessed was the starting point for a ministry that would occupy the rest of his life. Paul was about to set out on a journey as the greatest Christian missionary the world would ever know and would bring the glorious word of God to all mankind, both Jew and Gentile and create, along with others, what would become the Christian Church. Through the teaching and preaching of Paul the small sect of Jewish converts would become a world wide movement, bringing Christianity to the entire world.

Saul became Paul

In Hebrew he was known as Saul. He would have been given his name at the point of circumcision at eight days old. Saul was probably quite a common name for boys born of the Tribe of Benjamin in memory of Saul, the first King of the United Kingdom of Israel. In Latin, the language of Rome, and in Greek the main language of the region, he was known as Paul. It wasn't unusual for Jews during the Roman period to have two names and his preferred use of his Latin and Greek name Paul, following his conversion, indicates a distancing from his previous life as a Jew. We tend to use the two names in the same way today, using Saul during his Jewish life and Paul during his Christian ministry.

Why did God choose Paul?

Well, obviously only God really knows so I can only speculate.

  • Paul was certainly well versed in the scriptures and he understood and followed the 'Law' as passed down to us by Moses, who had received it directly from God on Mount Sinai.
  • He would certainly have been aware of the promised coming of the Messiah, as foretold in the scriptures.
  • He was certainly aware of Jesus and the growing number of Jewish converts who were baptised and became his loyal followers.

But why Paul?

  • He was passionate about God and his purposes for mankind.
  • He was both a Jew and a Roman citizen so he could travel the Roman world without fear.
  • He spoke Greek, Latin and other languages that would allow him to communicate with the non Jewish world.
  • Although a Pharisee, he wasn't afraid, or unwilling to communicate with non Jews.
  • He was self motivated and a brilliant communicator.
  • He always wanted to do what was right, although he had misunderstood that during his Jewish period.

Probably he was exactly what God was looking for in a missionary. To take the Good News of the Kingdom of God to the Jewish and non Jewish world, to sow the seed of Christianity, to nurture it, to appoint church leaders and to teach and motivate them.

Was he the right man for the job? Did he achieve what was asked of him? Did he achieve more that others could have? Yes, Yes, Yes.

Paul the Apostle

Paul left Damascus and returned to Jerusalem to seek out the apostles. They must have tried to avoid any contact with him for fear of being arrested, or worse. They would certainly have been very sceptical that this once evil man had converted and become a believer in Jesus as the Messiah. He visited synagogues preaching the truth about Jesus Christ to the Jewish population but they rejected him. Eventually Peter and the other apostles of Jesus accepted him and he joined up with the apostle Barnabas in three missionary journeys that was to bring the new faith to the wider world. He was to become known as 'The Apostle to the Gentiles'.

Paul was clearly an 'Apostle', although not one of the twelve Jesus chose as his Apostles. The term 'Apostle' is a noun derived from the Greek verb Aπόστολος (Apostolos) meaning 'one who is sent out on a mission' so Paul had every right to use term as he clearly was sent out on a mission by God. However, he was not really comfortable with the term as he explains in 1st Corinthians 15:9-10 'For I am the least of the apostles, and am not really fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me'.

The period of twelve years from 45 to 57AD was the most active and productive of his ministerial life. It includes three great Apostolic expeditions which had their starting point in Antioch and invariably ended in a visit to Jerusalem, probably to catch up with Peter and the other Apostles and exchange blessings, stories, thoughts and ideas.

Where did Paul Write his Letters (Epistles)?

Obviously we can't be absolutely sure of the exact locations where Paul wrote his letters. However, the following table is widely accepted as being true:

Book Year Place written
1st Thessalonians 52AD Corinth
2nd Thesalonians 52AD Corinth
1st Corinthians 56AD Ephesus
2nd Corinthians 56AD Macedonia
Romans 56AD Macedonia
Galatians 56AD Macedonia
Ephesians 61 to 63AD Written whilst in prison
Colossians 61 to 63AD Written whilst in prison
Philippians 61 to 63AD Written whilst in prison
Philemon 61 to 63AD Written whilst in prison
Hebrews *** 61 to 63AD Written whilst in prison
1st Timothy 63 to 64AD Corinth
Titus 63 to 64AD Corinth
Philemon 63 to 64AD Corinth
2 Timothy 66AD Rome

*** Paul may not have written the book of Hebrews, it may have been written by Apollos or Barnabas. It's possible it was written following Paul's martyrdom, after the persecution of Nero but before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. In which case it would have been written between 65 to 70AD.


