1. Paul and His LettersRelated Media
“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God…To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:1, 7 NIV)
Christ Is Everything We Need
1. If you want to say hello to a friend who lives far away, what methods would you likely use today?
You probably mentioned texting, Facebook, email, and/or phone call. Those are great ways to instantly communicate to someone you know and love. Fifty years ago, the only ways to talk to someone who lived far away was by phone call using a phone attached to the wall and by writing letters or sending a telegram. But, 150 years before that, letters were the only method you could use, knowing that your friend wouldn’t receive your letter for a week, maybe a month or more. How would you like that?
In the New Testament of our Bible are 13 letters written by a man named Paul. Once you know some of Paul’s story, then you’ll see why he wrote so many letters.
Paul was a real person who lived at the same time as Jesus and for many years afterwards. We have no indication that he had ever met Jesus before the Resurrection. Paul was a very well-educated and devout Jew. At first, he didn’t believe Jesus was the Son of God and fought against Christians, dragging them out of their homes and putting them in prison. Paul made it his mission to get rid of this group of believers in Jesus as the Messiah. The first Christians were known as “those belonging to the Way.” One day, while traveling from Jerusalem to Damascus (in Syria), Jesus confronted him about this misdirected “mission.”
2. Read Acts 9:1-14.
- What happened to Paul while he was traveling?
- What did Jesus say to Paul?
- After that, what did Paul do for the next three days?
Paul believed the vision and changed from being an enemy who hated Jesus into a friend who loved Jesus. Right away, Jesus gave him a specific job to do.
3. Read Acts 9:15. What specific job did Jesus give to Paul? [Note: The Gentiles were all non-Jewish people.]
Several years after Paul trusted in Jesus as His Savior, he moved up to Antioch to pastor the church there with his friend Barnabas. While a group of church leaders was praying, the Holy Spirit told them to send Paul and Barnabas to faraway places to tell people about Jesus. Today, we would call Paul and Barnabas “missionaries.”
Paul made three different “Missionary Journeys” from Antioch to many different cities in the Roman Empire. As a young man, he was known by his Hebrew name “Saul.” But, as he traveled throughout the Roman Empire among non-Jewish people, he most often used his Roman name “Paul.”
In each city that Paul and his co-workers visited, people heard Paul’s message about Jesus and became Christians. They met together and formed a church in that city. Paul loved those people very much and wanted to hear how the young churches were doing. Someone would bring him news about the church members in a particular city then Paul would write them a letter, usually answering some questions they had or teaching them something they needed to know about living as Christians.
The Holy Spirit guided Paul to write those letters and preserved 13 of them for us to have in our Bibles. In fact, Paul authored more of the New Testament writings than anyone else. These letters are a gift to us 2000 years later.
Follow these brief overviews of Paul’s missionary journeys, including some highlights or important diversions.
Paul and Barnabas started at Antioch and traveled by boat to Cyprus. A few months later, they traveled by boat then lots of walking to towns in the area of Galatia—Psidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe. Most of these people weren’t Jewish and worshipped other gods before believing in Jesus.
Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch where Paul wrote Galatians, the first letter to a church.
After some time in Antioch, Paul wanted to go back and visit his Galatian friends. He and his new partner Silas walked back to Derbe and Lystra where a teenager named Timothy joined the travelers. Paul wanted to visit other cities in that area, but the Holy Spirit sent him to Troas (along the west coast). At Troas, God gave Paul a dream about a man from Macedonia (northern Greece) saying, “Come over and help us.”
Paul obeyed the vision and sailed with his friends across the sea then walked to Philippi. They spent a few weeks in Philippi and 3 weeks in nearby Thessalonica. Paul went from there to Athens and then to Corinth where he spent two years and wrote First & Second Thessalonians before returning home to Antioch.
Back in Antioch, Paul wanted to go visiting again. He traveled through Galatia then to Ephesus where he stayed for 3 years. Then, he went to Thessalonica, Corinth, and back to Ephesus. Paul wrote First & Second Corinthians and the letter to the Romans during his third missionary journey. Paul ended this journey in Jerusalem to deliver some money that the Greek churches sent to help the poverty-stricken Jewish Christians in Jerusalem and Judea. Paul was arrested in Jerusalem.
