With his remarkable
talent, learning, spirit of the Lord, of a sound mind and of divine revelation,
Paul secured a hearing before the Athenian Council of the Areopagus. Where the supreme court of Athens convened; where
Demosthenes and other eloquent orators had spoken.
Using the address usual with all Greek orators, He stood in the midst of Mars Hill and spoke:
“Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things; ye are too superstitious.” ―Acts 17:22.
The Diaglott renders this text, “I perceive that in
all things you are extremely devoted to the worship of Demons.” Meaning unwise
and over-religious and over reverential to an extreme, but
respectful for whatever is divine. At the time, Greece was noted as a center of
learning, piety and wisdom. In Athens
there were over 3,000 public statues to the gods.
“For as I passed by and beheld your devotions, I found an altar to The Unknown God whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto you.” ―Acts 17:23.
By their own confession, they worship without knowledge of his name or character. Even today the majority of religious people worship without this knowledge. The Greek word Theos – a mighty one – does not invariably refer to the Creator, unknown to Athenians as the author and sustainer of all life. The mind that roams about and grasps innumerable gods is truly over-religious and less than wise.
“God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;” ―Acts 17:24.
The true God is neither stone, nor wood, nor was there any such representation of Him. The truly consecrated Saints were the living stones of God’s great temple, and each a miniature temple.
Nominal Christian people erroneously think of the ornate temples of wood and brick and stone in which they pray as the houses of God.
Whenever someone erects a house of prayer
The Devil always builds a chapel there
And twill be found, upon examination
The latter has the largest congregation.
“Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, [Human power] as though he needed anything, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;” —Acts 17:25.
The spark of life begins with the creature at conception. Once started breathing supports the spark.
“And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;” ―Acts 17:26.
Here Paul declares the solidarity of the human family. None can afford to be selfishly independent of another. Man is of one family; each is a human brother or sister to every other human being. All are children of one father, Adam, a Son of God.
The entire human race is of one flesh and blood, one common brotherhood, including all races. Divine love was not confined to one nation or people. There was no man prior to Adam; we descended from him no matter how different in color, stature, intelligence, etc. we now are. The variety among the human races is due to climate, customs, food and the mother’s surroundings during gestation, according to their place of residence. God merely confounded the language to scatter people and force them to separate and band together in groups who could understand each other.
The human race has long had prejudices one for another: language, skin color, education, degree of wealth, and etc. The divine right of kings fostered by the papal system aided the prejudice. Rulers who couldn’t help thinking of themselves as better than those they ruled, became subjected to the Pope, hierarchal tiers grew and the Roman Empire was for a time unseated by the Holy Roman Empire and briefly became ruler of the so-called civilized world. France under Napoleon unseated the Pope and became the most powerful in the world Then the British Empire, where the sun never set, defeated the French and became the worlds most powerful. The Americans Revolution won against the British and in a short period of time the American President became the most powerful man in the world.
But God made the world and everything in it, within his basic character traits – Power, Wisdom, Justice and Love. He is not merely the God of one nation, but a very different God from anything that has ever been suggested to the minds of human philosophers. God permitted or ordered the succession of human empires, Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Grecian, Roman, French, British and American “…until the Times of the Gentiles be fulfilled,” (Luke 21:24), the appointed season in which they should come to a full knowledge of Him. It is a premeditated plan of God in the best interests of His creation and the most favorable for the outworking of the divine purposes. “As all in Adam die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1Cor 15:22) We have opportunities every day with all mankind, to seek to do them good.
“That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:” ―Acts 17:27.
At this time not very many were in condition of heart to seek him. He guides, draws, and influences those who are. Israel was in darkness, though many of them were feeling after God, desiring righteousness, truth, and goodness, justice and to learn about his plan for mankind. God draws only such as are in the right attitude of heart. This desire of the heart must come first. Only such will be ready for the Kingdom; going in the right direction, having a measure of peace, joy and blessing.
