This article is about the Apostle Paul. You may be looking for the King Saul, after whom Paul was named.
Paul (born: Saul) was born in Tarsus, Cilicia, in about AD 1. He was a Pharisee of the Hebrew tribe of Benjamin. Training under the rabbi Gamaliel, he rose in the ranks of his religion. His secular trade was that of a tent maker. Called into the service of the Jewish religious leadership, he became a persecutor of Christians around AD 35.
His life would change dramatically in a supernatural encounter with Jesus Christ. After a period of three years in the desert south of Judea, he would join the Christian movement as a teacher and evangelist. After a meeting with the apostles in Jerusalem, he would be ordained by the church at Antioch of Syria to be at be missionary to the Gentiles.
He organized churches along the coast of the Great Sea from Antioch to Corinth, Greece, and overland from Troas to Tarsus. Working first among Jews, he would meet much opposition, finding much better reception among the Gentiles. As an evangelist he shared the truth and glory of Jesus Christ.
Paul wrote letters to many of the churches he had visited on his missionary journeys, many of which were from his time in prison. He would twice be imprisoned in Rome, his last communication being to his friend and student, Timothy in around AD 67. In that letter he spoke of his soon execution. Tradition has it that he was beheaded in AD 68.
The name Saul was a revered name in the tribe of Benjamin, having been the name of the first king of the united tribes. The name originally meant "desired" or even "desirable." For an infant, it may have been used of a son born to a family desperate for an heir. In Paul's case, it was just a famous name.
As for his "new name," that is somewhat more of a mystery. The apostle was first called "Paul" after visiting Cyprus where Sergius Paulus was proconsul (or governor). The name is Latin, and is so translated for the governor. Two verses later, Luke informs his readers that Saul is also known as "Paul." The word means "Small, or Little." The most probable reason for the change is in honor of Sergius "the Little" who was such an able administrator and friend of the church.
However, the humble apostle, bearing the name of a great and arrogant king, may have taken the "nickname" that stuck as a sign of his changed heart. Once "head and shoulders above" the rest, he became "the Little man" with a powerful message.
Early Life and Persecuting Christians
Paul was born into the Roman Empire as a citizen. He was born to a Pharisee, and thus was raised under a very "religious" family. He was born with the name Saul. At eight days old he was circumcised and was a part of the Tribe of Benjamin He was educated by Gamaliel, a very prestigious Jewish rabbi. Saul considered himself a Pharisee at one point in his life.
By trade, Paul was a tentmaker . His home country, Cilicia, was known for its exported goat-hair that was used for tentmaking.
Before his conversion to Christianity, Saul served the Jewish Chief Priests as a man who persecuted Christians. Saul was present at the trial of Stephen before the High Priests and instilled fear into many of the witnesses and collected their garments. Saul openly approved of Stephen's execution and shortly thereafter began persecuting Christians in and around Jerusalem . He searched homes of Jews, and had those claiming to follow Christ dragged to prison. Saul continued to threaten Christ's followers  and wanted to bring as many as he could to the authorities. Therefore he went to the High Priest and asked for a warrant to search the synagogues in Damascus so he could travel there find follower of "the way" and bring them to Jerusalem.
Conversion to Christ
When he approached the city he was surrounded by light from the clouds and began to hear a voice. The voice revealed Himself to be that of Jesus and the voice commanded Saul to continue into the city and await for further instruction. Paul's associates became fearful and discovering that Paul was blind, led him into Damascus. For the next three days, Saul was blind and did not eat or drink. When Saul arrived in Damascus, he stayed at the house of a man named Judas. There on Straight Street he prayed. While fasting and praying, Saul had a vision in which he saw a man named Ananias place his hands on his shoulders and heal him. It proved to be a vision from God, Who instucted Ananias to go to Saul and heal him. Since Saul was considered a terrorist by many Christians all across Israel, Ananias was afraid to confront the persecutor. When Ananias was convinced by God that Paul had been chosen to spread the Gospel to Israel), he went to the house as instructed. When he had placed his hands on Saul, the covering fell from his eyes and his sight was restored. He then confessed his faith in Christ and was baptized. After this he began to eat again and fully recovered.
Ministering in Jerusalem
Saul spent several days in Damascus and spent most of his time with fellow believers or preaching in the synagogues. Though he was questioned by many, Saul grew in his faith more and gained a larger reputation. Since Saul was preaching the Gospel many became offended and so the Jews were plotting to kill him. Learning that the Jews awaited by the city gates to kill him, Paul's friends took him at night and lowered him through a hole in the wall in a basket. When he arrived in Jerusalem he attempted to join with other Christians, only to face those that feared that he was not really a follower of Christ. Barnabas, an associate of the Apostles, decided to take the Pharisee to the Apostles to tell them of his conversion to Christ. So Saul lodged with the Apostles and went about in Jerusalem. While there he conversed with the Hellenistic (Greek) Jews, whom eventually tried to kill him. After the believers heard of Saul's deeds they accompanied him to Caesarea. From there he went back to his home town of Tarsus.
