The High Priest and Sanhedrin ruled with supreme authority. Violations of their holy laws were severely punished. After the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Apostles appointed others to help spread the gospel. Among those was young Stephen who falls victim to false testimony of Saul of Tarsus (later Paul) and is sentenced to death by stoning. A satisfied Saul stands by as the dying Stephen prays “Lord, do not lay this sin up against them.” Strangely moved, Saul turns away from the sight, having witnessed the undying faith of the first Christian martyr.
Saul is traveling the road to Damascus when a glowing light overwhelms him and the voice of Jesus demands, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Blind and helpless, Saul is led into Damascus where, for 3 days, he rests in the house of Judas. Meanwhile, the voice of Jesus commissions Ananias to visit Saul that he might regain sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Saul is baptized and soon begins preaching that “Jesus is the Son of God.” Although Saul had laid waste the church and was a severe persecutor, he became a dynamic disciple and missionary of Christianity.
After his message is rebuked by the synagogues of Damascus, Saul wanders the desert wilderness in despair for 2 years searching for enlightenment. At last, weary and ill; he stumbles upon an Arabian city where he spends 3 years as a tent maker. Once again called to his sacred mission, Saul returns to Damascus. Banned from the synagogues, he wanders the streets carrying his message to all. Saul, the former persecutor, now filled with the Holy Spirit, confounds men by proving that Jesus is the Son of God. The priests of the synagogue issue orders for Saul’s execution.
Saul returns to Jerusalem but, because of his infamous past, is greeted with distrust. Barnabas introduces him to the Apostles, including Peter. Saul declares himself a disciple of Christ, gains permission to preach, and goes about preaching boldly and arousing the hatred of the congregation. His life in danger, Mark saves Paul from an assassin. Urged by the disciples to flee the country for safety, Saul seeks answer in prayer and is led by the voice of Jesus to depart the land of the Gentiles. Saul sails away to await the call to begin his missionary journeys.
Saul had lived quietly in Tarsus for ten years. Barnabas asks Saul to go with him to Antioch where a new church has been founded. Together they travel and preach. Saul witnesses the sale of a slave girl, buys her, and sets her free. News comes of a famine in Judea and Galilee. Led by Saul and Barnabas and the Antioch Church, men and women respond by sending relief. Saul and Barnabas then return to Antioch, where the growing church is torn apart over the number of “outsiders” seeking entrance. Saul makes it clear that the word “Christian” embraces all people.
Saul and Barnabas (and John Mark) leave Antioch for a journey of great importance to the world. Among the first stops is the island of Cyprus, where Saul was hated and feared by those who remembered him as persecutor. Saul preaches through the island, and in Paphos triumphs when Sergius Paulus, a Roman Pro-Consul, is converted, and the evil sorcerer Elymas is punished for his blasphemy. During this missionary journey, Saul, having severed ties to his past, chooses henceforth be known by his Roman name – Paul, of Tarsus.
Depicts the perilous journey of Paul and Barnabas from the plague-ridden swamps of Perga thru Pisidan Antioch, where Paul stuns the congregation by proclaiming Jesus is the Messiah. The following Sabbath, the synagogue is crowded with those who come to hear more. At Lystra the miracle of the lame beggar causes Paul and Barnabas to be hailed as gods. Forbidden by Paul to make sacrifices, the populace turns against him. Paul is stoned and left for dead. Barnabas and other followers come to bury him but find that Paul has miraculously survived the ordeal.
The Church questions “Did Christ open the door of faith to the gentiles too?” Paul reports of “signs and wonders God had done among the gentiles.” Peter declares that God makes no distinction between men. Paul’s second missionary journey then unfolds. At Lystra, he discovers a spiritual son in the new disciple Timothy. Paul finds Luke, the doctor, who is destined to become the beloved evangelist. The episode concludes in Philippi, where Paul is fraudulently arrested and sentenced to flogging and prison for freeing a demented slave girl from evil spirits.
Paul and Silas are beaten and imprisoned. Suddenly at midnight, an earthquake breaks open the prison. Rather than flee, the disciples remain in their cell. A grateful jailer asks “What must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas baptize the jailer; Paul’s Roman citizenship sets him free. His insistence Jesus is the Messiah incites a mob. Paul escapes to Athens, a pagan city, where he delivers his inspiring address before the statue of the Unknown God. Finally in Corinth, Paul pens epistles to the young Churches which were founded during his first missionary journey.
In Antioch Paul begins his letters to the Galatians and one by one revisits them until he reaches Ephesus, where Paul founds another church and stays for 2 years. Ephesus is at the center of the cult of Diana. Paul’s preaching affects the business of the silversmiths, who profit from the sale of idols of Diana. Demetrius stirs up the people. Paul decides to leave Ephesus for fear his presence will endanger the work. Arriving in Jerusalem, Paul ignores safety warnings and visits the temple. He is recognized, and a frenzied crowd drags him away towards an unknown fate.
Paul is rescued from the temple mob, but arrested by Roman authorities. He is freed and taken before the Sanhedrin. Learning of a plot to have Paul killed, the Roman tribune places him under guard for safety. There, the Lord tells Paul to plan to continue his witness in Rome. The Romans send Paul to Caesarea, where he is placed under “protective custody.” During another attempt to turn him over to the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, Paul appeals his right of trial before Caesar, resulting in his voyage to Rome.
Paul’s appeal to Caesar is granted. He and Luke board a prison ship to Rome. A ferocious storm erupts and their ship is capsized. Miraculously, all lives are saved. He reaches Rome and Emperor Nero is persuaded by Seneca to keep Paul under arrest for two years. With the burning of Rome and renewed persecution of Christians, Paul declines escape, as he knows whatever befalls him is the will of God. As the picture concludes, Paul is being taken by the Romans for the final sentence before the Emperor.