The Apostle Paul writes the longest of his letters to a community of Christians in Rome, announcing that he plans to visit them, to be mutually encouraged, and to be sent on by them to Spain. To accomplish the goal of having the support of the Roman Christians, Paul sets forth an account of the gospel that he preaches–particularly about the saving work of God in Christ–and spells out its implications for the Christian life. In addition, he writes concerning the salvation of the Jewish people, discusses some particulars of Christian conduct (life under the Roman government, living together in the midst of disagreements, and fulfilling the law of love). He speaks of his plans for travel as an apostle and sends greetings by name to some twenty-six persons known to him in Rome.
The book of Philemon is a Prison Epistle (letter written while in prison), which Paul wrote circa 61 A.D. The key personalities of Philemon are Paul, Philemon, and Onesimus. It was written to Philemon as a plea to request forgiveness for his runaway servant Onesimus, who was a new believer in Jesus Christ. The book of Philemon consists of only one chapter.
This artfully composed letter centers around two early Christian hymns (or confessions) that proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Around these two centers, the Apostle Paul identifies the reality of life in Christ for the Philippian Christians who will soon experience persecution for the sake of the gospel, just as Paul experiences this reality in his own imprisonment. The letter also emphasizes the joy that life in Christ brings to all believers in spite of the outward circumstances of persecution and life in the world.
Ephesians proclaims the unity of Jew and Gentile in one household of God and spells out real-life implications of the gift of reconciliation with God and with one’s fellow human beings. After announcing the priority of God’s action with the news that “by grace you have been saved through faith,” the letter exhorts readers to live mature Christian lives by speaking the truth in love, by separating from pagan influences, and by being subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Paul writes to the Galatian Christians out of deep concern that they are forsaking the gospel that he has preached and are listening instead to the message of certain Jewish Christian evangelists who are arguing that Gentile Christians must be circumcised according to Jewish law. Paul insists that people are justified by faith in Christ rather than by keeping the requirements of Torah. By faith, they participate in the death and resurrection of Christ and now live as God’s children and heirs of God’s promises. By the Spirit’s leading, this life of faith is no longer marked by sinful works of the flesh but bears fruit in freedom that serves the neighbor through love.
In response to a letter from the Corinthians making various inquiries about worship practices and ethics, as well as a personal report from “Chloe’s people” (1 Corinthians 1:11) that the congregation Paul has founded has fallen to quarreling, Paul writes to the Corinthians, directing them to approach their ethical dilemmas and resolve their interpersonal conflicts on the basis of their unity as members of the body of Christ. The letter recasts themes apparently popular among the Corinthians, such as knowledge, wisdom, and spiritual gifts, in light of the reversal of status implied by the news of “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).
The book of 1 Thessalonians is a Pauline Epistle (letter from Paul). The Apostle Paul wrote it about 52-54 A.D. and it was one of his earliest written letters. The key personalities in this book are the Apostle Paul, Timothy, and Silas. Paul wrote this letter to strengthen and encourage the church in Thessalonica. To encourage and hearten the believers, Paul chose to emphasize the second coming of Jesus Christ. Throughout this letter, Paul focused on the principles of Faith, Hope, and Love.
Paul’s relationship with the Corinthian congregation has deteriorated. In 2 Corinthians, the apostle seeks to rebuild his relationship with the Corinthians, to defend his own integrity as a trustworthy and competent servant of Christ, and to refute what he perceives as the claims by other evangelists of background and gifts that are superior to his own. Paul also encourages the Corinthians to continue collecting funds for the Jerusalem churches. To do these things, Paul makes extensive use of autobiography, writing both about hardships and mystical experience. His tone changes dramatically throughout this letter, shifting from well-reasoned argument, to appeals for affection, to attacks on opponents. Because of the changes in tone as well as puzzling jumps between topics, many interpreters believe that what we call 2 Corinthians is actually a combination of multiple letters from Paul to the Corinthian church.
The book of 2 Thessalonians is a Pauline Epistle (letter from Paul). The Apostle Paul wrote it about 52-54 A.D., several months after his first letter to the church in Thessalonica. The key personalities in this book are the Apostle Paul, Silas, and Timothy. Paul wrote this letter to reemphasize the coming return of Jesus Christ. Some of the people in Thessalonica had thought that Jesus had already returned, this letter was written to correct any misunderstandings.
This carefully composed letter centers on the theme of Christ’s sovereignty over all rulers and powers in the universe. The letter is structured in a way that draws its hearers or readers into its center point through a literary pattern resembling a set of concentric circles. It begins and ends with opening and closing greetings. Prayers of thanksgiving and intercession come after the opening greetings and again before the closing greetings. At the structural and thematic center, the letter proclaims Christ’s sovereignty over rulers and powers and promises its audience that God “made you alive together with him,” that is, with Christ himself.