Scriptural Giants: Saul Becomes Paul


On his way to Damascus to continue his persecution of the Christians, Saul was enveloped by a heavenly light. The voice of the Lord asked, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” Stunned, Saul suffered three days of blindness and torment. Then, having repented, his sight was restored and he was baptized. Saul, who came to be known as Paul, spent many years learning and teaching the gospel.

During his four major missionary journeys Paul preached the gospel and performed many miracles.

One time a young man named Eutychus was sitting in an upstairs window of a dwelling, listening to Paul preach. As midnight approached, Eutychus fell asleep, toppled from the window, and seemed to be dead. Paul ran downstairs and, holding the lifeless body, said, “Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him.” Eutychus recovered and went back upstairs, where he listened to Paul preach until the break of day.

After his third missionary journey Paul returned to Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost. Despite the warning that the Jews would capture him and turn him over to the Gentiles, Paul was captured, as feared, and the chief captain ordered that Paul be taken into the castle and whipped with metal studded leather thongs. Then, upon discovering that Paul was a citizen of Rome, the captain was afraid to harm him and had Paul brought before a council of the chief priests. The priests began to argue among themselves so much that the chief captain, fearing that the people would tear Paul apart, had Paul taken back to the safety of the castle.

That night the Lord appeared to Paul and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.”

Upon learning of a plot to kill Paul, the chief captain ordered two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, and two hundred spearmen to take Paul under cover of darkness to Felix the governor, who agreed to hear his case.

No fault could be found with Paul, but Felix would not let him go, and Paul was held prisoner there for two years. Finally it was decided that Paul should be tried before King Agrippa.

Paul stood boldly before the king and told his story with great conviction and bore his testimony that Jesus is the Christ. King Agrippa was impressed and said to Paul, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.”

Agrippa knew that Paul had done nothing wrong, but because Paul had appealed his case to Caesar, Agrippa could not set Paul free. Paul was placed in the custody of a centurion named Julius, who was to take Paul by ship to Italy to appear before Caesar.

After sailing for many days, the ship came to dangerous waters. Paul warned the soldiers that they were in danger, but the centurion didn’t believe him. Soon a tempest arose and tossed the ship about for many days, and all those on board fought for their lives.

One day Paul told the others, “I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship.

“For there stood by me this night the angel of God, …

“Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.”

After fourteen stormy days land was sighted, and the ship was anchored to keep it from being thrown upon the rocks. Some of the sailors were about to flee in a small boat, but Paul told Julius, “Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.” So the soldiers cut the ropes, and the empty boat fell into the angry sea.

As day approached, Paul instructed the men to eat so that they would have strength for the tasks before them. Then he took bread, blessed it, and ate. Encouraged, the others also ate.

After the meal they lightened the ship by throwing their wheat overboard. Then they set out for shore. When the ship ran aground, the violent waves began to tear it apart. The soldiers, fearing for their own lives if the prisoners escaped, wanted to kill them. Julius, however, had grown to trust Paul and did not want him harmed. He commanded everyone to jump into the sea and try to make it to shore. Miraculously all of them made it through the turbulent waters to the island of Melita, where the people cared for them.

Three months later a ship stopped at Melita and took the men to Rome. When they arrived, Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with only one soldier to guard him. For the next two years Paul continued to preach the gospel to any who would listen.

After Paul was released, he traveled and taught the gospel for four more years. But wicked people still wanted to take his life, and he was again taken prisoner to Rome. This time he was killed for being a Christian.

[illustration] Painting by James Clark