Overview of Paul’s Epistles (letters)

This week we’re going to do an overview of Paul’s letters called the Epistles. In order to do that, we first need to take a look at how the New Testament books all fit together. Here’s a little song that can help you to memorize all the books of the New Testament. If you can memorize this song, you’ll know these books by heart for the rest of your life – and it’s SUPER-EASY!

Books of the Bible New Testament song

Now let’s look at how all the books in the New Testament were put into their order:

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are the four “Gospels”. These books are unique to the New Testament in that the names of the books are the names of the authors of each. So they are the ‘Gospel according to Matthew’, the ‘Gospel according to Mark’, etc. Taken together, the four Gospels tell the history of Jesus’ birth, ministry, death, and resurrection.

Next we have the book of Acts, also called the “Acts of the Apostles”. This is a book that not only shows the birth of the early Christian church immediately following the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but it also relates for us some of the sermons and doctrine from the Apostles – namely Peter and Paul. This book was written by Dr. Luke, the same man that wrote the Gospel of Luke.

Together, these 5 books are known as the “Historical Books”. They all tell a history. The remaining 22 books in the New Testament are all together known as “Epistles”. There are two groups of them: the “Pauline Epistles” and the “Non-Pauline Epistles”.

The Pauline Epistles were all written by the Apostle Paul either to groups of people in a local church (Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians) or to individual people (1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon). To help you remember them, notice that the letters to the churches come first, and then the letters to the individual people.

The “Non-Pauline Epistles” were written by a variety of authors, but were all letters to others – again either individuals or to churches.

The first of these is Hebrews and it’s authorship is widely debated, but may have been the Apostle Paul so it’s easy to remember that it comes after Paul’s letters.

The others Non-Pauline Epistles were written by James, Peter, John, and Jude. The very last book – Revelation – is like a bookend to the Bible since it teaches us about the final days of earth. (The other bookend is Genesis which is the first book of the Bible and describes the dawn of God’s creation of the heavens and the earth.)

Now let’s look at a very brief and simple summary of the Pauline Epistles (as taken from a piece written by Matt Slick from carm.org called New Testament Books )

Romans –A systematic examination of justification, sanctification, and glorification. Examines God’s plan for the Jews and the Gentiles.

1 Corinthians – This letter deals with factions and corrections due to immorality, lawsuits, and abuse of the Lord’s Supper. Also mentions idols, marriage, and the resurrection.

2 Corinthians – Paul’s defense of his apostolic position.

Galatians – Paul refutes the errors of legalism and examines the proper place of grace in the Christian’s life.

Ephesians – The believer’s position in Christ and information on Spiritual warfare.

Philippians – Paul speaks of his imprisonment and his love for the Philippians. He exhorts them to godliness and warns them of legalism.

Colossians – Paul focuses on the preeminence of Jesus in creation, redemption, and godliness.

1 Thessalonians – Paul’s ministry to the Thessalonians. Teachings on purity and mention of the return of Christ.

2 Thessalonians – Corrections on the Day of the Lord.

1 Timothy – Instructions to Timothy on proper leadership and dealings with false teachers, the role of women, prayer, and requirements of elders and deacons.

2 Timothy – A letter of encouragement to Timothy to be strong.

Titus – Paul left Titus in Crete to care for the churches there. Requirements for elders.

Philemon – a letter to the owner of a runaway slave. Paul appeals to Philemon to forgive Onesimus.

It is incredible and absolutely unique that God created the Bible to all fit together into one Book that compares to no other. There are 66 individual books of the Bible and scholars believe these books were written by at least 39 authors over a period of 1,500 years. The Bible speaks to people of all different nationalities and cultures and the Jesus of the Bible changes lives all over the world.

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