LESSON 10 7/2/2016
PAUL, THE WRITER
Suggested Hymns: G.H.B. 153, 197
Devotional Reading: 2 Pet 3: 14-18
Topic for Adults: A Legacy of Letters
Topic for Youths: Speaking Through Time and Space
Topic for Intermediates: Living Letters
Scripture Lesson: Eph. 3: 1-3; Phil. 1: 12-14; Col. 4:18; 1 Tim. 6: 13-16; 2 Tim. 1: 13-14; Tit. 1: 5
Memory Verse: The salutation of Paul with my own hand, which is a sign in every epistle; so I write. (2 Thess. 3:17) NKJV
DAILY DEVOTIONAL READING
Writing On Doctrinal Issues
1 Cor. 7:1-3; 11:23-26; 1 Thess. 4:13-18
Thank God for Apostle Paul who set out a lot of the Christian doctrines in his writings which we follow today. Hardly is there any doctrine that was not covered in his writings to the early church. Leaders are writers. Even when writers die, they still speak through their writings. There would have been a lot of confusion in Christendom today without the effort of Paul to address those doctrinal issues.
While leaders should be encouraged to write today, we have seen a high level of laziness on the part of some authors or writers. If you buy a Christian book today, the possibility of having half of the volume filled with Bible quotations printed in bold is very high. If you remove the Bible passages from such books, the book becomes empty.
Point of Emphasis: Follow sound doctrines.
Prayer Point: Lord, raise up dedicated and serious writers in our midst to write for posterity.
Following his dramatic conversion to Christianity on the way to Damascus , Paul spent virtually all of his time traveling around the Roman world, teaching and planting churches. As he travelled, he was writing letters back to the established churches. Most of Paul’s letters were written to keep up his converts’ spirit, answer their questions, and resolve their problems. Paul’s writings provide the first written account of Christian spirituality and reveal Paul as a remarkable human being: dedicated, compassionate, emotional, sometimes harsh and angry, clever and quick-witted, supple in argumentation, and above all possessing a soaring, passionate commitment to God, Jesus Christ, and the Church.
NOTES ON THE TEXT
PART 1: THE PRISON EPISTLES (EPH. 3:1-3; PHIL. 1: 12-14; COL. 4:18)
The Prison Epistles refer to four letters in the New Testament written by the apostle Paul during his time under house arrest in Rome between approximately 60—62 AD. They include Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.
The first three of these epistles were written to specific local groups of Christians in the cities for which the books were named. Ephesians was written to the believers at Ephesus and covers areas of doctrine (chapters 1—3) and application (chapters 4—6). Of great importance is this letter’s emphasis on salvation by grace through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), church unity (Ephesians 4), and spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:10-18).
Philippians was a mostly positive letter written to thank the Christians in Philippi for their financial support of Paul’s missionary work. Philippians 1:19-26 addressed Paul’s circumstances at the time of his writing as well as his hope to see them again. Interestingly, this letter was written with the help of Timothy, who would later receive two personal letters from Paul that are included in the New Testament (1 and 2 Timothy).
Colossians, also written with the help of Timothy, was addressed to the Christians in Colosse. It speaks of the deity of Jesus, Jewish rituals that some had attempted to add to the Christian faith, as well as Paul’s request for prayer to advance the Gospel message (Colossians 4). Philemon, in contrast, was a short, personal letter written on behalf of Onesimus, a slave of Philemon, who had run away from his master. He landed in Rome , had turned to the Lord under Paul’s preaching, and for a while had been assisting Paul in his ministry (Philemon 10-15). Paul broadly suggested to Philemon the propriety of setting him free, and promises to pay out of his own purse anything that Onesimus might owe Philemon (Philemon 17-21). We learn indirectly from Colossians that Colosse was the home of Onesimus (Colossians 4:9) and therefore, of Philemon his master. The latter was a man of great benevolence, and of apparent wealth. A church met in his house (Philemon 2-7).Philemon offers perhaps the strongest apologetic in the New Testament regarding how Christians viewed slavery in their world and implications for Christians who desire to help in the freedom of slaves today.
