A Character Analysis of Paul (Saul)
What things did Saul do before he was converted?
Before He was converted, Saul (later to be called the Apostle Paul) persecuted the believers in Christ.He gave approval of their deaths and even went from house to house dragging off men and women and putting them in prison (Acts 8:1-3). Saul also received permission from the high priest to go to Damascus in pursuit of more followers of the Way. Saul was also a Pharisee and very zealous for God (Acts 22:3). Later, after his conversion, Saul says this of his past, "I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers" (Galatians 1:14). Yet, Saul was a violent man and a blasphemer and in need of a savior (1 Timothy 1:13).
How was Saul converted?
While traveling to Damascus to persecute followers of the Way, the Lord revealed Himself to Saul, blinding him and asking him why he was persecuting Him. Then, the Lord told Ananias, one of God's servants, to go to where Saul was staying and lay his hands on him. Through the laying on of Ananias' hands, Saul regained his sight (something like scales fell off his eyes), was filled with the Holy Spirit, and got up and was baptized. And after taking some food, he regained his strength (Acts 9:18-19).
What did Saul do after he was converted?
"Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God" (Acts 9:19-20). After Barnabas sought out and found Saul, they met with the church at Antioch and taught many people over a period of one year. Then, "while they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work which I have called them.' So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off" (Acts 13:2-3). Saul (also called Paul) and Barnabas then went traveling around preaching the good news to both Jews and Gentiles. Their main calling was to the Gentiles, however. After the door of faith had been opened to the Gentiles, they completed the work they had been committed to so they returned to Antioch where they were sent out from. "On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. And they stayed there a long time with the disciples" (Acts 14:27-28). Paul then spent time preaching and teaching in Antioch. Did Paul go the way of the modern church and just say, "I'm finished serving the Lord, and now I can retire"? No way! Paul (along with Silas) went back to the towns where he and Barnabas had preached the gospel. And, "God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them" (Acts 19:11-12). Paul continued to do the task the Lord had given him--"the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace" (Acts 20:24). He was called to be an apostle and was set apart for the gospel of God (Romans 1:1). Paul served in these capacities diligently and faithfully.
The Lord gave the Apostle Paul surpassingly great revelations, things that man is not permitted to speak. Even the mystery of the gospel that Paul preached was revealed to him by God and not by man (Galatians 1:11-12). "This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 3:6). Because of these great revelations that Paul was given, God also gave him a thorn in his flesh. This was necessary so that Paul would not become conceited and would remain humble in what he knew. And Paul found great strength in his weaknesses, through the grace of God (2 Corinthians 12:1-10).
Therefore, Paul was a new creature: old things had passed away and all things became new. All the things that gave him opportunities for confidence in the flesh he counted as nothing. "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith" (Philippians 3:7-9). And Paul continues to explain, "Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13-14). So he was called, changed, and obedient, and he persevered in Christ.