Significance of Apostle Paul’s Epistles
Apostle Paul’s Epistles emerge as a profound source of spiritual wisdom and inspiration. It would appear that there is not one religious truth that has not been illuminated and elucidated by his works. Moreover, these truths are presented not as some abstract, theological perception, but as a reality of faith that stimulates a person toward righteous living.
Responding to the actual problems that confronted the early Christians of the first century, Apostle Paul’s Epistles serve as valuable additions to the New Testament. They explain in practical terms how to master the unavoidable ordeals in life, how to realize high Christian ideals, and what constitutes the essence of Christian endeavor. They describe in a living voice, the way of life and endeavors of the first Christians, the establishment of Christian communities, gives the characteristics of the purpose of Christ’s Church in Apostolic times.
Apostle Paul’s Epistles are equally valuable in their autobiographical notations. They show how in his own personal life, the Apostle applied these high Christian principles that he preached. As a consequence, this assisted him in his missionary work from which he drew his spiritual strength.
The first element of success in Apostle Paul’s missionary activity was his capability to concentrate his enormous talents, his spiritual and physical powers toward one goal – serving Christ.
The second element was his total commitment to Christ’s directive grace, which inspirited him and gave him strength to overcome all outward obstacles and personal weaknesses. God’s grace helped him to convert a significant part of the Roman Empire to Christ.
Through the prayers of Apostle Paul, may Christ enlighten and be merciful to us!
Based upon notes from:
Holy Protection Russian Orthodox Church
2049 Argyle Ave. Los Angeles, California 90068
Editor: Bishop Alexander (Mileant)
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Our Studies into
The Epistles of Paul 2
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https://lifehopeandtruth.com/ is the source for many of the notes for these articles. Authors of each original article are named. Emphasis and color changes background colors to emphasize are mine and will include my own commentary and additions throughout all articles. (sn=Stephen Newdell)
Bible studies like these help you learn and develop insight much faster than attempting to read and figure it all out for yourself. I seriously recommend you put in at least a half hour in the morning and another half hour near the end of your day for this study. Read the material here and as you go, compare it to Bible verses and sections or chapters to which these authors refer. Do this alone, undistracted by classes, other people, pastors giving sermons and so on. Get into this alone every morning and late afternoon or evening. If you do not have a printed Bible go to www.BibleGateway.com and read any of the translations. I best appreciate the New International Version because it is in plain English and the translators have taken pains to do the very best they can with the work.
From notes and article by
Pastor Roy Demarest
The apostle Paul wrote many letters (epistles) that have become part of the New Testament. How would it be if you could study with Paul? You almost can because that is what these Epistles of Paul were intended to do!
The casual Bible reader might be surprised to discover that the person who wrote more books of the Bible than any other was not Moses, Solomon or any of the original apostles. It was the apostle Paul. He is credited with writing at least 13 books in the New Testament; 14, if the book of Hebrews is included. His writings have been scrutinized by more scholars and students of the Scriptures than perhaps any other Bible author.
The Epistles of Paul are essential to read and study if we want a fuller understanding of the Holy Scriptures. But how much do you understand about these books? Why were they written? To whom were they written? What were the issues that Paul was dealing with in these many letters?
Epistle means a “letter.” Some of the epistles were written from jail cells; some are addressed to individuals; and some are addressed to congregations. Paul’s letters were mostly dictated to an amanuensis (secretary), except for the letter to the Galatians, at least part of which Paul says he wrote with his own hand (Galatians 6:11).
Paul wrote these letters over approximately a 15- to 20-year period between about A.D. 48 and 67. The estimates of the dates these letters were written will vary slightly from authority to authority, but they were within this general time frame.
It is worthy of your note that in that time frame in Europe even most kings could not read or write, note even write their own name! It was probably in the 1400’s that most royalty of Europe and England began to learn to read and write and it was mid 1500’s before literacy began to filter down to the general public – wealthy enough to afford any education. Half the population still were illiterate. I had to do a bit of digging to learn that much and found more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_Middle_Ages
Going back further as the Roman Empire became more corrupted and went into a slow decline toward collapse more people starved, education was unavailable and by the period around 600 AD only a very few of the wealthy classes could read and write. Fortunately for all of us, the Apostle Paul was able to dictate to educated young men with good eyesight who could write for him as he thought or received direct prophetic reverie from The Holy Spirit thereby giving to us the gift of wisdom such as the rest of the world had never known!
