Paul wrote many of the letters in the New Testament, most dealing with issues brought to him from the churches, but others wrote some as well - like Peter, James and Jude. Each week, participants are provided a Learner's Guide to help them grow and learn. The following are each week's fill in the blanks of those guides.
People have been fascinated with this book from the time it was first penned by John. We will do a quick scan that will hopefully unpack many of the mysteries.
THE AUTHOR: “Paul was known for many years as SAUL OF TARSUS.
He was born a JEW in the city of Tarsus of Cilicia, thus making him also a ROMAN CITIZEN.
He was not only a Jew, but by his own testimony, he was a PHARISEE and a son of a PHARISEE (Acts 23:6) – a Hebrew of Hebrews (spoke Hebrew or Aramaic), was of the tribe of Benjamin (Phil. 3:4-5), and had evidently been taught the trade of tent-making as a youth (Acts 18:3).
He studied to become a RABBI under the well know Gamaliel I, a noted teacher in the School of Hillel (Acts 22:3). In his studies, he had advanced in the religion of the Jews beyond many of his fellows as one extremely zealous for his ancestral traditions (Gal. 1:14).
He was present when Stephen was stoned to death (Acts 7:58-83) as punishment
for being a follower of Christ. In Paul’s campaign against Christians, both men and women, he traveled with letters of arrest from the high priest and went to other cities to waste the church of Jesus Christ (Acts 26:10-11; Gal. 1:13). It was on one of these missions that Saul met Jesus and was converted while on the road to Damascus.
“Paul was also a GREEK by culture having evidently received a Greek education (cf. Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12). He shows acquaintance with Greek culture and their thinking. As such a student, he was familiar with many of the sayings of classical and contemporary writers. In addition, Paul was a Roman citizen, being Roman born (Acts 22:28). Because of this, he could appeal to Caesar as a citizen of Rome while imprisoned in Philippi (Acts 16:37-39).
“Consequently, Paul was uniquely qualified to be the one chosen to carry the message of the gospel to the Gentiles. Paul could easily say, “I am become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some” (1 Cor. 9:22). – the late J. Hampton Keathley, III, ThM., Dallas Theological Seminary.
INTRO TO THE LETTERS:
Paul’s letters can be broken down into two main groups: letters written to CHURCHES (9 of them: Romans to 2 Thessalonians) and letters written to INDIVIDUALS(4 of them: 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon). Four of Paul’s letters were written during his first imprisonment (Acts 28), so they are often referred to as the prison epistles – Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. I do not believe Paul wrote Hebrews, so I’ve decided not to include that letter in this section.
Virtually all of Paul’s letters were written in response to issues that came to his attention, and usually were an answer to an inquiry sent to him seeking God’s perspective on an urgent matter. Regardless of why he wrote them, these letters are clear applications of faith for followers of Jesus. We also must keep in mind that these letters aren’t merely the opinion of the great Apostle but also came from the mind of God through the Spirit of God.
Note in Acts 28:25, Paul acknowledged the Holy Spirit can speak through God’s chosen servants.
In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul addresses the problem of divorce and remarriage among believers. At the close of that discussion, he differentiates between his personal opinion and that of God’s answers. 1 Corinthians 7:39-40
A LOOK AT THE LETTERS: ROMANS
Written to: THE CHURCH IN ROME
Theme: SALVATION IN CHRIST. Paul’s letter to the church at Rome is the only systematic presentation of Christian theology in the Bible. While others have bits
and pieces, this letter contains the fullest expressions of what Christians believe.
Favorite Verses: 3:23; 5:1, 6-9; 6:3, 23; 7:18; 8:1, 6, 9, 26, 28-29, 31-32, 38-39; 10:9-10, 13, 17; 12:1-2; 13:1-4, 8; 14:4, 7, 12, 17; 16:17.
Written to: THE CHURCH IN CORINTH
Theme: The HOLY SPIRIT EMPOWERS BELIEVERS to overcome the lure of the
world so the church conducts itself in the attitude of holiness. Corinth was an
immoral city dominated by the Temple of Aphrodite. Many of the temple
prostitutes were getting saved and Paul addresses problems with unholy lifestyles
and manifestations of the Holy Spirit in worship.
Favorite Verses: 1:3, 18; 2:2, 9, 14; 6:19; 10:13, 23; 12:4-7, 13, 27-28; 13:4-8, 13; 14:40; 15:3.
Written to: THE CHURCH IN CORINTH
Theme: Refutation of FALSE TEACHERS and the defense of his own Apostleship, as he will have to do in other letters, also. The most personal of all of Paul’s letters. Plus, he follows up from his first letter about a very unusual problem – a man who is living with his father’s wife.