All mankind are so constructed that the highest and noblest parts of our brain call to reverence for the Almighty God. In some more and in some less this desire for God still remains. The Apostle Paul would assist his hearers in finding this true God, whom they desired to know when they erected the altar. Rejoicing to see the evidence of repentance and reformation and desiring to assist into harmony with God, must be the attitude of all. God wills that all men shall be saved. He leads them to the Lord Jesus Christ, the necessary way. The second Adam, pure and obedient, died blamelessly for Adam and those who descended from Adam, inheriting his death sentence, gives us the chance to gain back everlasting life.
Satan’s work has been the blinding and deceiving of men. Before he is bound at the beginning of Christ’s rule, his struggles to retain control of mankind are especially desperate. Those who will seek or feel after The Heavenly Father, he will manifest himself.
“For in him we, live and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, for we are also his offspring.” ―Acts 17:28.
The privilege of living within his providence is dependent upon God, and only by his gift or favor can any hope to live forever. All life emanates from him alone. The god in whose hand thy breath is (Dan. 5:23). In that sense of the word the entire human family are brethren, and all are God’s children or offspring. This should not lead us to make or worship images of any kind, all of which are professedly man’s device. Paul wanted to address the Athenians along the line of their superstition. He would encourage them to know God who made them.
“Forasmuch then as we are offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone graven by art and man’s device.” ―Acts 17:29.
He is the Father, or Life-giver of all created in his likeness; but recognizes as sons only those who are in harmony with him, reconciled through the precious blood of Jesus. [“Godhead.” rendered in this verse is a meaningless word, and merely a bad translation from the Greek ho Theos – the deity, usually translated “Divinity”. Godhead is like the word “trinity”, carrying with it the idea of a society, which is not the meaning of the original.]
Humanity should in some degree resemble its creator, Gold and silver and stone images are very poor representations of the true God.
“And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent.” ―Acts 17:30.
From Adam to the death of our Redeemer, God left men in ignorance. They were not responsible until our Redeemer’s death. Their imperfection and flagrant wrongdoing, “God winked at.” Taking notice of the wrongdoing, he did not interfere, did not chide, but proceeded with His own work of preparation for better things. He overlooked and paid no particular attention to their conduct except when it went to an extreme. A definite statement, from an inspired source, is that the millions who lived and died in heathen darkness prior to the coming of Christ are not held responsible and will not be punished for their ignorance. This implied God did not command men previously to repent.
As soon as Jesus had died, God offered forgiveness and reconciliation to those who would believe in Jesus, having appointed through Christ a day of trial for all. Until that day was appointed nobody was commanded to repent. That day was made sure when our Lord died. But could not reasonably command any to repent and return until the ransom was paid at Calvary. God was sending his message to them, through those who were the representatives of his teaching, the apostles and the Church and to all who had ears to hear. Whoever hears and heeds this command is being prepared for his life or death trial in the Kingdom.
Adam lived and died without any command whatever to repent and so did his children. Paul does not say that God commanded the Church to sacrifice; if so it would cease to be a sacrifice. But only those who hear the command have a responsibility respecting it, if they have an ear to hear. A new condition had been established and God would deal henceforth with the Gentiles, but not until He had provided a Redeemer, and so influence our future conditions: “In that day there shall be a fountain opened, for sin and for uncleanness.” (Zech. 13:1) The prerequisites on man’s part to salvation: cleanse themselves; change the heart from sin to righteousness. To those who are willing to hear, there is a reward for repentance. Those who do not hear in the present time are not commanded by God to repent.
“Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” ― Acts 17:31.
Before beginning creation, our Heavenly Father arranged it all. Christ redeemed Adam and his race from the death sentence passed upon mankind because of father Adam’s disobedience. Remember, at this time no children had been born of our original parents. Ask any animal breeder or horticulturist and they will tell you it takes planning and effort to improve the stock. This opened the way for the appointment of another day (period, epoch, age) of judgment. “One day is with the Lord as thousand years.” (2 Pet. 3:8) It will be a thousand-year day beyond this Gospel Age.
The entire Millennial Age is to be a thousand-year Judgment day, in which the whole world is to be brought to a knowledge of the truth. This will be a day of judgment for the whole world, aside from the Church, which has her judgment during this Gospel Age. That day was future in the Apostles time, and is still future, though now that day is about to dawn. God’s time for dealing with the world is in the future under the terms of the New Covenant, at the hands of a much greater mediator than Moses.
