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Fausset's Bible Dictionary
(See Philippians 3:5), "circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, (bearing the name of the eminent man of that tribe, king Saul), an Hebrew of the Hebrew," yet his birthplace was the Gentile Tarsus. (Acts 21:39, "I am a Jew of Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city.") His father, as himself, was a Pharisee (Acts 23:6). Tarsus was celebrated as a school of Greek literature (Strabo, Geogr. 1:14)..) The leading facts of his life which appear in that history, subsidiary to its design of sketching the great epochs in the commencement and development of Christ's kingdom, are: his conversion (Acts 9), his labours at Antioch (Acts 11), his first missionary journey (Acts 13; 14), the visit to Jerusalem at the council on circumcision (Acts 15), introduction of the gospel to Europe at Philippi (Acts 16),: visit to Athens (Acts 17), to Corinth (Acts 18), stay at Ephesus (Acts 19), parting address to the Ephesian elders at Miletus (Acts 20), apprehension at Jerusalem, imprisonment at Casesarea, and voyage to Rome (Acts 21-27). Though of purest Hebrew blood (
Here he acquired that knowledge of Greek authors and philosophy which qualified him for dealing with learned Gentiles and appealing to their own writers (Acts 17:18-28. Aratus; 1 Corinthians 15:33, Menander; Titus 1:12, Epimenides). Here too he learned the Cilician trade of making tents of the goats' hair cloth called "cilicium " (Acts 18:3); not that his father was in straitened circumstances, but Jewish custom required each child, however wealthy the parents might be, to learn a trade. He possessed the Roman citizenship from birth (Acts 22:28), and hence, when he commenced ministering among Gentiles, he preferred to be known by his Roman name Paul rather than by his Hebrew name Saul. His main education (probably after passing his first 12 years at Tarsus, Acts 26:4-5, "among his own nation." Alexandrinus, Vaticanus, Sinaiticus manuscripts read "and" before "at Jerusalem") was at Jerusalem "at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers" (Acts 22:3). (See .)
Thus the three elements of the world's culture met in him: Roman citizenship, Grecian culture, Hebrew religion. Gamaliel had counseled toleration (Acts 5:34-39); but his teaching of strict pharisaic legalism produced in Saul's ardent spirit persecuting zeal against opponents, "concerning zeal persecuting the church" (Philippians 3:6). Among the synagogue disputants with Stephen were men "of Cilcia" (Acts 6:9), probably including Saul; at all events it was at his feet, while be was yet "a young man," that the witnesses, stoning the martyr, laid down their clothes (Acts 6:9; Acts 7:58; Deuteronomy 17:7). "Saul was consenting unto his death" (Acts 6; 7); but we can hardly doubt that his better feelings must have had some misgiving in witnessing Stephen's countenance beaming as an angel's, and in hearing his loving prayer for his murderers. But stern bigotry stifled all such doubts by increased zeal; "he made havock of (elumaineto , 'ravaged as a wild beast') the church, entering into the houses (severally, or worship rooms), and haling men and women committed them to prison" (Acts 8:3).
But God's grace arrested Paul in his career of blind fanaticism; "I obtained mercy upon, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief" (1 Timothy 1:12-16). His ignorance was culpable, for he might have known if he had sought aright; but it was less guilty than sinning against light and knowledge. There is a wide difference between mistaken zeal for the law and willful striving against God's Spirit. His ignorance gave him no claim on, but put him within the range of, God's mercy (Luke 23:34; Acts 3:17; Romans 10:2). The positive ground of mercy is solely God's compassion (Titus 3:5). We have three accounts of his conversion, one by Luke (Acts 9), the others by himself (Acts 22; 26), mutually supplementing one another. Following the adherents of "the (Christian) way ... unto strange cities," and "breathing out threatenings and slaughter," he was on his journey to Damascus with authoritative letters from the high priest empowering him to arrest and bring to Jerusalem all such, trusting doubtless that the pagan governor would not interpose in their behalf.
At midday a light shone upon him and his company, exceeding the brightness of the sun; he and all with him fell to the earth (Acts 26:14; in Acts 9:7 "stood speechless," namely, they soon rose, and when he at length rose they were standing speechless with wonder), "hearing" the sound of a "voice," but not understanding (compare 1 Corinthians 14:2 margin) the articulate speech which Paul heard (Acts 22:9, "they heard not the voice of Him that spoke") in Hebrew (Acts 26:14), cf6 "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" (in the person of My brethren, Matthew 25:40). "It is hard for thee to kick against the goads" (not in Acts 9:5 the Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus manuscripts, but only in Acts 26:14), which, as in the case of oxen being driven, only makes the goad pierce the deeper (Matthew 21:44; Proverbs 8:36). Saul trembling (as the jailer afterward before him, Acts 16:30-31) said, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" the usual question at first awakening (Luke 3:10), but here with the additional sense of unreserved surrender of himself to the Lord's guidance (Isaiah 6:1-8).