Favorite Verses: 1:3-4; 5:5, 6-11, 16-17, 21; 6:14; 12:19; 13:5, 14.
Written to: THE CHURCH IN GALATIA
Theme: STAY FAITHFUL to the gospel and do not follow the teachings of the
Judiazers. Paul contrasts the true gospel of grace with the false gospel of
Favorite Verses: 1:10; 2:20-21; 4:6-7; 5:1, 9, 13, 16-18, 25; 6:1-5, 14.
Written to: THE CHURCH IN EPHESUS
Theme: Paul wrote this letter to ENCOURAGE BELIEVERSand explain the nature and purpose of the church. He uses this letter as an opportunity to compare our
relationship with Jesus to the marriage between a husband and wife.
Favorite Verses: 1:3-4, 13-14, 18-19; 2:1-2, 8-10, 18; 3:20-21; 4:1, 7, 11-12; 26-27, 32; 5:18, 22-33; 6:4, 11-13, 18-19.
Written to: THE CHURCH IN PHILIPPI
Theme: Paul emphasizes the TRUE JOY that comes from being saved. He wrote about humility, self-sacrifice, unity, and Christian living. The church at Philippi was
very generous to the Apostle Paul, and loved him deeply. They were concerned
about what might happen to the gospel if Paul were to be martyred.
Favorite Verses: 1:21; 2:1-11, 13-15; 3:3, 8, 13-15, 20; 4:4, 6-7, 8-9, 12-13, 19.
Written to: THE CHURCH IN COLOSSAE
Theme: Paul presents CHRIST AS GOD in the flesh, Lord of all creation, and the head of the Church. Paul also addresses the problem of false teachers promoting legalism.
Favorite Verses: 1:13, 15-16, 18, 28; 2:8-9; 3:1, 12, 16-17, 23
1 & 2 Thessalonians
Written to: THE CHURCH IN THESSALONICA
Theme: Paul assures believers of the RETURN OF CHRIST and corrects their
misconceptions about the resurrection and the second coming. He focuses on
courage in the face of persecution and being prepared for the coming of Christ.
Favorite Verses: 1 THESSALONIANS 1:5; 4:3, 13, 17-18; 5:2, 9, 23; 2 THESSALONIANS 3:6, 10
1 & 2 Timothy
Written to: TIMOTHY, Paul’s protégé that he referred to as his son in the faith (1 Timothy 1:2).
Theme: Paul's first letter is a HANDBOOK OF CHURCH ADMINISTRATION and
discipline. In his second letter, the apostle encourages Timothy to be bold in the
face of opposition and persecution and to remain faithful in sound doctrine and in his work.
Favorite Verses: 1 TIMOTHY 2:1, 5, 8, 12; 3:1, 5, 8-9; 4:12; 5:17, 6:7
2 TIMOTHY. 1:7; 2:15; 3:15-16; 4:2-3
Written to: TITUS, a Greek convert, who was Paul's representative to the churches on Crete.
Theme: Paul's letter tells him how to ORGANIZE & OVERSEE the churches.
Favorite Verses: 1:15-16; 2:3-5; 3:1, 5-7
Written to: PHILEMON, a personal friend of Paul's living at Colossae.
Theme: Paul ENCOURAGES FORGIVENESSfor Philemon's slave, Onesimus, who
may have stolen from his master and run away. By writing this letter, Paul
encourages believers everywhere to treat all people with Christian love and
fellowship. This letter is a great example of the profound change for good that
Christ makes in all our relationships.
Favorite Verses: 1:18, 21
The other letters of the New Testament were written by at least 5 different people.
DATE: The date of its writing is circa 65 A.D.
PURPOSE: It is clear Hebrews was written to ENCOURAGE JEWISH BELIEVERS not to give up on Christianity and return to Judaism. Hebrews 10:23-25
Hebrews addresses three separate groups:
Group 1: believers in Christ,
Group 2: unbelievers who had knowledge of and an intellectual acceptance
of the facts of Christ, and
Group 3: unbelievers who were attracted to Christ, but who ultimately rejected
Our new covenant with God through faith in the Lord Jesus includes the once-for-all sacrifice for atonement (Hebrews 10:10) and direct access to the throne of God for all who are in Christ. Hebrews also gives us encouraging examples of God's "faith heroes" who persevered in spite of great difficulties and adverse circumstances (Hebrews 11).
Five solemn warnings we must heed:
1. The danger of neglect(Hebrews 2:1-4),
2. The danger of unbelief(Hebrews 3:7–4:13),
3. The danger of spiritual immaturity (Hebrews 5:11–6:20),
4. The danger of failing to endure (Hebrews 10:26-39), and
5. The inherent danger of refusing God (Hebrews 12:25-29).
In Hebrews we find a magnificently rendered portrait of our Lord Jesus Christ—the Author and Finisher of our great salvation (Hebrews 12:2).