His appointed day has not yet arrived. It is the Day of Christ, the Millennial day, 1,000 years long, in which the world will have its trial, its test – Christ and his Bride – the Church are the judges. The Day of Christ: Messiah’s Kingdom, which he sets up in his second presence. The Mediatorial Reign – a day of trial and judgment, of individual testing and a time of restitution of those things Adam lost by his sin – a set time in which he purposes to give to all men. Just the kind of evidence their doubting and unbelieving condition of mind requires.
“My Word [Logos = Christ] shall judge you in the last day.” (John 12:48) The word ‘judge” has a double meaning from the Greek Krino meaning “trial” and krisis meaning “decision.” Also see comments on “Of restitution” in Acts 3:21; and comments on “Thy kingdom come” in Luke 11:2. The thought is that of trial rather than verdict of trial and testing not condemnation, the world is condemned already. The process of a trial includes also the decision or the result of a trial.
He will righteously grant the world a new individual trial for eternal life, having cancelled the sentence of the first trial by the propitiatory sacrifice of His son. When God provided Adam the Garden of Paradise (Eden), he was put on trial for eternal life. God provided for all Adam’s needs including Eve a helpmate. He was given one test (law) the fruit of the tree of the “knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:9) “the day ye eat thereof ye shall surely die.” (Gen 2:17)
Adam knew everything he needed to know to obey that simple law. Satan deceived Eve by convincing her that she would not die but become “more alive than ever.” When Eve believed him she rushed to Adam to tell him the good news. Adam was not deceived, he knew the woman he loved would die and he couldn’t live without her. He deliberately disobeyed God – he sinned and lost his life. Thou shalt surely die.
Satan’s lie has continued to deceive even today when we consider ourselves so much smarter than in the days of Adam, the vast majority of mankind still believes that infamous lie – “nobody dies, we’re more alive than ever.” How many times have you heard a man who purports to be a minister of God say, “The dear departed is more alive than ever and looking down on us even today.” How ludicrous! “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” (Eccl 9:10) Or, perhaps this scripture: “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” (John 3:13) Notice this verse: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom 6:23)
“So when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of the matter.” ―Acts 17:32.
The Athenians had listened to Paul as a great teacher until he touched on the resurrection of the dead, and this was in complete disagreement with their theory that the dead are “more alive than ever,” Satan’s great lie.
“Howbeit certain men clave unto him, [Stuck to him] and believed: among the which was Dionysus the Areopagite, [One of the professors at the University of Athens] and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.” ―Acts 17:34.
Faith in a resurrection is an integral and essential part of Scriptural doctrine, the only hope, the blessed hope, and the consistent hope. Whoever would believe the resurrection, must also believe that death is the cessation of life.
Only as we have confidence in God’s Word could we exercise a faith in such a stupendous miracle. None but an infinite being could reproduce the very thoughts of the billions of mankind who have died.
Jesus’ death was the purchase price for the world, which in due time will result in an awakening of the dead. His resurrection became the assurance of the justification of all who accept and obey him.
“To proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison.” (Isa 61:1) “To bring out the prisoners from the prison.” (Isa 42:7) This is the coming forth to a judgment resurrection, a perfecting obtainable only through judgment, discipline, etc.
Many people, to whom death is a delusion and not a reality, have little or no faith in a resurrection of the dead. How could they when they don’t believe we die the Adamic death. Jesus Christ was a perfect man as was Adam when he disobeyed God’s law. Christ obeyed perfectly the Jewish Law given through Moses at Mt. Sinai – the law that had the power to give life eternal to God’s chosen people and earned the right to bring all condemned mankind back from the dead.
“So Paul departed from among them.” ―Acts 17:35, down the steps from atop Mars Hill.
The apostle Paul
The Athens experience occurred as a part of Paul’s second missionary Journey, which began in late A.D. 49. He and Silas embarked from Tarsus and traveled to Derbe and Lystra where he met Timothy who would become his frequent traveling companion, closest friend and fellow laborer in spreading the Gospel (Acts 16:1; 1Tim 1:2; 4:14). Paul, Silas and Timothy’s travels after blessings and severe tribulations takes them to Athens where this encounter at Mars Hill took place.
