The Role of St. Paul in the Spread of Christianity
As an individual who has revitalised the religious traditions of Christianity, St Paul is a pivotal figure who has significantly influenced the development and expression of Christianity. Paul of Tarsus, originally named ‘Saul’ and a previous devout Jew, is known to be one of the first greatest organisers of the Christian church and the first major writer of the Christian scripture, The Holy Bible. Both a missionary and a theologian, St Paul had an important impact in his own time period as well as a momentous one on the continual development of Christianity. The growth of Christianity from a mere sect of Judaism to the dominant religion of the contemporary society, attributes to the epistles and working of preaching carried out by St Paul. His letters have made a foundation upon which various Christian ethical principles are established from.
Paul’s epistles have assisted in the establishment of the foundations upon which the Christian expressions of ethics are developed from, hence creating a more holistic church system and behaviours. His letters were the earliest writings about Christianity. His letters, including Corinthians I, Philippians and Galatians, all effectively present the adherents interpretations of Jesus’ teachings. For example, in 1st Corinthians 13:4, St Paul rejuvenates the Love commandment of Jesus where is portrays God’s love as “patient and kind.” The words of Paul of Tarsus on love is continually revitalized in modern times as it is often used as a reading in marriage ceremonies for Christians. This understanding has made a significant impact upon the ethical expression among Christian communities as it has greatly contributed to Christianity becoming a loving and sharing community where all adherents are expected to envision Jesus as a life model. Paul of Tarsus was the first theologian and later inspired other theologians, an example of this was the theology of Saint Augustine and Martin Luther stimulated by St Paul’s understanding of Jesus as the Savior. The writings of Saint Paul’s understanding of the message of Jesus Christ has allowed early and modern Christians to be revitalized in spiritual teaching thus making his contributions a pivitol element to Christianity today.
Through writing the many letter to Thessalonians, whom were heavily prosecuted, Paul has altered his teachings to the demographics he intended to reach. For instance, in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4, Paul articulates his expectation for the adherents to live by the will of God and abstain from fornication through the passage “every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour.” Paul’s moral principles are encompassed within his letters which establish Christian expressions of ethics, and they continue to have a phenomenal impact upon Christian adherent’s daily lives. This is depicted in Philippian 3:8. St Paul emphasises the ineffectiveness of materialistic possessions and the important of spiritual properties. Evident through “I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them rubbish so that I may gain Christ.” Therefore, Paul’s impact upon the ethical expression of the Christian church is essential and such expression has provided Christian adherents with the guidance to avoid evil conducts. Without this influence Christianity, would be radically different in today’s society
St Paul has effectively made Christianity into a universal and inclusive religion which has had a rapid expansion and a significant rise in the number of adherents. Paul was the first Christian who took three missionary journeys through the Mediterranean region, preaching the foundational nations of modern Christianity. This was incredibly significant as Paul was able to preach to the salami community. By punishing Elymas, the magician for turning the proconsul away from God, Paul informed the isolated communities about God’s Omnipotence. This is evident in Acts 13:5-11, “When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogue…and said to Elymas ‘And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind.’” Paul actively accepted both Jews and Gentiles into Christianity, while other leaders strongly opposed to this reformation. Because of this, in Romans 11:13, Paul invites the many gentiles to become involved in the Christian tradition through “…I am the apostle to the gentiles, I take pride in my ministry.” Paul of Tarsus spoke to followers about how to live a Christian life based on the teachings of Jesus Christ. As an outcome of this, Paul has successfully reformed the Church and this in turn has encouraged the development of Christianity by accepting converts with open arms. Paul converted numerous people to Christianity through his new teachings, Acts 13. Conversion of adherents became more substantial through the event of Paul’s own conversion. People previously knew Paul as Saul, a strong Jewish leader opposing Christ and his followers who punished and executed Christian adherents. Through his new teaching which places emphasis in the importance of following Christ rather than Mosaic law, Paul has continually attracted large amounts of followers because they are able to be accepted without being compelled or undergo any pain of circumcision. Paul’s perception was “there is no difference between Jew and Greek, the same Lord is Lord of all” (Romans 10:12) which has further made a landmark development of Christianity in the council of Jerusalem.
One of Paul’s significant teachings is the concept of agape love or selflessness. This addressed all aspects such as kindness, patience, and eternal love, evident through “Love your neighbour as yourself. Love does no harm to its neighbour”. Therefore, love is the fulfilment of the law, Corinthians 12. It is also evident in “Love is patient, love is kind…” Romans 13:9-10 which Paul preached to all his people. The Love Commandments of Jesus were refreshed in St Paul’s first letter. He writes that even though he speaks with tongues of angels, without agape he is nothing. Although Paul has been gifted with prophecy, without agape he is simply nothing. He emphasises that love does not seek its own interest, but leads the faithful to hold everything in common. This is illuminated within 1 Corinthians 13:4-5, “Love is patient and kind…it is never rude or selfish, it does not take offence, and is not resentful.” The significance of this is that Paul encourages new Church communities to share with each other, to work for the good of the entire community and live a life modelled by Jesus Christ.
Paul’s preaching of salvation through faith and through God’s grace, has led to the expansion of Christianity through the salvation of new believers. Paul has made Christianity accessible to all, regardless of they are “Jew or Gentile, male or female, freed or slave.” This new and reformed religious expression was previously earned through works such as sacrifices and commandments. Paul, once again building on Jesus’ teachings, taught that obeying commandments was not the way to earn salvation, but it was a way to show love for Jesus. While this was predominately lost until Martin Luther’s reformation, Christianity was transformed by this and therefore expanded greatly as a result.
Overall, St Paul’s contribution to the Christian Church has caused an extremely progressive impact upon the development and expression of Christianity. Saint Paul’s actions not only established the early Christian Church, but have had a profound impact on the way the religious tradition has been established and revitalised, through his work as a missionary and theologian.
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