Category Archives: New Testament

Epistle to Philemon

The Epistle of Paul to Philemon, known simply as Philemon, is one of four prison letters. Co-authored by Paul the Apostle and Timothy around 60 – 63 AD in Rome, this letter is unlike Paul’s other letters in that he referred to himself as “a prisoner for Jesus Christ” rather than as an apostle with authority and to Timothy as “our brother”. Addressing Philemon — a leader of the Colossian Church — as a “fellow laborer” and “brother”, Paul wrote this letter on behalf of Onesimus — a runaway slave that Philemon owned and who may have wronged him.

While details are sketchy surrounding the circumstances of their first meeting, some scholars suggest that Onesimus may have been arrested and imprisoned alongside Paul. During their time together, Paul spoke to Onesimus of the love and forgiveness God has for all believers who have a changed heart. Having shared the Gospels with him and had personally witnessed his transformation, Paul referred to Onesimus’ conversion as a “new life blossoming in a once-dead heart” (Philemon 1:19). With Onesimus’ conversion being a significant, life changing event, Paul was compelled to celebrate and nurture this new life anyway he could.

With a growing affection between them, it would have been easy for Paul to keep Onesimus at his side. He thought it best, however, to send Onesimus back to Philemon along with this letter as a means of healing the relationship between them. Beautifully composed, Paul wrote this letter to appeal to Philemon’s reputation as a fellow believer. For the sake of love, Paul asked Philemon to receive Onesimus, not as a runaway slave, but rather as his “brother beloved” and to forgive him in the event he had done anything wrong (Philemon 1:11–14). Approaching the topic delicately and with great care, Paul presented Onesimus to Philemon as a man transformed. Once a slave of sin, Onesimus had surrendered to the love and forgiveness he found in Christ. Now free from sin, Onesimus was now his equal. Aware that his request required sacrifice on Philemon’s part, Paul wrote “I am confident as I write this letter that you will do what I ask and even more” (Philemon 1:21).

This letter serves as not only as a model of Christian courtesy among believers with a tangible example of Christian love, but also as a reminder of the significance of Christian conversion. More specifically, Paul’s message is powerful. First and foremost, it reminds us that God wants an intensely personal relationship with each of us regardless of the struggles we face, the sins we have committed, and the station in life we hold. Further, more than any of Paul’s writings, this letter reveals the sheer depth of God’s love. Through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, believers with a “changed heart” are offered the same extraordinary gift Onesimus received…undeserving grace and forgiveness in which to heal and begin a brand new life. Like Onesimus, we are all enslaved by sin. It’s in our nature… and yet… we are given ample opportunity to surrender our selves and our lives to Christ’s love and forgiveness. In believing and in accepting this precious gift, our sins are forgiven, thereby freeing us to create a new life.

Once given love and forgiveness, what will you do with this gift and with this brand new life? Will you pay it forward as Paul did to Onesimus, or keep it to yourself? Through our daily actions and words, each of us have an opportunity to touch the lives of all the Onesimuses of this world, however big or small. Admittedly something I still need to work on, I have come to know that in extending the same love and forgiveness to others that we have received in Christ demonstrates to the world in very real and tangible ways just how powerful our lives have been transformed for the better.

Outline

  1. Introduction (Verses 1-3). Theses verses indicate that Paul and Timothy wrote this letter during Paul’s imprisonment in Rome. Like other Epistles, this one begins with a prayer asking for great blessings in the form of grace and peace from God and Christ.
  2. Prayer for Philemon (Verses 4-7). In these verses, Paul demonstrates the reality of his prayer, praying for Philemon in the same way all Christians should pray for each other. Knowing the faithfulness of other Christians have in praying for us serves as motivation to pray. In this instance, having heard that Philemon believed in and loved the Lord and all His saints, Paul prayed that Philemon and other Christians would grow spiritually as they prayed for their brethren. With this prayer, Paul had great consolation in the character of Philemon and in that of other Christians.
  3. Intercession of Paul on Behalf of Onesimus (Verses 8-22). Paul begins by asking Philemon to accept Onesimus back as an equal and beloved Christian brother in Christ rather than as a runaway slave. More specifically, Paul appealed to Philemon for the sake of love, citing that Onesimus had surrendered his life to Christ and is ready to be of service to him. Paul continued by saying he found consolation and joy in knowing that his request to forgive Onesimus would be honored.
  4. Salutation (Verses 23-24). Paul closes the letter by addressing fellow prisoners and laborers in Christ, praying for much grace from our Lord Jesus Christ.

