Paul was one of the prominent apostles in the early church and is referred to as Apostle to the Gentiles. Before his encounter with Jesus Christ, Paul was the most feared persecutor of Christians.
I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. 1 CORINTHIANS 9:22–23
The apostle Paul, the New Testament figure second only to Jesus in prominence, was a man of single-minded devotion. His mission to bring the gospel to the Gentile world filled him with an unrelenting fervor that carried him across the Roman Empire. In retrospect, Paul’s background made him the perfect choice for this God-ordained mission.
Paul was born in the city of Tarsus (located in present-day Turkey), which was cosmopolitan and diverse; it was one of the leading university cities of its day. There Paul would have encountered all kinds of religious, cultural, and philosophical expressions.
But Paul was also devoted to the faith of his ancestors. He studied under Gamaliel, grandson of Hillel, the most famous rabbi of his day. As an adult, Paul bore all the markings of a rabbi. He even counted himself among the Pharisees.
Given his background, perhaps it is no surprise that God chose Paul to “carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings” (Acts 9:15). With one foot in the Jewish world and the other in the culture of the Gentiles, Paul was ideally suited to take the gospel from one to the other. His status as a Roman citizen which suggests he belonged to the aristocracy gave him enormous freedom as he traveled the empire.
Paul used his citizenship not for his own gain, but to gain an audience with Caesar knowing full well that to appeal to the Roman emperor (as only a Roman citizen could) was to put his very life at risk (see Acts 25:11). Paul’s fate is not known. However, it is believed he gained his audience before Caesar the dangerous Emperor Nero, to be precise where he may well have become a martyr for the faith.
Despite his justifiably revered status in church history, Paul comes across as a refreshingly human figure. He was passionate capable of great fits of emotion. The book of Acts even records Paul’s falling out with his colleague Barnabas (Acts 15:36–41). Paul knew that he was just a sinner in his mind, “the worst of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:16) who had been saved by God’s immeasurable grace.