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.  

Introduction to Romans

Author: The Apostle Paul is the indisputable author of the book of Romans. Paul’s authorship is often attested by the Church Fathers and accepted widely as an authentic Pauline letter.

Date: As we date letters and Books of the Bible, we look at internal and external evidence. 67 AD is generally accepted as the year of Paul’s martyrdom and thus becomes a terminus date for all Pauline letters. Therefore, we know Romans was written before 67 AD. Historically we also know the Edit of Claudius, which expelled many, but not all, Jews from Rome occurred in 49 AD. From internal evidence, we see Priscilla and Aquila have returned to Rome after being expelled from the city (Compare Acts 18:2 and Romans 16:3). The Edit of Claudius was automatically lifted at Claudius’ death in 54 AD. We have narrowed the possible dates from 54 AD to 67 AD. We can narrow the gap even more as we consider information within the letter itself and as we take into account The Book of Acts. We know, for instance, the end of Paul’s third missionary journey can be dated to around 57/58 AD.  In 58 AD, Nero imposed a tax on farmers that Paul may be addressing in chapter 13:6-7. Further, we know that in 59/60 AD, Paul finally made it to Rome, another terminus date for us. Also, we note in 16:1 that the letter was carried to Rome by Phoebe of the church in Cenchreae, near Corinth. With all this information, we can agree with most scholars the Epistle was written during Paul’s stay in Corinth (Acts 20:3) around 56/57 AD.

Occasion: The reason for Paul’s letter to the Romans is multi-faceted. There is not simply one reason Paul penned this beautiful and deep letter. Paul had never been to Rome but hoped to stop in Rome on the way to Spain. He wanted to introduce himself and encourage a church he did not know well. He also hoped to impart spiritual gifts and fruitful ministry among them (Ro 1:11-13). He also wrote Romans hoping to gain missionary support for his trip to Spain (15:22-24).  

In God’s sovereignty, He had Paul write a theological treatise, a summary of Paul’s theology. In Romans, we learn about our desperate need for a Savior and begin to understand that through the death of Jesus, the forgiveness of sin is available through faith. In the gospel, we see God’s power to save all who have faith and believe in Jesus. In Jesus, God has provided righteousness based not on what we can do for ourselves but on what God has done for us by sending His Son as an atoning sacrifice. This only scratches at the theological depth we see in Romans.

         It is also a letter encouraging unity between the Gentile and Jewish Christians. In AD 49, the Edit of Claudius was established, and many Jews were forced out of Rome (See Acts 18:1-2). Five years later, the Jews returned to a mostly Gentile-led church. Disunity is easy to imagine. In Romans, Paul levels the field at the cross. They were all called saints and sinners. But thankfully, God sent Jesus to save sinners and make them saints.

During Paul’s ministry, he was often misrepresented and disrespected (See Acts 15:1-2; 2 Cor 10:10; Gal 5:17). Since Paul has not visited Rome, this is an introduction to his ministry and a defense of his theology. Some may wonder if Paul is leaning toward antinomianism, a belief that those saved by grace are no longer bound to the moral law in the Ten Commandments. What were his views on Israel? Has God rejected His covenant people? Paul will assure his people that God has indeed been faithful to His covenant people through the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  

Finally, Romans is a wonderful pastoral letter. In the sixteen chapters, you see the pastor’s heart of Paul. He wanted to see the Roman Church grow in unity and in love. Paul knew there would be division and difficulty between Gentiles and Jews. However, he also knew their unity around the gospel would be sufficient to unify and draw many into the Kingdom. One of the subtle messages from Paul’s pastoral heart is the need for patience. We are different, yet in Christ, we are the same. Our uniqueness is what creates division, but our sameness trumps our uniqueness. Be patient with each other; put others before yourself; don’t worry over your preferences but seek first the Kingdom of God.

Themes: Here are just a few themes we will consider in Romans: God’s self-revelation, Jesus, gospel, sin, God’s righteousness, God’s wrath, justification, sanctification, glorification, Holy Spirit, Prayer, Israel, and the role of the Law,

Conclusion: As we read and study Romans, we will learn more intimately how loved you are by God. You will see how God’s love for us resulted in God sending His Son, Jesus, to rescue us from sin. As we navigate the book, we will see that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Romans is a book of the love of God. Join us as we read and study this wonderful letter.