The Apostle Paul – A Man of Grace and Grit
It is amazing what God can do with a man like Saul of Tarsus. If ever a man’s life was transformed, his was. Saul was born and raised in Tarsus of Cilicia (Acts 21:39; Acts 22:3; Acts 23:34). Cilicia was a Roman province in Southeast Asia Minor (modern Turkey). Tarsus was the capital (“no mean city”) known for its school of literature and philosophy. It was one of the great centers at which the trade of the Mediterranean and of the hinterland of Asia Minor converged.
Saul was born of Jewish ancestry and taught in Jerusalem by Gamaliel, a Pharisee and respected teacher of the Law (Acts 22:3). However, Paul was not only a devout Jew, he was a Pharisee, one of the "separated ones" (Acts 23:6; 26:5; Phil. 3:5), because his father was a Pharisee. Pharisee means "to separate" or "separated." Pharisaism was a major school of thought or sect of the Jews. Popular at the time of Jesus (John 7:48), they were known for their rigid adherence to the letter of the law (Acts 26:5, Matthew 23:3, Luke 11:39, etc.). Jesus frequently rebuked the Pharisees for their self-righteous, unmerciful, hypocritical way of life (Matthew 9:11, 23:14; John 8:7, Luke 18:11, etc.). Saul was also trained as a tent-maker (Acts 18:1-3).
His early life and training certainly put Saul of Tarsus on the "fast track" when it came to his religious faith. It was zeal in defending his faith that led to his brief but fervent career as a persecutor of the Church. The first appearance in history we have of Saul is at the martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 7:58-60 ):
57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; 58 and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not...