PAUL WAS NOT ASHAMED OF PERSECUTION AND PRISON
Perhaps there is no greater preacher, than the apostle Paul, save Jesus Christ himself. No one sacrificed more or preached more than Paul himself. A study of his life is a study of devotion, dedication, and determination. Though there are many things for which Paul may be known, one thing is for sure, Paul was a man, who was not ashamed of persecution and imprisonment. This study will do two things. First, consider in brief fashion something of the life of the great apostle with some emphasis on the suffering Paul faced by means of persecution and imprisonment. Second, it will present a number of important lessons that will help, it is hoped, every gospel preacher in their work of preaching the gospel of Christ. By considering these matters carefully, one will grow in appreciation of the life of the apostle himself and, more importantly than that, grow in faith of the Christ that he preached so faithfully.
His life begins in the
Paul is stoned at Lystra.
During the first missionary journey the traveling group arrives at Iconium, then they go on to Lystra
and Derbe. In dealing with the uncivilized, heathen
people of the area, Paul heals a cripple. Because of this miracle, the people
of Lystra take Paul and Barnabas for gods. Even
though the people were ready to worship them, they turn to hostility, as Jews
Paul is in prison in
Paul and his suffering at
One would think that the restrictions under
which Paul lived in Rome should have held back his efforts to proclaim the
gospel, however, just the opposite turned out to be the case. As Paul put it,
"But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which
happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the
gospel" (Phil. ). Paul is
handcuffed to one of the soldiers, who guarded him in four-hour shifts, but
he was free to receive visitors and talk to them about the gospel. Soldiers,
who guarded him, and the officials, in charge of presenting his case before
the emperor, were left with no doubt concerning the reason for Paul being in
The end of Paul's life and work. From
the biblical point of view little is known of the rest of Paul's life. The
Bible does not reveal the outcome of his trial before Caesar. The fact that
Paul was permitted to have a rented house, and that people could come and go,
indicates that his confinement was of a limited nature. Luke abruptly ends
the narrative with Paul in prison at
Obviously, this brief discourse does not do
justice to the treatment that Paul faced as an apostle. There is much more to
the suffering that Paul faced that is not recorded for us in specific detail.
There were times in his life, when there were great physical and
psychological persecutions faced, but just a passing reference is made to
such, or just a general type of summary is given regarding the matter. For
instance, 2 Corinthians, like no other book of the New Testament, relates
what life must have been like for an apostle of Christ in Bible times. In the
first chapter Paul expresses gratitude for the fact that he has been
comforted in his afflictions. He had recently undergone one of the most painful
experiences of his life, having narrowly escaped from deadly violence in
"Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed: But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things (2 Cor. 6:3-10)."
As can be seen from this short treatment, suffering by means of persecution and imprisonment was a way of life for the Paul and for so many that were faithful Christians during the first century. It can be said without reservation that it meant something to be a Christian in the first century.
LESSONS TO BE LEARN REGARDING PERSECUTION AND IMPRISONMENT
It is simply not enough to learn the specific events that transpired in the life of the great apostle. One must ask the question, "How does all this apply to me?" One will see in his writing that Paul emphasized both doctrine and practice. He does not believe that sound doctrine avails, unless one allows that truth to lead to Christian activity, and he does not believe Christian activity avails, unless it is rooted in sound doctrine. So often, Paul's emphasis in his writing begins with strong doctrinal teaching and ends with a strong practical admonition toward Christian living (e.g. Romans 1-11- the doctrinal section of the book; 12-16 - the practical section of the book). What then is the application to be drawn from the life of a man, whose life was filled with such suffering for the cause of Christ? By looking at the end result of Paul's life the answer may be more easily seen, and in doing so, we may turn learn that there were great benefits to be obtained, due to Paul's suffering as a Christian.