These letters provide us insight into the congregations of the Christian community in the first century. What can we learn from these 14 letters that were preserved for us under direct inspiration from God (2 Timothy 3:16)? In studying them carefully, we can find answers to many questions, such as:
- Who were these people to whom Paul wrote?
- What did they believe?
- What challenges did they face?
- How did Paul’s teachingsdiffer from the Old Testament practices?
- What was important to these early Christians?
- What were their church congregations like?
- Why were they so severely persecuted?
- Are Paul’s letters applicable for us today?
Listing the Epistles of Paul
The Epistles of Paul appear in the Bible in the following order:
Hebrews (Hebrews does not name its author, but it has traditionally been assigned to Paul.)
Subjects and summary
These letters were all written for different reasons and may cover a multitude of subjects. Here are just a few of the topics that Paul addresses in these letters:
- Divorce and remarriage.
- Speaking in tongues.
- Christian conscience.
- Spiritual gifts.
- The resurrection.
- A woman’s role in the Church.
- Conduct at church services.
- The place of God’s law in relation to salvation.
Let’s now look at a very brief summary of Paul’s 14 letters.
Romans proclaims that Jesus Christ is the Savior of all men and women, whether Jew or gentile. It shows the way to everlasting life through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Both 1 and 2 Corinthians were written to the church at Corinth and deal with the need to recognize and put sin out of our lives. The congregation is instructed to love one another and to look forward to the glorious return of Jesus Christ to this earth.
In Galatians Paul was dealing with some who were trying to convince gentile Galatians that they needed to be circumcised to be made right with God. Paul shows that we can only be justified and forgiven by faith in Jesus Christ. Then we need to live in the Spirit, producing the fruit of the Spirit, which doesn’t break the law.
Ephesians explains how it is Christ who brings all people together. When we embrace Christ, we will put off the old man and embrace a new way of life, the way of love, the way of helping one another.
Philippians is a letter to the congregation at Philippi, encouraging them to continue with their good works and dedicated service to God. The congregation at Philippi was a constant source of encouragement to the apostle Paul.
Colossians is an admonition to resist some of the pagan, philosophical ideas of the times, like asceticism and the ideas that developed into Gnosticism. The way to God is through Jesus Christ and obedience to His moral law of love.
The two letters to the Thessalonians deal with the issue of when Jesus Christ will return. Many expected Christ to return at that time, but 2 Thessalonians reveals that the end time will be preceded by certain events that have not occurred yet.
The pastoral epistles of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus were written to ministers to address issues directly affecting the congregations they served, such as qualifications for elders and deacons; helping widows; and avoiding useless arguments, foolish disputes and all contentions.
In the very short letter to Philemon, a member in Colossae, Paul tries to encourage reconciliation between Philemon and a slave who had run away from him and become a Christian.
Hebrews does not give the name of its author, but some early traditions attributed it to Paul. Hebrews deals with the making of the New Covenant between God and His people. The Old Covenant between God and the descendants of Israel is now being replaced with a New Covenant made possible by a new High Priest, that is, Jesus Christ. Instead of physical blessings for obedience to the letter of the law for the descendants of Abraham, people of all nations can have the opportunity to have everlasting life through Jesus Christ.
Good news for all ages
These 14 letters are vitally important for all Christians to understand. As we continue reading together, we will go into much greater detail about the messages and instructions contained in each of these Epistles of Paul.
The apostle Paul was one of God’s greatest servants and was used by Him to boldly proclaim the good news of the coming Kingdom of God to the world in the first century and, through these epistles, to people in all ages.
Chronology of Paul’s Journeys and Epistles
by David Johnson
An understanding of the approximate chronological order of events in Paul’s ministry can be very valuable as a tool for the study of Acts and Paul’s epistles.