The Lord might act directly, but He chooses to employ ministerial instruments; such was Ananias whom He sent to Saul, after he had been three days without sight and neither eating nor drinking, in the house of Judas (probably a Christian to whose house he had himself led, rather than to his former co-religionists). Ananias, whom he would have seized for prison and death, is the instrument of giving him light and life. God had prepared Ananias for his visitor by announcing the one sure mark of his conversion, "behold he prayeth" (Romans 8:15). Ananias had heard of him as a notorious persecutor, but obeyed the Lord's direction. In Acts 26:16-18 Paul condenses in one account, and connects with Christ's first appearing, subsequent revelations of Jesus to him as to the purpose of his call;" to make thee a minister and witness of these things ... delivering thee from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee." Like Jonah, the outcast runaway, when penitent, was made the messenger of repentance to guilty Nineveh.
The time of his call was just when the gospel was being opened to the Gentiles by Peter (Acts 10). An apostle, severed from legalism, and determined unbelief by an extraordinary revulsion, was better fitted for carrying forward the work among unbelieving Gentiles, which had been begun by the apostle of the circumcision. He who was the most learned and at the same time humblest (Ephesians 3:8; 1 Corinthians 15:9) of the apostles was the one whose pen was most used in the New Testament Scriptures. He"saw" the Lord in actual person (Acts 9:17; Acts 22:14; Acts 23:11; Acts 26:16; 1 Corinthians 15:8; 1 Corinthians 9:1), which was a necessary qualification for apostleship, so as to be witness of the resurrection. The light that flashed on his eyes was the sign of the spiritual light that broke in upon his soul; and Jesus' words to him (Acts 26:18), "to open their eyes and to turn them from darkness to light" (which commission was symbolized in the opening of his own eyes through Ananias, Acts 9:17-18), are by undesigned coincidence reproduced naturally in his epistles (Colossians 1:12-14; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 1:18, contrast Ephesians 4:18; Ephesians 6:12).
He calls himself "the one untimely born" in the family of the apostles (1 Corinthians 15:8). Such a child, though born alive, is yet not of proper size and scarcely worthy of the name of man; so Paul calls himself" least of the apostles, not meet to be called an apostle" (compare 1 Peter 1:3). He says, God's "choice" (Acts 9:15; Acts 22:14), "separating me (in contrast to his having been once a "Pharisee", from pharash , i.e. a separatist, but now 'separated' unto something infinitely higher) from my mother's womb (therefore without any merit of mine), and calling me by His grace (which carried into effect His 'good pleasure,' eudokia ), revealed His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the pagan," independent of Mosaic ceremonialism (Galatians 1:11-20). Ananias, being "a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews there," was the suitable instrument of giving him bodily and spiritual sight in his transition stage. His language accords, "the God of our fathers (compare Paul's own, 2 Timothy 1:3; Galatians 1:14) hath chosen thee ... that thou shouldest see that Just (righteous, a legal term) One."
Saul directly, on his conversion "preached Christ in the synagogues that He is the Son of God," to the astonishment of his hearers (Acts 9:20-21); then followed his retirement to Arabia for a considerable part of the whole "three years" between his conversion and his visit to Jerusalem. From Arabia he returned to Damascus, where with his increased spiritual "strength" he confounded the Jews. Then on their watching to kill him lie was "let down by the wall in a basket," under Aretas (2 Corinthians 11:32; Galatians 1:15-18). (See .) His three years of direction by the Lord alone answer to the about three years' intercourse of Jesus with His twelve apostles. This first visit to Jerusalem is that mentioned Acts 9:26, at which occurred the vision (Acts 22:17-18). His "increase in strength" (Acts 9:22) was obtained in communion with the Lord in Arabia near the scene of giving the law, a fit scene for the revelation of gospel grace which supersedes it (Galatians 4:25). Ananias his first instructor, esteemed for his legal piety, was not likely to have taught him the gospel's independence of the Mosaic law. Paul received it by special revelation (1 Corinthians 11:23; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:15).
The "many days" (Acts 9:23) answer to "three years" (Galatians 1:18), as in 1 Kings 2:38-39. In Arabia he had that retirement after the first fervor of conversion which great characters need, preparatory to their life work for God, as Moses in Midian (Acts 7:20; Acts 7:22). His familiarity with Mount Sinai in Arabia, the scene of the giving of the law, appears in Galatians 4:24-25; Hebrews 12:18; here he was completely severed from his former legalism. Thence He returned to Damascus; then he went to Jerusalem to see Peter. He saw only Peter and James, being introduced by Barnabas not to seek their sanction but to inform them of Jesus' independent revelation to him (Acts 9:26-29; Galatians 1:18-19). His Grecian education adapted him for successfully, like Stephen, disputing against the Grecians. He had a vision later than that of Acts 22:17-18, namely, in 2 Corinthians 12:1, etc., six years after his conversion, A.D. 43. Thus Paul was an independent witness of the gospel.
