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Summary of Paul's Life and Works

As part of our mid-week Bible Study, we looked at Paul's life and work.

Please note there are variations to the order of his writings, but as I believe it to be, is how it's represented below.


Birth and Early Life

Circa 5 AD: Paul (formerly Saul) is born in Tarsus

Education: Studied under Gamaliel in Jerusalem

“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. (Acts 22:3)
Conversion

Circa 34-36 AD: Conversion on the road to Damascus

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.  (Acts 9:1-19).

Early Ministry

Preaches in Damascus, then goes to Arabia, and returns to Damascus

I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus. (Galatians 1:17)

  

First Missionary Journey (Acts 13-14)
Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. (Acts 13:1-3)

Circa 46-48 AD: Paul and Barnabas are sent out from Antioch.

Key locations:

  • Cyprus (Salamis and Paphos): Likely a few weeks to a couple of months.

  • Pisidian Antioch: Possibly a few weeks.

  • Iconium: Several months.

  • Lystra and Derbe: Likely a few weeks to a couple of months.



He possibly wrote his first Epistle after returning in 48 AD to the Churches of Galatia, (that he had just returned from. Writing Galatians, he is addressing issues from this region.


The Jerusalem Council (Acts 15)

3 key reasons why I believe the letter to the Galatians is around the time of the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) is that the issues they were discussing were being experienced in Galatia.


1. Justification by Faith vs. Works of the Law:

Galatians: Paul strongly emphasises that justification comes through faith in Jesus Christ, not by works of the Law. He argues that believers are made right with God through faith alone.

know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:16)

Jerusalem Council (Acts 15): The council addresses the question of whether Gentile converts need to be circumcised and follow the Mosaic Law to be saved. Peter supports Paul’s stance, affirming that salvation is through grace, not the Law.

No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” (Acts 15:11)

 

2. Gospel for All Nations:

Galatians: Paul asserts that the promise of the gospel is for all people, and that through faith, Gentiles are included as Abraham’s offspring and heirs according to the promise

Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (Galatians 3:7-9)
He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. (Galatians 3:14)

Jerusalem Council: The council's decision reaffirms that the gospel is for all nations, supporting the inclusion of Gentiles without the need for them to become Jewish proselytes.

Simon has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles. The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:
“‘After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’— (Acts 15:14-17)

  

3. Confrontation and Correction:

Galatians: Paul recounts his confrontation with Peter (Cephas) in Antioch over his withdrawal from eating with Gentiles under pressure from certain Jewish believers. This incident underscores the tension between Jewish and Gentile practices.

When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? (Galatians 2:11-14)

Jerusalem Council: The council addresses similar tensions by providing a resolution that balances Jewish traditions with the inclusion of Gentiles, thereby correcting misunderstandings and setting a precedent for future issues.

The apostles and elders met to consider this question. After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” (Acts 15:6-11)

Second Missionary Journey (Acts 15:36-18:22)
Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. (Acts 15:36-38)

Circa 49-52 AD: Paul, Silas, and Timothy.

Key locations:

  • Philippi: A few weeks to a few months

  • Thessalonica: About three weeks

  • Berea: Likely a few weeks

  • Athens: A short stay, probably a few weeks

  • Corinth: 18 months.

So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God. (Acts 18:11)
  • Ephesus (brief visit): A short stay, probably a few weeks


He wrote 1 and 2 Thessalonians around 50-51 AD from Corinth.


Third Missionary Journey (Acts 18:23-21:17)

Circa 53-57 AD: Revisits Galatia and Phrygia, stays in Ephesus, and then travels through Macedonia and Greece.

Key locations:

  • Ephesus: About three years

So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. (Acts 20:31)
  • Macedonia (including Philippi and Thessalonica): Likely a few months

  • Greece (likely including Corinth): Three months

He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece, where he stayed three months. Because some Jews had plotted against him just as he was about to sail for Syria, he decided to go back through Macedonia. (Acts 20:2-3)

Timeline for the next set of Epistles:

1 Corinthians written around 55 AD from Ephesus

But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost (1 Corinthians 16:8)

2 Corinthians written around 56 AD from Macedonia

I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said goodbye to them and went on to Macedonia. (2 Corinthians 2:13).

Romans written around 57 AD from Corinth

Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings. Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings. (Romans 16:23)

Arrest and Trials (Acts 21-28)

Circa 57-62 AD: Arrest in Jerusalem, imprisonment in Caesarea, voyage to Rome.


Timeline for the next set of Epistles:

Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon written around 60-62 AD during imprisonment in Rome

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— (Ephesians 3:1)
As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. (Philippians 1:13)
And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. (Colossians 4:3)
yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is as none other than Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— (Philemon 1:9)

*Emphasise added


Later Years and Death

Circa 62-67 AD: Possible further travels after first Roman imprisonment.

Timeline for the next set of Epistles:

1 Timothy and Titus likely written around 62-66 AD.

2 Timothy written around 67 AD during a second Roman imprisonment

So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. (2 Timothy 1:8)

 

Circa 67 AD: Tradition says that Paul was martyred in Rome under Nero.


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