St. Paul, Apostle | Biography | 4


Chapter IV

In the Acts of the Apostles we have the address which St. Paul delivered with eloquent tongue and flashing eye to the astonished audience:

He told them that in their capital he had seen one nameless altar - an altar “to the unknown God” - an altar which they had erected, lest there might, in some other land, be a God of whom they knew not.

What, therefore, you worship without knowing it, that I preach to you:

God, Who made the world, and all things therein, He, being Lord of heaven and earth, dwells not in temples made with hands.

Thus did he commence his instruction, to which the men of Athens at first listened with interest and attention, but when he came to dwell upon the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead they laughed him to scorn.

A few, however, believed that St. Paul spoke truly, and these sought further instruction from him during his stay in Athens. Among their number was a humble woman named Damaris, and Dionysius, one of the members of the Areopagus.

For a short time Timothy came to assist the Apostle in his work at Athens, but he was wanted in Thessalonica, and therefore speedily returned there,

while St. Paul went on alone to the city of Corinth, where he had neither companion nor friend.

The Emperor Claudius had issued a proclamation, commanding the Jews to leave Rome, and one of these named Aquila, with Priscilla his wife, had taken up his abode in Corinth. With them St. Paul obtained lodging, partly because Aquila was a tent- maker, and the Apostle in his younger days had learned that trade.

Now that food was scarce throughout Greece, and he had none to assist him, St. Paul had to employ himself and work hard during the week,

but always when the Sabbath came round, and the Jews assembled in the synagogue, he was there to tell the Corinthians the new law of Christ Jesus.

A great number of Jewish people were opposed to such strange doctrines, but the Apostle met with greater success amongst the Greeks, and soon formed a little congregation of Christians.

After labouring about 3 months alone, St. Paul was encouraged by the arrival of Silas and Timothy:

There was much to tell about their work, and Timothy spoke of the faith and of the love of the Christians in Thessalonica, but they had fallen into some errors, which St. Paul reproved in his letter of holy counsel, known to us as the First Epistle to the Thessalonians.

Silas and Timothy had brought a gift of money to the Apostle from the Churches of Macedonia, so that he was not forced to spend so many hours at his trade, and had therefore more time for instructing and preaching.

Among those people of Corinth who had been received into the Christian Church was Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue - and his entire household had also opened their minds to truth.

This made the Jews extremely angry, and they spoke so blasphemously of Christ that St Paul could not bear to hear them:

Shaking his garment with a gesture of horror and indignation, he cried, “Your blood be upon your own head; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.

And so saying he left the synagogue and went to the dwelling of Justus, who, being a pious man, allowed the Apostle to teach there.

In a vision of the night God encouraged His servant, saying to him:

Do not fear, but speak, and hold not thy peace. Because I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee, for I have much people in this city.

After this declaration of God’s Will St. Paul remained in Corinth for another year and half.

He had already, as we have seen, written one epistle to the Thessalonians, and a few months later he wrote them a second. Some of the people of Thessalonica had fallen into a mistake.

Thinking that Christ was soon coming to judge the world, they deemed it useless to occupy themselves in their different callings.

When they left off work, like all other idle, unemployed people, they began to meddle with the concerns of their neighbours,

and in his second letter St. Paul warned them that a great many things were to happen before the second coming of Christ, and he told them also the rule, “If any man will not work neither let him eat.

He begged them to pray that the Word of God might bring forth much fruit among the Corinthian people, and bid them hold firmly to the traditions received from him.

After a time a new governor named Gallio came to Corinth, and the unbelieving Jews took this opportunity of trying to injure the Apostle. Taking him before a magistrate, they accused him of teaching men to worship God after a manner contrary to law.

Before the Apostle could attempt to defend this charge, Gallio said he would not listen to such a complaint, and he sent the angry people away.

The Greeks were very much vexed at this attempt of the Jews to bring trouble upon St. Paul, and they seized Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment-seat, and yet even then Gallio did not interfere.

