Paul was born a Jew with Roman citizenship and was a Pharisee both by birth and theological choice. He was trained by Gamaliel, one of the greatest Jewish teachers, and he obeyed the Law of Moses meticulously. Those he considered opposing or blaspheming strict Judaism, Paul vehemently despised. Christians fell into this category and Paul hounded them from city to city, executing some and imprisoning others. When courageous Stephen was being stoned to death, Paul stood by, in a supervisory role.
Then, on a trek to Damascus in raging search of Christians, Paul saw a blinding light and heard a voice saying, “Saul, why are you persecuting me? I am Jesus who you persecute.” (originally Paul was called Saul. He changed his name after his conversion). The light blinded Paul and he had to be led into Damascus. Soon after a disciple was sent to restore his sight. This experience resulted in Paul’s conversion to Christianity. At this point, it was revealed that he was called by God to spread the gospel both among the high nobility and common Jews and Gentiles.
Paul spent at least the first ten years after his conversion in relative obscurity. He seemed to have spent most of this time in Tarsus, his hometown, and possibly in Arabia. It was probably during those years that Paul learned all he could about Christ’s ministry and thought through the gospel.
Then, Paul went to a series of missionary journeys to Asia Minor, Syria, Macedonia, and Achaia. He and his companions founded churches in various cities, which were later revisited either by Paul or by an associate. In other cases, Paul sent letters of encouragement and instruction to churches in individual cities.
Paul’s life was not easy during those years. He faced constant ups and downs—enemies beating him silly, sickness and dungeon life weakening his body, hecklers constantly interrupting his sermons, other itinerants sabotaging his ministry—he lived the life of a fugitive, usually only one jump ahead of the ‘Law.’
Stephen was a deacon in the early church at Jerusalem who aroused the enmity of members of various synagogues by his teachings.
He began to preach the gospel of Christ and to preach with such power as made everyone who heard him feel the truth. Stephen saw before any other man in the church that the gospel of Christ was not for Jews only, but was for all men. He believed that all men could be saved.
Due to his teachings, he was accused of blasphemy and was sent to a trial. There, he made a long and outstanding speech denouncing the Jewish authorities who were there sitting in judgment on him. And so was Paul. Stephen was sent to be stoned to death.
Before dying, he forgave Paul and his persecutors, showing the greatness of his soul.
Later in their stories, Stephen’s greatness is shown once again when, in the Spiritual World, he becomes Paul’s protector and guardian, guiding his steps and life in a mutual and healed partnership.