It is most helpful to know the year of the beginning or end of the reigns of political rulers that are mentioned in the text. Some of the more helpful dates in studying the events in Paul’s ministry are the death of King Aretas of Syria in A.D. 40, the beginning of the reign of Claudius Caesar as emperor of Rome in 41, the death of Herod Agrippa I in 44, the succession of Felix’s reign as procurator in Judea by Porcius Festus in 60.
Here is a summary of the approximate years of Paul’s journeys and his epistles. (Note: Other chronologies might also be reasonable and genuine Bible students could come to differing conclusions on some of these things.)
|Paul at Damascus||A.D. 35-38|
|First Journey||A.D. 44-46|
|Second Journey||A.D. 50-53|
|Third Journey||A.D. 54-58|
|Imprisonment in Judea||A.D. 58-60|
|Voyage to Rome||A.D. 60-61|
|Imprisonment in Rome||A.D. 61-63|
|Post-Imprisonment Journeys||A.D. 63-66|
|Final Roman Imprisonment||A.D. 66-68|
|1 Thessalonians||A.D. 52|
|2 Thessalonians||A.D. 53|
|1 Corinthians||A.D. 55-57|
|2 Corinthians||A.D. 56-57|
|1 Timothy||A.D. 63-65|
|2 Timothy||A.D. 66-67|
|*Authorship of this book is contested.|
Roman Emperors From 27 B.C. to A.D. 96
(31 or) 27 B.C. – A.D. 14 Augustus
A.D. 14-37 Tiberius
A.D. 37-41 Caligula
A.D. 41-54 Claudius
A.D. 54-68 Nero
Year of the Four Emperors
(First three emperors were murdered or executed. The year ends with Vespasian.)
A.D. 68-69 Galba
A.D. 69 Otho
A.D. 69 Vitellius
A.D. 69-79 Vespasian
A.D. 79-81 Titus
A.D. 81-96 Domitian
Chronology of Paul during the book of Acts
The crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ occurred in the spring of A.D. 31 (all dates A.D.).
Shortly after, the formal beginning of the Church of God took place on the Day of Pentecost—June 17, 31 (Acts 2).
We are first introduced to Saul, who would later be called Paul, at the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:58-59).
In about 35 Jesus Christ spoke to Saul (Paul) on the road to Damascus. Paul was led blind to Damascus (Acts 9:8). After the visit by Ananias, Paul then went to Arabia and returned to Damascus, the total time in Arabia and Damascus being three years (Galatians 1:17-18; Acts 9:22-23). In 37 King Aretas took control of Damascus when Emperor Tiberius Caesar died. Paul departed from Damascus at night, being let down from the city wall in a basket (Acts 9:25; 2 Corinthians 11:32). This could not have been after 40, the year that King Aretas died.
Paul met with Barnabas, Peter and James in Jerusalem (Acts 9:26; Galatians 1:18-19).
Paul was in Tarsus perhaps around 38-42 (Acts 9:30).
Peter visited the house of Cornelius (Acts 10).
Barnabas went to Tarsus to find Paul and brought him back to Syrian Antioch where they stayed for one year (Acts 11:26). This must have been between 41 (the beginning of Claudius Caesar’s reign) and 44 (Acts 11:28). Believers were first called Christians at Antioch (Acts 11:26).
James, the brother of John, was killed by Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:2).
Herod Agrippa I died in 44 (Acts 12:23).
The first journey
Paul’s first journey began when Paul, Barnabas and Mark set out from Antioch (Acts 13:4). This journey started after 44 and ended a long time before 50, since Paul stayed in Antioch a “long time” after the trip (Acts 14:28).
Paul’s first journey
They left Antioch for Seleucia and sailed to Cyprus, a large island 100 miles off the Syrian coast. There they went to Salamis and Paphos, where Paul confronted Bar-Jesus the sorcerer (Acts 13:4-6).
Then they sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, which is now southern Turkey. From here, John Mark returned to Jerusalem.
At Antioch in Pisidia (not to be confused with Antioch in Syria), Paul and Barnabas turned to the gentiles (Acts 13:46).
Then it was on to Iconium, where they abode a “long time” (Acts 14:3); Lystra, where Paul was stoned, but lived (Acts 14:19); and Derbe. Then they retraced their steps back through Lystra, Iconium and Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 14:21).
