Apostle Paul: Writer of Most of the New Testament
Paul is one of the most prominent men in the New Testament along with Jesus Christ in the Gospels. Paul is introduced in The Acts of the Apostles (often shortened to just Acts), where readers learn a lot about him. In fact, thirteen of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament are based on Paul's life that is recorded in Acts.
As an ordained minister of Christian Education, I am convinced that people cannot understand Paul's books if they don't know about the man who wrote them. Therefore, the aim of this article is to share some things about Paul that those who read the Bible should know.
Paul, the Man
Paul was not a disciple of Jesus Christ. In fact, Paul did not meet Jesus while Jesus walked the face of the earth. Paul met Jesus on the Damascus Road after Jesus had been crucified, resurrected and ascended to heaven.
Paul is commonly referred to as Saint Paul or Apostle Paul. His Jewish name was Saul of Tarsus. He used his status as a Jew and a Roman citizen to minister to the Jews and the Romans.
When readers first meet Paul in the Book of Acts, he was called Saul by his Jewish name. At that time, Saul was set on persecuting the Christians in Jerusalem because he thought it was the right thing to do. He would enter homes and synagogues, beat men and women and dragged them to prison.
When the followers of Christ scattered out of the city, Saul followed them on the way to Damascus on a mission to arrest them and take them back to Jerusalem. However, the risen Lord stopped him. Jesus had already ascended to His Father, but He appeared to Saul in a great light.
After that one-on-one conversation, Saul began using his Jewish name and stopped persecuting the Christians. Instead, he began preaching about Jesus Christ.
Paul was born in Tarsus with Jewish heritage and Roman citizenship. He was a Hebrew from the tribe of Benjamin. Paul was born around the same time as Jesus, but he did not know the historical Jesus.
Paul was the son of a Pharisee and he became a strict Pharisee himself. The apostle was a learned man who was taught by Gamaliel, a Pharisee and respected teacher of the law.
Saul was present at the stoning of Stephen. He did not participate in the stoning. He watched the cloaks of those who were stoning Stephen, who became the first martyr. After the stoning, Saul began persecuting the followers of Jesus.
Paul was so proud of his heritage and his conversion that he talked about it three times the Book of Acts. He described himself as a devout Jew and a Roman citizen which gave him a great advantage to minister to both the Jews and the Romans.
Paul was an itinerant preacher which means he traveled from place to place preaching the gospel. He planted churches, but he never became a pastor of any of them. He was a tentmaker like his friends, Priscilla and Aquila.
Paul wrote four of his 13 books while he was under house arrest. They are called prison books: Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon and Philippians.
The apostle's books are not listed in the Bible in the order in which they were written. They are listed from the longest to the shortest. The longest book is Romans with 16 chapters. The shortest book is Philemon with only one chapter.
The books written to churches are public documents called epistles. Those written to people are personal letters. His letters to people include 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon.
All of Paul books are in the format of a letter with a greeting or salutation, the body, and a closing.
The writer announces the recipient and introduces himself in the first verse of his books in several different ways.
- a servant of Jesus Christ
- a prisoner of Jesus Christ
- a slave of Jesus Christ
- called to be an apostle
- set apart for the gospel of God
There is a dual greeting, "grace and peace" to accommodate the Greek and Hebrew audience. Paul prays for the recipients before he gets to the purpose of his epistle or letter. Then there is a commendation before addressing a problem. He closes the book with a prayer.
Paul was not on a first name basis with Jesus. He always used a double or triple name and not just "Jesus." On many occasions, Paul said, "Lord Jesus Christ" or "Jesus Christ" or "Christ Jesus."
The writer used a technical called an "aside." Paul would be speaking about a certain topic. Then he would abruptly interject his own opinion that is set apart with parentheses, dashes, or brackets.
Here are some examples of Paul's asides:
- Romans 1:13 - "I do not want you to be unaware that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles."
- Romans 3:5 - "But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument)."
- Philippians 2:12 - "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed — not only in my presence but now much more in my absence — continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.
Look through any of the 13 books and find some asides. They are in almost all of Paul's books.
Before his conversion, Saul thought what he was doing was right. As determined as Saul was for persecuting the Christians, he was just as determined as Paul to minister to people so they would follow Jesus Christ. He spent the rest of his life teaching others to believe in the saving power of Jesus Christ.
From being the worst enemy of the church as Saul, Paul became one of the church's best friends.
Paul's Missionary Journeys
Paul's missionary journeys are recorded in the Book of Acts. Paul would go out to different cities and preach the gospel. He would plant churches and check on them through letters.
After each missionary journey, Paul and his companions would return to Jerusalem to report to the religious leaders before leaving on another journey.
First Missionary Journey
During Paul's first missionary journey (Acts 13 and Acts 14), he wrote Galatians, his first book even though it does not appear first of his books in the Bible.
Second Missionary Journey
Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians and 2 Thessalonians while on his second missionary journey, according to Acts 15:36-18:22.
Third Missionary Journey
Paul was on his third missionary journey, according to Acts 18:23-21:14. It was during that time that he wrote I Corinthians, 2 Corinthians and Romans.
While under house arrest, Paul wrote Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon and Philippians.
After His Release
After Paul's release from house arrest, he wrote to two young pastors, 1 Timothy, Titus and 2 Timothy.
The above information accounts for all 13 of the Pauline epistles and letters.
Lessons From Paul
We learned many things from Paul, his ministry and his books. No one can deny that Paul is a major figure in the New Testament, and he taught many things through his life and ministry.
- The Roman Road Plan of Salvation is in the Book of Romans.
- Paul teaches in 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus how pastors should handle their responsibilities while being the head of a church.
- The writer of half of the New Testament taught through the letter to Philemon how to go from "useless" to "useful."
- In the Book of Romans, Paul focuses on many different topics such as reconciliation, impartation, imputation, sin, marriage, adoption, conversion, regeneration, faith, salvation, sanctification, glorification, grace, mercy, redemption, righteousness, sin and the wrath of God.