The greatest example of a complete 180 turnaround in life is the apostle Paul. He went from being a fanatical Jew whose mission in life was to stamp out this new religion of Christianity to experiencing Jesus and devoting his entire life to him.
Paul was an anomaly in the ancient world. He was an education Jew and a Roman citizen–the equivalent of lords and ladies in the Middle Ages, just below royalty. He used this as a huge advantage and this fact saved him from many a fate. He was fluent in Greek and his writings are rich in theology and the times of the day. Paul studied theology in Jerusalem under the famous rabbi Gamaliel. He had every advantage a person could have in this time.
Paul’s Hebrew name was Saul and probably used both from his youth. This was a common practice among the Jews of the Dispersion. He was born in Tarsus where he learned his trade of tent making (Acts 18:3), the son of a Pharisee.
Paul became one of the first missionaries, spreading the word of Christ to all who would listen. He traveled almost incessantly all around the Mediterranean Sea. He experienced many harrowing moments in his travels from a ship wreak, a snakebite, beatings, and narrow escapes–stuff of movies today. He started many churches and 13 of his letters are in the New Testament. He was the first one to say God loves all equally and to bring the Gentiles to God through Jesus Christ. “For God does not show favoritism,” he wrote to the Romans (Romans 2:11).
He faced many personal threats and challenges. He survived a stoning and many of his travels were marked by frequent comings and goings due to threats on his life. He was imprisoned in Rome twice, where he was eventually executed in late 66 or early 67 AD. Tradition says he was beheaded on the Ostian Way, a major trade road in Rome.
Paul’s life is an example to us all. Having understood his duty, he followed it unflinchingly, undeterred by possible consequences to himself. He had native zeal and ardor, giving himself wholly to his work. He was warm-hearted and affectionate. He was humble, sincere, and sympathetic. In essence, he was possessed and empowered by the living Christ. Isn’t that what we all want?