When he compared his gospel with that of the apostles there was found perfect harmony (Galatians 2:2-9). After staying only 15 days at Jerusalem, wherein there was not time for his deriving his gospel commission from Peter with whom he abode, having had a vision that he should depart to the Gentiles (Acts 22:18-19), and being plotted against by Hellenistic Jews (Acts 9:29), he withdrew to the seaport Caesarea (Acts 9:30), thence by sea to Tarsus in Cilicia (Galatians 1:21), and thence to Syria. His journey by sea, not land, accounts for his being "unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea" (Galatians 1:22), so that he could not have derived his gospel from them. lie puts "Syria" before "Cilicia," as it was a geographical phrase, the more important being put first. Meantime at Antioch the gospel was preached to Gentile "Greeks" (Hellenas in the Alexandrinus manuscript, not "Grecians," Acts 11:20) by men of Cyprus and Cyrene scattered abroad at the persecution of Stephen; Barnabas went down then from Jerusalem, and glad in seeing this special grace of God, "exhorted them that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord." (See .)
Desiring a helper he fetched Saul from Tarsus to Antioch, and for a whole year they laboured together, and in leaving for Jerusalem (Paul's second visit there, not mentioned in Galatians, being for a special object and for but "few days," Acts 11:30; Acts 12:25) brought with them a token of brotherly love, a contribution for the brethren in Judaea during the famine which was foretold by Agabus and came on under Claudius Caesar (Acts 11:22-30; A.D. 44). Returning from Jerusalem to Antioch, after having fulfilled their ministry, they took with them John Mark as subordinate helper (Acts 12:25). Here (Acts 13) while their minds were dwelling on the extraordinary accession of Gentile converts, "as they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, "Separate Me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them," namely, to labors among the Gentiles, such as was the specimen already given at Antioch, in which these two had taken such an efficient part. Very striking is the patient humility with which Paul waited for the Lord's time, as he had already received his call to be "a chosen vessel to bear His name before the Gentiles."
In going forth on his first missionary journey he was subordinate to Barnabas; but after preaching the word in Cyprus, where in the Lord's name he had smitten with blindness Elymas the sorcerer (even as he had tried to blind spiritually the governor), and when Sergius Paulus who had sent for Barnabas and Saul believed, he thenceforth under the name Paul takes the lead. Peter's smiting Simon Magus (Acts 8), who sought spiritual powers for gain, corresponds. The unity of God's dealings with His people is the true explanation of the parallelism between the histories of Paul and Peter, just as profound resemblances of form and typical structure exist between species and genera of both plants and animals which in many respects are widely divergent. Peter heals the man lame from birth at the temple gate, Paul the man impotent in feet from birth at Lystra; both fixed their eyes upon the men. As Peter at midnight was miraculously delivered from Herod's prison, so Paul at Philippi was loosed from his chains with an earthquake. As Peter raised Dorcas, so Paul Eutychus.
Peter's striking Ananias and Sapphira dead answers to Paul's striking Elymas blind. As Peter's shadow healed the sick, so Paul's handkerchiefs. As Peter confirmed with the laying on of hands the Samaritans, and the Holy Spirit came on them, so Paul the Ephesian disciples of John Baptist (Acts 19). Luke marks the transition point between Saul's past ministrations to Jews and his new ministry among Gentiles, which was henceforth to be his special work, by his Gentile designation, borne from infancy but now first regularly applied to him, Paul. At Perga in Pamphylia Mark forsook him and Barnabas. (See.) In Antioch in Pisidia, as in Cyprus, they began their preaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath. In Paul's remarkable address we have a specimen of his mode of dealing with "the Jews ... men of Israel ... and religious proselytes ... ye that fear God."
He bases all on the covenant God made with "our fathers," brings out God's "raising up of David to be king, a man after His own heart," shows that it was "of his seed" that" God according to promise raised unto Israel a Savior Jesus," applies the message of salvation to them, proves that the rulers in condemning Him in spite of themselves fulfilled the prophecies read every Sabbath concerning Him; for instance the promise of the second psalm, "Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee," God fulfilled in raising Jesus. These are "the sure mercies" (the holy or gracious promises, osia Greek, chacid Hebrew) of the covenant made with David; hence (Psalms 16:10) he anticipates "Thou wilt not suffer Thy Holy ("Gracious": chacid , "in God's favour": John 1:14; John 1:16, osion ) One to see corruption," which cannot apply to David (for he saw corruption) and can only apply to Christ. He winds up with the characteristically Pauline doctrine of the epistles to Romans and Galatians: "by Him all that believe are justified from all things from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses." On the other hand a work of wonder and destruction is foretold by the prophets against all "despisers."