Epistle to the Colossians

The twelfth book of the New Testament, the Epistle to the Colossians was authored by Apostle Paul during his first imprisonment in Rome (around 60 AD) and addressed the Church of Colossae. The city of Colossae was situated about 100 miles east of Ephesus in Asia Minor (present day Turkey). While of little importance at the time of this epistle, it had been at one time considerably influential. Colossae was one of   three cities (the others being Laodicia and Hierapolis) situated on the Lycus river near where it flows into the famous Meander.

The church was most likely founded by Epaphras who had been converted during Paul’s three-year ministry in Ephesus and had carried the gospel to Colossae. Though Paul never visited the young church, he nevertheless had a vital connection with them. Concerned that the church became the target of a heretical attack by false teachers who conspired to limit the greatness and authority of Jesus Christ and to limit the efficiency of redemption in Him, Epaphras visited Paul in Rome.

Paul ultimately wrote a passionate letter, encouraging Colossian Christians to remain devoted to the exalted Jesus and not to give into the pressures from false teachings and from other religions. His message remains relevant today. With the advent of the internet, social media, and news coverage 24×7, false religions are all around us, tempting us with the next “must have” technology; tolerance for extreme lifestyle options and belief system; and ministries that promise the “good life” and prosperity. Paul teaches us to tune out that “noise” and to instead focus on Jesus’ gift of salvation. Through His death and subsequent resurrection, Colossian believers and believers up to and including today are now reconciled with God. No longer bound by a law that restricts our life, each of us has an opportunity to live transformed lives. As new creations, there is no part of our life that remains untouched by Jesus’ loving and liberating rule. To be truly transformed though, we must each re-examine our suffering, our temptations to compromise, our moral character, and the dynamics of our home life and relationships.

Having assessed my own life, I am first to admit that such a transformation does not occur overnight. Reborn 8 years ago, I am still tempted to say the wrong thing on occasion; to binge-watch my favorite show on Netflix rather than vacuum or do laundry; or eat too much of a good thing when going out to one of my favorite local restaurants. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t ask God to help me to communicate with loved ones more lovingly or to repair a still fractured relationship. With each new day though, I feel stronger, see more progress, and find joy in knowing that in spite of my imperfections I still have yet another chance to start fresh and transform. Truly humbled, God is a loving and merciful one, offering many “second chances” to transform. I cannot think of a more beautiful gift than that of salvation and everlasting life!

Outline

I.    Introduction – greetings, thanksgiving, and prayer.

II.  Supremacy of Christ – Jesus is the true image and firstborn of our heavenly father. At the cross, Jesus reconciled man in front of God with the Holy Spirit now dwelling within us.

III. Paul’s Labor for the Church – Paul’s suffering is not a sign of defeat. Rather, it is his way of participating in Jesus’s suffering as an act of love for us.

IV. Freedom from Human Regulations through the Life of Christ – Paul encourages Christians to fully understand and appreciated who Jesus is and what He did for them. Warning them not to compromise or to turn from Jesus, he refutes false teachers and pleads with them to reject false teachers.

V.  Rules for Holy Living – As a result of Jesus’ resurrection, Christians have become a part of a new humanity that’s joined to Him.. With their lives now transformed and a part of the new humanity, Christians must serve and please Jesus alone. Their devotion to the exalted Messiah transforms their lives, their households, and every relationship.