Paul's Missionary Journeys

According to the Book of Acts, which was written by Luke, Paul undertook four missionary journeys ending in Rome. It is possible that he undertook further missionary journeys but we have no proof. The following accounts are taken from the book of Acts:

Paul's First Missionary Journey

Paul's 1st and 2nd Missionaly Journeys

Many thanks to Biblical Foundations for Freedom for their kind permission to use the map.

Paul began his first missionary journey around the year 46AD, not from Jerusalem, where you would have expected it to have started from, but from Antioch in Syria. Many believers had fled Jerusalem following the death of Stephen, some of them settled in Antioch, others settled in Phoenicia and also Cyprus. This lead to some Greek people (non Jewish) hearing the good news of the Kingdom of God and becoming believers. Some of these Greek's passed through Antioch on their travels and whilst there they came to the attention of the Jewish coverts from Jerusalem. As soon as they realised that non Jewish people were becoming believers they all gave praise to God (Acts 11:18-21).

Antioch in Syria

On hearing this good news, the Church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch to encourage and minister to the believers there (Acts 11:22).
Barnabas was so overjoyed with the progress of the Church in Antioch that he set off for Tarsus to find Paul and bring him to Antioch to help with the ministry. Together they spent a year in Antioch and the Church grew greatly and it was there they called themselves 'Christians' for the first time. This was an important development for now the believers in Jesus Christ, whether they were Jew or Gentile had a proper identity.


Then The Holy Spirit directed Paul and Barnabas to leave Antioch and to travel to Cyprus. They sailed from the sea port of Seleucia, about 10Km from Antioch From Antioch, to Salamis on the east coast of Cyprus which is modern day Famagusta Bay (Acts 13:4-5). Here they were joined by John Mark who was to be a helper for the journey. Paul and Barnabas then travelled from town to town across the entire island, meeting with local Jewish communities and preaching the Word of God regarding Jesus Christ and how he had fulfilled the promises God made to the forefathers and Prophets. Acts 13:32-33.

It's worth mentioning at this point the sudden decision of John Mark to leave the missionary journey and return to Jerusalem. We do not know why he made this sudden decision, Acts 13:13 simply says, 'John left them to return to Jerusalem'. This decision would cause a rift between Paul and Barnabas later at the start of the second missionary journey. 

Antioch of Pisidia

Antioch in Pisidia is not the same as Anitoch in Syria, It is in Turkey and was a major Roman colony during the time of Paul.

Here Paul and Barnabas preached the Word of God to the local Jewish community as they had done in Cyprus but they were not received well and the Jews stirred up trouble for them. As a result they soon left, shaking the dust from their feet and headed for Iconium where the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:50-52).


In Iconium, Paul and Barnabas went together to the synagogue and preached the Word of God with such power that a great number of both Jews and Gentiles became believers (Acts 14:1). The apostles stayed in Icomium for some time and God gave them power to do miraculous signs and wonders. However, the people of Iconium were divided in their opinion about them and some sided with the Jews, and some with the apostles. Then a mob of Gentiles and Jews, along with their leaders, decided to attack and stone them. When the apostles learned of it they fled for their lives. So they travelled to the area of Lycaonia and the cities of Lystra and Derbe and they preached the Good News there (Acts,14:4-7).


While in Lystra a man who had been crippled from birth heard Paul speak and Paul perceived he had the faith to be healed. Paul then called in a loud voice, 'Stand up on thy feet the man stood up and was healed (Acts 14:8-10). The local people thought Paul and Barnabas were gods and they began to call Barnabas Jupiter and Paul Mercury. Then the pagan priest of Jupiter prepared to sacrifice to them but when Paul and Barnabas heard of this they tore their clothes and appealed to the people to stop this foolishness and encouraged them to turn from pagan beliefs to the one true God (Acts 14:12-18). Very soon after this Jews from Antioch and Iconium arrived and stirred up the crowds into a murderous mob and they began to stone Paul and dragged him out of the city apparently dead. The next day Paul and Barnabas left Iconium for Derbe (Acts 14:19-20).