Preaching in Antioch
While Saul was in Tarsus a church was established in Antioch. News of this arrived in Jerusalem and after Barnabas personally went to investigate the church, he traveled to Tarsus to find Paul. Once Saul was found, he went up to Antioch with Barnabas. For an entire year Saul worked with the church and preached to the people of Antioch. During his year in Antioch, a prophet named Agabus prophesied that a famine would come about upon the Roman Empire. Many of the Christians who were able gathered up supplies to help with relief in Judea. Saul helped with this by having many of the gifts sent to him or Barnabas personally to be managed and distributed. After Saul had gathered supplies, he traveled to Jerusalem. After delivering the relief supplies he returned to Antioch with Barnabas and brought Mark with them. At the end of the year in Antioch, while Saul was worshipping alongside the prophets and teachers, the Holy Spirit spoke to the group telling them that two of them, Saul and Barnabas, were to be sent off on a journey. After authorizing this by the laying on of hands, the mission began.
First Missionary Journey
So Saul and Barnabas, with Mark, went down to the city of Seleucia and then sailed to the island of Cyprus. They first stopped at the city of Salamis and preached the Gospel in the Jewish synagogues. They traveled across the whole island until they arrived at the city of Paphos, where they met many false prophets. There was also a sorcerer named Elymas, who was trying to turn people away from their faith. Paul was moved and filled by the Holy Spirit and then proclaimed to Elymas that he was an evil and malicious child of the devil and would be temporarily blind. Immediately he became blind, and the Roman Proconsul who was also present believed because of this. Being led by the Holy Spirit, Paul and associates then left Cyprus and sailed to Pamphylia. There Mark left them.
After his unspecified ministry in Pamphylia, they went to Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath Paul entered the synagogue there, and after listening to a liturgy of the Pentateuch and the Major Prophets, the priests asked Paul if he would had any words to speak. Paul stood up motioning with his hands and asked for the Israelites and Gentiles who claimed were God believers to listen to what he had to say. Then Paul continued to give a prolonged account of Israel and its history and how out of all the Old Testament events there was preparation for Christ. As Paul and his associates left, those listening to him invited him to come speak more on the next Sabbath. So Paul returned for the next Sabbath and almost the entire city gathered to hear what God had to say through Paul. The priests of the synagogue became jealous of the crowds Paul attracted and so they began to state contradictory statements and became abusive of him. Paul responded to them boldly that they had to speak the Word of God and this lead to many Gentiles believing. So the Jewish convinced the city officials to persecute Paul and his associates and kicked them out.
Paul left his past troubles at Pisidian behind and then were lead to go to Iconium. As he usually would, Paul went to the synagogue at Iconium and brought many Jews to believe. However, many refused to believe and turned many against him. Paul spent a very long period of time there preaching and was enabled by God to perform miracles. With the city divided another plot (out of the countless ones planned against Paul throughout his ministry) arose against Paul and so he fled to Lycaonia.
There in Lycaonia they preached the Gospel. In the city of Lystra (a city in the region of Lycaonia), there was a lame man who listened to Paul's teaching and seeing he had the faith to be healed, called for him to stand on his feet and he walked. After the people saw Paul's deed, they began to think that he was the greek god Hermes, since he was the one speaking. Because of this, a priest went to their temple and brought sacrifices to appease Paul. Seeing this Paul ripped his clothes and despair and shouted to the crowd that he was only human proclaiming God. Even after this the crowd still had difficulty accepting his mortality. Soon after Jewish people from other areas that Paul had previously preached in came and convinced the crowd of his heresy. Then Paul was stoned and dragged to outside of the city to be left to die. Fortunately for Paul, the disciples found him and he got up and went back into the city he had just been stoned in. Then the day afterwards he went to the city of Derbe. There in Derbe a large number of people were won over.
Return to Antioch
Then Paul returned to the places had traveled prior and strengthened those who had became followers of Christ, even aiding the local churches by appointing leaders. After going back through Pamphylia and preaching in Perga they went to the water-bordering Attalia and from there, Paul sailed back to the place he originally was commissioned in Antioch. Paul then gave the accounts of his missions and stay there a long time with the believers there.
Before converting to Christianity, Paul was intensely involved in Judaism, so much that he was deeper beyond many his own age and was extremely zealous about following tradition. He followed the influence of the Jewish High Priests, and spent most of his time persecuting the Christian church and trying to destroy it.
Paul was very knowledgeable of the Gospel, in which he learned not of human-origin but rather from Jesus Christ. Paul was chosen by God, even before his birth, to share the Gospel with the Gentiles.