Despite Paul’s situation during the writing of the Prison Epistles, he was not hindered from sharing the Gospel message with others or writing letters to encourage individuals and churches. Acts 28:30-31 tells us, “He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” Even in this difficult context, God was at work to empower Paul to write letters that changed the lives of many during his time and continue to change more down through the ages.
PART 2: THE PASTORAL EPISTLES (1 TIM. 6: 13-16; 2 TIM. 1: 13-14; TIT. 1: 5)
The Pastoral Epistles include 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus, three books written near the end of apostle Paul’s life. They are called the Pastoral Epistles due to their focus on matters of church leadership and church life.
1st Timothy was directed to Timothy, who was in Ephesus at the time. The book addresses Paul’s testimony (1 Tim. 1), praying for governing leaders (1 Tim. 2), qualifications of Elders and Deacons (1 Tim. 3), warnings about those who would leave the faith (1 Tim. 4), instructions about various groups within the Church, including widows (1 Tim. 5), and instructions about false teachers and contentment (1 Tim. 6).
2 Timothy is likely the last of Paul’s writings. In it, Paul shares his deep personal friendship with Timothy as well as his views regarding the end of life. He wrote about not being ashamed of Christ (2 Tim. 1), discussed being a good soldier of Christ who is approved by God (2 Tim. 2), warned of godlessness in the last days and the importance of the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3), and challenged Timothy to preach God’s truth (2 Tim. 4).
Titus was an associate of Paul who served as a leader of the Church in Crete. The book’s contents include qualifications for Elders (Titus 1), the importance of teaching sound doctrine (Titus 2), and the importance of living out faith in Christ in serving others (Tit. 3). Both 1Timothy and Titus touched on the role of women in local church ministry (1 Tim. 2:11-15), and those of Elders as well (1 Tim. 3:1; Tit. 1:5-9). The Pastoral Epistles have proven to be of great value to young ministers as their contents focus on many of the regular issues faced in church congregations. From leadership to prayer, to caring for those with various needs in the local church, these writings offer both instruction and inspiration to help in times of need.
Also of tremendous importance is that despite his difficult circumstances and pending death, Paul displayed a positive attitude toward suffering and death. He continued to live with joy, served others, and shared his faith as he looked forward to his eternal home with Christ.
PART 3: THE OTHER EPISTLES (ROM. 1: 1-2; 1 COR. 1: 1-2; 2 COR. 13-14; GAL 1: 6; 1 THESS. 4: 1-2; 2 THESS. 3: 14-15)
The remaining six epistles that do not fall within the earlier classifications are: Romans, 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, 1 Thessalonians and 2 Thessalonians. The epistle to the Romans was written in Corinth just before Paul’s last journey to Jerusalem was begun. In it, the apostle shows that the ground of our justification before God is our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as distinguished from works of the law.
The first letter to the Corinthian church was written to correct various kinds of misconduct which had sprung up among the members of this church since Paul had left them. For this reason, it is one of the most valuable of all the epistles for the regulation of life and behaviour of a church. 2 Corinthians was written after Paul had heard through Titus the effects of his first epistle to the same church. This is the saddest of all the epistles in the New Testament. It reveals the depths of sorrow and suffering through which this great apostle was continually wading in the prosecution of his mission to the Gentiles.
There is little in the epistle to the Galatians to indicate the time or the place at which it was written. But from the epistle, we learn several interesting facts about how the Galatian Christians first received Paul and their present alienation from him. In opposition to certain false teachers, Paul teaches in this epistle, as in Romans, that the ground of our justification before God is obedient faith, and not works of law.