Paul and Barnabas arrived in Derbe and began preaching the Word of God there and many became followers.

After this Paul and Barnabas decided to return to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch of Pisidia where they strengthened the believers and encouraged them to continue in the faith and reminded them that they would only enter the Kingdom of God having overcome many tribulations. Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in every Church and prayed for them with fasting, turning them over to the care of the Lord, in whom they had come to trust (Acts14:21-23)

Back to Antioch in Syria

Then Paul and Barnabas travelled through Pisidia on to Pamphylia to Perga and finally the port of Attalia where they sailed back to Antioch in Syria where their journey had begun. In Antioch they met with the Christian congregation and told them all that had happened on their journey and that many Gentiles had become Christians thanks to God (Acts14:24-28).


Paul's Second Missionary Journey

Paul's 1st and 2nd Missionaly Journeys

Many thanks to Biblical Foundations for Freedom for their kind permission to use the map.


Paul began his second missionary journey around 49-52AD from Antioch in Syria where his first missionary journey had begun.

The intention was for Paul and Barnabas to return to the cities where they had established congregations in their first missionary journey to see how they were getting on and to offer spiritual encouragement and guidance (Acts 15:36). However the issue of the young John Mark was raised who had deserted them on their first missionary journey. Paul was not prepared to allow him to accompany them on this journey and this decision caused a split between Paul and Barnabas with Barnabas deciding to take John Mark and visit Cyprus without Paul (Acts 15:37-39).

Syria and Celicia

Paul then chose Silas to accompany him on this journey and they set off entrusting their destiny to God. They travelled through Syria and Celicia to visit the congregations and minister to them (Acts 15:41-41). Paul's plan was to establish strong church communities in each city and to visit them when possible and to keep in touch through a series of letters known as epistles.

Derbe and Lystria

They called in at Derbe and then in Lystria they met up with Timothy who was half Jew through his mother and half Greek through his father. It seems there was some issue with the local Jews over him not being circumcised. It was no longer a requirement for believers (now called Christians) to be circumcised and Paul made this clear in his letters. However, it appears that Timothy felt it should be done in his case to allow him to preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God to Jews, without them criticizing him for not following the Jewish Law as laid down by Moses. So Paul had him circumcised to settle the matter so they could press on with their mission without the matter deflecting them from the important issues (Acts 16:1-3)

They went through the cities where congregations had been established and the numbers of believers increased daily. Part of Paul's job was to deliver decrees to the new congregations from the Apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem (Acts 16:4-5)

Phrygia and Galatia

It is at this stage that we realise, from reading the Book of Acts, that Paul and the other missionaries were being lead by the Holy Spirit in so far as the places they were to visit was concerned (Acts 16:6) They clearly planned to go on into Asia but were forbidden to by the Holy Spirit.

Mysia, Bithynia and Troas

Again we see the Holy Spirit making the decisions for they clearly planned to go from Mysia to Bithynia but they were not permitted (Acts 16:7). So they passed by Mysia and stopped the night at Troas.

Macedonia - Neapolis and Phillippi

That night a vision appeared to Paul that was to have a profound effect on the course the Church would take from that point on. In the vision Paul was confronted by a 'Man of Macedonia' who begged him to 'Come over to Macedonia and help us' (Acts 16:9). Without hesitation Paul and his brethren set off from Troas and made straight for Samothracia and the following day to Neapolis (modern day Kavala) and from there to Phillippi, a Roman colony about 20Km from Neapolis along the Via Egnatia. This was significant because the Word of God was to be preached in Greece for the first time (Acts 16:10-12)

The first European Baptisms took place in a stream about 2Km from Phillippi along the Via Egnatia. It was the Sabbath and Paul and his brethren went out of the City of Phillippi and sat by a stream to pray. He was approached by a woman called Lydia who's house was at the side of the stream. She had been moved by the Holy Spirit to enquire of Paul and be baptised there along with her household (Acts 16:13-15)

A point worth making concerns meeting places. References to 'Churches' do not refer to buildings, as might be the case today. Rather the term refers to a congregation of believers that by this time were called Christians. They met in houses, or in the countryside to give praise to God and sing psalms etc. The meeting with Lydia therefore would have been a totally natural event as she would have been curious on hearing them praising God so close to her home.