VI.  Final Greetings and Benediction

 

 

Epistle to the Philippians

The last of four Prison Epistles, Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians as he anticipated his release from prison (AD 61 or 62). Epaphroditus, who had visited Paul in Rome (Philippians 2:25; 4:18), was to deliver the letter to the Philippians. Unfortunately, Epaphroditus took ill during his stay in Rome, delaying his return home and delivery of the letter (Philippians 2:26–27). As a result, this letter was not delivered at the same time as the other three prison letters.

While Paul’s letters to the Galatians and to the Colossians addressed issues they were struggling with, he wrote to the Philippians to express his appreciation and affection for these believers. More than any other church, Apostle Paul felt a very deep connection with the Philippians, with his affection clearly evident throughout the letter.

In this letter, Paul confirms the faith of this community, encouraging them to continue to be a living example of Christ; cautioning them against Judaizing teachers; and expressing gratitude for their Christian bounty. This letter specifically portrays Jesus Christ as a humble servant (Philippians 2:5–11), teaching this community that believers can only live in harmony by modeling the humility of Jesus Christ with one another. Offering his own life to Christ as an example, Paul expressed that he had found great joy and contentment in serving Christ in the wake of suffering. By centering their lives on Christ rather than on their struggles, Paul said that they, too, would experience true joy in their life.

This loving message, while written to the Phillipians, is intended for all believers ….today and back then. Like many, I often get caught up in the daily pace and pressures of life and find myself overlooking the many blessings God has provided me. I have a loving husband, a beautiful home, meaningful work, and a bounty of love from family and friends. Yet at times desperate to find that ever elusive joy, I seek solace in other people, other places, and at times in material possessions only to discover that none of these provide lasting joy. Taking a closer look at my life, I realize I need to shift my focus. By dwelling on life’s challenges rather than on my blessings, I am allowing those challenges steal the very joy I seek. Upon shifting my focus, I discover joy all around me in the form of God’s many blessings.

Both Apostle Paul and the Philippians knew this, saying that true joy only comes through humble faith in Jesus Christ; in fellowship with other believers; and in serving others in the name of Jesus Christ. It was a life Philippian believers came to know and is a life that remains available to all of us today.

This letter consists of four chapters:

  • Chapter 1, Paul offers up thanksgiving and prayers for the good work of grace in the Philippians; expresses his affection and prayers for them; and fortifies them against being cast down at his sufferings. Encouraging them to stay strong in spite of the suffering they may face, Paul expressed that he offered his life to Christ and stood prepared to glorify Christ whether with his life or his death. He begins this loving letter encouraging the Philippians to continue to profess and spread the gospel .
  • Chapter 2, Paul cites the benefits of believers who share the “mind of Christ”, modeling his kindness and humility of spirit and behavior. Teaching this community about the humanity of Jesus Christ. Paul cites that He laid down His glory and became a perfect human man in order to rescue and restore mankind back to a relationship with God. Paul exhorts Philippians to be living examples of Christ to the world and concludes this chapter by citing the purpose for his visit to Philippi.
  • Chapter 3, Paul cautions the Philippians against false teachers. Renouncing his own past , Paul expresses the great joy he has found in offering up his life to Christ. He encourages the church to press forward with the spreading the Gospel, citing himself as an example to other believers.
  • Chapter 4, Paul again exhorts Philippians to stand fast and to rejoice in the Lord. Instructing believers the importance of being well-grounded in prayer and thanksgiving, Paul offers praise and thanksgiving to God thanks for the many provisions they are blessed with, “my God shall supply all your needs.”

Where do you find joy in the midst of a trying circumstance?

Letter to the Ephesians

Commonly known as one of four Prison Epistles (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon), the letter to the Ephesians was written by Apostle Paul during his first Roman imprisonment). Having written three of the four letters (Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon)  around the same time (AD 60–61), Paul had Tychicu hand deliver the letters accompanied by Onesimus (Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7–9; Philemon 1:10–12).