Paul and Barnabas went throughout Pisidia, Pamphylia, then to Perga and Attalia, and sailed back to Antioch in Syria (Acts 14:24-26).
The first journey ended in Antioch, Syria, where Paul and Barnabas stayed a long time (Acts 14:28).
The dates for the events from 50-60 are found by counting backwards from the succession of Felix’s reign as procurator in Judea by Porcius Festus in 60.
In about 49 Paul and Barnabas went to the council in Jerusalem 14 years after Paul’s conversion (Galatians 2:1-9; Acts 15:2).
Judas and Silas returned with Barnabas and Paul to Antioch (Syria), where they continued some days (Acts 15:35-36), possibly in the winter of 49-50.
The second journey
Paul’s second journey possibly began in the spring of 50. Paul took Silas through Syria and Cilicia (now southeastern Turkey).
Paul’s second journey
They came to Derbe and Lystra, where they found Timothy, who went with Paul and Silas throughout Phrygia and Galatia. But they were forbidden by the Spirit to go into Asia or Bithynia. They passed through Mysia to Troas, where Paul received a special vision of a Macedonian man pleading with him to come help the Macedonians. They sailed past the island of Samothrace, and then to Neapolis, the port city near Philippi in Macedonia (now northern Greece).
At Philippi God called Lydia and the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:14-34).
Passing through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where Paul taught in the synagogue for three Sabbaths, though the total time of his stay must have been longer.
After teaching some in Berea, Paul departed ahead of Silas and Timothy, southward into Achaia (now southern Greece), to Athens, where he stayed only briefly.
Paul then made his first visit to Corinth, where he stayed a year and a half (Acts 18:11). This may have been from the spring of 52 to the fall of 53. Here Paul met Aquila and Priscilla, who had just come from Rome, from which Claudius Caesar had banished all Jews in 49. Silas and Timothy rejoined Paul.
First Thessalonians was written from here in about 52 (1 Thessalonians 3:1-2, 6). We know that it was written from Corinth, and not from Athens, because Silas and Timothy had already rejoined Paul (1 Thessalonians 1:1; Acts 18:5). Second Thessalonians was also written from Corinth. We know that it was soon after the first letter because, as was the case with the first letter, Silas was with Paul when 2 Thessalonians was written.
After Paul left Corinth, there is no further mention of Silas traveling with Paul, though a Silvanus (Silas is the shortened form of Silvanus) is mentioned as serving with Peter in 1 Peter 5.
Paul went to the port of Cenchrea and sailed with Aquila and Priscilla across the Aegean Sea to Ephesus. Aquila and Priscilla stayed there where they would later meet Apollos (Acts 18:19, 26).
Paul sailed on to Caesarea and then went down to Antioch in Syria, where the second journey ends. Paul stayed a while (Acts 18:23). This may have been the winter of 53-54.
The third journey
Paul’s third journey began with Galatia (central region of Turkey) possibly in the spring of 54 and then Phrygia (Acts 18:23).
Paul’s third journey
When Paul arrived at Ephesus, he stayed for three years (Acts 20:31), probably from the fall of 54 to the fall of 57. Paul met disciples of John the Baptist. He preached in the synagogue for three months (Acts 19:8). He disputed daily in the school of Tyrannus for two years (Acts 19:9-10), so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word. Paul sent Timothy and Erastus ahead into Macedonia, but Paul stayed in Asia for a season (Acts 19:22).
Paul wrote 1 Corinthians near the end of this stay in Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:8, 19), probably in 57, just prior to the Days of Unleavened Bread (1 Corinthians 5:8). It was not written with Timothy, whom Paul had sent ahead into Macedonia (Acts 19:22).
Paul foresaw his route of travel for the next four or so years in Acts 19:21-22. This agrees with his plans in 1 Corinthians 16:1, 3, 5, 8-10. Note how the “great door” opened to Paul and “many adversaries” in verse 9 compares with the events in the Ephesian amphitheater in Acts 19:23-41. In 1 Corinthians 3:6 Paul says, “Apollos watered.” This refers to Apollos teaching in Corinth when Paul was at Ephesus (Acts 19:1).
