The top 10 things the Apostle Paul was know for are:

1.  Paul’s Pioneering Missionary Zeal:

Paul’s relentless missionary zeal is widely seen through his 3 substantial missionary journeys.  Pauls three missionary journeys are widely recognized by scholars (F.F. Bruce, 1980) as instrumental in propelling the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ far beyond the confines of Jerusalem and Galilee. His audacious journeys criss-crossing the Greco-Roman world brought Christianity to diverse cultures and prepared the ground for its universal expansion.  The Apostle Paul actively lived out the Great Commission by going into ALL the world preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven.  

How many journeys did Paul the Apostle go on?  The Apostle Paul had 3 main missionary journeys.  There are other trips that the Apostle Paul takes, but scholars typically highlight the three main journeys.  These 3 main missionary journeys are anchored to his leaving or returning to or from Jerusalem.

Where did Paul the apostle travel?  

The Apostle Paul mainly traveled through the lands of Asia Minor (Modern day Turkey) which included ancient provinces of Asia, Bithynia & Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Cilicia, Pamphylia, Lycia, and Phrygia.  He also traveled through Syria, Thrace, Macedonia, and Achaia (Modern day Greece).  He also sailed to the islands of Cyprus, Crete, Sicily and Malta.  His final destination was the area of Italy, where he is martyred in Rome. Additional Reading: How far did the Apostle Paul travel?

List of all the locations that the Apostle Paul visited that are included in the Bible, in alphabetical order:

Amphiboles (Acts 17:1), Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13:14), Antioch of Syria (Acts 11:26, 13:1, 18:22-23), Antipatris (Acts 23:31), Apollonia (Acts 17:1), Appian Way (Acts 28:13 – 15), Appii Forum (Acts 28:15), Arabia (Galatians 1:17), Assos (Acts 20:13), Athens (Acts 17:16), Attalia (Acts 14:25), Berea (Acts 17:10), Caesarea (Acts 9:30, 18:22, 21:8, 23:23), Cenchrea (Acts 18:18), Chios (Acts 20:15), Clauda (Acts 27:16), Cnidus (Acts 27:7), Coos (Acts 21:1), Corinth (Acts 18:1), Cyprus (Acts 13:4, 21:3, 27:4), Damascus (Acts 9, 22, 26), Derbe (Acts 14:6, 20, 16:1), Ephesus (Acts 18 – 20, 1 Corinthians 16:8, 1Timothy 1:3, 2 Timothy 1:18, 4:12), Fair Havens (Crete) (Acts 27:8, Titus 1:5), Hierapolis(Colossians 4:13), Iconium (Acts 13:51), Jerusalem (Acts 7 – 9, 11:30, 12:25, 15, 9:26, 21:11 – 23:31, 26), Laodicea (Colossians 2:1), Lasea (Acts 27:8), Lystra (Acts 14:6, 16:1), Malta (Acts 28:1), Miletus (Acts 20:15, 17), Mitylene (Acts 20:14), Myra (Acts 27:5), Neapolis (Acts 16:11), Nicopolis (Titus 3:12, 15), Paphos (Cyprus) (Acts 13:6), Patara (Acts 21:1), Perga (Acts 13:13, 14:25), Philippi (Acts 16:12, 20:6), Ptolemais (Acts 21:7), Puteoli (Acts 28:13), Rhegium (Acts 28:13), Rhodes (Acts 21:1), Rome (Acts 28:16, 2 Timothy 1:17), Salamis (Cyprus) (Acts 13:5), Salmone (Acts 27:7), Samos (Acts 20:15), Samothracia (Acts 16:11), Seleucia (Acts 13:4), Sidon (Acts 27:3), Spain (Romans 15:22 – 25, 28), Syracuse (Sicily) (Acts 28:12), Tarsus (Acts 9:30), Thessalonica (Acts 17:1), Three Taverns (Acts 28:15), Troas (Acts 16:8, 20:6), Trogyllium (Acts 20:15), Tyre (Acts 21:3)

2.  Authorship of Epistles: Paul’s Literary Legacy

Over the life of Apostle Paul, he authored several epistles, or letters, that are now an integral part of the New Testament. Scholars widely attribute 13 epistles to him, including Romans, Corinthians, and Galatians, which offer invaluable insights into early Christian beliefs and practices in both Jew and Gentile communities.  These early epistles to the growing church not only addressed specific cultural issues, but also explored profound theological concepts that were at the heart of Jesus’ teachings.

These vital letters also provided valuable guidance to key leaders of the early church.  Titus, Timothy, and others received instruction on church governance, leadership qualifications, and spiritual mentorship.

3.  Emphasis on Salvation through Faith:

Paul’s emphasis on justification through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:21-24) distinguished early Christianity from Jewish traditions and laid the foundation for the doctrine of salvation by grace alone.  His focus on faith rather than adherence to the Mosaic Law revolutionized early Christian theology. 

The Apostle Paul writes to the Gentiles in Rome:
“But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in[a] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Paul’s teachings to the Gentiles is the backbone of his doctrinal stance for these new believers, affirming that righteousness is given freely to all believers through faith in Christ

4.  Paul as a Bridge Builder:  Championing the Inclusion of the Gentiles

Early Christian and Judaism professor, David Flusser, describes the Apostle Paul as playing a crucial role in bridging the gap between Judaism and emerging Christianity. He saw Paul as a mediator who sought to promote discussions between Jewish and Gentile believers and aimed to establish a unified community.