Unlike 2 Second Corinthians or Galatians where Paul added personal touches about his own life or that of the recipients, the letter to the Ephesians stands out as being more formal. Rather than responding to a theological or moral dilemma, the heart of this letter focuses on what it means to be a Christian… both in faith and in practice … regardless of what is going on in the world.

Paul divided his letter into two main parts consisting of three chapters each, or six chapters in total.

DOCTRINE: OUR RICHES IN CHRIST (Ephesians 1:3-3:21)
The first three chapters focus on faith, discussing the spiritual riches believers possess in Christ:

  • The gift of undeserving grace from God our Father, making salvation possible.
  • The gift of redemption from God the Son, Jesus Christ whose life, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, makes reconciliation and a closer relationship with God our Father possible.
  • The gift of wisdom and guidance from God the Holy Spirit during our spiritual walk, enlightening our heart, mind, and spirt, making a Christ-centered life possible.

DUTY: OUR RESPONSIBILITIES IN CHRIST (Ephesians 4:1-6:20)
The last three chapters provide instructions for living a Christ-centered life. Following Jesus’ footsteps, we are asked to serve the needs of others out of our love and reverence for Christ, with the goal of preserving unity, love, harmony, and victory in all our relationships:

  • Called to walk in unity, we are asked to preserve unity of the Spirit by maintaining a proper attitude and edifying the body of Christ with the grace God has given us.
  • Called to walk in love, we are asked to live a life demonstrating our love for God and for others while living a life as children of light and wisdom.
  • We are called to walk in harmony, preserving harmony in relationships beginning with those who are in our household, with guidelines for maintaining a healthy relationship among husbands and wives; parents and children; and masters and servants.
  • We are called to walk in victory. Equipped with the whole armor of God, we are asked to stand strong in the power of the Lord.

Discussing a wide range of moral and ethical behaviors, the letter to the Ephesians is a powerful “how to” guide designed to help us live a Christ-centered life according to God’s purpose for us. As we continue to grow in faith, complacency often sets in with temptations quickly sidelining us for a time. This letter is an extraordinary gift from Apostle Paul to help us stay on course.

What is one way in which you can live a more Christ-like life?

Epistle to the Galatians

Paul addressed the early Christian communities in Galatia in the ninth book of the New Testament, the Epistle to the Galatian. Composed around 49 AD prior to the Jerusalem Council in 50 AD, some scholars suggest that this may have been Paul’s first letter. The purpose of it was to address the controversy that arose between the Jewish and Gentile Christians as to whether the Mosaic Law was to be observed. While Jewish Galatians strictly observed the Law, Paul argued that Gentile Galatians did not need to adhere to its tenets, particularly circumcision, in light of the New Covenant that was established with Jesus Christ.

Divided into six chapters, Pauls’ letter begins Chapter 1 by delivering a testimony to the Galatians about how he had received the authentic Gospel message from the Holy Spirit who now lives within him. Warning them not to believe false doctrines, Paul states that he is empowered as an Apostle to serve as Christ’s ambassador. In Chapter 2, Paul defends the Gospel, explaining that as a result of the New Covenant with Jesus Christ, there is no longer a need to observe the Mosaic Law.

In Chapters 3 through 5:12, Paul clarifies the New Covenant, declaring that salvation cannot be assured solely by observing the letter of the Law (performing good works). In God’s eyes, salvation is assured by believing in Him, seeking His undeserved grace, and demonstrating through our actions that we are now living a redeemed, righteous life (faith). Rather than abandoning the Law, Paul encourages us to live by the spirit of the Law, using it as a learning tool on how to live a righteous life (Galatians 3:24). Saying we are imperfect, we all have broken many of the laws over time. While we are incapable of strictly obeying all 613 laws, there is still much we can learn from them (Galatians 5:3).

