The third division of the New Testament includes the 13 books called the Pauline Epistles – which are letters that Paul wrote. Many of the letters are written to churches which Paul had visited or heard about during his 3 missionary journeys. As it turns out, the issues that troubled churches 2,000 years ago, are so similar to the issues of our churches today: immorality, false teachers, disunity, the need for wise and godly leaders, and more. The final four letters are written to individuals – pastors and friends of Paul.
Here is a general overview of each of Paul’s letters…
Romans – Righteousness – The Romans Road
Written to the church in Rome (which Paul had not yet visited) to explain God’s plan of salvation. Some have called a selection of verses the Romans Road as they lay out how to be right (righteous) before God: Romans 3:10, 3:23, 5:8, 6:23, 8:1&2, 10:9 & Acts 2:38
1st & 2nd Corinthians – Warnings & Replying to False Teachers
Written to the church in Corinth (a large, immoral city in Greece). 1st letter warns against factions, immorality, jealousy, lawsuits, marital issues, misuse of spiritual gifts and public worship, etc. Chapter 13, the Love Chapter, teaches us how to love supremely. Chapter 15, the Resurrection Chapter speaks of the hope we have for a future resurrection. In 2nd Corinthians Paul defends himself against false teachers attacking his integrity and credibility.
Galatians – Faith & Freedom in Christ
Written to the churches in the region of Galatia (Turkey) to correct the teaching that the new Gentile Christians had to follow the whole Old Testament law to be saved. Instead, with God’s grace and our faith in Christ we can be free from the Law and the power of sin. We are not free to disobey Christ or practice immorality. We are to use our freedom to serve God and others. See Galatians 5 – Fruit of the Spirit
Ephesians – One Body of Christ – The Church
Written to the church in Ephesus which Paul had visited several times, and even stayed for 3 years during one of his trips. Paul encouraged the church to remember they were the body of Christ, to keep Christ as the head and work together as a body does, also to stand strong against evil forces with the full armor of God (chapter 6).
Philippians – Rejoice!
Written to the church in Philippi when Paul was in jail. He was thanking the church for a gift they had sent while also encouraging them to remain strong when persecuted and to be joyful in all circumstances. The 4 chapters include ‘joy’ (or a version of the word) 16 times.
Colossians – In Christ Alone
Written to the church in Colosse to stress again that the church must not mix worldly and pagan beliefs with the good news of Jesus Christ. He wrote about Jesus, the Son of God – the head of the church and the only way to God’s salvation.
1st & 2nd Thessalonians – Jesus is Coming Again
Written to the church in Thessalonica (Greece) which Paul had only visited for 3 weeks before being forced out by a violent mob. Timothy had reported to Paul that the church was doing well despite the persecution – but needed a few clarifying points. One of which was they must control their bodies in holy and honorable ways. Also, false teachers were teaching that Jesus had already returned to Earth so Paul gave more details on what Jesus’ return would be like (which everyone would see and know) and said to keep working until then.
1st & 2nd Timothy – Paul’s Words to Young Pastor Timothy
Perhaps some of Paul’s last letters – one more opportunity to pass along godly council to one who would continue the work of making disciples. Timothy had been a helpful companion on some of Paul’s missionary journeys, and Paul had sent Timothy to pastor the church in Ephesus. Now Paul was writing to help solve some of the church’s problems, including legalism and false teaching. He also listed qualifications for church leaders.
Titus – Paul’s Words to Church Leader: Titus
Titus had travelled with Paul and Timothy. Then Paul left Titus in Crete (an island in the Mediterranean Sea) so that he could, “straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town as I directed you.” (1:5). And, since the people of Crete were known for being liars, evil brutes and lazy gluttons (1:12), that was a big job to do. Paul described again the qualities to look for in a church elder. He told what to preach to various people and to teach God’s people to do good (a lesson we still need today for sure).
Philemon – Paul Urges Philemon to Forgive Onesimus
Philemon was a wealthy landowner and the church in Colosse met in his house . His slave Onesimus had run away – and met Paul while he was in house arrest in Rome. Paul shared the good news with the run away and Onesimus accepted Jesus – and knew he had to return to Philemon. Paul wrote to Philemon interceding on Onesimus’ part – asking him to forgive Onesimus and to welcome him back as a helpful brother in Christ. We are reminded of our need for forgiveness and our need to forgive, and that all are brothers and sisters in the body of Christ.
There are so many timeless truths, warnings and nuggets of encouragement in Paul’s letters. And they are even more meaningful when we remember they were written by the man Paul of the book of Acts, as he was teaching and preaching about the Son of God as found throughout the 4 books of Gospels and prophesied of during the Old Testament. God’s Word has a beautiful, orderly progression to prepare God’s people for salvation and to love and serve Him and others. And Paul’s Letters are a wonderful piece of the puzzle.
Keep Reading His Word!