Saul was born within a few years of Jesus’ birth and named after Israel’s first king. He was a native of Tarsus, the capital of Cilicia, a Roman province in southeast Asia Minor (now Southeastern Turkey). The city stood on the banks of the navigable river Cydnus and had a protected harbor. This made it a center of extensive commercial shipping from throughout the Mediterranean.
Tarsus had an excellent reputation for its academia, more so than that of Athens and Alexandria. Here Saul was born, and here he spent his youth, doubtless enjoying the best education his native city had to offer.
His father was a Pharisee, from the tribe of Benjamin, and of pure unmixed Jewish blood (Acts 23:6; Phil. 3:5). We learn nothing of his mother; but there is reason to conclude that she was a good Jewish woman, like-minded with her husband and exercised all a mother’s influence in molding the character of her son. So afterwards he spoke of himself as being, from his youth up, “touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” (Phil. 3:6)
We read of his sister and her son, and of other relatives (Acts 23:16; Rom. 16:7, 11,12). There is no indication that Paul was ever married.
Though Jews, his family was Roman citizens. How this privilege came about is not known. It might be bought, or won by distinguished service to the empire, or acquired in several other ways; at all events, his son was a freeborn Roman Citizen. It was a great privilege, and one that was to prove valuable to Paul during his ministry.
According to Jewish tradition, Rabbis learned trades before entering Rabbinical School so the people did not feel their religious leaders were imposing upon them. If Christian ministers of today did this there would be far fewer of them. Saul acquired the skill and art of weaving tent cloth from goats’ hair. This was enabled no doubt by the fact that his father owned a highly regarded tent making enterprise. Its clientele included Southeast Asia and the entire Mediterranean coast. The Roman Empire’s armies were large customers and probably this was the answer to how a family of Jews became Roman Citizens.
When Saul, also known as Paul, (Acts 13:9) was about thirteen years of age, and his extensive preliminary education completed, he attended Gamaliel’s premier Jewish rabbinical school at Jerusalem. Gamaliel was the foremost authority on the Torah [law], he was a Pharisee and a ranking member of the Sanhedrin. By today’s standards Paul’s level of schooling would have earned him doctorates in, at least, Law and Philosophy. After his student-life, he left Jerusalem for Tarsus, where he may have been engaged in connection with a synagogue for a few years. But we find him back again at Jerusalem not long after the death of our Lord. Here he now learned the particulars regarding the crucifixion, Jesus’ resurrection and the rise of the new sect of “Nazarenes.”
For some two years after Pentecost, Christianity was slowly growing and quietly spreading its influence. Stephen, a leading Christian, was becoming more public with aggressive testimony that Jesus was the Messiah. This led to more incitement of the Jews and much disputation in the synagogues. Persecution arose against Stephen and the followers of Christ generally; Saul of Tarsus took a prominent part. He was becoming an active leader of the furious persecution, by which the Jews sought to exterminate Christianity. But the object of this persecution was failing.
“The Christians were scattering abroad going everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4) and the anger of the persecutors was kindled into a fierce flame. Hearing that fugitives had taken refuge in Damascus, Saul obtained letters from the chief priest authorizing him to proceed. This was a long foot journey of about 130 miles, which would occupy perhaps six days, during which, with his few attendants, he steadily went onward, “breathing out threatening and slaughter.” (Acts 9:1) But the crisis of his life was at hand. He and his band had reached the last stage of the journey, and were within sight of Damascus. Suddenly, at mid-day a brilliant light shone round them, and Saul was laid prostrate in terror on the ground. A voice sounded in his ears, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” “Who art thou, Lord?”
The voice answered. “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.” (Acts 9:5; 22:8; 26:15) “But arise and stand upon thy feet; for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou have seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee.” (Acts 26:16)
This was the beginning of his conversion, the most solemn in all his life. Blinded by the dazzling light (Acts 9:8), his companions led him into the city, where he was absorbed in deep thought for three days and neither ate nor drank (Acts 9:9). Ananias, a disciple living in Damascus, was informed in a vision of the change that had happened to Saul, and was sent to him to open his eyes and admit him by baptism into the Christian faith (9:11-16). The whole purpose of his life was now permanently changed.
