The Epistles of Paul – Their Beginning
The Epistles of Paul are letters that were written by Paul to first glorify God. His apostolic commission was to teach doctrine while educating, equipping, and encouraging the church toward unity and spreading the Gospel. Through Paul’s own super-natural journey on the Damascus Road,1 his passionate theology was the illumination of his own conversion. His genuine transformation was profound and proved how God can change one’s life.
Paul’s preaching began in Antioch with Barnabus and Mark. From there, he traveled to places including Cyprus and Perga (now southern Turkey). Eventually his journey led him throughout the regions that reached Rome, Spain, Galatia, Syria, Macedonia (Greece), and several others.
“Paul was the interpreter of Christ, saying what Christ Himself would have said under the circumstances.”2 Each recipient of his letters had their own needs, problems, and reasons for encouraging praise. Paul’s letters to them were tailor-made, yet his words remain true and valuable today.
The New Testament books attributed to Paul’s authorship are: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon.
The Epistles of Paul – Their Messages
The Epistles of Paul each contain distinct messages.
Romans – Paul was himself a Roman and had a sincere love for the believers in his homeland. This letter was an introduction to them as he, as a new man, had not been there since his conversion. The Book of Romans is Paul’s most detailed and clear explanation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The message to the Romans and believers everywhere is a call to righteousness. Paul desired to preach the truth of God’s Word and encourage them to stay on the right path. He tells them about who Jesus is and assures them in Romans 1:7 that they “are loved by God and called to be holy.” Paul tells them that we are all sinners and Christ died for all our sins on the cross; he calls them to deliverance (salvation) through Jesus.
In this letter, Paul also explains about submission to God, spiritual gifts, serving others, and he emphasizes unity.
1 Corinthians – After a quick introduction, Paul addresses unity to this church in Corinth. Due to many problems in the Corinth society and church, he addresses supporting their church leaders, discipline, sacrificing meat to idols, and sexual immorality. In addition, he talks about commitment to Christ, Jesus’ resurrection, and how to live for Jesus in a corrupt society. These lessons are just as pertinent in today’s culture.
2 Corinthians – Paul found himself in a continual struggle with false teachers who misled God’s people. Idolatry and sexual immoralities were prevalent in this culture. He begins by reminding his converts of their relationship and that he had always been truthful and straightforward with them. In essence, because of animosity toward him by corrupt and false teachers, he reluctantly was in need of defending himself against the distortion of Christianity. Throughout this very personal letter, we read of Paul’s stress on love and commitment to each other and to the truth of God’s Word.
Galatians – Legalism is a destructive force and in direct opposition to the liberty God provides. This letter is Paul’s call to freedom and faith in Christ. He stresses the grace God so generously grants those who accept His Son, Jesus Christ through faith.
The Judaizers (Jews who believed Gentiles must obey Jewish law to enter God’s Kingdom), were an extreme faction who tried to oppress other Jews who recognized Jesus as Messiah. The Gospel is for everyone—Jews and Gentiles, young and old, male and female—and God’s grace through faith means true freedom. Jesus did not come “to abolish the law but to fulfill it for us”3 by His sacrifice on the cross.
Ephesians – Paul’s purpose in this letter is to encourage strength in the believers of the Christian faith. He takes them through explanations of the church’s purpose, the importance of spiritually maturing, and unity in the body (the church). They were instructed in areas of maintaining high moral standards, essential ministries within the church, spiritual battle (wearing the whole armor of God),4 and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Paul spent 3 years in the Ephesian church where he met with and carefully guided the church leadership. Timothy is brought to Ephesus to serve as their leader and mentor since Paul was preparing to leave them.
Philippians – This Macedonian city was an enormous encouragement to Paul so he wrote with great affection to say how much he appreciated them. He challenged them to follow the example Jesus demonstrated—being a joyful servant even unto death (Philippians 2:5-11).
Having “joy” is essential in Christian life, but sometimes difficult to maintain in desperate times. However, Paul successfully demonstrated its possibility during his imprisonment. He showed the Christians of Philippi that true joy comes from Christ Jesus alone no matter our circumstances.
Colossians – Christ’s perfect and complete provision for all we need is the theme for this letter. Paul wrote it to a church that had been penetrated by a combination of paganism, secular philosophy, and Christian doctrine. Once again, Paul confronts false teachings and reiterates that personally knowing Christ is sufficient for all we need.