An Interview with The Apostle Paul - Written by Elsie K. Young
Me: Greetings Paul, so nice to have you with us today! We have been reading and talking about you and your experiences as you’ve traveled around Asia and into Europe. You’ve had some very trying and exciting times, haven’t you?
Paul: Yes, I surely have. One never knows what to expect when you enter a city with the Gospel. It’s exciting to see some come to learn about Jesus, the Messiah, and accept what He has done for them, and then to see what a change comes into their lives! Timothy is a great example of this. Of course, I’ve been stoned and thrown out of places too! Makes one feel sorry for the people who do this!
Me: Paul, we’ve been told about an experience you had way back before you ever began traveling in this way. They tell us that it happened when you were making a trip from Jerusalem to Damascus. That was quite a distance, wasn’t it? Tell us what you were doing, and … why this trip? … and what happened?
Paul: First of all, you’d hardly believe what happened, and it’s difficult for another to understand! But let me tell you why I was going to Damascus. You see, I was brought up in the Jewish religion and traditions, and so I STUDIED the Scriptures (your O.T.) in great depth. In fact, my father even employed one of the greatest teachers available in that day, to be my teacher. His name was Gamaliel. I loved the Scriptures and practically lived in them! Moses was my hero, and his Law was favorite reading for me!
Then, a very unusual person came on the scene! He taught something new, I thought, but I should have known!
What the O. T. prophets taught that should come to pass actually did! The person, Jesus, came. He was more than just an ordinary man. In fact, He claimed to be the promised Messiah… the One prophecized that would be our Savior and coming King!
At first, I didn’t believe a word of it, even though I had never personally seen or listened to Him! I hated this whole new idea! He even said that He was God! … and that HE could save us from our sins! That would do away with Moses’ Law, and I would have no part of it!
I was so opposed to this new teaching that I began making trouble for those who believed this so called “Savior”, Jesus! In fact, that is why I was on my way to Damascus!
Me: You mean there were believers in this NEW WAY that far away from Jerusalem?
Paul: Yes, and I was given permission by the High Priests to take a company of men with me and to go there and bring the believers, bound in chains, back to Jerusalem and then have them put in prison.
Me: But as the story goes… you didn’t accomplish your mission, did you? A startling event happened before you got there; right?
Paul: Yes, and THIS EVENT is what started the fire burning in my soul, and rather than it diminishing as time went on, it became the very driving force of my life!
Me: Tell us more . . . exactly what happened?
Paul: While on my journey, a great white light shone down on us in the middle of the day, much brighter than the sun! In fact, it was SO BRIGHT that it blinded me and threw me to the ground! Then a voice spoke to me and said, “SAUL, SAUL, WHY DO YOU PERSECUTE ME? I didn’t know who was speaking to me, and when I then asked, He said: “I AM JESUS WHOM YOU ARE PERSECUTING!”
Me: What did you think then?
Paul: I asked Him what I should do, for I was very frightened! He told me to go on into Damascus, and what I should do there. And it happened just as He had said!
Me: Can you tell us how you felt when you saw the great Light?
Paul: This is the part that’s hard to explain in a way that others can fully grasp! You see, JESUS revealed himself to me, in such a way, that I KNEW HE WAS WHO HE SAID HE WAS … THE VERY SON OF GOD! One must have this experience himself … MEET JESUS PERSONALLY, to fully understand! The Apostle John said that JESUS IS THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD, and He had certainly appeared to me as such!
Me: Did Jesus give you any further instructions to let you know what to expect in the future?
Paul: Yes, He said that I was a chosen vessel to bear HIS NAME… to the GENTILES …to KINGS … and to the JEWS also! Then, He showed me how great would be my suffering for His Namesake!
Me: So, how have things gone for you since then?
Paul: Well, first of all I took some “time out”, about 3 years, and went to a quiet place in the desert of Arabia, where I could be alone. There, I had time to again go over the Scripture I thought that I knew so well. I re-learned the meaning of many of the teachings regarding the PROMISED ONE, THE COMING MESSIAH! My communion with God was beyond what I could even explain to you now!
I learned many precious things . . . that I would count ALL THINGS AS NOTHING, so that I might KNOW HIM, and the POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION, and the FELLOWSHIP OF HIS SUFFERINGS! I learned that some day EVERY KNEE WOULD BOW, and EVERY TONGUE CONFESS … THAT JESUS IS LORD! It would take me days to explain all the wonderful and precious times I experienced there in the desert alone!
Me: I see that you have learned that time alone with God truly transforms one’s life!
So, after many preaching experiences in Damascus, Jerusalem, and other places, you landed back in your own home town of Tarsus! Isn’t that where Barnabas came and took you back with him to the growing church in Antioch? And, if I remember correctly, that is also where the followers of Jesus were first called “Christians”!
Paul: Yes, that was a great church! What great men of God were there. They spent time in fasting and prayer and we had a rich fellowship time together. Truly we could say… how greatly we loved one another!
As we, as a group, prayed together, we felt led of the Holy Spirit… that Barnabas and I should reach out and carry the Gospel to the REGIONS BEYOND, as God had already directed!
Me: I’m sure it was a strengthening factor, to have a partner stand with you in your challenging work!
