St. Paul was without doubt the greatest missionary in the Early Church, a man who won more eternal souls to the Lord than almost anyone who has ever lived! How did he do it? By totally dedicating his life to God and giving his all to preach the Gospel!--And great is his reward in Heaven!
You can read the exciting life story of St. Paul in the "Book of Acts," written by LUKE, the same Apostle who also wrote "The Gospel of St. Luke"! And as you read Paul's adventures, you will notice that he suffered a great deal of persecution during his many missionary travels. In almost every city he went to preach the Good News about Jesus, there were bitter, jealous enemies who opposed and persecuted him!
You and I realise, of course, that Paul was obeying God and doing good in preaching the Gospel, and that it was his enemies who were in the wrong. Yet, what if St. Paul were still alive today and applied for membership in certain modern-day churches, and the church leaders decided to make a careful investigation of his life before they accepted him! Imagine this investigator talking to Paul's ENEMIES and reading their reports and getting their opinions first!--and then, with a totally biased and prejudiced frame of mind, reading over St. Paul's missionary adventures in the Bible!
How different these familiar and well-loved Bible stories would look if viewed from the critical and distorted viewpoint of Paul's bitter enemies! What kind of a report would that investigator write?! Well, it could very well look something like this ...
You recently informed me that a certain "Apostle" Paul of Tarsus, had applied to become a missionary in our denomination. However, as you had a few reservations about him, you asked me to make a formal investigation into his background.
I am sorry to say this, Sir, but what I have uncovered seems to entirely confirm the suspicions that you had about him. To be frank, I am surprised that he has been able to "pass" as a bona fide missionary this far, as not only does he not meet any of our qualifications, but the information I have come across is an absolute public scandal!
It is true that I spent most of my time talking to his enemies and getting their side of the story, but I want to make it clear, Sir, that my investigation was entirely fair and unbiased. In fact, the most damaging and scandalous information about Paul comes from one of his closest friends! I managed to get hold of a personal letter that his associate Luke had written, called the "Acts of the Apostles," and I'd like to draw your attention to selected portions of this very revealing document:
First of all: (1) Right after his conversion, he immediately began preaching in the Jewish synagogues!--Without having first gone through the required YEARS of theological training! Imagine! "And he went at once to the synagogue to tell everyone there the good news About Jesus, that He is indeed the Son of GOD!" (Acts 9:2O)
(2) Because of this silly mistake, he nearly got himself killed in Damascus, and had to flee for his life like a common criminal in the most ridiculous way you can possibly imagine: "THE Jewish leaders determined to kill Him, and watching the gates of the city day and night, prepared to murder Him. so during the night some of his converts let him down in a basket over the city wall!" (Acts 9:23-25)
(3) Bent on causing more trouble for the church, Paul went to church headquarters in Jerusalem where he got into an argument, stir red the crowds into a frenzy, nearly got himself killed and had to be sent back in disgrace to his hometown. Only then was there peace and calm again. "He preached boldly (in Jerusalem) IN the Name of the Lord. but then some Greek-speaking Jews with whom he had argued, plotted to murder him. when the other believers heard about his danger, they sent him to his hometown of tarsus. then the church had peace throughout all Judea and Samaria." (Acts 9:28-31)
(4) Paul was kicked out of--or had to flee from--one city after another! To give you just one such shocking example: "When Paul and Barnabus learned of a plot to incite a mob to attack and stone them, they fled for their lives, going to the cities of Lycaonia: Lystra and Derbe." (Acts 14:5,6) Now I ask you: Why would Paul have fled unless he had done something wrong?--Of course Jesus did say, "When they persecute you in THIS city, flee to another!" (Matthew 10:23)--But that certainly makes you look guilty!
(5) To show you that Paul surely was doing something wrong, consider who Luke says his opponents were: "But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the civic leaders of the city, and incited a mob against Paul and Barnabas, and ran them out of town!" (Acts 13:50) So think about it: Could "devout and honourable women" and respected "civic leaders" be wrong?
(6) Time and again, Paul would enter a peaceful city and create such an uproar that the whole population would be divided and take sides either for or against Christ. "but the population of the city was divided in their opinion about them. some agreed with the Jewish leaders, and some backed the apostles." (Acts 14:4)
(7) After being dragged out of one city, brutally stoned and left for dead, Paul miraculously got right up and went right back into the city to continue preaching! "A mob stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, apparently dead. but as the believers stood around him, he got up and went back into the city!" (Acts 14:19,20) What a show-off! I'm sure he only did this as some kind of a publicity stunt! I'm also shocked by his obvious lack of diplomacy. It is simply not in good taste for ministers and missionaries to allow themselves to be dragged out of city gates to be stoned or attacked by mobs!
(8) Another very bad habit that Paul has is that he is a constant drifter with no permanent address, a vagrant who just goes from city to city and country to country. To give just one example of this: "The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe. after preaching the Gospel there and making many disciples, they returned again to Lystra, Iconium AND Antioch, where they helped the believers to grow in love for God. Then they travelled back through Pisidia to Pamphylia, preached again in Perga, and went on to Attalia. finally they returned by ship to Antioch." (Acts 14:20-24) How such an irresponsible bum can call himself a missionary, I don't know!
(9) He was imprisoned and bound with chains in three different countries: Israel, Greece and Italy. On one occasion, after being whipped and then chained in prison, he and his partners began singing hymns at midnight! Imagine disturbing the peace at such a late hour! "Around midnight, AS Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to the Lord, and the other prisoners heard them." (Acts 16:25-26) There is NO record of him apologising for his singing, and disturbing the peace.
(10) He and his group were also accused of causing social and political upheavals in thessalonica, and the Jews had to inform the city rulers that "Paul and Silas who have turned the world upside down are here disturbing our city also!" (Acts 17:6b) What a reputation! But apparently Paul just glories in this kind of sensationalism and rowdy behaviour! You've got to admit that people certainly HEAR about him and his message!
(11) He's also very fanatical! In Ephesus he convinced his new converts to burn their expensive study books! "Many of the believers who had been practicing black magic confessed their deeds and brought their incantation books and burned them at a public bonfire. someone estimated the value of the books at 50,000 pieces of silver!" (Acts 19:19) Do you realise how much money that is?--Well over $10,000 worth of books! It's true they were disgusting, horrible, perverted books on black magic and witchcraft, but still, I think that burning them was going a little too far!
(12) Paul also carries the reputation of being a revolutionist and a rabble-rouser. His accusers said, "For we have found him to be a troublemaker, a man who is constantly inciting the Jews throughout the entire world to riots and rebellions against the Roman government! he is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes!" (Acts 24:5) You will notice that according to his enemies' accusations, Paul belongs to some very unpopular weird "sect", and is obviously not part of one of our well- established and recognised churches. Of course his sect is "spoken against everywhere"! (Acts 28:22) What else could he expect considering the way he carries on!?