Category: Paul

One of the often thought of “name changes” in the Bible is that of Saul to Paul. The change is commonly linked to Saul’s conversion on the Damascus Road, when the Lord Jesus commissioned him to take the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 9:1–19). However, at the time of Saul’s conversion, Jesus still addressed him as “Saul.” Later, Jesus told Ananias to find “Saul” in Damascus and restore his sight. Acts 9 goes on to describe “Saul” as increasing in spiritual strength and understanding of Jesus as the Messiah. So, it was not Jesus who changed his name on the road to Damascus. If it wasn’t Jesus’ doing, how did the change from Saul to Paul happen, and when?

The answer is that Saul’s name was also Paul. The custom of dual names was common in those days. Acts 13:9 describes the apostle as “Saul, who was also called Paul.” From that verse on, Saul is always referred to in Scripture as “Paul.”

Paul was a Jew, born in the Roman city of Tarsus. He was proud of his Jewish heritage, as he describes in Philippians 3:5: “Circumcised on the eight day, of the race of Israel, or the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrew parentage, in observance of the law a Pharisee.” So zealous and devout was he that persecuting Christians was the natural way for him to show his devotion. He chose to use his Hebrew name, Saul, until sometime after he began to believe in and preach Christ. After that time, as “the apostle to the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13), he used his Roman name, Paul. It would make sense for Paul to use his Roman name as he travelled farther and farther into the Gentile world.

It is interesting that Paul began using his Roman name on Cyprus when the Roman proconsul on that island was converted (Acts 13:12). This was during Paul’s first missionary journey and involved a high-ranking, idolatrous Gentile coming to faith in Christ. The fact that the proconsul’s name was Sergius Paulus has led some to think that Saul took the name Paulus/Paul as a reminder of this event, but the apostle’s name being the same as the proconsul’s is most likely a coincidence.

Using his Roman name was fitting for the man who proclaimed that he would become “all things to all people,” a Jew to the Jews in order to win the Jews, weak to the weak in order to win the weak, etc., all for the sake of the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:19–23). Adopting his Roman name would allow Paul to approach the Gentiles to whom he was sent and speak to them in their own language, becoming as one of them and setting them at ease. It is also possible that Paul gave up the use of his Hebrew name, Saul, with its regal connotation and chose to use his Roman name, Paul, meaning “little” or “small,” because he desired to became smaller in order to present Christ as greater (cf. John 3:30).

Unlike the changing of Simon’s name to Peter (Matthew 16:18–19), which Jesus did for a specific purpose, there is no reference in the Bible to Jesus’ changing Saul’s name to Paul.

The Bible does not say how the apostle Paul died. Writing in 2 Timothy 4:6–8, Paul seems to be anticipating his soon demise: “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”

Second Timothy was written during Paul’s second Roman imprisonment in AD 64—67. There are a few different Christian traditions in regards to how Paul died, but the most commonly accepted one comes from the writings of Eusebius, an early church historian. Eusebius claimed that Paul was beheaded at the order of the Roman emperor Nero or one of his subordinates. Paul’s martyrdom occurred shortly after much of Rome burned in a fire—an event that Nero blamed on the Christians.

It is possible that the apostle Peter was martyred around the same time, during this period of early persecution of Christians. The tradition is that Peter was crucified upside down and that Paul was beheaded due to the fact that Paul was a Roman citizen (Acts 22:28), and Roman citizens were normally exempt from crucifixion.

The accuracy of this tradition is impossible to gauge. Again, the Bible does not record how Paul died, so there is no way to be certain regarding the circumstances of his death. But, from all indications, he died for his faith. We know he was ready to die for Christ (Acts 21:13), and Jesus had predicted that Paul would suffer much for the name of Christ (Acts 9:16). Based on what the Book of Acts records of Paul’s life, we can assume he died declaring the gospel of Christ, spending his last breath as a witness to the truth that sets men free (John 8:32).

The apostle Paul wrote a warning for the church: “The time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3).