After the congregation was broken up many Jews and proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, and heard more of "the grace of God." But when almost the whole city came together the next Sabbath to hear the word of God, envy of the admission of Gentiles to gospel privileges without being first proselytized to Judaism incited the Jews to blaspheme and to contradict Paul. This caused Paul to wax bolder and say, It was necessary to speak the word first to you, but seeing ye judge yourselves unworthy (it is not God who counted them" unworthy": Matthew 20:19; Matthew 22:8) of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. This too accords with the prophets (Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6). The Gentiles rejoiced, and many believed; but the Jews influenced their proselyte women of the higher class, and chief men, to drive Paul and Barnabas away. The apostles proceeded to Iconium cheered by the joy with which the Holy Spirit filled the disciples. There "long time abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of His grace and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands" (Acts 14:3). But persecution drove them thence, and they fled to Lystra and Derbe of Lycaonia. (See .)
Again as at Cyprus Paul's ministry resembles Peter's, the cure of' the impotent man in Lystra corresponding to Peter's cure of the same disease at the Beautiful gate of the temple (3); indeed the parallelism probably led three very old manuscripts, C, D, E, to insert from Acts 3:8, in Acts 14:10, "I say unto thee in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ," etc. His mode of address is happily suited to the heathen of Lystra in turning them from their purpose of sacrificing to him and Barnabas as Mercury (for Paul was the chief speaker) and Jupiter respectively. (See .) Instead of appealing to the Scriptures, he appeals to what they knew, the witness of God in His gifts of "rain and fruitful seasons "; he urges them to "turn from these vanities ("dead idols") to serve the living God who made all things," in undesigned coincidence with Pauline language (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).
His address to the pagan Athenians corresponds (Acts 17:24-29); there he says "God winked at the times of ignorance, but now commandeth all to repent," as here, "who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways," and Romans 3:25, "on account of the praetermission (passing by without judicial cognizance) of the past sins in the forbearance of God." With characteristic fickleness the mob stoned him whom just before they idolized. But he arose and went into the city, and next day to Derbe and to Lystra again, and to Iconium and Antioch, ordaining elders in every church, and confirming the disciples by telling them "that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." From Pisidia they came to Perga and Attalia; thence to Antioch, where they reported at what may be called the first missionary meeting or covention "all that God had done with them, opening the door of faith unto the Gentiles"; and so ended Paul's first missionary tour. Next (Acts 14:28; Acts 15), during Paul's stay at Antioch, men from Judaea came teaching that the Gentile converts must be circumcised. He and Barnabas strenuously opposed them, and were selected to go to Jerusalem and lay the question before the apostles and elders.
Paul had also a divine" revelation" (Galatians 2:2) that he should go, besides his public commission. On their way they announced in Phenice and Samaria the conversion of the Gentiles, "causing great joy unto all the brethren." At Jerusalem "they declared all things that God had done with them," the facts and miracles of their mission among the Gentiles in general to the Christian multitude there; "but privately" to the apostles the details of his doctrine, in order to compare it with their teaching, to let them see that he was not "running in vain," in not requiring circumcision of Gentile converts. Certain Pharisees however rose up, insisting on it, but Paul would not yield "for an hour" (Galatians 2); the council followed, in which Peter silenced arguments by the logic of facts, God having given the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles, who believed through him, even as He did to the believing Jews. Why then should the burdensome legal yoke be imposed on them, which God had not made a necessary preliminary to their salvation?
Barnabas and Paul confirmed by their experience the fact: of God's work among the Gentiles. James wound up by showing that Amos' prophecy (Amos 9:11-12) of the call of the Gentiles, consequent on the building again of David's tabernacle, accords with the facts just stated. The decree followed, binding the Gentiles only to abstinence from idol pollutions, fornication, and, in deference to the Jews' feelings, from things strangled and blood. So Judas Barsabas and Silas, chosen men of their own company, were sent with Paul and Barnabas to carry the decree to Antioch, the apostles having previously "given Paul the right hand of fellowship" as a colleague in the apostleship, and having recognized that the apostleship of the uncircumcision was committed to Paul as that of the circumcision to Peter. The realization of the brotherly bond uniting the whole church (circumcision no longer separating the Jew from the Gentile) was further to be kept up by alms for the poor brethren (Galatians 2). The nonreference in Galatians to the decree is
(1) because Paul's design in that epistle was to show Paul's own independent apostolic authority, which did not rest upon their decision;
(2) he argues on principle not authority;
(3) the decree did not go the length of his position, it merely did not impose Mosaic ordinances, but, he here maintains the Mosaic institution itself is at an end;
(4) the Galatians Judaized, not because they thought it necessary to Christianity, but necessary to higher perfection (Galatians 3:3; Galatians 4:21).
The decree would not disprove their view. Paul confutes them more directly, "Christ is become of no effect unto you whosoever are justified by the law" (Galatians 5:4; Galatians 5:11). If Paul had proselytized Gentiles as the Jews always received proselytes, namely, with circumcision, persecution would have ceased. But the truth was at stake, and he must not yield (Galatians 6:13). The Judaizers soon followed Paul to Antioch, where Peter had already come. Unable to deny that Gentiles are admissible to the Christian covenant without circumcision, they denied that they were so to social intercourse with Jews; pleading the authority of James, they induced Peter, in spite of his own avowed principles (Acts 15:7-11) and his practice (Acts 11:2-17), through fear of man (Proverbs 29:25), to separate himself from those Gentiles with whom he had heretofore eaten; this too at Antioch, the stronghold of universality and starting point of Paul's missions to Gentiles. He betrayed his old character, ever the first to recognize and the first to draw back from great truths (Matthew 14:30).
