Letters From Paul, A Church Founder

Romans

Reconciliation with God
Paul wanted the Christians in Rome to be strengthened in their trust in God and Christ. It was through complete trust in God that people were reconciled to him. He said that all over the world God's power and good qualities could be seen through the creation, yet people had hearts full of all kinds of evil, which they put into practice. However, only God had the right to pass judgement on them. He explained that the Jewish law taught right and wrong, but some non-Jews obeyed their consciences, which was like obeying the law. The important thing was not ceremonies such as ritually removing part of the body, but having God remove the evil in their hearts. That law showed where people had gone wrong, it didn't make peace between people and God; only complete trust in Jesus Christ could do that. They could not earn forgiveness for wrongdoing. One man, Adam, brought death to humankind by acting against God; in the same way, one man, Jesus, had brought life and liberty to all humanity by doing what God required. Just as Christ died, was buried and came back to life, they should die to wrongdoing, symbolically buried in water by being baptized and then live a new kind of life for God.

Overcoming inner conflict
However, Paul admitted his own conflict: he wanted to do right and wrong at the same time. He could not resist this: only God, who did not condemn anyone trusting in Christ, could provide a way out through his following the Holy Spirit. When they also lived in this way, they would sense that God was their father. Nothing belonging to this world or the spiritual realm, good or bad, could separate them from God's love. Their suffering was part of the labour pains of the whole creation, waiting to see God's children and be set free from the natural law of decay.

Paul's longings for the Jewish people
Paul longed deeply for the Jews, God's chosen people, his own race and that of Jesus, to see and accept the truth. However, God chose to whom he would reveal the truth and show mercy and who would be stubborn and receive his anger, in order to demonstrate the full extent of his power. God made Israel reject the Messiah for a time so the message would spread throughout the world, but in time he would take back Israel.

Instructions on how to live
Paul urged them to give themselves completely to God's service: just like different parts of the body, they had different purposes but must work together directed by the head, Christ. They must not despise themselves or others because of differences in abilities or function. They must empathise with each other and be hospitable to all. They must keep the laws and pay their taxes because God had appointed the authorities, and generally live blameless lives.

Matters of conscience
They must not judge each other for differences in matters of conscience, such as whether to eat meat, drink alcohol or keep one day special. God would be the judge, not them. But if one felt free to do something, he should not offend others' conscience: better to give it up altogether. All should aim to uplift and build up the others.

Quotes from Romans
1:20The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.
6:23The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
9:18therefore has he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardens.
10:13Whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
12:15Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
12:20If your enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for in doing so you shall heap coals of fire on his head.
16:17-18Mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine ... and avoid them. They ... serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.




1 Corinthians

Paul begs the Christians at Corinth to heal their quarrels and splits.

God's wisdom is different from human wisdom
God's plan of Christ's death seemed foolish to the Greeks, who loved philosophy, and the Jews wanted something spectacular, but God did things differently from humans: he cut through the philosophy, human strength and worldly importance by choosing the opposite way, and so liberated people, making them his. Paul said he couldn't say more about God's wisdom because they were not mature enough.

Respect for each other
When they held a meal to remember Jesus's last Passover, they should not grab food while others were still hungry: this was no way to share with Christ. They were not to pass judgement on each other, as God would judge everyone, neither were they to despise others, because all the gifts were from God anyway. There were many different gifts and many ways of serving, but one Lord.

Ostracism for serious offences
One of their members had been sleeping with his stepmother: they must expel him so he would change his ways. They must ostracise any member who was sexually immoral, greedy, idolatrous, slanderous, a drunkard or a thief. But this didn't apply to unbelievers.

Marriage and divorce
Married couples should fulfil each other's needs and not refuse each other. Paul thought single people better off, but that it was better to get married than be troubled by unfulfilled sexual urges. Christian couples were not to divorce: if one partner did not believe the Christian should not initiate divorce.

Civil and social matters
Any disputes among them should be settled by God's people. No one need change their social status because of their new faith.

Paul said he had the right to make his living from teaching God's message, but instead supported himself with secular work, and he lived like the people he was teaching. He warned to stay clear of idolatry: they should not eat in idols' temples but need not ask whether meat in the market or at a party had been offered to idols. Food known to have been offered to idols should not be eaten if anyone present might feel that was participating in idol worship.

Quotes from 1 Corinthians
1:25The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
7:8-9I (Paul) say to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I, but if they cannot contain, let them marry, for it is better to marry than to burn.
8:13If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world stands, lest I make my brother to offend.
10:31Whether therefore you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
11:3,9,11The head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man ... neither was the man created for the woman, but the woman for the man ... neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man.
14:8If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself for battle?
15:14If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
15:51-55Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep (die), but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible ... then shall be brought to pass the saying ... "Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your sting, O grave, where is your victory?”



2 Corinthians

Paul's previous letter had made them sad, although he meant to show his love. The person they were told to ostracise in that letter they must now welcome back so that he didn't become too discouraged.

Where God's treasure is kept
The ability to teach God's message to all came from God. His spirit was in those Paul was writing to, for everyone to see, and was far greater than Moses, whose face shone brightly when the law was given. He had to cover his face, but since then the Jewish people had had their minds veiled so they couldn't see the truth in Moses' and the prophets' books. But God now kept his treasure in containers made of earth1. This body was temporary, like a tent, but their eternal home, which they could not see, was being kept for them.

Eventually everyone would be judged by Christ. Paul said he had stopped judging anyone according to human standards because anyone with Christ's life was completely new and reconciled to God. Those who believe must not get into partnership with those who didn't as they would be pulling in different directions.