The Greek word translated “itching” literally means “to itch, rub, scratch, or tickle.” To want one’s ears “tickled” is to desire massages rather than messages—sermons that charm rather than challenge, entertain rather than edify, and please rather than preach. The people Paul warns about will have, as one commentator put it, “ears which have to be continually titillated with novelties.”

“Itching ears” is a figure of speech that refers to people’s desires, felt needs, or wants. It is these desires that impel a person to believe whatever he wants to believe rather than the actual truth itself. When people have “itching ears,” they decide for themselves what is right or wrong, and they seek out others to support their notions. “Itching ears” are concerned with what feels good or comfortable, not with the truth—after all, truth is often uncomfortable. Paul’s warning is that the church would one day contain those who only opened their ears to those who would scratch their “itch.”

Those with “itching ears” only want teachers who will assure them that all is well, teachers who say, “Peace, peace . . . when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14). Where there is a demand for something, the suppliers are not far away. Paul says that not only will there be great demand for watered-down, personalized messages, but there will be “a great number of teachers” willing to provide such pap and steer people away from “sound doctrine.”

Evidence today of people having “itching ears” includes the popularity of messages that people are not required to change, as if repentance were outmoded; that people are basically good; that God is too loving to judge anyone; that the cross, with all its blood, is not really necessary; and that God wants His children to be healthy, wealthy, and content in this world. As people turn their backs on the truth about sin and condemnation, they disregard their need for repentance and forgiveness. And a craving for “new” and “fresher” ideas grows—even though there is “nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9–10)—accompanied by a longing to feel good about who they are and where they’re going. Messages that tickle ears can fill a lot of churches, sell a lot of books, and buy a lot of time on cable tv.

Some of the early followers of Jesus complained about some of the Lord’s words: “Many of his disciples said, ʻThis is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’ . . . From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him” (John 6:60, 66). Walking away from hard truth is easy to do.

In today’s postmodern church, we see many walking away from the hard truth. Some churches that once preached sound doctrine now teach as acceptable the very evils the Bible condemns. Some pastors are afraid to preach on certain passages of the Bible. “Christian feminists” deny God as a heavenly Father, calling Him a “she.” “Gay Christians” are not only welcomed without repentance into church fellowship but into the pulpit, as well.

The church’s remedy for those who have “itching ears” is found in the same passage of 2 Timothy: “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2). It is a solemn charge, made “in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom” (verse 1). And it contains all the elements needed to combat the temptation to tickle ears: preach, correct, rebuke, and encourage. The content of preaching must be the written Word of God, and it must be preached when convenient and when inconvenient. This takes “great patience and careful instruction,” but sound doctrine is worth it.

The church’s quest to manage the comfort level of its audience must never take priority over preaching the Word. The fear of offending people’s sensibilities can never supersede the fear of offending God. Rather, the church should follow the example of the apostles: “We have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Corinthians 4:2).

The church today, more than ever, needs to re-examine the teachings it endorses. We need to ask ourselves the following questions:

• Are our teachings truly from God or simply itches we want to scratch?
• Are we standing on solid biblical grounds, or have we allowed the world to influence our thinking?
• Have we guarded ourselves from the schemes of Satan (Ephesians 6:11)?
• Are we keeping ourselves “blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23)?

The truth is, God is not concerned with scratching our itches but in transforming us into the image of His Son (Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 4:4).

Rembrandt-The-Apostle-PaulThe subject of Jesus Christ and His saving work were at the forefront of the apostle Paul’s ministry. “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” he said (1 Corinthians 9:16). This great apostle consistently focused his evangelistic efforts on convincing people that Christ was the promised Messiah of Israel as well as the risen Lord and Savior of the Gentiles. The unique identity of Jesus was at the center of Paul’s theology.