Immediately after his conversion he retired to the solitude of Arabia (Gal. 1:17), for the purpose, of study and meditation on the marvelous revelation that had been made to him. A veil of darkness covers this sojourn, his movements, thoughts and occupations. Of all the circumstances of a crisis, which must have shaped the whole tenor of his life, absolutely nothing is known. “Immediately,” says St. Paul, “I went away into Arabia.” The historian passes over the incident (compare Acts 9:23 and 1 Kings 11:38,39). It is a mysterious pause, a moment of suspense, in the apostle's history, a breathless calm, which ushers in the tumultuous storm of his active missionary life.
After three years, he returned to Damascus and began to preach the gospel “boldly in the name of Jesus” (Acts 9:27), but was soon obliged to flee the Jews there and go to Jerusalem. (Acts 9:25; 2 Cor. 11:33) Here he tarried for three weeks, but was again forced to flee from persecution. (Acts 9:28-29) He returned to his native Tarsus (Gal. 1:21), where, for about three years, we lose sight of him. The time had not yet come for his entering on his great life work of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles.
At length the city of Antioch, the capital of Syria, became the scene of great Christian activity. There the gospel gained a firm footing, and the cause of Christ prospered. Barnabas, who had been sent from Jerusalem to supervise the work at Antioch, found it to be too much, and remembering Saul, set out to Tarsus to seek him. Paul readily responded to the call and went with him to Antioch, where for “a whole year” this became the scene of his labors, which were crowned with great success. The disciples for the first time were called “Christians” (Acts 11:26).
The church at Antioch now proposed to send out missionaries to the Gentiles, and Saul and Barnabas, with John Mark as their attendant, were chosen for this work. This was a great epoch in the history of Christianity. Now the disciples began to give effect to the Master's command: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15)
The three missionaries went forth on this first missionary tour (A.D. 44-46). They sailed from Seleucia, the seaport of Antioch, across to Cyprus, some 80 miles to the southwest. Here at Paphos, Sergius Paulus, the Roman proconsul, was converted, and now Saul took the lead, and was ever afterwards called Paul. The missionaries then crossed to the mainland, and preceded 6 or 7 miles up the river Cestrus to Perga (Acts 13:13), from which Mark returned to Jerusalem. Paul and Barnabas then proceeded about 100 miles inland, through Pamphylia, Pisidia, and Lycaonia. The first town mentioned in this tour is Pisidia Antioch, where Paul delivered his first address of which there is any record (Acts 13:13-51). The other towns were Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. They returned by the same route to see and encourage the converts they had made, and ordain elders to watch over the churches that had been gathered. From Perga they sailed direct to Antioch where they began the tour.
After remaining in Antioch for about three years (A.D. 46-49), a great controversy broke out in the church regarding the relationship of the Gentile Christians to Mosaic Law, specifically regarding circumcision. Paul and Barnabas were sent as deputies to consult with the Apostles and Elders at Jerusalem. The ruling was made after Peter’s eloquent speech against requiring Gentile Christians to obey Jewish Law (See Acts 15), and the deputies from Antioch, accompanied by Judas and Silas, returned to Antioch, bringing with them the decree issued.
After a short rest, Paul said to Barnabas: “Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do.” (Acts 15:36) Mark wished to accompany them but Paul refused him. Barnabas was resolved to take Mark, and he and Paul had a sharp contention. Mark was the son of one of Barnabas’ sisters (Col 4:10). They separated as a result and never again met. Although Paul afterwards spoke of Barnabas with honor, he sent for Mark (Col. 4:10; 2 Tim. 4:11).
Paul took with him Silas, instead of Barnabas, and began his second missionary journey about A.D. 51. This time he went by land, revisiting the churches he had already founded in Asia. But he longed to enter into “regions beyond,” and still went forward through Phrygia and Galatia (Acts 16:6). Contrary to his intention, he had to linger in Galatia because of some bodily affliction (Gal. 4:13, 14). Bithynia, a populous province on the shore of the Black Sea, lay now before him, and he wished to enter it; but the way was shut. The Spirit in some manner guided him in another direction, and he arrived at Troas on the shores of the Aegean and the northwestern coast of Asia Minor (Acts 16:8). Of this long journey from Antioch to Troas we have no account except some references to it in his Epistle to the Galatians (4:13).