In Acts 15:6-11, the crucial Jerusalem Council occurs, where Paul vehemently argues for the inclusion of uncircumcised believers, shaping the inclusive nature for ALL believers in this new community of believers.  His efforts contributed to the widespread acceptance of non-Jewish converts, making Christianity a universal faith.

5. Paul’s Comprehensive Framework of the Activity of the Holy Spirit

Central to Pauls teachings is the understanding of the Holy Spirit’s role in the every day lives of believers and how it helped to form the early church community.   From its transformative powers, to its guidance and empowerment, and its unifying ability, Pauls understanding of the Holy Spirt impacted the Christian faith and practice in profound ways.

1. Transformation of believers through the work of the Holy Spirit

In Romans 8:11, Paul asserts that the Spirit, who raised Jesus from the dead, dwells within believers, granting them new life. This transformative process involves the renewal of the mind (Romans 12:2) and the development of Christ-like virtues (Galatians 5:22-23), resulting in spiritual growth and sanctification.

2.  Being Guided by the Holy Spirit

Paul teaches that the Holy Spirit serves as a constant guide and source of wisdom for all believers. In 1 Corinthians 2:10-13, Paul emphasizes that the Spirit reveals the deep things of God, enabling believers to comprehend spiritual truths. He also writes that the Spirit provides discernment and direction in decision-making (Galatians 5:16) and actively intercedes for believers in their often wordless utterances. (Romans 8:26-27).

3.  Empowers Believers for Ministry and to be a Witness

Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus was his transformative encounter with the Spirit.  This personal experience with the Holy Spirit empowered him to boldly proclaim the Gospel. Paul also highlights the diverse spiritual gifts granted by the Spirit for the edification of the Church (1 Corinthians 12:7) and the manifestation of God’s power (1 Corinthians 12:4-11).

4.  Unifying Presence of the Holy Spirit

Paul emphasizes the Holy Spirit’s role in fostering unity within the Body of Christ. In Ephesians 4:3, Paul encourages believers to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”  The Spirit creates a diverse yet harmonious community, overcoming barriers of ethnicity, social status, and cultural differences.

“For we were all baptized by one spirit so as to form one body— whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”  1 Corinthians 12:13

6.  The Centrality of Jesus and His Death and Resurrection:

Flusser acknowledged that Paul’s encounter with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus was a transformative experience that defined his entire ministry.

Paul in writing about his return to the growing church at Ephesus says:

“When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”

To the church at Corinth, Romans, Ephesus, and Philippi, Paul writes, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrections.”  “He was delivered dover to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”  “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”

All throughout Pauls writings we see his profound understanding of the redemptive significance of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and the transformative power of His resurrection.   This strengthened his faith and allowed him to continue his mission in preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

7.  ”Body of Christ” Concept: An Innovative Metaphor:

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”

…Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

The Apostle Paul, using the context of his time, described the community of believers as a body in his letter to Corinth.  One of the largest health clinics in the world was located in Corinth.  As a recognition to the god Asclepius for “healing” their ailment, the Corinthians would create stone or clay sculptures of the body part that was healed by the gods.  All throughout Corinth were 1,000’s of hands, feet, arms, legs, ears and etc on pedestals as a recognition of the god Asclepius healing power.   Paul takes this concrete visual aid and turns it into a metaphor to describe the community of believers.  

“But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. … But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 

Pauls profound metaphor of the “Body of Christ” perfectly illustrates the unity and diversity within the early Christian movement and how it shaped early Christian ecclesiology.

8.  Articulation of Love’s Supremacy:

Paul writes, ”If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.”

In his famous exposition on love in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul emphasizes the how foundational love is in the Christian life.  

Paul builds on the teachings of Christ to “Love your enemies,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself,” to show that love is the highest of all the spiritual aspects of believer.  Only by displaying love can the Kingdom of Heaven be seen.

9.  Teachings on Marriage and Family:

During the first century, the Roman World was filled with the brutal reality of all forms of sexual debauchery.  Prostitution, sex slaves, homosexuality, pederastory, and rape was a part of every day life.  Even though the Apostle Paul was bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to this pagan world, he doesn’t forcefully argue against the pagan lifestyles, but instead brings a message of what love truly is.  Paul shows that the greatest force against the evils around him, is to have believers using the best weapon possible – love.   He urges his fellow believers to show love by demonstrating a loving marriage and family.  This demonstration of love was in stark contrast to the evil activities surrounding it.  Paul’s wisdom continues to guide Christians in fostering harmonious marriages and families within religious communities even today.

“Let all things be done with love.”  1 Corinthians 16:14

10. Contextual Interpretation of Paul’s Jewish Identity and his Teachings:

The Apostle Paul is considered to be the greatest missionary to the gentile world.  However, his Jewish heritage and identity was a significant aspect of his everyday life.  Even though Paul spent a majority of his life ministering to the Roman World, he remained deeply connected to his Jewish roots.  Because of Paul’s deep connection to the Jewish world, and his ability to weave the Hebrew text throughout his writings, the reader is required to understand the Jewish cultural and religious background to grasp the nuances of Paul’s teachings and to avoid misinterpretations that led to anti-Jewish sentiments.