But had Paul ever met Jesus during Christ’s three-and-a-half year public ministry? Had the future apostle ever personally seen or heard Jesus in person? While we lack any direct evidence, there are several considerations that may favor the idea that Paul had possibly seen Jesus prior to the crucifixion. First, Paul had been a resident of Jerusalem as a child (Acts 22:3) and was also there years later to approve of Stephen’s stoning (Acts 8:1). The presence of Paul’s nephew in Jerusalem after Paul’s conversion (Acts 23:16) suggests that Paul and his family had resided there for some time. Jesus was known to have visited Jerusalem (Mark 11:11; John 2:13; 5:1). It is quite possible that Paul could have seen Jesus or heard Him speak during one of Jesus’ several trips there.

Second, Paul’s devotion to the Law would have provided him motivation to be present in Jerusalem during Passover—a time where both he and Jesus would have been in close proximity. Third, as a Pharisee, Paul would have been keenly interested in the teaching of a popular, if unconventional, rabbi. As Paul told Herod Agrippa, the things Jesus did were “not done in a corner” (Acts 26:26). Fourth, in one of Paul’s epistles, the apostle hints that he may have had a pre-conversion acquaintance with Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:16), although his statement is far from conclusive.

None of these considerations in any way establish that Paul had seen or heard Jesus personally prior to His atoning death at Calvary. We cannot say for sure whether or not Paul had ever met Jesus.

Of course, Paul did encounter the Lord Jesus on the Damascus Road after Christ’s resurrection. While Jesus’ appearance to Paul may have been different in character from Christ’s pre-ascension appearances, this encounter with Paul was no merely subjective vision, as both Jesus’ voice (Acts 9:7) and the bright light (Acts 22:9) were perceived by Paul’s traveling companions. The Lord chose Paul to proclaim His name to both Gentiles and the children of Israel (Acts 9:15). Paul later underwent intense persecution for the gospel of Christ (Acts 14:19; 2 Corinthians 11:25–26). It was in part through his tireless efforts that the gospel of grace spread throughout the Mediterranean world.

It is difficult to overestimate the influence of the apostle Paul. He is known worldwide as one of the greatest Christian missionaries. His inspired writings cover a large portion of the New Testament, and it is safe to say that he remains one of the most read authors in human history. His abrupt turnaround from zealous persecutor of Christians to one of Christianity’s greatest proponents surely shaped the history of the early Christian church. But who was Saul of Tarsus before he became the apostle Paul? What do we know about his life prior to meeting Christ on the Damascus Road?

Saul of Tarsus was born in approximately AD 5 in the city of Tarsus in Cilicia (in modern-day Turkey). He was born to Jewish parents who possessed Roman citizenship, a coveted privilege that their son would also possess. In about AD 10, Saul’s family moved to Jerusalem. Sometime between AD 15—20 Saul began his studies of the Hebrew Scriptures in the city of Jerusalem under Rabbi Gamaliel. It was under Gamaliel that Saul would begin an in-depth study of the Law with the famous rabbi.

There has been some debate over whether Saul was raised in Jerusalem or in his birthplace of Tarsus, but a straightforward reading of his own comments indicate that Jerusalem was his boyhood home (Acts 22:3). We know that Paul’s sister’s son was in Jerusalem after Paul’s conversion (Acts 23:16), which lends weight to the idea that Paul’s entire family had moved to Jerusalem when he was young.

It is quite possible that Saul was present for the trial of Stephen—a trial that resulted in Stephen becoming the first Christian martyr (Acts 7:54–60). The historian Luke tells us that Stephen’s executioners laid their garments at the feet of Saul (Acts 7:58), who was in full approval of the mob’s murderous actions (Acts 8:1). Saul later ravaged the church, entering the homes of believers and committing them to prison. Saul’s anti-Christian zeal motivated him not only to arrest and imprison male Christians (the “ringleaders”) but to lock up female believers as well (Acts 8:3).