Without doubt when considering the life of
Paul, one would immediately see a man, who believed in the power of prayer. The
fact is Paul was very diligent in prayer. His admonition to the church at
The end result of persecution and imprisonment
produced a man concerned with growing stronger spiritually. This is
certainly one of the great needs that every child of God would have: the need
to mature and grow stronger in faith with each passing day. Paul's rebuke of
the church at
The end result of persecution and imprisonment produced a man of sacrifice and self-control. Paul discusses both of these important needs in the Christian's life in 1 Corinthians chapter 9. Here, Paul emphases the fact that he had practiced what he was pleading for others to do: he had foregone personal rights, an example of sacrifice for the benefit of others. He had the right to live at the expense of the Corinthians, while he was working there; to abstain from manual labor; to lead about a Christian wife at the expense of the church. However, he did not take advantage of these rights for himself. In showing that men, who preach, have the right to be supported by the church, Paul refers to soldiers, to keepers of vineyards, and to those who tend flocks, as illustrations of men receiving support from their work. He, also, shows that the law had spoken in defense of the practice. Paul, then, goes on to plead for the exercise of self-control, referring to athletes, as examples. He refers to himself, as running the Christian race with a certainty of where he is going. He shifts to the thought of boxing, and says that he does not beat the air. Rather, he buffets his body to bring it under subjection, lest he, after preaching to others, might be rejected. The man, who had suffered so much, had learned so much about these important qualities of life, and encouraged others to do the same.
The end result of persecution and imprisonment produced a man of conscience. In fact, the matter of conscience was so important that Paul teaches that if one is engaged in an activity and at the same time doubts its righteousness, then one, in reality, is in violation of his own conscience and, in turn, guilty of sin. Consider carefully Rom. 14. Here, Paul discusses matters of indifference, matters in which there is personal liberty. In this category Paul places the eating of certain foods and the observance of certain days. If a man cannot eat certain foods with a good conscience, he should not eat them. It may be that Paul is thinking of certain Jews who, after becoming Christians, still had scruples regarding foods. The same may be true of the observance of days. If one wishes to study God's word and pray on certain days, he may do so, but he is not to seek to bind this on others. Nor is he to judge others, who do not engage in the same practice. Emphasis must be given to the fact that Paul is discussing things of an indifferent nature, matters of personal practice. He is not discussing matters in which God has legislated. He is not saying that Christians should be indifferent toward matters of right and wrong. However, even in matters of indifference, that which cannot be done with a clear conscious, is sin (v. 23). When one violates his conscience, he lowers his resistance to sin, even if the thing being done is not within itself wrong. One should never tamper with his conscience. Paul was a man of great conscience.
The end result of persecution and
imprisonment produced a man of wisdom. It is the Bible that teaches, in
such a wonderful way, the eternal lessons of life by which to live. Those
truths, when followed properly, will carry one on into eternity with God. We
can never fully appreciate, nor study too much the Word of God, the Bible. If
one is to grow in faith, then he must study the Bible (Rom. ). To say it another way, one's faith
cannot out run his knowledge of the word of God. Knowledge of God's word
comes with study, however, the proper application of
these divine truths to everyday life takes wisdom. James states, "If any
of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth
to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it
shall be given him" (James 1:5). In other words, God will not scold the
individual, who asks for wisdom. As you will notice, the passage simply
states the fact that wisdom will be given and does not state how God gives
such wisdom. One thing is for sure, that wisdom is acquired by means of a knowledge of God's word, coupled with a faithful living
of it day by day. This helped to produce a man like Paul, who was wise in the
work of preaching the gospel through out the ancient Near East. The
experiences of being stoned at Lystra, of being put
in prison in
Paul used this wisdom that came to him, both from experience, as well as, divine wisdom coming from inspiration for the benefit of others. Paul gives divine counsel to Titus, when he says that the younger should look to those, who are older (Titus 2:3-5). This reference is one of many that urges, both the older generation to recognize its responsibility in teaching, training and guiding the younger in the way of righteousness and the younger generation's responsibility to listen to and take to heart their instruction. Why? As Paul puts it: that the word of God, the gospel, may not be injured by the inconsistent lives of those, who profess to be influenced by it. God's word, when it is allowed to work in the lives of men and women, will produce the qualities and characteristics of life that are pleasing in the sight of God. When it is not allowed to shape our lives accordingly, then those lives are a reproach to those, who are without the body, and the gospel message is counted as being of no value. Taking the advice of the older has always been the instruction of God to his people. Much of the book of Proverbs is written from the standpoint of the older, wiser father giving godly advice to his son. A wise son or daughter will listen and take to heart the righteous instruction of mother and father (Prov. 1:7-9). The future of the church depends upon our young people. Rehoboam's failure during the days of the Old Testament was a failure to listen to the advice of those, who were older and wiser. His outcome will surely be our own, if we do not pass these divine truths on to the next generation, and if the next generation fails to honor them, as they should.