As he waited at Troas for indications of the will of God as to his future movements, he saw, in the vision of the night, a man from the opposite shores of Macedonia standing before him, and heard him cry, “Come over, and help us.” (Acts 16:9) Paul recognized in this vision a message from the Lord, and the very next day set sail across the Hellespont, which separated him from Europe, and he carried the gospels into the Western world. In Macedonia, churches were planted in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. After leaving this province, Paul passed into Achaia, “the paradise of genius and renown.” He reached Athens for a very brief visit. (See beginning of this paper.) He never visited that city again and passed over to Corinth, the seat of the Roman government of Achaia. He remained there a year and a half, laboring with much success. While at Corinth, he wrote his two epistles to the church of Thessalonica, his earliest apostolic letters, and then sailed for Syria, that he might be in time to keep the feast of Pentecost at Jerusalem. Aquila and Priscilla accompanied him and they landed at Caesarea, and went up to Jerusalem and “saluted the church” there, and kept the feast. Afterward, Paul left for Antioch, where he abode for “some time” (Acts 18:20-23).
He then began his third missionary tour. He journeyed by land in the “upper coasts” (the more eastern parts) of Asia Minor, and at length made his way to Ephesus, where he tarried for no less than three years, engaged in ceaseless Christian labor. This city was at the time the Liverpool of the Mediterranean. It possessed a splendid harbor, and concentrated sea traffic. It was then the highway of the nations; and as Liverpool has behind her the great towns of Lancashire, so had Ephesus behind and around her such cities as those mentioned along with her in the epistles to the churches in the book of Revelation, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. It was a city of vast wealth, and was given over to every kind of pleasure. The fame of its theatres and racecourses were worldwide. Here a “great door and effectual” was opened to the apostle. His fellow-laborers aided him in his work, carrying the gospel to Colossae and Laodicea and other places that they could reach.
Very shortly before his departure from Ephesus, the apostle wrote his First Epistle to the Corinthians. The silversmiths, whose traffic in the little images that they made were in danger and they organized a riot against Paul. So he left the city, and proceeded to Troas (2 Cor. 2:12), whence after some time he went to meet Titus in Macedonia. Here, in consequence of the report Titus brought from Corinth, he wrote his second epistle to that church. Having spent probably most of the summer and autumn in Macedonia, visiting the churches there, specially the churches of Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea, probably penetrating into the interior, to the shores of the Adriatic (Rom. 15:19), he then came into Greece, where he abode three month, spending probably the greater part of this time in Corinth (Acts 20:2). During his stay in this city he wrote his Epistle to the Galatians, and also the great Epistle to the Romans. At the end of the three months he left Achaia for Macedonia, thence crossed into Asia Minor, and touching at Miletus, there addressed the Ephesian presbyters, whom he had sent for them to meet him (Acts 20:17), and then sailed for Tyre, finally reaching Jerusalem, probably in the spring of A.D. 58.
While at Jerusalem, at the feast of Pentecost, he was almost murdered by a Jewish mob in the temple. Rescued from their violence by the Roman commandant, he was conveyed as a prisoner to Caesarea, where, from various causes, he was, detained a prisoner for two years in Herod's Praetorian (Acts 23:35). Paul was not kept in close confinement; he had at least the range of the barracks in which he was detained.
We can imagine him pacing the ramparts on the edge of the Mediterranean, and gazing wistfully across the blue waters in the direction of Macedonia, Achaia, and Ephesus, where his spiritual children were pining for him, or perhaps encountering dangers in which they sorely needed his presence. It was a mysterious providence, which thus arrested his energies and condemned the ardent worker to inactivity; yet we can now see the reason for it. Paul needed rest. After twenty years of incessant evangelization, he required leisure to garner the harvest of experience. During these two years he wrote nothing.