Paul’s post-conversion correspondence to various churches reveal even more about his background. In his second letter to the church in Corinth, Paul describes himself as a Hebrew, an Israelite, and a descendant of Abraham (2 Corinthians 11:22). In his letter to the Philippian church, Paul says he was a Pharisee of the tribe of Benjamin (Philippians 3:5). [SEE ALSO: Pharisees]

While on his way to Damascus to arrest and extradite Christians back to Jerusalem, Saul was confronted by the very One whom he was persecuting (Acts 9:3–9; 22:6–11; 26:12–18). What followed was one of the most dramatic conversions in church history. Saul of Tarsus became the apostle Paul, an ardent missionary to an unbelieving world and a fine example of faithful service in the face of fierce persecution (Acts 14:19; 16:22–24; 2 Corinthians 11:25–26). Saul’s education, his background as a Pharisee, his Roman citizenship, and his unflagging zeal all contributed to his success as a missionary, once those credentials and traits had been subjugated to the lordship of Christ.

The prison epistles—Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon—are so named because they were written by the apostle Paul during his incarceration in Rome. The exact date of Paul’s imprisonment, as well as the exact dates he wrote each of the prison epistles, is unknown, but the two-year period he spent under house arrest in Rome has been narrowed down to the years AD 60-62. Paul’s imprisonment in Rome is verified by the Book of Acts, where we find references to his being guarded by soldiers (Acts 28:16), being permitted to receive visitors (Acts 28:30) and having opportunities to share the gospel (Acts 28:31). His other two-year imprisonment, in Caesarea, afforded him no such luxuries. So it is generally accepted that Paul’s Roman incarceration produced three great letters to the churches of Ephesus, Colosse, and Philippi, as well as a personal letter to his friend Philemon.

Three of the prison letters, also called the imprisonment or captivity letters, were bound for three of the churches he founded in Macedonia on his second missionary journey (Acts 20:1-3). Always concerned for the souls of those he continually prayed for in these churches, his letters reflect his pastor’s heart and his love and concern for those he thought of as his spiritual children. Colossians was written explicitly to defeat the heresy that had arisen in Colosse which endangered the existence of the church. In his letter, Paul dealt with key areas of theology, including the deity of Christ (Colossians 1:15-20, 2:2-10), the error of adding circumcision and other Jewish rituals to salvation by faith (Colossians 2:11-23), and the conduct of God’s people (chapter 3). The letter to the church at Ephesus also reflects Paul’s concerns for the beloved, especially that they would understand the great doctrines of the faith (chapters 1–3) and the practical outworkings of that doctrine in Christian behavior (chapters 4-6). The epistle to the Philippians is Paul’s most joyful letter and references to his joy abound within its pages (Philippians 1:4, 18, 25-26, 2:2, 28, 3:1, 4:1, 4, 10). He encourages the Philippian believers to rejoice in spite of suffering and anxiety, rejoice in service, and continue to look to Christ as the object of their faith and hope.

The fourth prison letter was written to Paul’s “friend and fellow laborer,” Philemon (Philemon 1:1) as a plea for forgiveness. Philemon’s slave, Onesimus, had run away from Philemon’s service to Rome, where he met the aging apostle and became a convert to Christ through him. Paul asks Philemon to receive him as a brother in Christ who is now “profitable” to both of them (Philemon 1:11). The theme of the Book of Philemon is forgiveness and the power of the gospel of Christ to undermine the evils of slavery by changing the hearts of both masters and slaves so that spiritual equality is achieved.

While the prison epistles reflect Paul’s earthly position as a prisoner of Rome, he makes it clear that his captivity was first and foremost to Christ (Philemon 1:9; Ephesians 3:1; Colossians 4:18; Philippians 1:12-14). Paul’s time in prison was for the purpose of the spreading of the gospel in the Gentile capital of Rome. The Lord Himself told Paul to “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome” (Acts 23:11). Paul’s time in captivity was no less profitable to us today than it was to the first-century churches he loved so well.

2 Corinthians 1:8-11

It’s easy to assume that problems in biblical days looked totally different from those facing us today. So you might wonder what a first-century missionary can teach us about triumphing over adversity.

