Paul’s “Damascus Road” experience with Jesus is one of the most dramatic faith encounters in scripture. A hit man on the hunt for ancient believers and a brilliant scholar, Paul was a Roman citizen born in Tarsus now modern-day Turkey. His story reads like a thriller movie with epic missionary journeys by land and sea, writings, torture, and imprisonments. Paul set the standard for future centuries to sacrificially spread the good news of our Lord Jesus to Gentile nations.
Paul’s Jewish resume was impeccable. He claimed in Philippians 3:4-6 that he was “circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, and the Tribe of Benjamin, a ‘Hebrew of the Hebrews.’” Paul didn’t renounce his Jewishness. Rather, he embraced his ethnic and educational identity as a religious Jew. His teacher in Jerusalem was the highly acclaimed scholar Gamaliel. Paul beautifully combined his own Jewish roots with his beloved Jewish Rabbi Jesus who met up with him on the Damascus Road.
Paul’s 13 books in the New Testament are packed with his prayers. Although God commissioned the Jewish apostle Paul to carry the good news to the Gentiles, his own people remained in his heart and on his team. In Romans 10:1 he writes, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. In 2 Timothy 1:3, Paul goes on to say, “I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.”