Who is Paul the Apostle?

The word apostlerefers to someone who is sent on a mission. This term is used in a special sense in the Injil to refer to certain followers of Isa Al-Masih whom he personally sent out into the world with the specific mission of proclaiming a message of good news. The good news was that forgiveness of sins and eternal life in heaven are available through faith and allegiance to Isa Al-Masih-Allah's gift of mercy to humankind. One of these special followers was a man named Paul. Paul spent his life traveling throughout the regions of Asia, Europe and the Middle East and established groups of believers that began the amazing growth of the Christian communities in these areas of the world. But Paul did not begin his religious career as a devout follower. In fact, he began as an avowed enemy.

Paul was a young man growing up in the community of Bani-Israil when Isa Al-Masih was on earth carrying out his divine mission. Paul was being trained in the religious Law of Moses and became involved in the fundamentalist movement of his day. At that time, he was known by the name Saul. As a zealous student, he gained popularity among the religious leaders of Jerusalem [Al-Quds] and became a leader among the more radical elements of his sect. His objective was to stamp out any trace of innovation or corruption that would violate the religious traditions of his people and their interpretation of the Law.

At that time, the teachings of Isa Al-Masih were spreading throughout the region. His words of truth were exposing the hypocrisy and misguided teachings of the clergy. In addition, the common people were impacted by the compassion and miracles of Al-Masih's ministry. As a result, they began to embrace his teachings, which of course greatly infuriated the religious leaders. The situation grew even worse at the death and resurrection of Isa Al-Masih. The news of his resurrection and ascension into heaven could not be contained. There were too many witnesses. As a result, thousands of people became followers of Al-Masih, much to the alarm of the religious clergy. The Qur'an speaks of these new believers as follows:

Then a portion of the Children of Israel believed, and a portion disbelieved. But We gave power to those who believed against their enemies, and they became the ones that prevailed.

Surat-us Saff (61):14

The religious leaders intensified their efforts to deal with this disturbing problem and enlisted the help of one of their fervent supporters, the young man Saul. By this time, Saul had acquired a passionate hatred for the followers of Al-Masih. He viewed them as enemies of Almighty Allah and therefore considered it his religious duty to uproot and destroy them at all costs. Any means was justified, as long as it was for the cause of Allah! Such conviction added fuel to his fervor.

The followers of Isa Al-Masih became known as the Followers of the Way. Saul hunted them down from house to house and dragged them to prison. Innocent victims were severely beaten, and some were put to death, being accused of apostasy. As persecution spread, the Followers of the Way fled from Jerusalem and many escaped to Damascus. But this could not hold back Saul's fury. He secured letters of endorsement from the priests at Jerusalem to present to the Jewish leaders at Damascus, authorizing him to round up the renegades and return them to Jerusalem for trial.

It was during his journey to Damascus that Saul had an encounter that changed his life forever. The Injil relates the experience as follows, and describes what happened afterward:

Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's (Isa's) disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues (worship houses) in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"

"Who are you, Lord ?" Saul asked.

"I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied. "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."

The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord (Isa) called to him in a vision, "Ananias!"

"Yes, Lord," he answered.

The Lord told him, "Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight."

"Lord," Ananias answered, "I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name."

But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles (non-Jews) and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."

Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord-Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here-has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit." Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again.

Injil, Acts 9:1-18

What a shocking development! Saul, the dreaded persecutor of the followers of Isa Al-Masih, had been confronted by Isa himself! It was the same Isa whom the Jews had supposedly eliminated permanently. It was he who spoke, and it was his heavenly glory that blinded the eyes of Saul.

It was true! Isa Al-Masih had risen from the dead. It was true! Isa had ascended to Allah. What Saul believed to be a lie was true! How was it possible? He was so sure he was fulfilling the will of Allah. He had invested his whole life for the purpose of destroying this following of Isa Al-Masih. And now he had come to realize that he was absolutely wrong. Before this, no amount of reasoning or argument could have convinced him of his tragic error. But a divine miracle of the Almighty did! It was a sign from Allah that none could deny, not even Saul. Saul was convinced; he was transformed. The words of Isa Al-Masih revolutionized his life. There was nothing that could change what Allah had ordained.

What did Al-Masih say that was so revolutionary? According to Saul's own testimony, Isa said to him:

I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles (non-Jews). I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.

Injil, Acts 26:16-18

From that time on, Saul became known as Paul and devoted the remainder of his life proclaiming the Injil which still today continues to turn people away from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to the protective power of Allah the Almighty! In addition, the teachings Paul received from Isa Al-Masih are recorded in his letters to the believing communities of his day and are found in the writings of the Injil.

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