Though Paul’s culture was quite different from ours, some things remain the same—like temptation, hardship, persecution, and sin. Satan never changes either. Therefore, when the apostle wrote of being burdened beyond his strength, he had experience to back up his words.

Paul “despaired of life,” but he trusted in a God who raises the dead. In other words, he believed the Lord would sustain him during that season of conflict. How could he be certain? Paul learned to trust the Lord during affliction in the same way that we do: he was thrown into high-pressure situations with impossible odds and yet saw God triumph. We understand divine power when we reach the limits of our own strength and feel God’s supernatural energy kick in.

Divine strength is more than adequate to overcome worldly hardships, satanic temptations, and consequences of sin. That isn’t to say believers can avoid all sorrow and pain. Rather, we have the promise that God will meet our needs in every heartache and trial (Phil. 4:19). Our faith grows stronger when we trust Him in times of affliction.

God’s strength is available to all believers who confess their weakness and inadequacy. Sometimes a troubled soul has only enough stamina left to admit, “Father, I absolutely cannot. If You don’t, it is simply not going to happen.” In effect, we throw ourselves upon God and wait for Him to keep His promise.

The New Testament records Paul taking three missionary journeys that spread the  message of Christ to Asia Minor and Europe. The apostle Paul was a  well-educated, leading Jew named Saul. Living in Jerusalem just after Christ’s  death and resurrection, he did his best to destroy the Christian church. He even  participated in the execution of the first Christian martyr, Stephen (Acts 7:55–8:4).

On his way to Damascus to find and imprison more Christians, Paul met the Lord.  He repented, turning in faith to Jesus Christ. After this experience, he  attempted to persuade Jews and Christians about his life-changing conversion.  Many doubted and shunned him. Christians such as Barnabas, however, accepted and  spoke up for him. Paul and Barnabas became missionary partners.

On three  separate missionary journeys—each several years in length—Paul preached the news  of Jesus in many coastal cities and trade route towns. The following is a brief  chronicle of these missionary journeys:

1st Missionary Journey (Acts  13-14): Answering God’s call to proclaim Christ, Paul and Barnabas left the  church at Antioch in Syria. At first, their method of evangelism was to preach  in the town synagogues. But when many of the Jews rejected Christ, the  missionaries recognized God’s call of witnessing to the Gentiles.

Because of his bold testimony of Jesus, Saul the persecutor became Paul the  persecuted. Those who rejected his message of salvation through Jesus Christ  tried to stop and harm him. In one city, he was stoned and left for dead. But  God spared him. Through trials and beatings and imprisonments, he kept on  preaching Christ.

Paul’s ministry to Gentiles brought controversy over  who could be saved and how to be saved. Between his first and second missionary  journeys, he participated in a conference in Jerusalem discussing the way of  salvation. The final consensus was that the Gentiles could receive Jesus without  submitting to Jewish traditions.

2nd Missionary Journey (Acts  15:36-18:22): After another stay in Antioch, building up the church there,  Paul was ready to take a second missionary journey. He asked Barnabas to join  him, revisiting the churches of their first missionary journey. A disagreement,  however, caused them to split. God turned this dispute into a positive, for now  there were two missionary teams. Barnabas went to Cyprus with John Mark, and  Paul took Silas to Asia Minor.

God providentially redirected Paul and  Silas to Greece, bringing the gospel to Europe. At Philippi, the missionary team  was beaten and imprisoned. Rejoicing to suffer for Christ, they sang in jail.  Suddenly, God caused an earthquake to open the doors of the cell and free them  from their chains. The amazed jailer and his family believed in Christ, but the  government officials begged Paul and Silas to leave.

Traveling on to  Athens, Paul preached to an inquisitive audience on Mars Hill. He proclaimed the  only true God whom they could know and worship without man-made idols. Again,  some sneered and some believed.

Paul taught those who believed in  Christ and established them in churches. During this 2nd missionary journey,  Paul made many disciples from all backgrounds: a young man named Timothy, a  businesswoman named Lydia, and the married couple Aquila and Priscilla.