Some time into their stay in Phillippi Paul and the brethren got into trouble with some locals who had no intention of accepting the Word of God. They stirred up hatred and accused them of destroying their income and teaching the people things that were against Roman customs. They were arrested, beaten and thrown into prison in Phillippi The magistrates ordered the jailor to keep a close eye on them and not to allow them to escape. At midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to God which was overheard by the the other prisoners. Suddenly there was a great earthquake which shook the prison which caused the doors to be released and all the prisoners bands were loosed. The jailor awoke suddenly thinking the prisoners were escaping and he prepared to kill himself on his own sword. Paul realised this and called out to the jailor to stop saying, 'don't harm yourself, we are all still here'. At that the jailor asked Paul, 'what must I do to be saved'? Paul said, 'believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved'. The jailor was then baptised along with his household and they all praised God whilst in the jailors house. The following day the magistrates sent instructions for the prisoners to be released and for them to go in peace. However Paul was not happy because he was a Roman citizen and therefore felt that he should not have been imprisoned in the first place. When the magistrate was aware of this he personally went to Paul and asked him to leave a free man. Paul then went back to Lydia's house briefly before departing for Thessalonica (Acts 16:19-40).


Phillippi today

Via Egnatia close to Phillippi

The Via Egnatia close to Phillippi


Paul and the brethren departed Lydia's house and headed for Thessalonica along the Via Egnatia passing through Amphipolis and Apollonia. In Thessalonica Paul sought out the Jewish Synagogue (meeting house) and began reasoning with the Jews concerning Jesus, his resurrection from the dead and the fact that he was the long awaited Messiah. Many Greeks accepted the words of Paul and became Christians but the Jews would not accept them and began stirring up trouble for them, claiming they were guilty of treason because they were proclaiming Jesus as king, contrary to the decrees of Rome and Caesar (Acts 17:3-7).


That night the believers sent Paul and Silas from Thessalonica to Berea. When they arrived there, they went to the synagogue. And the people of Berea were more noble than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul's message. They searched the Scriptures daily to check up on Paul and Silas, to see if they were really teaching the truth. As a result, many Jews believed, as did some of the prominent Greek women and many men (Acts:17:10-12). However, the Jews of Thessalonica heard that Jews in Berea had been converted to Christianity and they immediately began stirring up trouble for the brethren again The brethren then sent Paul away to Athens to escape the trouble in Berea.


Paul arrived safely in Athens and sent for Timothy and Silus to leave Berea and join him there. (Acts 17:14-15).

Paul was dismayed that Athens was a city totally given over to idolatry (Acts 17:16) He managed to enter into dialogue with some philosophers and Stoics in Athens but they thought his words were of little value. They through the word of God preached by Paul was strange but they were interested purely because it was something new to their ears. Then Paul stood up on Mars Hill in Athens and said: 'Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you you are too superstitious, for as I passed by I and beheld your devotions, I found an alter with the inscription, To an unknown God' He then gave the speech of his life to the assembled notables of Athens:

'God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us. For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent. Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter' (Acts 17:24-32).

Paul then left them to their debating but some did hear is words and followed him. Among them were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Dameris and others with them (Acts 17:33-34).

Luke, the writer of Acts says very little about Paul's stay in Athens. He simply says, 'After these things, Paul departed Athens for Corinth' (Acts 18:1)


Paul travelled on from Athens to Corinth and stayed there for about 18 months. It was there that he met a Jew named Aquila who had recently arrived from Italy with his wife Priscilla. They had been expelled from Italy following an order by Claudius Ceasar to deport all Jews from Rome. By coincidence, Aquila was a tent maker like Paul so no doubt they got along very well working in the tent making trade (Acts 18:2-3)

Paul preached in the synagogues to the Jews regarding Jesus Christ and in the House Churches of the Gentile Christians. Some wicked Jews began to blaspheme and reject the message that Jesus was the Messiah. At this Paul shook his raiment and said, 'Your blood be be upon your own heads, I am clean and henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles' (Acts 18:5-6). At this, Paul departed the synagogue and went to the house of Justus which was adjacent to the synagogue. Justus was a Gentile who truly worshipped God. Also Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue truly believed in God together with his entire household and many of the people of Corinth believed in the Lord Jesus Christ and were baptised (Acts 18:7-8)

Ancient Corinth

Ruins of the Temple of Apollo at Corrinth

Paul left Corinth and sailed to Syria and entered Ephesus.


