“Making Sense of the New Testament”: Romans – Philemon

Paul Writing

Romans – Philemon are letters in the New Testament. They were written by the apostle Paul to various churches and individuals. He wrote in order to keep in touch with the Christians under his care, as well as meet their pastoral needs.

Paul’s letters are significant for a couple of reasons. First, they provide historical background for our study of the New Testament. They reveal what was happening in the lives of first-century churches!

Second, they provide theological exposition of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Paul explains what Jesus accomplished when He died and rose again. Third, they provide practical explanation for living the Christian life.

However, Paul’s letters are sometimes difficult to read. He writes to cities and situations that are unfamiliar to us. His theology and thinking are very advanced. Even Peter admitted, “His letters contain some things that are hard to understand” (2 Peter 3:16)!

Yet these letters are vastly important. Paul explains who Jesus is and how He affects our status before God. He also explains how the Holy Spirit brings us to Christian maturity.

There are 13 letters in the New Testament that were written by Paul:

Romans
This letter was written to the church in Rome. Paul explains the nature of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. He reveals how God will save His old covenant people, the Jews. And he tells Jews and Gentiles how to worship in unity.

1 & 2 Corinthians
These letters were written to the church in Corinth. In 1 Corinthians, Paul addresses issues such as division, sexual immorality, marriage, food sacrificed to idols, his rights as an apostle, worship, spiritual gifts, and the resurrection. In 2 Corinthians, he makes amends and defends his ministry as an apostle.

Galatians
This letter was written to the churches in Galatia. Paul rebukes them for believing that they must observe the Jewish Law. He asserts that salvation is by faith and encourages them to live according to the Spirit.

Ephesians
This letter was written to the churches in and around Ephesus. Paul declares that God has reconciled them to Himself and each other through Jesus. He urges them to live lives of unity, peace, and godliness.

Philippians
This letter was written to the church in Philippi. Paul rejoices over their gift and urges them to stand firm in the Lord.

Colossians
This letter was written to the church in Colossae. Paul combats false, worldly knowledge. He instructs them to live according to the true knowledge of the gospel.

Philemon
This letter was written to Paul’s friend Philemon. Philemon’s slave Onesimus had run away. Paul appeals for Onesimus’ forgiveness and freedom.

Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon are called the “prison letters” because he wrote them while he was in prison.

1 & 2 Thessalonians
These letters were written to the church in Thessalonica. In 1 Thessalonians, Paul recalls his ministry there and exhorts them to live in expectation of Jesus’ second coming. In 2 Thessalonians, he reminds them of the circumstances preceding Jesus’ second coming and warns against idleness.

1 & 2 Timothy
These letters were written to Paul’s protégé Timothy. In 1 Timothy, he gives regulations for the worship, leadership, and oversight of the church. In 2 Timothy, he encourages Timothy to remain faithful to the gospel and fulfill his duties as a pastor. This was his final letter.

Titus
This letter was written to Paul’s protégé Titus. He gives regulations for selecting leaders and what must be taught in the church.

1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus are called the “pastoral letters” because they are filled with advice about how to lead the church.

Which of Paul’s letters is your favorite and why? Share your thoughts with a comment below!

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