I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Philippians 1:20-21
Paul the Apostle (67)
“I have been exposed to death again and again”
Following his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus, Paul went from chief persecutor of Christians to persecuted Christian leader. Defending his ministry in light of false apostles leading the church in Corinth astray, Paul writes in his second epistle to them:
I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:23b-2B)
The second half of the book of Acts focuses on Paul and his missionary journeys, which included Cyprus, Syria, Macedonia, Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth and Ephesus. It ends with the apostle going to face trial in Rome. Details of his life and ministry after this are unclear, although it is thought that he returned to Rome again at a later date and was martyred there in 67 AD. There is a strong tradition that he was executed on the Ostian Way by order of the Emperor Nero. Because he was a Roman citizen he was most likely to have been beheaded rather than crucified – a death reserved for non-Romans.
January 25 is the date that traditionally commemorates his conversion on the Damascus road, when, blinded by a light sent by God, he realised his need of Christ.
Praise for the light from heaven, praise for the voice of awe,
praise for the glorious vision the persecutor saw.
Thee, Lord, for his conversion, we glorify today;
so lighten all our darkness with thy true Spirit’s ray.
Horatio Nelson (1823-1913)