The Spirituality of Paul the Apostle




Alex Tang



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The Spirituality of Paul the Apostle

by Dr Alex Tang

“ What is the inner spiritual life of Paul?”

“What motivates Paul?”

1.                   Paul in Acts 15:36-18:22

1.1    Paul’s Second Missionary Tour, c. A.D. 49-52

(1)                 Paul and Silas strengthen churches in Syria and Cilicia (Acts 15: 40-41)

(2)                 Timothy joins the apostles (Acts 16:1-3)

(3)                 Apostles transverse Phrygia and the Galatian country, forbidden to preach in Asia (Acts 16:4-6)

(4)                 Approaching Mysia, they wish to enter Bithynia (Acts 16:7)

(5)                 Barred from Bithynia, they went to Troas (Acts 16: 7-8)

(6)                 The Macedonian call at Troas (Acts 16:9-10)

(7)                 Ministry at Philippi; Paul and Silas imprisoned (Acts 16:11-40)

Those familiar with William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar will remember it was in Philippi that Caesar’s assassins and Brutus were defeated by Octavius and Mark Antony.

There was no synagogue in Philippi. Here a group of women met every Sabbath day and it was they that formed the nucleus of the church in Philippi. Their leader was Lydia, who traded in the purple dye for which her native city, Thyatira in Asia Minor was renowned. A quorum of ten men was necessary to form a synagogue.

Slave girl with python spirit delivered. Beating at agora. Prison and jailer saved. First ‘sit in’ prison. Magistrate apologised. A Roman citizen has only to say civis Romanus sum and he will be immune to punishment.

(8)                 Ministry at Thessalonica; persecution aroused (Acts 17:1-9)

Thessalonica has a Jewish community and Paul was able to preach there for the first three Sabbath days after his arrival. Here, among the fringe of God-fearing Gentiles who attended the services, Paul found the nucleus of his church, but the majority of his converts were pagans who, as he said, ‘turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God’ (1 Thess. 1:9)

Paul and his companions had to leave because they were accused before the magistrate of disseminating subversive propaganda.

(9)                 Persecution continues at Beroea; Paul goes to Athens; Silas remains (Acts 17:10-15)

(10)             Paul preaches in the meeting of the Areopagus(Acts 17:22-31)

Paul was brought before the meeting of the Areopagus. It is a meeting with the members sitting around him. Paul referred to the Athenians as a ‘very religious’ people and referred to the altar to the unknown God. This unknown God is one who created all things and who, far from requiring anything from anyone, provided them with all their needs. Paul quoted their poets ‘ In him we live and move and have our being’ and ‘ we are indeed his offsprings’. Then he called on them to live worthy of a man whom this God has raised from the dead.

To the Athenians, the idea of someone being raised form the dead is absurd. Paul probably felt he has achieved little in this city. Epicureans emphasised chance, escape and the enjoyment of pleasure; Stoics emphasised fatalism, submission and the endurance of pain.    

(11)             Ministry at Corinth; Paul joined by Silas and Timothy (Acts 18:1-17). Paul writes 1 and 2 Thessalonians.

Paul arrived in Corinth in a mood of dejection and apprehension. He has been practically been driven out of Macedonia and his reception at Athens has been lukewarm. Corinth had probably not figured on his original itinerary, and the reputation of the city was such that he probably did not expect the gospel  to make much of an impact there.

He preached initially in a synagogue, in then house of Titius Justus

He was greatly in need of the heavenly encouragement, which came to him in form of a night vision shortly after his arrival in Corinth.

He stayed in Corinth for 18 months (Acts 18:9,10) and when he moved on, he left behind a large, gifted and volatile church.

(12)             Paul takes Aquila and Priscilla and goes to Ephesus (Acts 18:18-19)

(13)             Brief stay at Ephesus (Acts 18:19-21)

(14)             Leaving Aquila in Ephesus, Paul sails to Caesarea (Acts 18:21,22)

(15)             Paul reports to the church in Jerusalem (Acts 18:22)

(16)             Paul returns to Antioch (Acts 18:22)


2.                   Spirituality of Paul

2.1   GOD   The Damascus Encounter

It is not accurate to use conversion because Paul had not turned to a new religion and another God. He continued to worship the God of the Old Testament; the event was not a conversion but a vocation. He was called to become a missionary of the Christian way of understanding the God and the religion of his fathers. The close link between reveal and the call to preach the gospel.

The evidence of Acts corroborates Paul’s claims to have seen the risen Christ but also time and again insisted that he heard him speak. AC 22:14 "Then he said: `The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. Whatever variations that there are in Luke’s three accounts of Paul’s conversion, all three agree that about midday, as he was approaching Damascus, he “heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’  

Some verbal communication is implied together with the heavenly visit in Gal 1:15,16

15 But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man,

Objectively as the revelation was, it was experienced inwardly as well as outwardly: it was granted, as Paul puts it, not merely ‘to me’ but ‘in me’. He speaks as if the call and commission were part of the one conversion experience.

2.1.1          The Call to a Person

First, God set him apart from birth. Paul knew that God had providentially set him apart from birth and that all his life to this point was a preparation for his ministry as a proclaimer of the gospel of God’s grace.

Second, God called Paul by His grace. This is a reference to the time of Paul’s salvation. He responded to God’s efficacious call and received Jesus Christ as Savior. In Romans (8:30) Paul gave the sequence of God’s work in salvation: “Those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified.”

Third, God was pleased to reveal His Son in Paul. Blinded as he had been to the deity of Jesus Christ and thinking that the Nazarene was a fraud, God gave Paul an outward vision of Christ on the Damascus Road and later an inner revelation concerning the full significance of the person and work of the Savior.

2.1.2          The Call to a Mission

The purpose of this revelation was that Paul might preach Him among the Gentiles. The Book of Acts gives full account of Paul’s ministry to the non-Jewish world on his missionary journeys. He became known as the apostle to the Gentiles (cf. Acts 9:15; 13:46-47; 26:20; Rom. 11:13; 15:16; Eph. 3:8; 1 Tim. 2:7).

It cannot be precisely dated when the conversion/vocation took place but it cannot be more than three years after the crucifixion.

2.2   Jesus

2.2.1          Phil. 3:8-118 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 9 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. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

2.2.2          Acts 20:24

                                                 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the

race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to

the gospel of God's grace.

2.3   Holy Spirit

2.3.1          1 Cor. 2:1414 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.

2.3.2          Encouragement

2.3.3          Discernment

3.                   Reflections

The spirituality of Paul is his relationship with Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel, the Resurrected Christ and the Holy Spirit.


                                                                                                                                           Soli Deo Gloria



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