The Life, Ministry, and Martyrdom of the Apostle Paul
Paul can be called the “Apostle of Asia Minor.” He was a Jew who was born a Roman citizen in the city of Tarsus on the Mediterranean coast of Cilicia. At a young age, he moved to Jerusalem to be trained as a Pharisee under the Jewish teacher Gamaliel (Acts 23:6).
Around 31-32, while Philip, Peter, John, and oth- ers were evangelizing Judea and Samaria, Paul was threatening to kill the disciples of Jesus Christ (Acts 9:1-2). He went to the high priest and asked for official letters to take to the synagogues of Damascus in the Roman province of Syria. His desire was to arrest Christian men and women and take them to Jerusalem as prisoners.
When Paul was walking on the road leading into Damascus, Jesus Christ ap- pear to him (Acts 9:3-8). After Ananias healed his sight, Paul wasted no time contemplating his revelatory conversion, he immediately began to declare Jesus as Messiah in the synagogues of Damascus (Acts 9:20).
After his conversion, Paul did not go to Jerusalem but followed his calling to the nations by going to Arabia-Nabatea from 32 to 33 (Galatians 1:17). Roman Arabia was east of Syria and Palestine, with its capital city of Petra, and includ- ed much of modern Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and southern Syria (Galatians 1:22, Acts 15:41). Acts 2:11 tells us that Jews came to Pentecost from the kingdom of Arabia, so it is likely that Paul did not go into a totally unreached area, but that believing Jews had returned to Arabia and started the church there. Al- though we do not have a lot of information on Paul’s activities in Arabia, we can assume he started churches.
After his missionary journey in Arabia, Paul returned to Damascus (Galatians 1:17) around 33-34, and made his first visit to Jerusalem, which was only two weeks long (Galatians 1:18). When Jesus’ disciples in Jerusalem learned that the Hellenistic Jews were planning to kill Paul, they took him to the Mediter- ranean port city of Caesarea, from where he sailed to his home city of Tarsus in the region of Cilicia.
Based in Tarsus, Paul was active throughout Syria and Cilicia for about eight years, from 34 to 42 (Acts 9:30). Although the book of Acts does not tell us where Paul ministered, he likely focused on the cities that had synagogues.
In 42, Barnabas went to Tarsus and brought Paul to Antioch (modern Antakya), where they ministered together (Acts 11:25-26) until the apostle Paul’s first missionary journey in the spring of 45. Paul and Barnabas taught the followers of Jesus in Antioch, during which time they were first called “Christians” (Acts 11:26).
Following Paul’s initial ministry in Antioch, he engaged in three major missionary journeys through Asia Minor and Greece. Described in Acts 13:4- 14:28, Paul’s first missionary journey began around the spring of 45 and ended around the spring or summer of 47. Described in Acts 15:36-18:22, Paul’s second missionary journey began in the spring of 49 and ended in the fall of 51. Described in Acts 18:23-21:7, Paul’s third missionary journey began in the spring/early summer of 52 and ended in the spring of 57, when he arrived in Jerusalem.
After his arrest in Jerusalem, Paul was imprisoned in the city of Caesarea for two years, from 57 to 59, and in Rome for two years, from 60 to 62. Paul was released from his Roman imprisonment in 62 and engaged in another mis- sionary journey until he was rearrested, probably in Ephesus (2 Timothy 4:14) and imprisoned in Rome again, where he was martyred along with Peter be- tween 65 and 67.