The author of this letter is James, also called “the Just,” who is thought to be the brother of Jesus Christ (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3). James was not a believer (John 7:3-5) until after the resurrection (Acts 1:14; 1 Corinthians 15:7; Galatians 1:19). He became the head of the Jerusalem church and is mentioned first as a pillar of the church (Galatians 2:9).
James is probably the oldest book of the New Testament, written perhaps as early as A.D. 45,
PURPOSE: Some think that this letter was written in response to a misinterpretation of Paul’s teaching regarding faith called Antinomianism. The purpose of James was to explain the proper relationship of saving faith with deeds of righteousness and to encourage believers to remain faithful despite momentary sufferings.
OVERVIEW: The Book of James is directed toward Jewish Christians scattered among all the nations (James 1:1). The book of James emphasizes good actions flow from those who are filled with the Spirit, as Paul describes in Galatians 5:22-23.
KEY VERSES: James 1:2-3; 1:19; 2:17-18; 3:5; 5:16b
AUTHOR of both letters: SIMON PETER
DATE: 1 Peter was likely written between A.D. 60 and 65.
PURPOSE: 1 Peter was written to the dispersed believers throughout the ancient world who were under intense persecution to encourage and warn them.
OVERVIEW: Although being persecuted is a terrible experience, Peter wrote we
are to count it a privilege to suffer for the sake of Jesus
DATE: 2 Peter was written between A.D. 65 and 68.
PURPOSE: Peter was alarmed that false teachers were beginning to infiltrate the churches. In his second letter, he called on Christians to grow and become strong in the faith so that they could detect and combat the spread of apostasy.
OVERVIEW: He challenged them to grow up in their faith by developing CHRISTIAN VIRTUES. (2 Peter 1:5-9). He also denounced false teachers and described their conduct, their condemnation, and their characteristics (2 Peter chapter 2). He said they ridiculed the Lord’s Second Coming (2 Peter 3:3-7). Peter taught that for believers, the Second Coming is the incentive for holy living (2 Peter 3:14).
AUTHOR: JUDAS – not Judas Iscariot, but Judas, the half-brother of Jesus.
DATE: A.D. 60 TO 80
PURPOSE: The Book of Jude is an important book for us today because it was written for the end times, for the end of the church age.
OVERVIEW: According to verse 3, Jude was anxious to write about our salvation; however, he changed topics to address contending for the faith.
Jude is filled with references to the Old Testament, including the Exodus (v. 5); Satan’s rebellion (v. 6); Sodom and Gomorrah (v. 7); Moses’ death (v. 9); Cain (v. 11); Balaam (v. 11); Korah (v. 11); Enoch (vv. 14,15); and Adam (v. 14).
KEY VERSES: Jude 3; 17-19; 24-25
AUTHOR: 1, 2, and 3 John have from earliest times been attributed to the Beloved Disciple, the Apostle John.
DATES: 1, 2 & 3 John were all likely written between A.D. 85-95.
PURPOSE: The key purpose of 1 John is to define faith and assurance believers of their salvation. 2 John is an urgent plea for the readers to show their love for God and Jesus by obeying the commandment to love each other and live their lives in obedience to the Scriptures. 2 John is also a strong warning to be on the lookout for deceivers who were teaching that Christ had not actually risen in the flesh. The purpose of 3 John is threefold: 1. To commend and encourage his co-worker, GAIUS, in his ministry of hospitality to the itinerant messengers who were going from place to place to preach the Gospel of Christ; 2. To warn and condemn the behavior of one DIOTREPHES, a dictatorial leader who had taken over one of the churches in the province of Asia, and whose behavior was directly opposed to all that the apostle and his Gospel stood for; 3. To commend the example of DEMETRIUS.
OVERVIEW: 1 John - False spiritual teachers were a big problem in the early church. Because John's letter was about the basics of faith in Christ, it helped his the churches to determine who was honestly a Christian and who wasn't. 2 John - John addresses "the chosen lady and her children," which refers to the church of all the ages and her children, the local churches. It is largely concerned with an urgent warning concerning deceivers who were not teaching the exact doctrine of Christ and who maintained that Jesus did not actually rise in the flesh but only spiritually. 3 John - John is writing to this much-loved brother in Christ, Gaius, a layman of some wealth and distinction in a city near Ephesus. He highly commends Gaius' care and hospitality to his messengers whose mission was to take the Gospel from place to place.
The key word in 1 John is "knowledge." With its related words, knowledge occurs 13 times in 1 John.
KEY VERSES in 3 JOHN; 3 John 2; 4; 11