St. Paul, Apostle | Biography | 7



On arriving at Puteoli (Pozzuoli) St. Paul received a welcome from the Church already formed there, and at last, in the year 63, the eighth of the reign of Nero, he entered the city of Rome, surrounded by the Christians who had gone out to meet him in his chains.

Julius the centurion now gave up his charge to the captain of the emperor’s guard, whom we hear of as a just and kind man, who treated St. Paul well, and even permitted him to see his friends, and to teach the Christian faith to such as willed.

For 2 years this imprisonment lasted, during which time, Scripture tells us, he

received all that came in to him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, without prohibition.

Here ceases the narrative of the first missions to the pagan world, given by St. Luke in the Acts of the Apostles.

Those first triumphs of the faith were won much as the triumphs of later days  -

always against unbelief, error, opposition, and calumny; yet won even by an Apostle in chains, as truth must ever conquer, even when apparently vanquished.

That two years’ captivity in the Roman capital was cheered by the company of St. Luke, Timothy, and John Mark, who was now a faithful servant of Christ;

they could go where St. Paul was not permitted, and take counsels and messages of encouragement from him to the different Churches.

There was a slave named Onesimus, who was very useful to St. Paul, and who became a Christian through his teaching:

He had robbed his master and escaped to Rome, where from curiosity he went to hear the imprisoned Apostle tell of Jesus of Nazareth.

His heart was touched, and seeking an opportunity, he opened his conscience to St. Paul, in obedience to whom he went back to his master, bearing a letter written to him by the Apostle:

This letter is known to us as the Epistle to Philemon.

Tychicus accompanied Onesimus on his way, bearing an epistle to the Church of Colosse, which was the city in which Philemon dwelt.

In this beautiful letter St. Paul exhorts his brethren to beware of the philosophers and Jewish teachers, who would withdraw them from Christ.

He entreats them to look after heavenly things and to grow in holiness.

He also speaks of the duties of husbands and wives, parents and children, advises constant prayer, and concludes with various salutations from the Christians of Rome.

Tychicus was also the bearer of the Epistle to the Church at Ephesus, and all these letters are supposed to have been written when St. Paul had been about a year at Rome.

To the Ephesians the Apostle speaks first of the many and great spiritual blessings received through Christ, Who is our peace.

He prays that they may be strengthened by the Spirit of God, and exhorts them to fly from sin, to be united in “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.

To these Ephesians, as to the Colossians, he speaks of the duties of the various relationships,

and finally directs them to “Put on the armour of God,” that they may resist in the evil day, when their wrestling would be against “the spirits of wickedness in high places.

The Church at Philippi had always shown a deep affection for the Apostle, and about this time they sent him a present as a mark of their love and sympathy for his sufferings.

When St. Paul wrote to thank them, he told them also about himself and that he expected soon to be tried, but that whether his sentence was life or death he should be content.

Probably about this same time was also written the Epistle to the Hebrews, which was addressed to the Jews of Judea and Jerusalem. In this letter the Apostle sets forth the immeasurable superiority of the New Law of Christ over the old Mosaic dispensation.

All this time the Christian Church at Rome was making rapid progress:

With the zeal of St. Peter, and the eloquent teaching of St. Paul united in the great city, it was no wonder that the truth made its way even into the imperial court, for we find among the salutations of the Epistle to the Philippians, those of “Caesar’s household.

It was apparently through the influence of some of these more powerful disciples that, in the early part of the year 65, St. Paul was released from his imprisonment.

Very little information is given us in the Scriptures respecting the Apostle after this liberation. We gain our knowledge chiefly from his own letters to Timothy and to Titus, and from the traditions of the early Church.

Thus it appears that the first use the Apostle made of his liberty was to undertake new missions, and to visit those Churches to which he had already preached “Christ crucified.

Though no longer young, he was still full of zeal for God’s glory, and we find him now journeying to Spain, which he mentions in the Epistle to the Romans.

A contemporary author - Clement of Rome - tells us that “Paul was the herald of the Christian faith to the whole world, and penetrated even to the limits of the West.

Accompanied by Titus, the Apostle also went into the island of Crete.

Taking a long voyage, he next visits Ephesus, passing thence to Macedonia.

Titus had remained in Crete to watch over the newly founded Church, and with power to institute bishops and priests, and to him St. Paul writes an Epistle from Nicopolis, counselling him how to watch over the flock committed to his care:

In this letter he speaks of remaining during the winter in this city, but he appears to have passed to Corinth, and thence to the Churches of Troas and Miletus, returning to Rome at the close of the year 66.

The first general persecution of the Church had commenced by order of Nero:

Being disposed to give a spectacle which might rival the celebrated taking of Troy, this tyrant gave command for the city of Rome to be set on fire.

Rome was then composed of 14 divisions, out of which only 4 escaped the flames of this tremendous conflagration.

Nero, to excuse himself from the infamy of this act, laid the blame upon the Christians, and, as a punishment, had them arrested and condemned to the most dreadful torments.

