Who is Paul and His Early Ministry
(Acts 9:1-30, 11:19-30)
Paul came from a well-respected family in Tarsus (located in Asia Minor – modern day Turkey) where his father was an official. He excelled in his studies and became a devout Pharisee. The Pharisees were a group of Jewish religious leaders who believed a person must keep every one of the traditions of Judaism, as well as the commandments. As a young man, Paul (whose Jewish name was Saul), was sent to Jerusalem to study under a great teacher. Paul persecuted the early Christians not only in Jerusalem but elsewhere.
Paul asked the chief priest in Jerusalem to give him the authority to arrest any follower of Jesus (Christians) in Damascus, which was about 100 miles away from Jerusalem. On his way to Damascus, a light from heaven blinded him. He fell to the ground and a voice said, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He answered, “Who are you?” The voice said, “I am Jesus, the one who you are persecuting. Get up! Go into the city and you will be told what to do.” Paul was told to go to a house a wait for a Christian man, Ananias, to come and restore his sight.
The Lord spoke to Ananias and he was afraid. He knew of Paul’s reputation, but went to the house anyway. Ananias placed his hands on Paul and his sight was restored. Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit and was baptized.
The Christians in Damascus didn’t know what to think. They were amazed and confused as Paul started speaking to the people and convincing them that Jesus was the Messiah. Paul was preaching in Damascus and became more and more powerful.
The Jewish leaders became worried and decided to try and kill Paul. Paul became aware of their plans to arrest him when he walked out of the gates of the city. His friends had other plans so they found a large basket and tied ropes to it. During the night, Paul got in the basket and his friends lowered him to the ground. He didn’t go out the gates!
Paul left Damascus and went to Jerusalem. But the Christians living there were afraid of him as they didn’t believe that he had a changed heart and was now a follower of Jesus. Barnabas, a Christian who the people knew and trusted, stood up for Paul. Barnabas told everyone that Paul really was changed. Paul was accepted by them and he began preaching in Jerusalem. But again, the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem wanted to arrest Paul for preaching about following Jesus. Paul’s friends took him to Caesarea and then sent him to Tarsus, his hometown.
Barnabas went to Tarsus and found Paul. Together they preached to non-Jewish people. At the city of Antioch, these believers were first called Christians. A famine hit Jerusalem and these believers wanted to send relief to their fellow believers in Jerusalem. They sent Barnabas and Paul back to Jerusalem with gifts. When their mission was accomplished, Barnabas and Paul, along with a young man named John Mark, headed north to start a missionary journey throughout Asia Minor to spread the good news of Jesus.