The rest of the Jews there "dissembled" with Peter, and "Barnabas was carried away with their dissimulation"; then Paul "before them all withstood to the face" (compare 1 Timothy 5:20) and charged Peter, "seeing that thou a Jew habitually from conviction livest as a Gentile, eating of every food and with every one, how is it that now thou by example virtually compellest the Gentiles to Judaize?" In 2 Peter 3:15 we see how thoroughly their misunderstanding was cleared up, Peter praising the epistles of Paul which condemned him. At his second missionary tour BARNABAS, desiring to take Mark against Paul's judgment, parted company with him. (See .) Their "sharp contention" shows they were not always infallible or impeccable. Silas or Silvanus became Paul's companion through Syria and Cilicia where he confirmed the churches, his circumcising Timothy at Derbe (Acts 16:1-3, "whom he would have to go forth with him"), on the ground of his mother being a Jewess, was that by becoming, when principle was not at stake, "to the Jews a Jew, he might gain the Jews."
Titus on the contrary, being a Greek, he would not circumcise "because of false brethren" (Galatians 2:3-4) who, had he yielded, would have perverted the case into a proof that he deemed circumcision necessary. To insist on Jewish usages for Gentile converts would have been to make them essential to Christianity; to violate them abruptly, before that the destruction of the temple and Jewish polity made them to cease, would have been against Christian charity (1 Corinthians 9:22; Romans 14:1-7; Romans 14:13-33). Paul Silas, and Timothy went through Phrygia and Galatia. Bodily infirmity detained him in Galatia (Galatians 4:13 translated "on account of an infirmity," the "thorn in the flesh" 2 Corinthians 12:7-10), and was overruled to his preaching the gospel there. The impulsive Galatians "received him as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus," at first, but with Celtic fickleness heeded other teachers who with Judaizing doctrine supplanted the apostle in their affections (2 Corinthians 12:12-29). "Where is your former felicitation of yourselves on having the blessing of my ministry?"
Ye once "would have plucked out your eyes and have given them to me" (Matthew 5:29). Sensitiveness may have led him to overrate his bodily defect; at all events it did not prevent his enduring hardships which few could bear (2 Corinthians 10:10; 2 Corinthians 11:23-33). His "eyes" may have been permanently weakened by the blinding vision (Acts 22:11), hence the "large letters" (Greek) he wrote (Galatians 6:11). Paul intended to visit western Asia, but was "forbidden by the Holy Spirit." From the border of Mysia he essayed to go N.E. into Bithynia, "but the Spirit of Jesus (the Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, and Alexandrinus manuscripts) suffered them not" (Acts 16:6-7; Acts 16:10). Passing by Mysia they came to Troas, and here the "man of Macedonia appeared, saying, Come over into Macedonia and help us." At this point Luke the historian intimates his presence by the "we"; "the beloved physician" probably ministered to Paul's "infirmity" in Galatia. The party from Troas sailed by Samothrace to Neapolis, then proceeded to Philippi.
The conversion of Lydia was the first in Europe, though she was an Asiatic. (See 1 Kings 18:17); his imprisonment after scourging (referred to 1 Thessalonians 2:2); his feet fastened in the stocks; the midnight cheerful hymns (Ephesians 5:20; Job 35:10; Psalms 42:8); the earthquake loosing their bonds (so Acts 12:6-10; Acts 5:19); the intended suicide; the jailer's trembling question, the answer, and his joy in believing, and his fruits of faith, love, washing Paul's stripes (John 13:14; Matthew 25:36), and entertaining him. The apostle's self-respect appears in declining to allow the magistrates to thrust him out privily, after having beaten and imprisoned a Roman citizen uncondemned, for Cicero (in Verrem, 66) informs us it was counted "a daring misdemeanor to bind, a wicked crime to scourge, a Roman citizen.".) Then followed Paul's casting out the spirit of divination from the damsel, and her master's violence to Paul because of their loss of gains, under the old plea against saints that they "trouble" the commonwealth (
Upon their beseeching re. quest he went out, and after a visit to the brethren in Lydia's house he left Philippi (Luke and perhaps Timothy staying behind for a time) for Thessalonica by way of Amphipolis and Apollonia. The fervent attachment of the Philippian church was evinced by their sending supplies for his temporal wants twice shortly after he left them, "in the beginning of the gospel," to Thessalonica (Philippians 4:15-16), and a third time by Epaphroditus shortly before writing the epistle (Philippians 4:10; Philippians 4:18; 2 Corinthians 11:9). Few Jews were at Philippi to excite distrust of Paul. There was no synagogue, but a mere oratory or "prayer place" (proseuchee ) by the river side. Only there no opposition was offered by the Jews. His sufferings there strengthened the union between him and them, as they too suffered for the gospel's sake (1 Thessalonians 2:2). At Thessalonica (Acts 17) for three Sabbaths Paul, "as his manner was," reasoned in the synagogue out of the Scriptures, showing that the Messiah to fulfill them must suffer and rise again, and that Jesus is that Messiah.