It seems probable that the Apostle would seek out Sosthenes after this rough treatment, and gain his friendship; at any rate, we next hear of this Jewish ruler as a Christian, and also a companion of St. Paul in his journey to Ephesus.

About a month following the day upon which he had been taken before Gallio, the Apostle left Corinth with Aquila and Priscilla, whom he left at Ephesus, while he himself passed on to Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Pentecost.

In the city of Ephesus stood the widely celebrated temple of Diana, which was one of the 7 wonders of the world:

It had taken more than 200 years to build, and it was made of the purest marble.

It had 120 pillars, 36 of which were most beautifully carved, and the others polished; everyone had been the gift of some king.

The temple was not roofed over, excepting just in the part where the image of Diana stood - the ugly log of wood, with a head adorned with a mural crown, and the body covered with figures of animals.

The superstitious people believed that this idol had fallen from the sky, and during our month of May they held a great feast in Diana’s honour, to which people came from far and near in vast crowds.

In this city they also practised magic:

Certain words were written on parchment, which had been copied from the image of the goddess, and this parchment was worn upon the body to charm away evil spirits, and to heal diseases, as it was believed.

We cannot marvel that ignorant people were thus led astray, when the wise and learned philosophers of Greece had begun to write about, these hidden things, and sell such books at enormous prices.

It was to Ephesus, the city filled with pagan superstition and practice, that St. Paul came after his visit to Jerusalem, meeting there again the Christians Aquila and Priscilla.

During the absence of the Apostle a young man had been preaching in the synagogue, who was a Jew of the name of Apollos.

He was well versed in Mosaic Law and the books of the Old Testament, but he could teach nothing of Christ, for he did not believe that the promised Messiah had indeed come into the world.

It was from Aquila and Priscilla that Apollos learned the Christian faith, and then in his gratitude and love he longed to make it known to others, and for this purpose went to Corinth, where he induced, many Jews to listen and to believe.

When St. Paul came back to stay a while in Ephesus he resumed his trade, and taught continually in the synagogue; but at length the ill-feeling of the Jews broke out upon him, and they spoke evilly of him, and blasphemed the Name of Jesus.

Upon this the Apostle left the synagogue and hired a room, where he taught the Word of God, and many were converted and baptized, and received the Holy Ghost from the hands of the Apostle.

It pleased the Almighty to work miraculous cures by means of St. Paul, as we read:

God wrought by the hand of Paul more than common miracles. So that even there were brought from his body to the sick, handkerchiefs and aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the wicked spirits went out of them.

Then some of the people who had witnessed the wonders which St. Paul could do in the name of Jesus, thought they also could do the same:

There was a Jew who had 7 sons, and these men wanted to drive out an evil spirit with which a person was possessed:

But when they bade it come from him, the devil spoke from within the man, and said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?” and the possessed leaped upon and overcame them, so that they had to escape.

When this was told in Ephesus, the people were awed, for they could not but see that God would not permit His Name to be taken in vain,

and they began to be so much afraid of practising their magic arts that they brought out the wicked books, which treated of hidden things, and publicly burned them.

During St. Paul’s stay at Ephesus he went over for a short time to visit the Christians in Corinth, and to his great sorrow he found that among them were some who had brought disgrace upon their faith by relapsing into many of their heathenish customs.

After he had again returned to Ephesus, such bad news came about the Corinthian Church that St. Paul wrote them a letter, in which he reproved their sins and entreated them to lead holy lives. This letter is the First Epistle to the Corinthians.

About this time a disturbance arose in Ephesus, because the men who were formerly selling models of the pagan goddess Diana could not now find an easy sale for these things, and they were therefore enraged with St. Paul for preaching against idolatry.

A silversmith of the city, whose name was Demetrius, called together all who followed his own trade, and represented to them how much they had lost through this man who preached the new faith and persuaded the people to renounce the gods they had formerly worshipped.

Ephesus was soon in a tumult, and the angry people resolved to seize upon St. Paul, whom they considered had done them great injury; but on going to find him in the house of Aquila, he was not there:

Instead of the Apostle, therefore, two other Christians were captured and brought to the place where all public meetings were held.

