In God's most wonderful timing he had already begun to prepare a young man for the work of spreading the good news of Jesus. In the city of Tarsus in the closing years of the reign of Caesar Augustus a boy was born to a Jewish family of the tribe of Benjamin. He was raised to carefully follow all of the best of the Jewish faith even to the point of being sent to Jerusalem to study under one of the great Hebrew scholars of the day a man named Gamaliel. You don't realize it I'm sure but by having this young man named Saul be raised in a Roman colony immersed in Greek culture and then sent to Jerusalem to study prepared Saul to be able to cross cultural boundaries in later years. 

Saul who later became famous under his Roman citizen named Paul was a young man deeply committed to the Jewish faith. He himself speaks of how zealous he was even to the point of persecuting the church. He went from house to house seeking the followers of the way as it was called at first at one point he arranged to have letters of introduction drawn up to the Jewish leaders in Damascus to which he journeyed in order to arrest anyone you could find who believed in Jesus. It was on the road to Damascus that Jesus stopped him. Three times in the book of acts we were told the story of how Jesus appeared to Paul to call him to proclaim the good news of Jesus instead of trying to wipe it out. Paul's life was turned around. After some time in quiet seclusion Paul reappeared on the scene as a powerful preacher of Jesus. From that time on his course was settled he would turn the world upside down with news that was so good that nothing could stop him. Together with his mentor Barnabas set out on the first missionary journey. They've been set apart by the church as men called of God to go to places where the gospel had never been heard before. They took up the challenge and the confidence that the one who had called them would complete his good working. Several aspects of this trip deserve notice first Saul began using his Roman name Paulus. 

Second early on perhaps on Cypress already Paul became the leader of the mission. Luke who chronicled their journey no longer writes of Barnabas and Paul but of Paul and Barnabas. 

Finally on this journey Paul's missionary style blossomed. Particularly his drive to win followers for Jesus Christ and his willingness to cross political cultural and religious barriers to do so. His experience in Pisidia and Antioch in Asia minor would become typical.  On the Sabbath with Luke records, they that's Paul and Barnabas entered the synagogue. After the Hebrew scriptures were read the leaders of the synagogue as was customary turned to the guests and said brothers if you have a message of encouragement for the people please speak. Paul rose and said men of Israel and you gentiles who worship God listen to me. Then he reviewed the history of the Jewish people, finally coming to the point that the long-awaited Messiah had come. We tell you the good news what God promised our fathers he is fulfilled in us their children raising up Jesus. 

Therefore, my brothers I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses. Throughout the town word spread of the unusual visitors. Now the next Sabbath almost the whole city blue cows has turned out to hear Paul this time though some Jews argued abusively with him he abruptly halted the debate and revealed his strategy. He says we had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourself worthy of eternal life we now turn to the gentiles. Paul believed that although he was called to spread the message of grace among the Greeks he was still obligated as a Jew to offer first to his countrymen. 

Many of the Greeks joined the fledgling Christian Church there. Still Jewish dissidents convinced the city authorities to throw Paul and Barnabas out of town. And the next city they visited Iconium a plot was hatched to kill them. Later in life thought he was dead. Still Paul and Barnabas established a number of churches in Asia minor filled with both Jews and Greeks and by 80 48 Paul and Barnabas were back home in Antioch and spent a lengthy time recuperating.

Moving on to the second journey Luke tells us that when visiting Thessalonica an uproar began which focused on the fact that the men who have turned the world upside down had come to Thessalonica as well. God's word was going forth in power and no one and nothing was able to contain. Paul preached a sermon that did not result in a great church immediately getting started. But its message has been handed down to us in the book of Acts. When the city of Athens then the center of the university system of the world Paul spoke to the learned men of the day and in doing so demonstrated for all of us down to this very day that the gospel is good news even for those who believe they are too cultured and wise to listen.

Following Athens's next stop was the city that most likely was not even considered by those who had sent him out on this mission trip. He went to the city of court the city known for its loose morality. Its cultural diversity its general sense of being really a God forsaken place but when he got there. The Lord told him not to be afraid but to preach boldly because God had many people in the city. So for the next year and a half Paul and his companions worked in Corinth establishing a church that would be the original recipients of two of Paul's letters which we now have in the New Testament.

Paul was the original missionary a man with a mission from God his commitment was to serve Jesus no matter what. Here's what he says of his life five times I received the hands of the Jews the 40 lashes less one three times I was beaten with rocks once I was stoned three times. I was shipwrecked a day and a night; I was adrift at sea. On frequent journeys in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren, in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst often without food, in cold and exposure and apart from other things there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.

Paul was a man who lets us know what we can expect when we serve the Lord. In another spot in his letter to the Corinthians he writes but we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the surpassing power of God belongs to him and not to us. We are afflicted in every way but not crushed.  Perplexed but not driven to despair. Persecuted but not forsaken struck down but not destroyed. Always carrying in the body of the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our lives. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our mortal flesh.

Paul the missionary shows today that from the earliest times the followers of Jesus have not been friends of the world. The spirit of the age is always blowing against us. The winds of falsehood are forever attempting to drive us off course. But we do not lose heart he writes lower outer self is wasting away our inner being is being renewed in Christ day after day. Is that attitude which we can catch from reading history as the church began to spread the good news. May it fill us with a steadfast fear to be faithful to Jesus ourselves in our day and in our place of revival.

Last modified: Monday, March 13, 2023, 11:54 AM