1 Thessalonians was written during Paul’s first visit to Corinth, described in Acts 18:1-18. It is about the earliest of Paul’s epistles. The epistle shows that the Thessalonian church suffered greatly from persecution, but that it was conducting itself in such a manner as to spread the light of the gospel abroad through surrounding communities (1 Thess. 1:2-10). These faithful disciples were in trouble respecting their deceased brethren; and this led Paul to give them one of the plainest possible lessons about the resurrection of the dead, that by this information they might comfort one another (1 Thess. 4:13-18). 2 Thessalonians seems to have been written soon after the first to the same Church; for the persecution mentioned in the first was still in progress (2 Thess. 1:2,3), and the condition of the Church in general was unchanged. The most conspicuous matters discussed in it are the fate of the wicked at the second coming of the Lord, and the coming of “the man of sin” here first mentioned by the apostle (2 Thess. 2:3). It also contains some very plain and emphatic instructions as to how the church should deal with those members who walk disorderly.
PART 4: THEMES IN PAUL’S EPISTLES (2 COR. 4:5; 1 THESS. 1:9-10; ROM. 5:1; EPH. 2:8)
Of the many themes and topics the apostle Paul addresses throughout his 13 epistles, the five perhaps most prominent among them are: The Lordship of Christ, Resurrection, Justification, Grace, and Faith. The Lordship of Christ is the underlying premise for the entirety of Paul’s ministry, and is evident throughout his letters, perhaps not better summarised than when Paul said, “If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed” (1 Cor. 16:22). In fact, the term “Lord” is cited almost some 300 times throughout Paul’s writings. Paul anchored every part of his teaching on the Lord Jesus Christ, emphasised, for example in his averting of personal focus when he said, “For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.” (2 Cor. 4:5).
Paul’s training as a Pharisee gave him the added advantage of believing in the Resurrection, identically as Jesus taught and demonstrated. Paul’s insight into the resurrection is remarkable, and possibly attributed to no other source than the revelations apparently given to him. (2 Cor. 12:7; 1 Thess. 1:9-10).
Paul further develops Jesus’ resurrection teachings, hinging his entire preaching ministry on the Resurrection of Jesus, saying in effect that if Jesus wasn’t resurrected, we are all believing a myth (1 Cor. 12:15-23). In verse 20 Paul asserts what the gospel accounts tell, that: “But now Christ is risen from the dead…”
Justification reoccurs throughout Paul’s writings, with “justified” and “justification” occurring some 24 times in his epistles. No better is this illustrated than when Paul said, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Romans 5:1) Paul showed that of and by ourselves we are as good as dead; only through Jesus’ sacrifice are we “justified” in the eyes of God. The penalty of sin has been paid in our stead. Paul asserts that no one is justified by his/her works or law keeping. (Rom. 3:20)
Paul is renowned for his “grace and peace” greetings from the Lord Jesus Christ that appear in practically all his salutations and some of his benedictions. In fact, the word “grace” appears some 90 times throughout Paul’s epistles. Perhaps best known is Paul’s assertion that, “For by grace you have been saved through faith...” (Ephesians 2:8). Here, grace, salvation/justification and faith are interwoven. Another related passage in this sense is Paul’s assurance of, “being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 3:24).
Faith is believing God, and showing the evidence of that belief through action. The word “faith” occurs some 169 times in Paul’s writings, thrice in one verse: “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “the just shall live by faith.” (Rom. 1:17)
Paul’s influence on Christianity is profound. With his writing constituting about a half of the New Testament books, His thoughts as captured in his epistles are arguably more significant than those of any other New Testament author. How grateful are we that the centuries old gap between the first and the 21st Century is bridged by the epistles of this one man whose writings are as relevant today as they were to the primary recipients of his letters.
(1) Why did Paul write the epistle to the Philippian Church?
(2) Mention one characteristic of Paul as revealed in his letter to Philemon.
(3) Paul’s pastoral letters list the qualities that anyone aspiring to leadership position in the church should possess. Which of these qualities do you personally possess?
(4) How is a Christian justified according to Paul?
(5) Which of Paul’s letters addresses the present situation in your church the most?