1God formed humans from earth.

Sharing wealth with fellow believers
Paul had been collecting for the poor Christians in Judea (southern Israel). He told them how eagerly groups elsewhere had given even more than they could afford. They should give also, remembering that Jesus gave up the riches of being God to live as a man in poverty, in order to share his riches with them. Their giving should result in equality.

Authoritarian teachers
Paul warned against eloquent people who had been ordering them about and teaching a different message from his, and said even Satan can make himself look like one of God's special messengers. Paul could have been authoritarian and boastful, if that's what they wanted! But God had given him something painful to remind him that he was weak and only got his strength from God's spirit. His wish was that they would become perfect in following God.

Quotes from 2 Corinthians
8:9You know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might be rich.
9:7God loves a cheerful giver.
11:13-14Such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ; and no marvel, for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
12:7Lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me.




Galatians

This letter warns against those who said that Christians must adopt Jewish rituals and customs (such as circumcision) whereas complete trust in Christ was the only thing that would purify them, whether they were Jewish or not. The religious law was imperfect, and a preparation for the message of undeserved acceptance of all believers by God. They were to be free of the minutiae of those customs and instead follow God's Spirit with loving, joyful lives.

Quotes from Galatians
3:6Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.
6:7,9Be not deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows that shall he also reap ... and let us not be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.




Ephesians

God had always planned to unite everything under Christ. Those receiving this letter had God's mark of ownership - the beginning of the fulfilment of God's plan. His power was demonstrated in bringing Jesus back to life and now worked in his people giving them life and reconciling individuals and ethnic groups to each other and all to God, so they can approach God. The letter urges people to turn from anything inconsistent with living in the light. It details ideal family relationships and enjoins strengthening oneself through faith.

Quotes from Ephesians
4:26Be angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.




Philippians

Paul thanked the church for their help and expressed his love for them. He said that his imprisonment had worked to spread the Good News more because everyone was talking about why he was there. He urged unity in purpose and care for one another, and exemplary lives. He warned against thinking outward signs and rituals important instead of right living through complete trust in God, and told them to get their joy from union with Christ, and not be distracted by physical cravings.

Quotes from Philippians
4:4Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice.
4:7The peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
4:8Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.




Colossians

God had rescued his people from the power of darkness through Christ, his son, who shared his nature and through Christ's death on the cross he had made peace between himself and the whole universe. He had forgiven their wrongdoing and wiped the slate. Wrong deeds come from the heart, not from what people eat, drink or touch. Their lives should be centred on God, not worldly concerns. Live in peace, love and humility with one another.

Quote from Colossians
3:2Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.




1 Thessalonians

Paul praised them for holding to the faith and assured them that their persecutions were of the same kind as Jesus's. He told them not to be concerned about the believers who had died: God would bring them back to life at the end of time. The chief angel would blow the trumpet and shout, and the Lord would appear to everyone. All Christians, first the dead then the living, would rise to meet him in the clouds never to part again. Be ready for this great event.

Quotes from 1 Thessalonians
5:2-3The day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night, for when they shall say, "Peace and safety” then sudden destruction comes upon them.
5:18In everything give thanks.
5:21Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.




2 Thessalonians

Continuing with the subject of the Lord's coming, this second letter said that at that time God would bring suffering and destruction on the wicked and honour on those that believe in him. Prior to that, the Wicked One would set himself up with many false miracles and deceive those who did not belong to God. They must be steadfast because God had rescued them to share in his glory. Finally, Paul exhorted them to work hard.

Quotes from 2 Thessalonians
2:10-12They received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved, and for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie, that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.




1 Timothy

Timothy, a church leader, was to warn against those who waste hours arguing about inconsequential matters of religious law. The law was for criminals and evildoers. In contrast, this message was about God's power and mercy in sending Jesus to rescue people who were doing wrong. Paul outlined proper behaviour and dress in Christian gatherings, and detailed the required character of those to be chosen as church leaders and helpers, and their wives.

Quotes from 1 Timothy
2:3-4God our Saviour, who will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
2:5There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.
5:18The scripture says, ""You shall not muzzle the ox that treads out the corn” and "the labourer is worthy of his hire (pay)”
6:5-6men of corrupt minds ... supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw yourself. But godliness with contentment is great gain.
6:8Having food and raiment, let us be therewith content.
6:10The love of money is the root of all evil.




2 Timothy

Paul encouraged Timothy to tell God's message in all circumstances and to put up with any hardship entailed, like a good soldier would. Any suffering would be more than compensated for by God. Timothy must avoid worthless disputes and instead become the type of vessel most useful to God. He should correct people gently so they could change their ways. Paul reminded him that at the end people would be violent, arrogant, insulting and slanderers but outwardly religious.

Quotes from 2 Timothy
1:10Our Saviour Jesus Christ, who has abolished death, and has brought life and immortality to light.
2:19The foundation of God stands sure, having this seal, "The Lord knows them that are his” and "let everyone that names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”




Titus

Paul outlined the character of a good church leader: humble, sober and not a money grubber. He explained suitable behaviour for Christians of different ages and both sexes so that their message did not fall into disrepute.

Quotes from Titus
1:7-8A bishop must be blameless ... not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; but a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate.




Philemon

Onesimus, Philemon's runaway slave, had been converted through Paul. This letter is an appeal to Philemon to welcome him back to his household without holding anything against him.

Quotes from Philemon
vv 17-18If you count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself. If he has wronged you, or owes you ought, put that on my account.


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