A multitude of Gentile proselytes and chief women, with some Jews, joined him. In consequence the unbelieving Jews incited the rabble ("fellows of the baser sort," literally, loungers in the market place, 'agoraious ': Acts 17:5, in harmony with 1 Thessalonians 2:14) to assault the house of Jason, Paul's host. Failing to find Paul they dragged Jason and certain brethren before the rulers, crying "these that have turned the world upside down are come here also" (South quaintly remarks, "Considering how the world then stood, with idolatry at the head and truth under foot, turning it upside down was the only way perhaps to restore it to its right position"); "these do contrary to Caesar's decrees, saying that there is another King, one Jesus." It is an undesigned coincidence that Jesus' coming kingdom is the prominent thought in the epistles to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 2:12; 2 Thessalonians 1:10). They perverted the doctrine of Christ's coming to reign with His saints into treason against Caesar; so in Jesus' case (John 18:33-37; John 19:12).
He writes to them as mostly Gentiles (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10); he had worked night and day, not to be chargeable unto them (1 Thessalonians 2:9-10; 2 Thessalonians 3:8), and had guarded against the abuse of the doctrine of Christ's coming (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3; 2 Thessalonians 3:5-13). The magistrates contented themselves with taking security of Jason, and the brethren sent away Paul and Silas to Berea by night. Here too they entered the Jews' synagogue. The Bereans are praised as "more noble" than the Thessalonians generally, for (1) their ready reception of the preached word, and (2) their searching the Scriptures daily whether it accorded with them. (See .) Accordingly many believed, Jews as well as Greeks, men and honourable women. But the Thessalonian Jews followed him, and the brethren sent away Paul by sea, Silas and Timothy staying behind. Some brethren escorted Paul to Athens, then returned with a message from him to Silas and Timothy to join him "with all speed."
He had intended to defer preaching until he had them by his side, but "his spirit was stirred within him when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry," so he began at once disputing in the synagogue with the Jews and proselytes, and in the market daily with them that met him. Among the latter were Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. To the Epicureans, the ancient materialists, who denied a future life and made the supreme good consist in a calm enjoyment of the present, Paul offered "the peace which passeth understanding," through Him who through self denying agony and death secures life eternal to us. To the Stoics, the ancient pantheists and fatalists, who made man independent on any being but self, he preached self renunciation and reliance on the personal Jesus, and the resurrection through Him. Some said, "what will this babbler (Greek spermologos , 'seed picker,' as a bird; so market loungers, ready to pick up droppings from loads of ware; so one babbling what he has picked up from others) say?"
Others said, as was the charge against Socrates who similarly used to reason in the market with those he met, "he seemeth a setter forth of strange gods" (namely, God and Jesus, Acts 17:24; Acts 17:31) "because he preached unto them Jesus and the resurrection." Curiosity and love of novelty were noted characteristics of Athenians. So they took him to Mars' hill, arranged with benches and steps of stone in the open air. They had charged him with setting forth strange gods: he begins by gently retorting, "I perceive in every point of view you are religious to a fault" (deisidaimonestorous , not such censure as "too superstitious" would convey). Taking their "altar to an unknown god" (for such altars were erected in times of plague, when the known gods failed to help) as his text, "what (the Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus manuscripts for whom) ye worship confessing your ignorance of, that (the divinity) I declare unto you." "Whom, ... Him," would contradict 1 Corinthians 10:20; John 4:22. God may be known.
He is the Creator, Preserver, and Governor of all things, has made all men of one blood, assigning them their times and habitations, that they should feel after Him (pseelfeeseian ; as thoughtful pagan will do, but it is only groping in the dark until revelation comes; contrast 1 John 1:1), though He is really near every one of us (Romans 10:8-9), having our being in Him, as your own poet sings, "we are His offspring." God has overlooked the times of ignorance (huperidon ; looking on to Christ's sacrifice which vindicates God's righteousness in passing by the intermediate transgressions: Romans 3:25), but now commands all everywhere to repent, since He will judge all by that Man whom He hath ordained as the Savior and Judge, raising Him from the dead as the pledge of assurance. At the mention of the resurrection some mocked, others deferred (compare Acts 24:25) the further hearing of the subject. A few believed, including the Areopagite Dionysius and Damaris, a woman.
Next, he came to Corinth, the commercial and stirring capital of Greece, and so more alive to his serious message than the dilettanti philosophers and quidnuncs of Athens. His tentmaking here brought him into close connection with Jews just expelled by Claudius from Rome, Aquila and Priscilla. When Silas and Timothy came from Macedon, Paul was earnestly occupied with the word (See the Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus manuscripts Acts 18:5 for "the spirit"), the crisis of their acceptance or else rejection of his message having come. Timothy he bad sent from Athens to Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:1-2), Silas elsewhere. Their arrival at Corinth suggested his writing the first epistle to Thessalonians. It and 2 Thessalonians were the only epistles he wrote on this missionary journey, both from Corinth. The epistles to Galatians, Romans, and Corinthians belong to his next journey. The epistles to Philemon, Colossians, Ephesians, and Philippians belong to his first captivity at Rome.
