- Jewish name: Saul
- Born in Tarsus, a city in modern-day Turkey
- Gained Roman citizenship at birth
- Grew up in a well-respected and religious home
- Was sent to study in Jerusalem and became a Pharisee
- Pharisees saw Christianity as a perversion of Judaism, so Saul “made havoc of the church” (Acts 8:3) in an effort to defend his religion
While Saul was traveling to Damascus to arrest refugee followers of Christ, “there shined round about him a light from heaven”(Acts 9:3). After falling to the earth, he “heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” (Acts 9:4). Christ commanded Saul, now blind from the vision, to go into Damascus and wait for more instruction.
After three days of blindness, Saul was visited by the disciple Ananias, who healed his sight (see Acts 9:17–18). Saul was then baptized and went to Jerusalem, but the disciples “were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple” (Acts 9:26).
Saul was called to minister to the Gentiles, and from that point on, the Bible refers to him as Paul, his Latin name. Paul’s conversion is a witness that the gospel of Jesus Christ is available to all who repent and “no matter where we are or what we have done, there is no point of no return.”1
Paul was an Apostle who could teach “the gentiles in non-Jewish lands, who could withstand the criticism of his own countrymen (even in the Church), and who had the knowledge and training to teach both Jews and gentiles of all social levels throughout the Roman empire.”2
Paul, a Roman citizen and former Pharisee who spoke Hebrew, Greek, and some Latin, was uniquely qualified to fulfill this charge (see Acts 9:15).
As an Apostle, Paul stood as a witness of Jesus Christ and His redeeming power. “The central theme of all of his writings is how Jesus Christ redeemed the world and how the Saints can enjoy the blessings of [His] Atonement.”3
Image credit: Paul Preaches the Gospel in Other Lands, by Paul Mann.