Paul: It SURELY WAS! Barnabas and I were a REAL TEAM, and JOHN MARK, a younger man, also went along as our helper. After leaving Antioch and saying goodbye to the church people, and with their prayers and blessings… we first went to the Island of Cypress, which was also the home of Barnabas. What a JOY it was to be proclaiming the Name of JESUS … His DEATH on the Cross for us … and the MIRACLE OF HIS RESURRECTION, proving that HE TRULY IS THE SON OF GOD!
We went first to the Synagogues, and preached from city to city across the Island! The result was that some believed . . . and some rejected, as is usually the case!
Me: Was your ministry limited to that Island?
Paul: No, indeed not. We traveled from there by ship up to the Galatia & Pamphilia areas, and visited the cities of Perga, Lystra (pron. Listra), Iconium, Antioch in Pisidia and on to Perga. These were entirely new areas for us and the contacts there were directed by God.
Me: What an opportunity . . . to be telling the story of Jesus and sharing the Gospel for the first time with these Jewish and Gentile people!
Paul: It surely was! When we went to the synagogues, many of the Jews believed, but some of the unbelieving Jews made it really rough for us. They would stir up the people and cause uproars and riots . . . sometimes literally chasing us out of town!
Once I was beaten so severely that I was left for dead!
Me: Wasn’t that terribly discouraging?
Paul: Yes and no! You see, we were commissioned by God . . . to go with HIS MESSAGE and that was our determined goal! Remember, I told you about seeing Jesus on my way to Damascus . . . and His commission to me at that time?
I’ll NEVER FORGET the 3 years of study and fellowship with God in the desert! A man could never be the same after a time like that. Once you grasp the reality of the ONE, Jesus Christ . . . leaving Heaven’s glory - - - taking on humanity and then giving his entire life of 33 years . . . and finally, being crucified by the very people He came to save . . . well, my total aim, goal and desire of life is to serve Him, REGARDLESS OF CONSEQUENCES!
Me: Did you have any specific problems in presenting this entirely NEW teaching about Jesus?
Paul: Indeed I did! I knew exactly how these Jewish believers felt! Hadn’t I gone through the same thing and rejected it 100 percent? As you know, it’s very difficult to believe in a teaching that is different from what you have been taught since early childhood! These Jewish people just couldn’t turn loose from Moses’ LAW and believe that salvation was now a FREE GIFT of God through Jesus Christ! NOW, it was by faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross and no longer by obedience to the Law of Moses.
We explained it over and over! Some said they wanted to hear more . . . some hated us! In fact, when we were thrown out of the Synagogues, we turned to the Gentiles, who, in most cases, were eager to hear, and thankful to be included! Great numbers of them believed!
Me: Tell me more about your opportunities in this area, Paul?
Paul: We went as far as Derby . . . and then RE-TRACED OUR STEPS - - visiting the new believers in the various cities where we had previously been. We came back to Perga . . . and from there sailed back to our home church in Antioch. There, we reported all that God had done through us since we left! One great disappointment to us was that JOHN MARK LEFT US in the midst of our trip, and we really missed him!
Me: I understand that sometime later, you wrote a long letter to these Galatian churches, to help them with some of their doubts, which were magnified by false teachers who came into their midst after you left!
Paul: Actually, there were several notes of contention to address! First of all, these false teachers attacked me personally! They said that I wasn’t an apostle, and therefore didn’t have the authority to teach regarding salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, and NOT through the Law of Moses!
Then, there were those who DID believe in Jesus and that He was the Messiah and Savior, but that the Law should be obeyed also, especially for Gentile believers. They thought that it was too easy for the Gentiles to “just believe in Jesus” for salvation!
In my letter to the Galatian churches, I gave proof again, of God’s call, and my commission to the Gentiles! Also, that it wasn’t necessary for the Gentiles to obey the Jewish Laws, in order to be saved!
I had to use some pretty STRONG language with them to make them see that they were off course! Maybe it would be a good idea for you to read the entire letter of Galatians yourself, to get the truth clearly in mind!
Me: I can begin to understand, Paul, that you have had some real pressures in your life already!
Paul: True, but I’ve learned to rejoice in every situation, knowing that God supplies our EVERY need, regardless of what it is . . . and that His Grace is SUFFICIENT, no matter WHAT the test! As I said before, my ONE goal in life is TO SERVE JESUS, REGARDLESS of life’s demands!
Me: Yes, that is certainly the most worthy goal for any life! Now let me ask you, didn’t you also make more missionary trips after the one you just told us about?
Paul: I certainly did! I made two more, much longer ones, traveling through Asia Minor and over into Europe . . . and then the long and dangerous trip by sea to Rome!
But I must be going now, as I don’t want to weary you! But you can learn much more about my interesting, fascinating and blessed experiences by reading what God inspired me to write, which is found within the New Testament! I encourage everyone to read and meditate on ALL of God’s Word, as it is truly life changing!
Thank you for letting me share with all of you today!
Me: And thank you, Paul, for taking time to open your heart to us today!
Paul is perhaps the most remarkable and influential character in history, next to his Lord and Master! He labored more in word and deed than all the other Apostles.
Within ONE generation after the crucifixion
of Jesus, the Apostles succeeded in spreading the Gospel throughout
the Roman world, despite hostility. Foremost among them was Paul, who
lived to see the establishment of Christianity throughout the then known
world! He is the model missionary and an inspiration to all ages!
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