St. Paul was not long in receiving tidings of this occurrence, and he would have hastened to the assembled crowd had not his friends interfered, for they believed that in their rage the excited people might do him some serious injury.

Great is Diana of the Ephesians!”  - so rose the cry again and again, and it was a difficult matter for the authorities to quiet them.

In this occurrence the Apostle saw an indication of God’s Will that he should depart from Ephesus, - at any rate, for a time,

- therefore he called together the Christians, and after exhorting them to perseverance in the faith they had embraced, and to a holy and blameless life, he bade them farewell.

For 3 years he had taught in that city, but now, with Timothy for a helper, he was to teach in other places, and win more hearts to knowledge and love of the true God.

He now made his way to Troas, where once before he had stayed, though only for a short time. But St. Paul’s heart was troubled regarding the Corinthian Church: Titus had been sent there, but he had not returned, and St. Paul resolved to go and meet him.

Leaving Troas he went to Philippi, where he was welcomed with great joy by his friends, and after a time Titus found him bringing better news of the people of Corinth, the greater number of whom were striving to obey the counsels contained in his letter.

There were, however, some who still refused to submit to the Apostle’s authority, and who were wicked enough to utter untruthful things of him:

They said that the money he wished the Christian Churches to collect for their poorer friends was really needed by himself.

It was now that St. Paul wrote his Second Epistle to the Corinthians, in which he encouraged those who were trying to live a holy life, and this letter he sent by the hand of Titus, while he himself visited Thessalonica and Berea.

After summer and autumn had passed, the Apostle went to Corinth, but scarcely had he arrived than he heard of troubles in the Church of Galatia, because some people of Jerusalem had been there, endeavouring to sow disbelief and distrust in the teaching of St. Paul.

A letter was therefore written by him to the Galatians, to warn them against these false doctors who were preaching the obligation of observing the Mosaic Law.

Now the Apostle began to attend to the Church in Corinth, reproving error and sin, and separating those who would not obey the law of Christ from the submissive and good.

He had warned them many times before he did this, but now he could not permit to be numbered among the followers of Christ those who brought shame upon their profession by openly disobeying His laws.

There were connected with the Christian Churches pious women, who were called “deaconesses.” Their charge was to assist the sick, to instruct the catechumens, and help the newly baptized to lead a Christian life:

For these duties it was necessary to have persons of experience and great piety, and therefore the age for their admission to the office was first fixed at 60, but after wards at 40 years.

One of these deaconesses, named Phoebe, was about leaving Corinth for Rome, and by her St. Paul sent an epistle to the people of that city.

He had not yet been there, but he hoped before long to visit the Church which was then being formed, and meanwhile he sent them this proof of love and good-will:

It was written in Greek, but for the benefit of those who did not understand that language was translated into Latin.

In the arrangement of the Scriptures, this Epistle is always placed first - although not the first which the Apostle’s hand has written - because of the great importance of its contents, as well as the pre-eminence of the place to which it was sent.

In it the Apostle first commends the faith of the Romans whom he long to see, “that I may impart unto you some spiritual grace to strengthen you.” He goes on to show how the shameful sins of the pagans were the result of the lack of faith and of humility.

He next censures those Jews who, while they boast of the law, neglect to keep it, and while admitting the advantages of the Jew, “because the words of God were committed to them,” he teaches that all men, whether Jew or Gentile, are sinners who must be saved by the grace of God, and not alone by obedience to the law.

This doctrine of salvation by Christ is dwelt upon continually, but St. Paul also insists upon the necessity of good works, and that a Christian must die to sin and self, and live unto God.

He also gives many beautiful counsels regarding Christian virtues, lessons of obedience to superiors and of mutual charity. He bids the strong bear with the weak, and cautions Christians not to judge and condemn each other, neither to give scandal.

Then, exhorting them all to be “of one mind one towards another according to Jesus Christ,” he promises to come and visit them, and concludes by invoking upon them the grace of God “to Whom be honour and glory for ever and ever.