Content and Context (part 8) – Paul’s letters

This week we tackle the thickest, most chocked-full book of the Bible: Romans. There is no way to adequately present the content and context of this book with six bullet points (although I gave it a try). In it, we find the foundations of our theology, an understanding of Israel’s place in the New Covenant, and connections to much of the Old Testament. I don’t necessarily like reading Romans because there are very few stories, but when I study it, I find so much to “chew” on and so many areas in which to grow spiritually.

After Romans, the Corinthians and that set of four small books (You know, the ones we learned using acronyms such as ‘Go Eat PopCorn’ or ‘General Electric Power Company’) feel comforting and simple. If you want to dig into Paul’s writings with your children, I suggest you start with Ephesians or Philippians. They are straightforward, and Paul employs some word pictures that help us all understand our faith. What is more, it’s not too hard to memorize big chunks of verses here such as The Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20) or the Christ hymn (Philippians 2:5-11).

Did I leave out something important? What changes or additions would you suggest? Let me know in the comments section below.

PAUL’S LETTERS (part 1)

Romans

  • About: system of salvation, God’s big plan
  • God is knowable and He has a clear plan for our salvation.
  • Big stories: God judges everyone, Romans Road, victory for believers
  • Author: Paul
  • Time: about mid-way through Paul’s ministry; prob. ad57
  • “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” Romans 1:16-17

1 Corinthians

  • About: cultural influences in church, Christian/church behavior
  • God intends for his church to represent His purity, mercy, and love.
  • Big stories: church practices, spiritual gifts, “Love is…”
  • Author: Paul
  • Time: shortly before Romans; prob. ad55
  • “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” 1 Corinthians 1:25

2 Corinthians

  • About: the challenges and joys of Christian ministry, God’s high standards
  • God’s calling involves both blessings and difficulties.
  • Big stories: jars of clay, ministry of reconciliation, Paul’s “pedigree”
  • Author: Paul
  • Time: shortly before Romans but after 1 Corinthians; prob. ad55
  • “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:17-18

Galatians

  • About: justification by faith, freedom in Christ
  • God provides salvation to all people, separate from the law.
  • Big stories: Paul’s calling and apostleship, faith v/s works, fruit of the Spirit
  • Author: Paul
  • Time: possibly the earliest Pauline letter we have; ad48/49 or 53
  • “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:26-28

Ephesians

  • About: the purpose and goals for the church
  • God wants His followers to know and follow through with His plans.
  • Big stories: unity of all believers, husbands & wives, armor of God
  • Author: Paul
  • Time: while imprisoned in Rome; ad60
  • “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17b-19

Philippians

  • About: perseverance, joy, humility
  • God’s presence and blessing are unaffected by human circumstances.
  • Big stories: suffering for the Gospel, Christ’s humility, everything a loss in comparison to Jesus
  • Author: Paul
  • Time: while imprisoned in Rome; ad61
  • “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:20-21

Colossians

  • About: refuting false teaching
  • God’s provision of Christ is completely sufficient for our salvation.
  • Big stories: supremacy of Christ, freedom in Christ, life in Christ
  • Author: Paul
  • Time: while imprisoned in Rome; ad60 (same as Ephesians)
  • “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.” Colossians 2:9-10

 

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