In Chapters 5:13 through 6, Paul continues on this theme, explaining that as a result of the Last Supper and Jesus Christ’s subsequent death, a New Covenant has been established. Whoever believes in Christ and seeks His gift of undeserving grace, the veil separating us from God has been lifted with salvation assured (2 Corinthians 3:16). By having faith in Christ, we are now free from the Law that once enslaved us (Galatians 5:1‭-‬4)

Through acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are rewarded with the incredible gift of the Holy Spirit. Residing within us, the Holy Spirit guides us on our spiritual journey, helping us to follow a righteous path and assuring God’s acceptance (Galatians 5:5‭-‬6). As we choose to listen and act on the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we are less apt to give into our selfish desires and are more likely live a loving, peaceful Christ-like life (Galatians 5:16, 22-25). As one of Jesus’ disciple, Paul encourages us to share this gift and our new life, guiding friends, family, and others towards a righteous path, but warns us not to be tempted by ways of the world that may cause us to stay from our own path (Galatians 6:1‭-‬2).

In closing the letter, Paul reiterates that it does not matter how strictly we observe the Law. What is important is that we become a new person as a result of having faith in and following God as one of His true people. By following this one rule, God rewards us with undeserved grace and blesses us with peace.

Today as I write this, I realize that we are not unlike the Galatians of long ago with the debate continuing among religious denominations as to what constitutes salvation…faith or good works. Central to this discussion is whether the promised New Covenant as instituted at the Last Supper and subsequent crucifixion of Jesus Christ fulfills Old Testament prophesy (Jeremiah 31:31–34). Its fulfillment is substantiated further in the New Testament’s Book of Hebrews, specifically Chapter 8:6-13, which will be discussed in a future post.

Where do you stand? Do you believe in living by the letter of the Law (good works) or by Spirit of the Law (faith)? Why?

2 Corinthians

Deeply personal, 2 Corinthians is a letter that resonates with many of today’s Christians. Written by Paul along with Timothy, the letter reveals the difficult, often painful realities in ministering to and unifying the body of believers in Corinth. Striving to repair the strained relationship he has with the Corinthians, Paul begins his letter reassuring the people of Corinth that they will not have another painful visit, explaining that his recent visit did not go as planned and that he sincerely wanted them to know that he had a deep love for them. The letter continues by describing the role of an Apostle in ministering the New Covenant; making practical arrangements for collecting gifts for the struggling believers in Jerusalem; and defending his Apostleship and integrity. In refuting and condemning false teachers, Paul encourages the faithful to stay committed to the truth which is often a challenge and in closing reaffirms his deep love for them. More than his other letters, this one shows us Paul at his most vulnerable. With his integrity in question, he defends his faith and Apostleship. Drawing from personal experiences, he shares the persecution he suffered in Jesus Christ’s name and the chronic “thorn in the flesh” that keeps him grounded and reliant on God. Recounting how God refused his heartfelt request to remove suffering from his life, Paul embraced suffering saying (2 Corinthians 12:9):

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

Grounded in faith, Paul understood that God is sovereign and in control of every aspect of our life… including suffering. While difficult, he surrendered to God and to the pain that was preparing him for a greater purpose that would be revealed in His perfect timing. Until then Paul found comfort in knowing that when he was at his weakest, he could rely on God as the source of infinite strength. A beautiful lesson we all have an opportunity to learn.

Timing

While the New Testament leaves you with the impression that 2 Corinthians was Paul’s second letter, it was in fact the fourth letter he wrote to the community in Corinth. In 1 Corinthians 5:9, Paul references his first letter saying:
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people.

From there, Paul wrote 1 Corinthians… his second letter…  which Paul asked Timothy to deliver to Corinth. In the meantime, Paul returned to his ministry in Ephesus, where he continued to be concerned about the church in Corinth. Weak and struggling with spiritual immaturity, the community was increasingly tense and divided due to the arrival of an opposing teacher. Presenting himself as an apostle, this opposing teacher questioned Paul’s authority and was misleading the community with false teachings. In an attempt to solve the turmoil, Paul traveled to Corinth. Unfortunately the visit was unsuccessful and only fueled the church’s growing resistance.

Upon returning to his work in Ephesus, Paul wrote a third and painful letter to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 2:3-4) saying:
I wrote as I did, so that when I came I would not be distressed by those who should have made me rejoice. I had confidence in all of you, that you would all share my joy. For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.