The end result of persecution and imprisonment produced a man, who was concerned with his Christian influence toward others. Paul stressed, both by example and by word, the importance of being concerned about our influence on others. This concern is seen in his desire to so live, as to save others (1 Cor. -23). He commands us to do likewise, which is, in reality, imitating the example of Christ (1 Cor. -11:1). Peter mentions the importance of example and influence, when referring to Christian wives winning their husbands to Christ. It is possible to win them over by how they conduct themselves toward their husbands (1 Peter 3:1,2). What is said of a wife's influence on her unbelieving husband would, also, be true of a Christian's influence on others. Paul's concern for his influence should be ours, as well.
The end result of persecution and imprisonment
produced a man who was concerned with the stewardship of time, money and
body. The Bible teaches clearly that we are stewards of our time, our
money, and our bodies. This is clearly evident from our Lord's parable of the
talents (Matt. 25:14-30). Paul's instruction concerning our bodies is
important to remember (1 Cor. -20).
He makes clear that our body is the temple, where the Holy Spirit lives. The
Spirit dwells in the child of God, and as the verse teaches, comes from God
(v. 19). Consequently, we are no longer our own: God has paid a great price
for us. Therefore, we are to use our body to honor God (v. 20). A lesson in
the stewardship of our means comes from Paul, when he warns the child of God
regarding worldly possessions (1 Tim. -19).
The rich are not to be filled with pride (v. 17), nor should they put their
trust in wealth that is so easily lost. Rather, we must put our faith in God,
who is rich and blesses us so abundantly. The faithful steward of his wealth
will use it wisely for the good of the work of the Lord, both in preaching
and teaching the lost, as well as, meeting the needs of those, who are poor.
As Paul mentions, by doing this they lay a sure foundation for the future (v.
19). Further, Paul instructed the church at
The end result of persecution and prison
produced a man who was set for the defense of the faith. In Philippians
1:7 Paul states, "Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all,
because I have you in my heart; in as much as both in my bonds,
and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel,
ye all are partakers of my grace." Once again, Paul teaches, "But
the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence
of the gospel" (Phil. ).
Paul stood in the defense of the good news, even though he was at that time
in prison for doing so. It will take courage to do what Paul did, that is, to
stand in defense of the truth in the face of such consequences. Often, there
is a price to be paid for defending the truth of God (Rev. 1:9). However,
those, who have the courage to stand up and speak out for truth, will be
saved (Rev. 20:4; 21:8). The fact of the matter is that it is sinful to
remain silent, when the truth is being mishandled and misrepresented. Notice
the instruction that God gave the children of
The end result of persecution and prison
produced a man who believed in and preached the reality of the kingdom of God.
Paul is plain, when he teaches about the kingdom; there is no ambiguity on
his part at all. For instance, he teaches that the church is the
The end result of persecution and prison produced a man, who was not ashamed of the gospel and demonstrated that love by preaching it faithfully. Romans states, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." The New Testament records the work of Paul, as he took the great commission of Christ seriously to the world of his day (See Matt. 28:18-20). As has been noted already in this study, as far as the New Testament is concerned, no one sacrificed more, preached more, or suffered more than Paul, save Jesus himself. The statement that he makes, regarding his love and devotion to the gospel, truly reflects his life, as an apostle (Rom. ). Truth, today, needs courageous, committed friends, who are willing to speak up for truth (Eph. , 20). Paul's admonition is to be taken seriously, "Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong" (1 Cor. ).
This research has emphasized something of the life and work of the great apostle Paul. It has as its primary focus, those aspects of Paul's life that have to do with his suffering as an apostle of Christ. In addition to this it has spent some time looking at the important lessons that may be properly deduced from the facts of his life, and the instruction that he presents, as one of the inspired writers of the New Testament. It does not claim to have exhausted the matter regarding such, however, it does a sufficient job to prove that the apostle Paul stands as an example for all to emulate, in so far as, he has followed the life of Christ.