Here are some helpful thoughts and ideas that will hopefully help your understanding as we look at the life of Paul on April 8, 2018 and allow me to keep my messages focused on applicable content and shorter:-)
1. Timeline of Paul’s conversion. (Source: Paul the apostle by Robert E. Picirilli, pg. 52)
- 33/34 AD conversion
- 33/34 AD days in Damascus Acts 9:19-21
- 33/34-35/36 AD time in Damascus Galatians 1:15-17
- 36 AD ministry in Damascus Acts 9:22-25
- 36 AD first return to Jerusalem Acts 9:26-29; Gal. 1:18-20
- 36-42AD ministry in Tarsus Acts 9:30-31, Gal. 1:21-24
- 42-43 AD ministry with Barnabas at Antioch, Acts 11:19-26
- 44 AD second return to Jerusalem, for famine relief, Acts 11:27-30; 12:25 (Gal. 2:1-10)
- 45-46 AD first missionary journey Acts 13:1-14:28
2. Paul’s hometown: Tarsus
A close look of the ancient city of Tarsus reveals that Paul’s hometown was no small town, middle of nowhere, but a busy metropolis of diverse culture and international commerce. Its strategic location explains its significance and success. It was a port city, yet also a favorite vacation spot for Roman dignitaries.
God shaped Paul’s mission to the gentiles through his upbringing in Tarsus. It was a bustling metropolis where many different cultures interacted. Paul’s parents likely were well off, yet strived to raise Paul according to the Jewish law. They likely sent him to Jerusalem when he was around 12 years old. He sat under Gamaliel for around 5 or 6 years. Gamaliel was the Grandson of Hillel, who was one of the most famous Jewish rabbis that ever lived. Paul would have learned the scriptures thoroughly and learned to debate in the question and answer style known as the “diatribe”.
3. Paul’s conversion and the death of his dreams.
I believe that one of the many things Paul would have wrestled with during his time in Arabia is the loss of his personal dreams. Paul was working his way up the Sanhedrin, the Jewish court. He was gaining influence in Jerusalem and on the fast track. His conversion meant he would no longer pursue the dream he likely had since leaving Tarsus around the age of 12 years old to study under Gamaliel.