Paul had rejoined Timothy when 2 Corinthians was written (2 Corinthians 1:1). Paul had come to Troas and continued to Macedonia (2 Corinthians 2:12-13; 7:5), where he was joined by Titus (2 Corinthians 7:6, 13). This seems to correspond to Acts 20:1. Paul also wrote of a third visit to Corinth in 2 Corinthians 13:1 and 12:14. So 2 Corinthians was most likely written in the fall of 57 from somewhere in Macedonia (northern Greece), possibly at Philippi.
In 2 Corinthians 12:1-4 Paul said he knew a man (probably himself in a vision) who 14 years earlier had ascended into heaven. From 57, going back 14 years puts the event in 43, before Paul’s first journey, probably when he was at Antioch in Syria.
After going through Macedonia (northern Greece), Paul came to Achaia (southern Greece) where he stayed three months (Acts 20:2-3) and made his third visit to Corinth. This is where he spent the winter of 57-58 (1 Corinthians 16:5-8). Romans was written at this time (Romans 15:23-26; 1 Corinthians 16:1-3).
Going back to Macedonia (Acts 20:1), they were at Philippi (northeastern Greece) in the spring (April-May) of 58 during the “Days of Unleavened Bread” (Acts 20:6).
Then they sailed to Troas, where a young man fell out of a window while Paul was speaking and was raised from the dead (Acts 20:7-12).
Then Paul went to Assos, Mitylene, Chios, Samos, Trogyllium and Miletus (now in southwestern Turkey). From here, Paul addressed Ephesian elders whom he had called to meet him (Acts 20:17-38) in the spring of 58 (Acts 20:16).
Sailing to Cos, Rhodes and Patara and passing on the south side of Cyprus, they came to Tyre (which is now in Lebanon), where they stayed one week. Then they went south to Ptolemais and to Caesarea, where they stayed several days (Acts 21:10). Then Paul went to Jerusalem, where the third journey ended.
When was Galatians written?
We have not yet discussed when Galatians was written. Galatians was written when Paul was not in prison and when neither Silas nor Timothy was with him (Galatians 1:1). It seems it was written after the council in Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-32; Galatians 2:1-10) and after Paul’s second visit to the region on his second journey in about 51 (Acts 16:1-6). Since they were “turning away so soon” from grace (Galatians 1:6), it must have been before the prison years of 58-63.
So it could have been written when Paul was alone in Athens in the winter of 51-52, which would make it Paul’s first letter. But this is unlikely, since Paul was only in Athens a short time (Acts 17:15).
Or it could have been written from Antioch between Paul’s second and third journeys in the winter of 53-54 (Acts 18:22-23). This is logical since he would be unable to get to them in the winter but he would be coming to them soon on his third journey.
It could also have been written in the winter of 57-58 from Corinth, where Paul wrote Romans.
Or it is possible that it was written from Ephesus during Paul’s three years there from 54-57, where he could have gotten the unfavorable report about the churches in Galatia (Galatians 1:6). However, it seems likely that if he was that close and the travel was relatively easy, he would simply have gone there instead of writing.
(Note: Some scholars date Galatians as early as the late 40s, shortly before the Jerusalem conference.)
The third journey ended at Jerusalem in 58. Paul was dragged from the temple and beaten by Jews, preached to them (Acts 22:1-21), and was brought before the Sanhedrin. Jesus Christ appeared to Paul, telling him that he would go to bear witness to Him in Rome. A group of 40 Jews vowed to kill Paul (Acts 23:12-13).
In Acts 22:12-16 Paul gives a testimony that is in such opposition to Jewish thought they want to kill him as a blasphemer and corrupter of Judaism. I suggest you read the entire chapters Acts 22 and 23.
Acts 22:12-16 NIV 12 “A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. 13 He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him.
14 “Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’
I, Dr. Newdell, want to congratulate you for taking the time and making the effort to read this thus far. You obviously want to know much more of the Bible and background. This is wonderful. The Lord told us if we love Him we should keep his commandments. We can’t keep what we don’t know he told us, so you are demonstrating your will to diligently study and learn much more.
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