Following this painful letter, Paul departed for Macedonia. Once there, he received encouraging news from Titus regarding the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 7:13):
In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you.

This news prompted Paul to write a fourth letter entitled “2 Corinthians”, which he composed near the end of AD 56, possibly in the city of Philippi.

Outline
This letter consists of five sections:

  1. Salutation and Thanksgiving (Chapter 1)
    Paul introduces himself and Timothy as the authors of this letter; praises and thanks God for the comfort He provides to all; and describes changes to upcoming travel plans.
  2. Characteristics of an Apostle (Chapters 2 to 7)
    Paul discusses forgiveness; the role of an Apostle in ministering the New Covenant; and the characteristics of an Apostle. More specifically, he explains that his ministry is not about him; rather it is about sharing the teachings of Jesus Christ alone. Further, that as Christians, they too would experience suffering as he did, but compared to eternity with Christ, the sufferings of this world would be temporary and serve a purpose.
  3. Collections for Jerusalem (Chapters 8 and 9)
    Paul encourages the Corinthians to give an offering to the believers in Judea as they had promised, saying that if they gave generously. they would also “reap generously”
  4. Paul Defends His Authority (Chapters 10 to 13)
    In response to those criticizing him and questioning his integrity and Apostleship, Paul defends his ministry and declares that those who preach a Gospel differing from that of Jesus are false, deceitful teachers who should not be trusted or accepted. In Chapter 12, Paul details the persecution he suffered in Jesus Christ’s name and the mysterious “thorn in the flesh that keeps him reliant on God.
  5. Concluding Exhortations and Benediction (Chapter 13:5)
    Paul closes the letter by challenging Christians to test their faith, saying  … if you want to know if you are a Christian, if you want to know if you are a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, then you must test yourself (2 Corinthians 13:5) “to see if you are in the faith”; examine yourself with Scripture.

Describe a time in your life when you were at your weakest, What strength did God provide you to get you through it?

1 Corinthians

A chief city in Greece, Corinth was inhabited by approximately 400,000 made up of a mix of Greeks, Jews, and Italians, along with other nationalities. Upon his arrival there during his second missionary journey, Paul found Corinth to be a crowded center of world commerce, where sailors, merchants, adventurers, and refugees came to trade their goods as well as to partake in a vast array of questionable cultural practices and beliefs. Out of this mixed population grew many forms of rituals and human degradation with religion and philosophy being prostituted to new lows; intellectual life being placed above moral life; and future life being denied in favor of enjoying present day life to its fullest without restraint. It was in this setting known for its wickedness that Paul founded the church in Corinth.

During his subsequent stay in Ephesus somewhere between 55 – 57 AD, Apostle Paul received word that increasing tension and divisiveness had arisen due to the continuance of immoral behavior amidst his Christian community at Corinth. It is in the first of two letters to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians) that Paul addressed the increasing divisiveness along with ways on how to fix it. With Sosthenes as his scribe, Paul began this letter as he always did first by thanking God for His continued grace and providence. From there, he explained the reason for his letter, “admonishing” his beloved children as a loving parent would do. Urging uniformity of belief (“I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought”), this letter focused on the key issues plaguing the community — divisiveness, immorality, marriage, liberty, and worship — with the goal of bringing the community back to Christian doctrine. As a community, Paul shared that he expected them to become imitators of and to follow the ways of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians. 4:14–16). Further, that as a “wise builder”, God gave him (Paul) the grace to lay a foundation upon which others could build upon (1 Corinthians 3:10). The remainder of the letter delivers some of the greatest passages in the New Testament, including the very familiar “Love Chapter” (1 Corinthians 13) and is remarkable in that it offers some very practical advice that remains relevant today in resolving problems associated with everyday life.