Paul sailed for the coast of Syria, taking Priscilla and Aquila with him. When they arrived at the port of Ephesus, Paul left the others behind. But while he was there, he went to the synagogue to debate with the Jews. They asked him to stay longer, but he declined as he had to attend a feast in Jerusalem. So he left, saying, 'I will come back later, God willing'. Then he set sail from Ephesus (Acts 18:19-21).

Ceasarea Jerusalem and back to Antioch

The next stop was at the port of Caesarea. From there he went up and visited the church and then went back to Antioch (Acts 18:22)

Galatia and Phrygia

And after he had spent some time there, he departed, and went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples (Acts 18:23).


Paul's Third Missionary Journey

About the year 53 to 58AD

Paul's third & fourth missionary journeys

Many thanks to Biblical Foundations for Freedom for their kind permission to use the map.



Ephesus today is located in Turkey, although in Paul's day it was a traditionally Greek city that had come under Roman rule and influence. Emperor Augustus made Ephesus the capital of proconsular Asia in place of Pergamum and in Paul's day it was the largest city in Roman Asia with about 500,000 inhabitants.

You will notice that Luke, the writer of the book of Acts, begins using the term 'The Way of The Lord' which was an early term for what would become known as Christianity'

Paul stayed in Ephesus for about two years, for the first few months he and his brethren concentrated on preaching to Jews in the synagogue but with very little success and some Jews publicly spoke out against Paul's message and 'The Way of The Lord'. So, he decided to leave the synagogue and to begin preaching daily in the house of Tyrannus (Acts 19:9).

The great theatre at Ephesus

The great theatre at Ephesus today

Paul also spent time healing and casting out evil spirits and a solemn fear descended on the city, and the name of the Lord Jesus was greatly honoured. Many who became believers confessed their sinful practices. A number of them who had been practicing magic brought their incantation books and burned them at a public bonfire. When they calculated the value of the books, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. So the message about The Way of The Lord spread widely and had a powerful effect."(Acts,19:17-20)

By the end of his two year stay at Ephesus the Good News about Jesus Christ had spread throughout Asia and both Jews and Greeks had become believers.

Paul now wanted to travel through Macedonia, Achaia, Jerusalem and onto Rome (Acts 19:21) but at about this time serious trouble developed in Ephesus concerning the Way of The Lord. It began with Demetrius, a silversmith who had a business manufacturing silver trinkets and shrines of the Greek goddess Artemis. He kept many craftsmen busy and he called the craftsmen together, along with others employed in related trades, and addressed them as follows:

'Gentlemen, you know that our wealth comes from this business. As you have seen and heard, this man Paul has persuaded many people that handmade gods aren't gods at all. And this is happening not only here in Ephesus but throughout the entire province' (Acts 19:23-26)

Demetrius added that Paul's message was not only harming their business, it also "robbed the magnificent goddess Artemis of her magnificence (Acts 19:27

At this their anger boiled over and they began shouting, 'Great is Artemis of the Ephesians' a crowd gathered and soon the city was filled with confusion. Everyone rushed to the amphitheater, dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, who were Paul's travelling companions from Macedonia. Paul wanted to go in, but the brethren wouldn't let him. Some of the officials of the province who were friends of Paul also sent a message to him begging him not to risk his life by entering the amphitheater (Acts 19:28-31) Inside, the people were all shouting, some one thing and some another. Everything was in confusion. In fact, most of them didn't even know why they were there (Acts 19:32).

Macedonia and on to Troas

After the uproar at Ephesus had died down Paul called the deciples to him, embraced them and departed for Macedonia(Acts 20:1).

Paul went overland from Ephesus through Macedonia to Phillippi and sailed from Neapolis (modern day Kavala) to Troas which was more properly named 'Colonia Alexandria Augusta Troas'. It was located on the western coast of Anatolia, close to Troy and the Dardanelles and had a population of around 100,000 at the time of Paul. The journey took five days and Paul stayed there for seven days (Acts 20:6).

