“A man of little stature, thin haired upon the head, crooked in the legs, of good state of body, with eyebrows joining, and nose somewhat hooked, full of grace; for sometimes he appeared like a man, and sometimes he had the face of an angel.”
This is arguably the only information we have from antiquity concerning a physical description of the Apostle Paul. It is found in the Apocryphal book Acts of Paul and Thecla.
The only biblical description of Paul comes from his own words. 2 Corinthians 10:10 says, “For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.” The word “weak” (ἀσθενής; asthenes) may mean an individual who has a small and sickly physical body.
However, what Paul may, or may not, have lacked in physical appearance he more than made up for in his spiritual stature. In the December 2000 issue of Tabletalk Magazine, Dr. Sinclair Ferguson had much to share about the Apostle Paul. I submit some selected quotes as an appropriate conclusion to our study on the life and ministry of the apostle to the Gentiles.
Dr. Ferguson submits that Luke’s account of Paul’s life, in the Book of Acts, first of all presents Paul as a man of poise. “Like Jesus, Paul demonstrates extraordinary, indeed otherworldly, poise – a peace that surpasses understanding, a sense that he is immortal until his work is done and the Lord’s time to call him home comes. This is a rare quality a crisis evokes in a well-known Christian. Conscious of living in the presence of God, he or she has a heavenly quality, a certain poise, a faith in holy wisdom that brings its own sense of calm.”
Secondly, Dr. Ferguson submits that Luke presents Paul as a man of simplicity. He was always living for Christ. “Luke gives a delightful illustration of how it comes to expression when he describes Paul emerging, soaked from head to toe, on the beach at Malta. This man who has met the risen Christ, planted so many churches, suffered much, preached everywhere, spoken to governors and kings – what is the first thing he does? He wanders around gathering sticks to put on a fire so that everyone can huddle around and dry off (Acts 28:1-3). He is a man who has learned to do the spiritual things naturally and the natural things spiritually. No complicated complexes about self-image and position here! His Christian life, whether preaching, teaching, praying, debating – or gathering sticks – is one seamless robe worn gladly in loving service of Jesus.”
I like the statement that the Apostle Paul was a man who learned to do the spiritual things naturally and the natural things spiritually. This is the profound truth of biblical poise and simplicity. May we all imitate Paul as he imitated the Lord Jesus Christ.
Soli deo Gloria!