His versatility appears in his being able to write 1 Thessalonians when earnestly occupied with the Corinthians; and in his writing 1 and 2 Corinthians between the kindred epistles to the Galatians and Romans; if Galatians was written at Ephesus on his first arrival, and not subsequently at Corinth. (See 2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Thessalonians 3:17). When the Jews opposed and blasphemed Paul shook his raiment (Nehemiah 5:13; Acts 13:51), and said, "your blood be upon your own heads (Ezekiel 33:4), henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles." So he withdrew to the house of a Gentile next the synagogue, Justus. Crispus the ruler of the synagogue believed, and was baptized by Paul himself (1 Corinthians 1:14); many Corinthians too were baptized. Paul's fear of the Jews' consequent wrath was dispelled by the Lord in a vision: "be not afraid, but speak and hold not thy peace, for I am with thee and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee, for I have much people in this city." He therefore continued at Corinth a year and a half, teaching..) He attested all his genuine letters with his autograph at the close, to enable the churches to distinguish them from spurious ones (
The Jews with one accord set on and brought him before Gallio's judgment seat, saying, this fellow persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law. (See 1 Corinthians 1:1. Paul left Corinth to keep the feast (probably Pentecost) at Jerusalem (Acts 20:16). At Cenchreae he cut off his hair in fulfillment of a vow, made probably in some sickness (Galatians 4:13) like the Nazarite vow, and ending with a sacrifice at Jerusalem to which he therefore hastened. Staying at Ephesus a very brief time, and going forward by Caesarea, he saluted the church at Jerusalem. Thence he went to Antioch, the place of his starting originally with Silas (Acts 15:35; Acts 15:40)..) But Paul experienced God's faithfulness to His promise that none should beat him, for Gallio without waiting for Paul to plead drave his enemies from the judgment seat and winked at the beating the Greeks gave Sosthenes, the Jews' ringleader and ruler of the synagogue. Paul's compassion to his enemy in distress probably won Sosthenes, for we find him associated with Paul in
Third missionary tour. Acts 18:23-21;Acts 18:17. His aim at this period was to vindicate Christians' freedom from the law, yet unity through the higher bond of love. Hence he gives prominence to the collections of the Gentile churches for the relief of the poor brethren at Jerusalem (Galatians 2:10). The epistles of this time, Galatians, Corinthians, and Romans, mainly discuss the relations of the believer to the Jewish law. From Antioch Paul went over all Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples (Acts 18:23) and ordering the collection (1 Corinthians 16:1). Then on reaching Ephesus he wrote epistle to Galatians, else later at Corinth. (See .) Ephesus Paul reached from the upper regions (Phrygia: Acts 19:1). Being the metropolis of Asia and the meeting ground of oriental, Jew, Greek, and Roman, Paul stayed at Ephesus two or three years (Acts 19:10; Acts 20:31), so that he founded in it a mother church for the whole Asian region.
Here he met the 12 disciples who had been, like Apollos (Acts 18:25-26), baptized only unto John's baptism. On his asking "did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye became believers?" they answered, "we did not so much as hear whether the Holy Spirit is (given)." Paul taught them the further truths, baptism into the Lord Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit; and in laying hands on them after baptism the Holy Spirit came on them, just as upon the Samaritans when Peter and John laid hands on them (Acts 8:15; Acts 8:17). The first three months Paul spoke boldly in the synagogue at Ephesus; then, on many hardening themselves in unbelief, he separated the disciples from the synagogue and disputed daily in the school of Tyrannus (whether a "private synagogue," bet midrash , where he might assemble the believing Jews privately and receive inquiring Gentiles, or more probably the school of a Gentile sophist). This continued for two years, so that all both Jews and Greeks had the opportunity of hearing the word of the Lord Jesus.
God wrought special miracles by Paul, so that handkerchiefs and aprons from his body were used to heal the sick and cast out demons. So "the shadow of Peter" (Acts 5:15), the hem of Christ's garment (Matthew 9:20-21). So far from confirming the virtue of "relics," his case disproves them; they were "special" and extraordinary instances; all miracles having generally ceased, a fortiori, what even then were rarest must have now ceased also. Sorcery abounded at Ephesus; seven sons of Sceva, a Jew, exorcists, having presumed to call over the demon-possessed the name of the Lord Jesus preached by Paul, as a magic formula, two of them (Acts 19:16, "prevailed against both" in the Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus manuscripts) were wounded and driven out of the house by the man, the demon saying, "Jesus I know and Paul I know, but who are ye?" (Matthew 12:27.)