At the end of these two years Porcius Festus succeeded Felix in the governorship of Palestine, before whom the Apostle was again heard. But judging it right at this crisis to claim the privilege as a Roman citizen, he appealed to the emperor (Acts 25:11). Such an appeal could not be disregarded, and Paul was at once sent on to Rome under the charge of one Julius, a centurion of the “Augustan cohort.” After a long and perilous voyage, he at length reached the imperial city in the early spring, probably, of A.D. 61. Here he was permitted to occupy his own hired house, under constant military custody. This privilege was accorded to him, no doubt, because he was a Roman citizen, and as such could not be put into prison without a trial. The soldiers who kept guard over Paul were of course changed at frequent intervals, and thus he had the opportunity of preaching the gospel to many of them during these “two whole years,” and with the blessed result of spreading among the imperial guards, and even in Caesar's household, an interest in the truth (Phil. 1:13). His rooms were resorted to by many anxious inquirers, both Jews and Gentiles (Acts 28:23,30,31), and thus his imprisonment “turned rather to the furtherance of the truth.” His “hired house” became the center of influence, which spread over the whole city. According to a Jewish tradition, it was situated on the borders of the modern Ghetto, which had been the Jewish quarters in Rome from the time of Pompey to this present day. During this period the apostle wrote his epistles to the Colossians, Ephesians, Philippians, Philemon, and probably also to the Hebrews.
This first imprisonment came at length to a close, Paul having been acquitted, probably because no witnesses appeared against him. Once more he set out on his missionary labors, no doubt, visiting Western and Eastern Europe and Asia Minor. During this imprisonment he probably wrote the Second Epistle to Timothy, the last he ever wrote. There can be little doubt that he appeared again at Nero's bar, and this time the charge did not break down. In all history there is not a more startling illustration of the irony of human life than this scene of Paul at the bar of Nero. On the judgment-seat, clad in the imperial purple, sat a man who, in a bad world, had attained the eminence of being the very worst and meanest being in it, a man stained with every crime, and a man whose whole being was so steeped in every nameable and unnamable vice, that was, as some one said at the time, nothing but a compound of mud and blood; and in the prisoner's dock stood the best man the world then possessed, his hair whitened with labors for the good of men and the glory of God. The trial ended: Paul was condemned, and delivered over to the executioner. He was led out of the city, with a crowd of the lowest rabble at his heels. The fatal spot was reached; he knelt at the block; the headsman’s axe gleamed in the sun and fell; and the head of the apostle to the Gentiles rolled down in the dust (probably A.D. 66), four years before the fall of Jerusalem.
There is much controversy and debate among scholars about not only how many Epistles Paul wrote, but also practically everything else concerning him. Included was his history, faithfulness, perceived argumentativeness and his attitude toward the other Apostles.
Paul said (1Cor 15:9-10) “For I am the least of the Apostles, who am not worthy to be called an Apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain, but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”
When he thought the truth was with the Pharisees he defended and fought for it and wrongfully persecuted the believers in Christ. After he learned the truth, he was its greatest defender and did more to establish the true Church of Christ than any other single person. Paul was the most prolific of all the New Testament writers, with as many as 14 attributed to him of the 27 little books of the New Testament. The single most, but not the only contested book, is Hebrews. Some say it is not written in Paul’s style. Of course he was faithful to what he knew. However, it shows a degree of education and profundity that fits only Paul.
Not many people have the courage to publicly voice a truth contrary to popular belief and in this world in which Satan as prince of the power of the air, (Eph 2:2) it is almost impossible. When Paul learned the truth, he was its most faithful preacher and defender and is certainly one of the most quoted by those in the truth.
The APOSTLE TO THE GENTILES is perhaps the most quoted of all the writers of the “Little Books” that make up the Bible, and rightfully so since he defined and organized the true Christian Church more than any other individual. Considerable controversy surrounded him throughout his mission and as a matter of fact persists to this day.
Here are a few quotes from St. Paul selected at random:
“Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not. In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.” ―2 Cor 11:25-33.
For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. ―1 Cor 15:9.
“All Scripture, divinely inspired, is indeed profitable for Teaching, for Conviction, for Correction, for That Discipline which is in Righteousness.” ―2 Tim 3:16 see Diaglott.
“Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience” ―Eph 2:2.
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” ―Rom 6:23.
“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” ―1 Cor 15:22.
“For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.” ―2 Thes 2:7.
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mine.” –2 Tim 1:7.