Some were sewn up in the skins of wild beasts, and then were hunted by dogs in imitation of a barbarous chase.

Many were crucified; others had their clothing smeared with some combustible material, and, fastened to posts in the streets or in the alleys of the imperial garden, were then set on fire.

During these horrors Nero walked, or drove in a car, about the gardens, or through the ruined city, enjoying the sufferings which his cruel nature had invented.

It was at the very height of this persecution that St. Paul was brought into Rome once more a prisoner, and dragged before the emperor.

So great, however, were his courage and his eloquence, that he escaped any severer sentence than that of imprisonment. This time St. Paul was alone - his friends had removed to other parts, and feared to come to him.

But, like that dear Saviour, Whose own disciples forsook Him in the hour of peril, St. Paul did not harshly censure his Christian brethren, but rather felt pity for their weakness of heart, and prayed that they might be forgiven for deserting him in his infirm age, with the near prospect of martyrdom before him.

While in prison, the Apostle wrote a second letter to Timothy, full of love and holy counsels. In this Epistle he exhorts him to “stir tip the grace of God,” which he had received at his ordination, and not to be discouraged by suffering.

He also utters a warning against those who have gone astray from truth, and concludes by speaking of his approaching death, and desires Timothy to come to him.

The trial of St. Paul terminated, as he had expected, with sentence of death.

In the midst of the fury of persecution, St. Peter had set no bounds to his zealous teaching of the faith of Christ:

He had celebrated the Holy Mysteries in the house of a Christian named Pudens; in the presence of Nero himself he had confounded the audacious heresy of Simon Magus;

he had converted, among others, a female slave greatly loved by the wicked emperor,

and when she forsook the court, and served God by a virtuous life, the tyrant’s rage against the Apostles of Christ broke out with fourfold strength. St. Peter was arrested and conveyed to the Mamertine prison, where he converted two of his guards to the Church.

Then together were these glorious Apostles brought before the governor of Rome, together they confessed the faith, and together were condemned to die.

A tradition of the early Church tells us that, before they died, the two Apostles prophesied the impending ruin of Jerusalem.

Then St. Peter - the Jew - was beaten with rods, and crucified with his head downwards upon Mount Janiculum, and buried in the Aurelian Way, near the temple of Apollo, the spot upon which the Vatican now stands.

St. Paul - the citizen of Rome - must not die by crucifixion but by the sword:

Upon the same day, the 29th June, he, the old man of well-nigh seventy years, who had borne hunger and thirst, scourging, imprisonment, and chains, was led out beyond the gates of Rome to give up life for God.

In a place near the Fulvian waters, the crowd stayed their steps, and the executioner’s sword severed the head of the old Apostle from his body.

A beautiful legend tells us that three times that severed head leaped from the earth, and each time a clear fountain of water sprang up, to the amazement of all who witnessed the miracle.

There stands now upon that sacred spot the church of “Delle Tre Fontane,” and visitors to the Eternal City, who go there to pray, have testified to the existence of these fountains.

In the story of the life of St. Paul, Apostle and Martyr, we see the marvellous effects of God’s grace:

- It was by grace, through the strength of Christ, that he laboured so long, so faithfully, so successfully.

- It was by grace he had courage to endure hardness, and by grace that his heart thrilled with such fervent love to Christ - a love which sustained him through all the trials of his long life.

We read that St. Paul was exposed to one great trouble, a “thorn in the flesh,” as Scripture terms it, and we are told that it was permitted for his humiliation. Three times he besought of God to take it from him, but the answer was, “My grace is sufficient for thee.”

The Apostle had been highly educated; he was nobly born; he had received great intellectual gifts; he had gained knowledge and experience by travel into distant countries;

he had even been caught up into paradise, and heard words which he could not utter, and seen wonders which it had been impossible to describe, yet God kept him humbled by some sharp and continued trial or temptation.

There are some who have imagined they could find in the life of St. Paul reasons for denying the teaching of our Holy Church, which affirms the supremacy of St. Peter.

St. Paul taught in words the unity of faith and discipline, the necessity of order, the obedience due to lawful authority, but he taught it also in his own life.

Glorious is his career; so marvellous in his conversion; so sublime in doctrine, so eloquent in teaching, so grandly successful in his missionary work, yet he comes to St. Peter as supreme head of the Church:

To him he refers all matters of discipline, and to him he gives an account of his labours, because to him Christ said, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church.

Nor are there wanting those who seek to prove from the writings of St. Paul, that to “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ” is salvation without the good works which the Church of Christ requires of her children.

The Apostle does indeed teach the redemption of man through the death of Christ - that by grace and not through works are men justified.

But he tells also just as plainly, just as clearly, of the necessity of a new life, of a casting away of sin; and while he says “There is now therefore no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus,” he adds, “who walk not according to the flesh.

Profession of faith in Christ, but a corresponding holiness of life, a constant warfare against the world, the flesh, and the devil, the mortification of self, and of even sinless pleasures

- this was the teaching of Paul the Apostle, as it is the teaching of Christ’s Church.