Assos, Mitylene, Chios, Samos and onto Miletus

Paul celebrated Pascha (Easter) in Troas with the brethren and then quickly passed through a number of cities before heading for Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost (Acts 20:14-16).

At this time we begin to see the tradition developing of Christians meeting on the first day of the week (Sunday) to break bread and pray together. This day would become known as 'The Lord's Day' and not to be confused with the 'Sabbath Day' which was always on the last day of the week (Saturday). Many Christians today wrongly call Sunday the Sabbath Day.

Paul clearly felt at this time that he would not see the faithful brethren in Greece again. He had spent three years in Ephesus preaching to everyone and building up the faithful church there. The following verses from Acts 21:16-38 testify to his fears for himself but more importantly, for the faithful he was to leave behind. The passage describes the raw emotions that both Paul and the brethren felt on not seeing each other again:

For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia: for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost. And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, Serving the LORD with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there, save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have showed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all. And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship.


After saying farewell to the elders at Ephesus, Paul and his brethren set sail and after a few days sailing, 'landed at the harbour of Tyre, in Syria, where the ship was to unload. We went ashore, found the local believers, and stayed with them a week' (Acts 21:3-4) These disciples prophesied through the Holy Spirit that Paul should not go on to Jerusalem. When we returned to the ship at the end of the week, the entire congregation, including wives and children, came down to the shore with us. There we knelt, prayed, and said our farewells. Then we went aboard, and they returned home again (Acts 21:5-6)

'The next stop after leaving Tyre was Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and sisters but stayed only one day. Then we went on to Caesarea and stayed at the home of Philip the Evangelist, one of the seven men who had been chosen to distribute food' (Acts 21:7-8

Paul was advised not to go to Jerusalem for fear of the Jews handing him over to be killed but Paul was not afraid and was ready to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ if that be the will of God. When the brethren saw Paul's determination to go to Jerusalem they said, 'The will of the Lord be done' (Acts 21:10-14)

So Paul went up to Jerusalem to be with the church elders and declared the good news about his ministries and the growing number of believers (Acts 21:18-20).

But he was soon set upon by the Jews who were angry that he had mixed with Gentiles and even invited them into the temple. The whole of Jerusalem was in a uproar at this but then the chief captain placed Paul in chains and demanded an explanation from him. Paul asked if he could be allowed to speak to which the captain agreed (Acts 21:27-40).

Paul stood on the stairs and motioned to the people to be quiet. Soon a deep silence enveloped the crowd, and he addressed them in Hebrew (Acts 21:40
Paul explains to the crowds that he was educated in the Jewish law in Jerusalem and became a zealous defender of the Law of Moses. 'I persecuted the followers of the Way, hounding some to death, binding and delivering both men and women to prison' (Acts 22:4

Then Paul shared with the crowds his experience on the road to Damascus and how the Risen Lord Jesus appeared to him and showed him the new way to follow.
The crowds were listening to Paul until he mentioned that Jesus had sent him to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. At this point the crowds started shouting again.
The Roman commander took Paul to prison and the next day he freed Paul from his chains and ordered the leading priests into session with the Jewish high council. He had Paul brought in before them to try to find out what the trouble was all about (Acts 22:30).

Paul defended himself before the Sanhedrin in a very clever way. Paul realised that some members of the Sanhedrin were Sadducees and some were Pharisees, so he shouted, 'Brothers, I am a Pharisee, as were all my ancestors and I am on trial because my hope is in the resurrection of the dead'. This divided the council the Pharisees against the Sadducees for the Sadducees say there is no resurrection or angels or spirits but the Pharisees believe in all of these. So there was a great argument, some of the teachers of the Jewish law who were Pharisees jumped up to argue that Paul was all right. 'We see nothing wrong with him, they shouted'. 'Perhaps a spirit or an angel spoke to him'. But the shouting grew louder and louder, and the men were tugging at Paul from both sides, pulling him this way and that. Finally, the commander, fearing they would tear him apart, ordered his soldiers to take him away from them and bring him back to the fortress. That night the Lord appeared to Paul and said, 'Be encouraged, Paul. Just as you have told the people about me here in Jerusalem, you must preach the Good News in Rome' (Acts 23:6-11).

Paul begins to understand that his imprisonment is the way to get to Rome and the events that follow prove him to be correct.