Outline

1 Corinthians is divided into seven parts:

  1. Salutation (1:1–3). In this section of the letter, Paul addresses the challenges in his apostleship with stated resolutions being given to him through a revelation from Christ.
  2. Thanksgiving (1:4–9). In this section of the letter, Paul thanks God for health, a safe journey, deliverance from danger, and good fortune. In addition, it introduces unity, which is the focus of this letter.
  3. Division in Corinth (1:10–4:21). In this section of the letter, Paul addresses the nature of divisiveness in the Corinth community, including facts, causes, and cures. The focus here was relying upon the Holy Spirit, Christ as the foundation for unity, and the Apostles as servants of Christ.
  4. Correction of Immoral Behavior (5:1–6:20). In this section of the letter, Paul admonishes the community of Corinth as beloved children, sharing ways in which to discipline an immoral Brother; resolve personal disputes; and address issues surrounding sexual purity.
  5. Difficulties in Corinth (7:1–14:40). In this section of the letter addresses marriage and celibacy, freedoms, the rights of the Apostles, warns against idolatry, encourages reverence in worship, and spiritual gifts, including prophecy, but the greatest of all gifts is love.
  6. Doctrine of Resurrection (15:1–58). In this section of the letter, Paul addresses the doctrine of Christ’s resurrection, the dead, and the body.
  7. Closing (16:1–24). In this section, Paul closes the letter with remarks about his intentions and efforts in improving the community of Corinth. The letter wraps up with his exhortations and wishes for peace with a prayer request and final grace.

What is some practical advice you learned after reading this letter?

Epistle to the Romans

The Epistle to the Romans is the sixth book of the New Testament. Written by Apostle Paul during the winter of 57–58 AD, this letter represents one of 13 letters or Pauline Epistles written during his travels in spreading the Word of God. Transcribed by Tertius, Paul wrote this letter marking the third stop of his first missionary journey. Having already received contributions from mission churches in Macedonia and Achaia, Paul was staying in Corinth at the home of Gaius in Corinth, Greece prior to heading back to Jerusalem with offerings for poverty-stricken believers.

Addressing the people of the church at Rome (Romans 1:7) who were predominantly Gentile, Paul wrote this letter to prepare the church for his upcoming visit to Rome and his proposed mission to Spain (Romans 1:10-15; 15:22-29). The goal of this letter was to present the basic system of salvation to a church that had not previously received Jesus’ teaching from an apostle. Through this letter, Paul sought to explain the relationship between the Jews and the Gentiles in God’s overall plan of redemption. It was critical that he convey this message to the Romans as the larger group of Gentiles within the church were rejecting Jewish Christians (Romans 14:1). Their rationale? Jewish believers were constrained by dietary laws and sacred days observed under the old law (Romans 14:2-6).

Considered his most important theological legacy or “magnum opus”, it reads more like an essay than a letter, emphasizing Christian doctrine such as sin and death, salvation, grace, faith, righteousness, justification, sanctification, redemption, resurrection and glorification with widespread references to the Old Testament. At the heart of the letter is a beautiful reminder that resonates to this very day… salvation is offered to all of us, not to a select few, through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Outline

  • Introduction (Romans 1:1-15)
  • Righteousness from God (Romans 1:16-17)
  • The Unrighteousness of All People (Romans 1:18 – 3:20)
  • Justification for Righteousness (Romans 3:21 – 5:21)
  • Righteousness Imparted and Sanctified (Romans 6 – 8)
  • God’s Righteousness Vindicated: The Justice of His Way with Israel (Romans 9 – 11)
  • Righteousness Practiced (Romans 12:1 – 15:13)
  • Conclusion (Romans 15:14-33)
  • Commendation, Greetings, and Doxology (Romans 16)

Map of Apostle Paul’s Greatest Missionary Work (Source: Bible.org)

greatest-missionary-work-area-of-apostle-paul

The area of Paul’s greatest missionary work centers around the lands found near the Aegean Sea. Visiting cities including Miletus, Ephesus, Neapolis, Philippi, Berea, Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth and many others, the Biblical irony is that Apostle Paul wanted to first preach the gospel in other areas and that it took a special miracle to bring him to the continent of Europe!