Such fear fell on those who, along with Christianity, secretly practiced magic arts that they confessed openly their sin and brought their costly books of incantations (the notorious Εphesia grammata ) and burnt them publicly, at the sacrifice of their estimated value, 50,000 drachmas, 1,770 British pounds. "So mightily grew the word of God. During the first half of his stay at Ephesus he paid. a second short visit to Corinth, alluded to in 2 Corinthians 1:15-16; 2 Corinthians 2:1; 2 Corinthians 12:14; 2 Corinthians 12:21; 2 Corinthians 13:1-2. (See , FIRST EPlSTLE.) After this visit he wrote a letter alluded to in 1 Corinthians 5:9; 1 Corinthians 4:18. He purposed in spirit going through Macedon and Achaia (Corinth) to Jerusalem, then to Rome; meanwhile he sent Timothy and Erastus to Macedon, but stayed himself in Ephesus for a season.
His first epistle to the Corinthians was written while still at Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:8), about the Passover time (1 Corinthians 16:7-8), shortly before the outbreak that drove him away at Pentecost time (Acts 19:23-41), when he had already encountered beast-like "adversaries" (1 Corinthians 15:32), a premonitory symptom of the final tumult (1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 1:8; Romans 16:4); not after it, for immediately after it he left Ephesus for Macedon. How large his heart was, to be able to enter so warmly into the minute interests of the Corinthian churches in the midst of his engrossing ministry amidst threatening storms at Ephesus. In 1 Corinthians 4:9-13 he sketches the hardships of his apostolic life. His tact in dealing with the questions submitted to him by the Corinthians and those also omitted by them, but known otherwise, as well as his singleness of aim for Christ, shine conspicuously in this epistle. (See on the outbreak; also see EPHESUS; ASIARCHS; ALEXANDER; DIANA.)
Demetrius' hypocritical zeal for Diana while his "wealth" (euporia only here "easy means"; equivalent to the ominous 666 (See )); 1 Kings 10:14; 2 Chronicles 9:13; Revelation 13:18) was his real concern, the wild and blind excitement of the mob, "the more part not knowing wherefore they were come together," the unreasoning religious party cry "great is Diana of the Ephesians," the tact and good sense of the secretary of state ("the town clerk") in calming the mob while incidentally testifying to Paul's temperance in assailing the idol of the town, vividly appear in the narrative. It can have been no light impression that Paul's preaching made, and no small danger he daily incurred. From Macedonia (probably Philippi) he wrote 2 Corinthians. (See 2 .) He had a door of preaching opened to him in Troas (2 Corinthians 2:12); but his anxiety to meet Titus, who had disappointed him in not coming to Troas, urged him forward to Macedon.
Having there met, and heard from him the tidings which he so eagerly longed for, namely, the good effect of his first epistle on the Corinthians, he wrote his second epistle, in which he glances at those Judaizing emissaries (especially one) who had tried to disparage his apostolic authority (2 Corinthians 12:11-12; 2 Corinthians 3:1; 2 Corinthians 11:4; 2 Corinthians 11:12-15) and malign his personal motives (2 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Corinthians 12:17-18); scoffing at his want of courage as evinced by his delay in coming, and at his threats as impotent (2 Corinthians 1:17; 2 Corinthians 1:23), and at his weak personal appearance and simple speech (2 Corinthians 10:10). His sensitive, affectionate tenderness appears in the anguish with which he wrote the first epistle, using the authority which some had denied, and threatening soon to enforce it in person (2 Corinthians 2:2-4; 2 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 7:5; 2 Corinthians 7:8); also in his shrinking from going as soon as he had intended (rather he would wait to see the effect of his letter 2 Corinthians 1:15-16; 2 Corinthians 2:1), that his visit might be a happy instead of a sorrowful one; and in his triumphant joy at the news of their better state of mind (2 Corinthians 2:18; 2 Corinthians 2:14).
His list of hardships in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 shows how much more he endured than the book of Acts records: "of the Jews five times I received 40 stripes save one; thrice was I beaten with rods(whereas elsewhere only one scourging is recorded, that at Philippi); once was I stoned (Acts 14:19); thrice I suffered shipwreck; a night and a day I have been in the deep." Not one of these sea perils is recorded in Acts; that of Acts 27, was subsequent. The" perils of rivers" (Greek for" waters") would be in fording them in floods, bridges in mountain roads traversed by torrents being rare. The perils of robbers: the Pisidians (Acts 13:14), Pamphylians, and Cilicians of the mountains separating the tableland of Asia from the coast were notorious for robbery (Strabo, xii. 6-7). The "thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7), a messenger of Satan (compare Job 2:7; Luke 13:16) to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations," was probably some painful, tedious, bodily malady, which shamed him before those to whom he ministered (Galatians 4:13-15); it followed the revelation wherein he was caught up to the third heaven (perhaps at his second visit to Jerusalem: Acts 22:17). (See .)
"Thorn" implies bodily pain; "buffet," shame (
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Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Paul'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/fbd/p/paul.html. 1949.