Suffering comes equipped with God’s purpose

The Preaching of Saint Paul at Ephesus by Eustache Le Sueur
  • Saint Paul began his preaching in Damascus. Here the anger of the orthodox Jews against this renegade was so great that he had to make his escape by having himself let down from the city wall in a basket. Going down to Jerusalem, he was there looked on with suspicion by the Jewish Christians, for they could not at first believe that he who had so lately been their persecutor had turned advocate.
  • Many plots were made against Paul in the last years of his life, especially by Jews who would stir the crowd and excite them when Paul was preaching. He was beaten more than once, and put in prison. He was persecuted in every one of his missionary journeys. He was persecuted because of a “lack of understanding, preconceptions, irritations and provocation.” The message of a risen Christ and Savior was aggravating for Jews as well as many pagan believers. During his first missionary journey, Paul was stoned in the city of Lystra for healing a crippled man. Some Jews dragged him out of the city thinking he was dead but when his disciples came around him, he miraculously got up and went into the city. Paul was also put in prison while he was in Philippi and also in Jerusalem.
  • At Antioch, on a Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear his message. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region.
  • At Iconium the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against him.  The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles. There was a plot afoot among both Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat and stone him. But they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country.
  • In Lystra, Paul healed a man who was lame. But some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But, he got up and went back into the city.
  • At Macedonia, some people seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. The magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison. At about midnight suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”  The jailer rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized.  When it was daylight, the magistrates ordered to release them.
Geography relevant to Paul's life, stretching rom Jerusalem to Rome.
  • At Jerusalem, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place.”  The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut. While they were trying to kill him, some officers and soldiers ran down to the crowd. The commander came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains.

Arrest and death

Saint Paul arrested, early 1900s Bible illustration
  • He arrived in Rome c 60 and spent two years under house arrest. All told, during his ministry the Apostle Paul spent roughly 5½ to 6 years as a prisoner or in prison. Neither the Bible nor other history says how or when Paul died. According to Christian tradition, Paul was beheaded in Rome during the reign of Nero around the mid-60s at Three Fountains Abbey. By comparison, tradition has Peter being crucified upside-down. Paul's Roman citizenship accorded him the more merciful death by beheading.