3rd Missionary Journey (Acts 18:23-20:38): During Paul’s third  journey, he fervently preached in Asia Minor. God confirmed his message with  miracles. Acts  20:7-12 tells of Paul at Troas preaching an exceptionally long sermon. A  young man, sitting in an upstairs window sill, went to sleep and fell out the  window. He was thought to be dead, but Paul revived him.

Once involved  in the occult, the new believers at Ephesus burned their magic books.  Idol-makers, on the other hand, were not pleased with their loss of business on  account of this one true God and His Son. One silversmith named Demetrius  started a city-wide riot, praising their goddess Diana. Trials always followed  Paul. The persecution and opposition ultimately strengthened true Christians and  spread the gospel.

At the end of Paul’s third missionary journey, he  knew he would soon be imprisoned and probably killed. His final words to the  church at Ephesus display his devotion to Christ: “You yourselves know, from the  first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, serving  the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me  through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you  anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house,  solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith  in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way  to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy  Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions  await me. But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so  that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord  Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:18-24).

Some Bible scholars see a fourth missionary journey as well, and early  Christian history does seem to attest to the idea. At the same time, there is no  explicit evidence for a fourth journey in the Bible, as it would have occurred  after the close of the book of Acts.

The purpose of all of Paul’s  missionary journeys was the same: proclaiming God’s grace in forgiving sin  through Christ. God used Paul’s ministry to bring the gospel to the Gentiles and  establish the church. Paul’s letters to the churches, recorded in the New  Testament, still support church life and doctrine. Although Paul’s missionary  journeys caused him to sacrifice everything, they were worth the cost (Philippians  3:7-11).

The story of these two friends of the apostle Paul is told in Acts 18. Aquila, a  Jewish Christian, and his wife, Priscilla, first met Paul in Corinth, became  good friends of his, and shared in his work. Eventually the Corinthian church  met in their home. These two remarkable people belong in the pantheon of  Christian heroes, and their ministry is both an encouragement and an example for  us.

When we first meet Aquila and Priscilla, we are told that they had  come to Corinth from Italy as victims of Roman persecution, not for their  Christian faith but because Aquila was a Jew. The Emperor Claudius expelled all  Jews from Rome, and no doubt Jews deemed it unsafe to remain in any part of  Italy. Aquila and Priscilla found their way to Corinth and settled there,  pursuing their trade as tentmakers. When Paul, a tentmaker himself, came to  Corinth, he went to see them, no doubt having heard of their faith in Christ.  Paul lived and worked with them while founding the Corinthian church.

After a year and a half, Paul left for Ephesus and took Aquila and Priscilla  with him. The couple stayed in Ephesus when Paul left, again establishing a  church in their home (1  Corinthians 16:9). Then an eloquent preacher named Apollos came through Ephesus.  Apollos was mighty in the Scriptures, but he only knew  the baptism of John. This means Apollos knew Christ had come and fulfilled  John’s prophecies, but he didn’t know the significance of Christ’s death and  resurrection, the ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit, or the mystery of the  church containing both Jews and Gentiles. Priscilla and her husband took Apollos  aside and explained these things to him (Acts  18:24-26). Both Aquila and Priscilla possessed an in-depth understanding of  doctrine learned from Paul, and this husband and wife team was able to pass it  on to another Christian and build him up in the faith.

These two  remarkable people set an example for us of hospitality, seen in opening their  home to Paul and using their house as a meeting place for churches wherever they  went. We are also impressed by their passion for Christ and their hunger for  knowledge of Him.

Another hallmark of the lives of Priscilla and Aquila  is their desire to build others in the faith. Paul’s last reference to them is  in his last letter. Paul was imprisoned in Rome and writing to Timothy one last  time. Timothy was pastoring the church at Ephesus, and Aquila and Priscilla are  there with him, still faithfully ministering (2 Timothy  4:19). To the end, Aquila and Priscilla were offering hospitality to other  Christians, spreading the gospel they had learned from Paul, and rendering  faithful service to the Master.