The Roman commander feels that the presence of Paul in Jerusalem might be a cause of new riots and assassination attempts. He then orders Paul to be sent, under escort, to Caesaria, where the governor Felix (whose wife Drusilla was Jewish) would make a final judgement. In Caesaria, Felix listens to the accusers of Paul and to Paul's defence. Luke notes, Felix, who was quite familiar with the Way of the Lord, adjourned the hearing and said, 'I will decide the case later'. He ordered an officer to keep Paul in custody but to give him some freedom and allow his friends to visit him and take care of his needs (Acts 24:22-23)

The governor Felix hoped that Paul would bribe him, so he sent for him quite often and talked with him. Two years went by in this way, and because Felix wanted to gain favour with the Jewish leaders, he left Paul in prison. Then Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus (Acts 24:26-27)

A new trial is organised and Paul had to defend himself in front of Festus. At the end of this trial, Paul resorted to his right as a Roman citizen to be judged directly by the Emperor in Rome.

Paul said 'I appeal to Caesar'. Festus conferred with his advisers and then replied, 'Very well, you have appealed to Caesar, so to Caesar you shall go' (Acts 25:11-12)
Finally Paul has the chance of going to Rome, in chains. Before Festus can arrange how to send Paul to Rome, King Agrippa came to Caesaria to pay his respects to the new governor Festus (Acts 25:13). King Agrippa was interested in Paul's case and wanted to meet Paul to try to understand why he had been so accused by the Jews. Festus gladly brought Paul before King Agrippa and said, 'In my opinion this man has done nothing worthy of death. However, he appealed his case to the emperor, and I decided to send him. But what shall I write the emperor? For there is no real charge against him. So I have brought him before all of you, and especially you, King Agrippa, so that after we examine him, I might have something to write. For it doesn't seem reasonable to send a prisoner to the emperor without specifying the charges against him' (Acts 25:25-27)

So Paul began his defence before king Agrippa in the form of a proclamation of the Gospel. He became so excited that "suddenly, Festus shouted, 'Paul, you are insane, too much study has made you crazy'. But Paul replied, 'I am not insane, Most Excellent Festus. I am speaking the sober truth and King Agrippa knows about these things. I speak frankly for I am sure these events are all familiar to him for they were not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do' Agrippa interrupted him. 'Do you think you can make me a Christian so quickly?' Paul replied, 'Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains' (Acts 26:24-29) When they left, they all agreed, 'This man hasn't done anything worthy of death or imprisonment.' and Agrippa said to Festus, 'He could have been set free if he hadn't appealed to Caesar' (Acts 26:31-32)

Paul's Fourth Missionary Journey

The journey to Rome

About the year 60AD

Paul's third & fourth missionary journeys

Many thanks to Biblical Foundations for Freedom for their kind permission to use the map.


Paul was kept as a prisoner for about two years at Caesaria before the time came for him to be sent to Rome. He was then placed in the charge of a centurion named Julias for the journey to Rome. Luke writes, 'When the time came, we set sail for Italy. Paul and several other prisoners were placed in the custody of an army officer named Julius, a captain of the Imperial Regiment. And Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was also with us. We left on a boat whose home port was Adramyttium. It was scheduled to make several stops at ports along the coast of the province of Asia' (Acts 27:1-2)

It seems the journey was difficult from the start as Luke continues to report:

And entering into a ship of Adramyttium, we launched, meaning to sail by the coasts of Asia. Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, being with and the next day we touched at Sidon. And Julius courteously entreated Paul, and gave him liberty to go unto his friends to refresh himself. us. And when we had launched from Sidon we sailed under Cyprus, because the winds were contrary. And when we had sailed over the sea of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia. And there the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing into Italy so he put us therein (Acts 27:3-6)

Paul advises the centurion not to sail:

And when we had sailed slowly many days, and scarce were come over against Cnidus, the wind not suffering us, we sailed under Crete, over against Salmone; And, hardly passing it, came unto a place which is called The fair havens; nigh whereunto was the city of Lasea. And said Paul unto them, Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives (Acts 27:7-11)