What does salvation mean to you?

The Epistles

Following the book of Acts is a series of books known as the Epistles. Coming from the Greek word, “epistole” meaning a letter or message, each of these letters were written on a scroll. In all, 21 of the New Testament’s 27 books (from Romans to Jude) were originally written as letters to churches or to individuals. With text often dictated to a scribe, the author then reviewed the scroll prior to having it delivered by a trusted messenger. For example,  Timothy was the scribe and messenger for some of Paul’s letters (namely, Colossians, Thessalonians, and Philemon), with Paul signing each one to verify that he was the author. Meanwhile, 1 Peter was authored by Apostle Peter with Silas as the scribe.

All Epistles were written in a similar format. For example, most of Paul’s letters began by introducing himself and his associates then continued by addressing the targeted audience with the main body of the message. Each letter concluded with a blessing, providing notes to individuals within the recipient church.

As mentioned in a previous post, Paul was the most prolific author of the Epistles, having authored 13 of the 21 of such letters; namely, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. A subset of these Epistles (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon), known as Pauline Epistles, were written by Paul while he and Silas were in prison for two years in Rome (Acts 16:16-40). Meanwhile, Paul’s Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) were targeted messages to church leaders to address many teachings and practices of the early church.

The remaining Epistles, known as General Epistles, were written to a universal audience by other authors. While the author of Hebrews is unknown, many attribute the work to Paul. Meanwhile, the Letter of James was authored by Jesus’ half-brother, James; 1 and 2 Peter were authored by Apostle Peter; 1, 2, and 3 John were authored by Apostle John; and the Letter of Jude was authored by another one of Jesus’s half-brothers, Jude.

In summary, the Pauline Epistles are as follows:

  • Romans
  • 1 Corinthians
  • 2 Corinthians
  • Galatians
  • Ephesians
  • Philippians
  • Colossians
  • Thessalonians
  • Thessalonians
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy
  • Titus
  • Philemon

While the General Epistles are as follows:

  • Hebrews
  • James
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter
  • 1 John
  • 2 John
  • 3 John
  • Jude

In subsequent posts, I will delve into each of these letters.

What is the significance behind Jesus’ disciples writing His teachings in the form of a letter?

 

Acts

The fifth book of the New Testament, the Acts of the Apostles reflects the second half of the work began in the Gospel of Luke. A historian and travel companion of Paul, Luke wrote this book somewhere between 80 and 90 AD, describing the early church after Jesus’ death. Like the Gospel of Luke, the Acts of the Apostles (or simply “Acts” as it is often called) continues to address an unknown reader Theophilus while targeting both Jews and Gentiles. Covering roughly 38 years, this book serves as a bridge between Jesus’ life as portrayed in the Four Gospels as well as the ministries of Paul along with the other apostles in continuing the work Jesus began to do and teach, but now through the Holy Spirit. It begins with Jesus’ ascension into heaven in 30 AD and ends with Paul’s imprisonment in Rome in 68 AD, where he awaits trial.

Divided into two parts, this book covers the following:

  1. Early Development of the Church (Acts 1-11). This section focuses on the presence and acts of the Holy Spirit, beginning with the conversion of 3000 people at Pentecost (Acts 2) then continuing with the spread of the Gospel in Jerusalem (Acts 2-8); the conversion of Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9); and the witnessing of Peter (Acts 8-11). For this reason, many theologians refer to this book as the “Acts of the Holy Spirit.”
  2. Paul’s Ministry (Acts 12-26). This section focuses on Paul’s ministry in spreading the Gospel to Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire, and to the rest of the world.

Whether you refer to the book as “Acts of the Apostles”, “Acts of the Holy Spirit”, or simply “Acts”, this book offers all who read it valuable insight into the development of the church during the first century and describes the characteristics of early Christians. Interspersed throughout the book are seven examples of conversions, illustrating the steps the faithful follow, leading to salvation through God’s grace.

What steps did you take in your life that led to your salvation?