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The 3-Minute Cheat Sheet for Understanding Paul’s Letters

The 3-Minute Cheat Sheet for Understanding Paul’s Letters
  1. Galatians: Against the Judaizers (A.D. 49*) The main theme is justification by divine grace through faith in Jesus Christ—against the Judaizing doctrine of meritorious works of the law. In other words, Galatians insists on Christian liberty from any doctrine of salvation that requires human effort in addition to divine grace.
  2. 1 Thessalonians: Congratulations and Comfort (A.D. 50-51) Paul’s letters to the church in Thessalonica are best known for their teaching about the second coming of Jesus Christ and associated events. First Thessalonians includes congratulations upon conversion and Christian growth and exhortations to further progress, with emphasis on comfort from and expectancy toward the second coming.
  3. 2 Thessalonians: Correction on the Second Coming (A.D. 50-51) Between the two letters to the Thessalonians there has arisen among these believers a belief in the immediacy of Jesus’ return to destroy their persecutors. Not so fast, says Paul: the end-of-the-age rebellion against God must take place first, so go back to normal Christian living.
  4. 1 Corinthians: Church Problems (A.D. 55) Paul writes this letter to solve problems of manners, morals, and beliefs within the church. The letter demonstrates that lamentable conditions in the church do not characterize the postapostolic church alone.
  5. 2 Corinthians: Paul’s Conception of His Ministry (A.D. 56) More than any other letter of Paul, 2 Corinthians allows us a glimpse into his inner feelings about himself, about his apostolic ministry, and about his relation to the churches he founded and nurtured. Paul also stresses the collection that he wants to gather from the church for the Christians in Jerusalem.
  6. Romans: The Gift of Righteousness Through Faith in Christ (A.D. 57) Justification by faith for Jews and Gentiles alike is the basis of Christian unity. Because Paul knows only certain of the Christians in Rome, Romans is more formal than any of Paul’s other letters.
  7. Philemon: Plea for a Runaway Slave (A.D. 61-62) Paul asks mercy for Onesimus, a runaway slave, who had become a Christian.
  8. Colossians: Christ as the Head of the Church (A.D. 61-62) Paul highlights the divine person and creative and redemptive work of Christ. Then Paul draws out the practical implications of this high Christology for everyday life and conduct.
  9. Ephesians: The Church as the Body of Christ (A.D. 61-62) Paul covers the spiritual privileges and responsibilities of the church. Unlike most of Paul’s letters, Ephesians seems not to have been written in response to a particular circumstance or controversy. It has an almost meditative quality.
  10. Philippians: A Friendly Note of Thanks (A.D. 62) This letter includes thanks for financial assistance, along with personal news and exhortations. The church at Philippi appears to be Paul’s favorite, and the Letter to the Philippians is thus the most personal of any that he wrote to a church.
  11. 1 Timothy (A.D. 63-64) Topic: The organization and administration of churches by Timothy. The letter proceeds from a greeting to a warning against false teachers who mishandle the law. Paul then recalls his own experience of conversion and commission to apostleship and charges Timothy to cling tenaciously to orthodox Christian faith.
  12. Titus (A.D. 63-64) Topic: The organization and administration of the churches in Crete by Titus. As in 1 Timothy, he warns against false teachers and issues instructions to various classes of Christians on proper conduct. The doctrinal basis for these instructions is God’s grace, and the experiential basis for these instructions is regeneration by the Holy Spirit.
  13. 2 Timothy (A.D. 65) The commission of Timothy to carry on Paul’s work. A final charge to preach the word of God, a statement of readiness to die, and personal news and requests conclude Paul’s farewell letter.

— Robert H. Gundry, adapted from resources in the new Learn the New Testament Pack.

How to Use This Book

The Learn the New Testament Pack will help you or your small group dive deeper into the New Testament. You will learn more about Jesus’ redemptive mission in the world, better understand the beliefs and practices of the Christian church, and even grow in your personal relationship with God.

The pack equips you with several tools:

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