St Paul – the man and his message


Richard Rice-Oxley has written a new set of songs focusing on St Paul – the Man and his Message. The songs have been recorded by Tom Nicholls and may be listened to here. A short biography of St Paul based on the New Testament Book of Acts is below this list of the songs and their themes.

Part 1: The Teaching of St Paul

  1. You know the grace – the work of Christ 
  2. Humbled and exalted – the majesty and example of Christ
  3. The body of Christ – the Church 
  4. The fruit of the Spirit – Christian virtues
  5. Love is patient – the nature of Christian love
  6. Rejoice in the Lord – the way to peace and joy

Part 2: The Life of St Paul

  1. Conversion – the call
  2. Take my mind – commitment
  3. Weak and strong – acceptance
  4. I’m sure – confidence 
  5. The race of faith – perseverance 
  6. I have known – summary
  7. The Grace – prayer of blessing 

St Paul – a short biography based on the Book of Acts

St Paul was probably born in the early years of the first century AD.  His Hebrew name was Saul and his home town was Tarsus in Cilicia (now Turkey).  He belonged to the tribe of Benjamin, and was a Roman citizen.  

He was brought up as a Pharisee, and had at least part of his education in Jerusalem, where he was taught by the famous Rabbi Gamaliel. And he learned Greek, the language of all his letters.  We also know that he was a tentmaker by profession. 

Within a few years of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, he encountered Christian believers and became violently opposed to them.  

He witnessed and approved of the stoning of Stephen, a Deacon of the Early Church.  On his way from Jerusalem to Damascus, with the intention of bringing Christians back for trial, he met the risen Christ on the road.  In this encounter Paul received his call to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, whom most Jews considered to be beyond the scope of God’s grace. 

After some years, Barnabas, who had introduced Paul to the Apostles in Jerusalem, brought Paul to Antioch in Syria where they stayed for a year building up the young Church. 

It was from Antioch that the two men, accompanied for some of the time by John Mark a cousin of Barnabas, set out on their first missionary journey.  Having gone through Cyprus, they landed in Asia Minor (modern Turkey), and preached in a number of towns finding a better reception from the Gentiles than from the Jews. 

On their return to Antioch they faced a problem from Jewish Christians, who taught that Gentiles who became Christians must be circumcised and keep the whole of the Law.  A special meeting was called in Jerusalem at which Paul, supported by Peter, spoke in favour of admitting Gentiles to the faith as they were.  It was agreed that only a few tenets of the Law needed to be adopted. 

Back in Antioch Paul soon set out on his second missionary journey accompanied by Silas.  They revisited churches in Asia Minor founded on his first journey, and then in response to a dream vision crossed to Macedonia (modern Greece) where they founded several churches.  They went on to Achaia (southern Greece) visiting Athens, and Corinth where they stayed for eighteen months building up a flourishing church. 

Soon after returning to Antioch Paul set off on his third missionary journey. Arriving at Ephesus, he stayed for two years preaching and performing miracles.  He may have helped to found other churches inland at this time. 

He returned to Macedonia and Achaia, from where he set out with friends to deliver contributions collected for the mother church in Jerusalem.  Once there, he was falsely accused of bringing Gentiles into the Temple, and set upon by a mob.  He was rescued by a squad of Roman soldiers.  Having spoken to the Sanhedrin Council, a plot was made to kill him, so the Roman Commanding Officer sent him to the Governor Felix at Caesarea.  His trial was inconclusive. 

After two years, Paul was again accused by the Jewish leaders before Festus, the new Governor.  He then appealed to Caesar, which meant that his case would be heard in Rome.  

He endured a perilous journey to the Roman capital which included being shipwrecked off Malta.  Once he had reached Rome, he was allowed to rent his own house and receive visitors. Here the book of Acts ends. 

There is some evidence that Paul was released and visited Spain as well as his former churches in Ephesus, Macedonia and Greece.  It is also probable that he was later rearrested, taken back to Rome, and beheaded during the persecution of the Emperor Nero.

Select Bibliography

  • The Gospel according to St Paul by A.M. Hunter
  • St Paul – the man and his mind by Ernest White
  • The Apostle – a life of St Paul by John Pollock
  • The Theology of Paul the Apostle by James D.G. Dunn
  • Paul – a biography by N.T. Wright
  • Phoebe by Paula Gooder
  • The Lost Message of Paul: has the Church misunderstood the Apostle Paul by Steve Chalke
  • What St Paul really said by Tom Wright
  • Meeting God in Paul by Rowan Williams
  • The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church
  • The New Bible Dictionary