Paul and the Early Church Fathers

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  • 0:01 Definition of Terms
  • 0:51 Twelve Disciples
  • 1:51 Persecution
  • 3:13 Paul's Conversion
  • 6:12 After Conversion
  • 7:13 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson will identify the earliest Church Fathers as the 12 disciples and the Apostle Paul. In doing this, it will highlight the persecution of the Christian Church as well as the conversion of Saul, known to history as Paul.

Definition of Terms

Today's lesson will discuss the Apostle Paul and the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ, known to history as the Fathers of the early Christian Church. In doing this, we'll be relying heavily on the Christian Bible. We'll specifically be using the Gospels, or the first four books of the New Testament, as they are the main source on the earthly life of Jesus Christ. We'll also cite the book of Acts, the New Testament book that recounts the very first years after the death of Christ.

With our sourcing down, let's get going. We'll start with the 12 disciples. First of all, when using the word disciple, we mean a follower of Jesus Christ. However, when we say apostle, we'll mean someone who was sent out to share the message of Christ. Despite the difference in actual meaning, the two words are often used interchangeably.

Twelve Disciples

As for the original 12 disciples of Christ, their names were Andrew, Bartholomew, Philip, Thaddeus, Simon, Thomas, Judas, Matthew, John, Peter, and two guys named James. To make things easier, we'll just remember them as the guys who traveled with and followed Jesus. They came from all different walks of life and social strata. For instance, there was Matthew, the tax collector, and there was Peter, the fisherman. There was Simon, the revolutionary, and Thaddeus, the guy history knows very little about.

Despite these differences, these 12 men were bound together by one thing: they believed that Jesus Christ was the Messiah! Even though the powerful Jewish rulers of the day had branded Him a liar and eventually had Him crucified for this claim, the disciples believed Him. As the Apostle Peter said to Him, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'

Persecution

After the crucifixion of Christ, these men, except for Judas, who betrayed Jesus by helping to hand Him over to the Jewish rulers, continued to preach the message of Jesus Christ. In fact, the Bible tells us that at the Day of Pentecost, in which the Holy Spirit of God descended on the followers of Jesus Christ, they began preaching openly to anyone who would listen. Even Thomas, the guy we get the term 'Doubting Thomas' from because he refused to believe Jesus had risen from the dead until He actually appeared to him, couldn't be silenced.

Of course, this really rattled the Jewish leaders who thought they had taken care of the Jesus problem by crucifying Him! Now His followers were boldly going around preaching that He was God, and that He was raised from the dead. Making matters worse, they were gathering a serious following by doing things like healing the sick, casting out demons, and many other miracles!

Fearing that things were getting really out of control, the Jewish rulers of the day began persecuting the disciples. Within a very few short years, the Roman Empire also began persecuting them for their refusal to acknowledge the emperor as God. They were arrested, beaten, and even martyred, or executed for their beliefs. In fact, church tradition holds that within a few decades of Jesus's death, all of the 12 disciples, save John, had been put to death.

Paul's Conversion

Ironically, one of the Jewish rulers who led the charge toward their deaths was none other than a man named Saul, known to history by his Roman name, 'Paul,' and to the Christian Church as the 'Apostle Paul.' With this twist of events, I'm thinking I'll definitely need to back up and explain!

Before the Apostle Paul became a believer in Jesus Christ, he went by the Jewish name Saul. As Saul, he was a member of the Jewish rulers known as the Pharisees. Not only was he a member, he was one of the guys who zealously persecuted the followers of Christ. In fact, the Bible records that he went to the highest Jewish officials and asked permission to travel to Damascus in modern-day Syria. His goal was to round up as many of the Jesus following troublemakers as he could. His plan was to bring them all back to Jerusalem where they'd face punishment!

However, on this trip, something rather unexpected happened. For this part, we'll let the book of Acts tell the story:

'As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, 'Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?'

'Who are you, Lord?' Saul asked. And the voice replied, 'I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.'

The men with Saul stood speechless, for they heard the sound of someone's voice but saw no one! Saul picked himself up off the ground, but when he opened his eyes, he was blind. So, his companions led him by the hand to Damascus. He remained there, blind, for three days and did not eat or drink.

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