A Short Biography of the Apostle Paul


As if out of nowhere, Paul comes upon the Christian scene[1]. Not as a Christ follower, but as the persecutor of the church, Saul. The tension Luke creates is palpable. He writes, “And the witnesses laid their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul” (Acts 7:58).  In Acts 9, Saul had a radical encounter with the risen Christ and was called into ministry. There are a few things we know about Paul. He was a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37, 22:25-29). He was from a Jewish family from the city of Tarsus (Acts 22:3). He was trained as a Pharisee and a son of a Pharisee (Acts 23:6), and he even sat under the teaching of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), a first century influential Rabbi and a leader in the Jewish Sanhedrin. While a Roman citizen, he was Jewish, circumcised on the eighth day, and from the tribe of Benjamin (Phil 3:5). Paul writes of himself, “…a Hebrew born of Hebrews; regarding the law a Pharisee; regarding zeal, persecuting the church; regarding righteousness that is in the law, blameless” (Phil 3:5-6).


            If you would like to read more about the conversion of Paul, you can read Acts 9. Roughly around AD 35-36, Paul encountered the risen Christ. Through this meeting, Paul would realize that Jesus was Israel’s promised Messiah, and thus Paul would embark on this Christian journey of following Jesus as Lord. Galatians chapter 1 is another excellent source of Paul’s early life and conversion. Through the Galatian text, we see God revealing His Son to Paul and Paul waiting three years before going to Jerusalem to get to know Peter. He stayed with Peter for fifteen days and met the Lord’s Brother James in Jerusalem. In Galatians chapter one, we also learn that Paul’s early years after conversion he spent in the region of Syria and Cilicia preaching “the faith he once tried to destroy” (Galatians 1:23). Paul’s life is a beautiful reminder that the gospel can reach everyone, but no one is the same after the gospel reaches their hearts and begins the work of transformation.

Paul’s Contribution

            When one thinks of Paul, there are many things to remember about his amazing life. However, there are two lasting impacts. First, Paul was one of the earliest missionaries in the Church. He went on three missionary journeys during this lifetime. In Acts 13, we see Paul and Barnabas being set apart for the work of missions. Approximately AD 46-47, they begin their first journey. Once converted, God formed and taught Paul for ten years, and then God sent him out on the first journey. We are always in a hurry with God, but God’s timetable is much different than ours.  

            It was during these journeys Paul would plant many churches. He would begin in the synagogue of the city he visited. He reasoned from Scripture with the Jews that Jesus is the promised Messiah. Most of the time, they rejected Paul’s message, and he would take his message to God-fearing Gentiles and begin to see God move in dynamic ways. If you would like to read more about Paul’s three missionary journeys, here is a rough breakdown:

  • Missionary Journey One: Acts 13:4-15:35 (begins and ends in Antioch)
  • Journey Two: Acts 15:36-18:22 (Begins and ends in Antioch)
  • Journey Three: Acts 18:23-21:17 (Begins in Antioch and ends in Jerusalem)
  • Acts 27:1-28:16 Journey to Rome

Secondly, not only is Paul known for his missionary zeal, but he was a prolific writer. We have thirteen Epistles attributed to the Apostle Paul. Epistles are ancient letters written to an individual or a local church congregation. Within the thirteen letters, there are generally seven letters that are undisputedly Pauline. These are Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, 1 Thessalonians, Philippians, and Philemon. That leaves six letters that scholars debate as to Pauline’s origin (Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1&2 Timothy, Titus). Dispute often rises to textual variances from the undisputed letters. Scholars argue that the textual evidence is too different to be the same author. However, using amanuenses (think secretary or scribe) could easily account for the inconsistencies. Also, early church fathers endorsed the letters as Pauline in origin. For instance, Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria all recognized Colossians as having Paul as its author. I, for one, accept Pauline authorship on all thirteen letters. His letters are one of, if not the most, essential contributions to the Christian faith.


As you can imagine, Paul’s missionary ways and message did not often endear him to the Jewish population. When Paul arrived in Jerusalem (Acts 21:17), riots broke out, and the people wanted to kill Paul. However, he was arrested by Rome. This arrest began a series of events leading to a two-year imprisonment. The Book of Acts ends with, “Paul stayed two whole years in his own rented house, and he welcomed all who visited him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance” (Acts 28:30-31). This would have been in the time frame of AD 60-62. He is released from prison when he probably wrote 1 Timothy and Titus. In AD 67, he is imprisoned again and pens 2 Timothy, his last letter. Scripture does not speak of Paul’s martyrdom. However, an early church father, Ignatius, informs the church of the martyrdom of Paul in Rome in about 67 AD.


            The footprint left by Paul in the early church is profound and can’t be missed. Reading about his journeys, horrific persecutions, and eventual martyrdom leaves one in awe and great gratitude. The four Gospels teach us about the life of Jesus, but Paul’s letters are invaluable in teaching what Jesus meant to you and me. Join us at First Southern Baptist Church as we read and journey through what I think is Paul’s greatest letter and supreme contribution of Christian theology, Romans. May we be more like Paul and proclaim “the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance” (Acts 28:31).

[1] As you read the Bible, it is important to remember the events you read are actual historic events. Just as we know men  like George Washington and Benjamin Franklin are actual historic figures, we can be certain that men like Paul, Peter, Luke, and Jesus are actually historic figures.  


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