Nevertheless the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul. And because the haven was not commodious to winter in, the more part advised to depart thence also, if by any means they might attain to Phenice, and there to winter; which is an haven of Crete, and lieth toward the south west and north west. And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, loosing thence, they sailed close by Crete. But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon. And when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let her drive. And running under a certain island which is called Clauda, we had much work to come by the boat: Which when they had taken up, they used helps, undergirding the ship; and, fearing lest they should fall into the quicksands, strake sail, and so were driven. And we being exceedingly tossed with a tempest, the next day they lightened the ship; And the third day we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship. And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away. But after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss (Acts 27:11-21)

Paul tells them not to worry, no man will die but the ship will be lost:

And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man's life among you, but of the ship. For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me. Howbeit we must be cast upon a certain island. But when the fourteenth night was come, as we were driven up and down in Adria, about midnight the shipmen deemed that they drew near to some country; And sounded, and found it twenty fathoms: and when they had gone a little further, they sounded again, and found it fifteen fathoms. Then fearing lest we should have fallen upon rocks, they cast four anchors out of the stern, and wished for the day. And as the shipmen were about to flee out of the ship, when they had let down the boat into the sea, under colour as though they would have cast anchors out of the foreship, Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved. Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of the boat, and let her fall off. And while the day was coming on, Paul besought them all to take meat, saying, This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing. Wherefore I pray you to take some meat: for this is for your health: for there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you. And when he had thus spoken, he took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all: and when he had broken it, he began to eat. Then were they all of good cheer, and they also took some meat. And we were in all in the ship two hundred threescore and sixteen souls. And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, and cast out the wheat into the sea. And when it was day, they knew not the land: but they discovered a certain creek with a shore, into the which they were minded, if it were possible, to thrust in the ship. And when they had taken up the anchors, they committed themselves unto the sea, and loosed the rudder bands, and hoised up the mainsail to the wind, and made toward shore. And falling into a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the forepart stuck fast, and remained unmovable, but the hinder part was broken with the violence of the waves. And the soldiers' counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape. But the centurion, willing to save Paul, kept them from their purpose; and commanded that they which could swim should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land: And the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land (Acts 27:22-44)


Once everyone was safely on shore the people of Malta welcomed them and built a fire to help dry them out and keep them warm (Acts 28:2)

But then, 'As Paul gathered an armful of sticks and was laying them on the fire, a poisonous snake, driven out by the heat, fastened itself onto his hand. The people of the island saw it hanging there and said to each other, he is probably a murderer. Though he escaped the sea, justice will not permit him to live.' But Paul shook off the snake into the fire and was unharmed. The people waited for him to swell up or suddenly drop dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and decided he was a god' (Acts 28:3-6).

'Near the shore where we landed was an estate belonging to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us courteously and fed us for three days. As it happened, Publius's father was ill with fever and dysentery. Paul went in and prayed for him, and laying his hands on him, he healed him. Then all the other sick people on the island came and were cured. As a result we were showered with honours, and when the time came to sail, people put on board all sorts of things we would need for the trip' (Acts 28:7-10).

They stayed there three months waiting for the weather to improve and for the Alexandrian ship to be ready to sail. They landed at Syracuse and stayed three days, then to Rhegium for one day, then to Puteoli where they stayed seven days with Christian brethren. Finally they set sail for Rome and Christians came from all around to send them off, which gave Paul courage and he thanked God. (Acts 28:11-15)


When they landed in Rome the prisoners were handed over to the captain of the guard but Paul was told to stay behind. Then for two years he was allowed to have his own lodging although he was guarded by a soldier.(Acts 28:16)

Paul immediately began preaching in Rome:

Paul had only limited freedom in Rome but the Roman authorities did allow him to evangelise and spread the Word of God to the people there.

'And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me. But when the Jews spoke against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of. For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain. And they said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judaea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came showed or spoke any harm of thee. But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against. And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not. And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spoke the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive (Isa 6:9 ~ Matt 13:14 ~ John 12:40) Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it. And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves. And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him (Acts 28:17-31).

The Acts of the Apostles ends at this point.

We do not know when or if there was a trial. We do know that both Paul and Peter, who became the Bishop of Rome were killed during the fierce persecution of the Emperor Nero, sometime between 64-67AD

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul tells us something about how he felt about his imprisonment in Rome: 

'And I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. For everyone here, including all the soldiers in the palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. And because of my imprisonment, many of the Christians here have gained confidence and become more bold in telling others about Christ' (Philippians 1:12-14).

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