From Jerusalem, Paul was transferred to Caesarea where he spent two years in confinement. When he appealed to Caesar to hear his case, he was transferred by boat to Rome for another 2 years of house arrest. While in Rome, Paul wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.
Fourth journey time:
After Paul’s release from house arrest in Rome, he traveled with Timothy to Ephesus where he left Timothy to pastor the church there. Paul traveled with Titus to Crete and established churches there, leaving Titus as pastor. While Paul traveled back in the area of Macedonia, he wrote First Timothy and Titus to encourage and instruct the young pastors.
Paul was arrested again and placed in a Roman dungeon where he wrote his last letter, Second Timothy. Paul was executed shortly thereafter (~67 AD).
4. Find all thirteen letters in your print or digital Bible’s Table of Contents, beginning with Romans and ending with Philemon.
Years after Paul wrote his letters, these 13 were collected and organized in the New Testament by size and type. The first nine in the list were written to churches (Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians). The last 4 letters were written to individual people (1 and 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon).
When we write a letter, we usually start it by saying “Dear friend” or Hello there.” At the end, we sign our names. Paul both greets the people and signs his name at the beginning of each letter.
5. In the verses below, look for the words Paul uses to identify himself. Notice the two words—grace and peace—that he uses in each one to greet the recipients.
- Romans 1:1,7—
- 1st Corinthians 1:1,3—
- 2nd Corinthians 1:1-2—
- Galatians 1:1-3—
- Ephesians 1:1-2—
- Philippians 1:1-2—
- Colossians 1:1-2—
- 1 Thessalonians 1:1—
- 2 Thessalonians 1:1-2—
- 1 Timothy 1:1-2—
- 2 Timothy 1:1-2—
- Titus 1:1,4—
- Philemon 1-3—
Paul identifies himself in several ways—as an apostle, a messenger sent by God, and a bondservant of Jesus Christ. In each of Paul’s greetings, you read the same two words: grace and peace.
Grace means “undeserved favor.” The Gentiles wished each other favor with the gods they worshiped so grace was a familiar word for them. Paul taught that Jesus’ death on the cross is God’s grace gift (His favor) who takes away our sin (wrong things we think and do). God gives us His grace every day so we have strength to live to please Him. Praise God for His grace overflowing to you!
The Jews wished each other “peace” (shalom). So peace was a familiar word for them. Paul taught that Jesus gives us peace with God by making us God’s friends because our sins are forgiven. Nothing can ever take our relationship with God away from us. This helps us to feel peaceful and blessed by God instead of worried about the eternal future. Praise God for His peace given to you!
Paul used both words in each letter to reach out to both the Jewish and Gentile Christians in the churches and to bring the two groups together in their common faith.
We have the same kinds of problems in our lives today as they did back then, and Christ is still the answer to our problems as well!
Through these lessons, you will become familiar with the people receiving each letter, the challenges they were facing (needs similar to your own), and the biblical solutions God gave to them (and us) through Paul.
Paul presents Jesus Christ as the answer to their need. We’ll see that we have the same kinds of problems in our lives today and that Christ is still the answer to our problems as well through His overflowing grace.
With each letter, you will learn a phrase describing how Christ is presented in that letter as the answer to a particular need.
6. Read Philippians 1:21. What does Paul declare about his life?
“To live is Christ” is how Paul described his own life. Jesus, God’s son who gave his life on the cross for our sins, is also known as Christ. Christ is the title for the one God promised to come and save the world.
He is both savior and king of planet Earth. In many places in the New Testament, He is also called the Lord Jesus Christ.
7. Read 1 Timothy 1:12-16. Rewrite verses 13-14, inserting your name and what characteristics defined your life before Christ.
8. Why did God show mercy to Paul and to you?
Paul’s life was changed from the inside out. He became a beacon of Christ’s life shining through his own life. Christ displayed Himself through Paul’s life because grace overflowed into his life. Paul understood God’s grace so well because he desperately needed it for life. He firmly believed this truth: Christ is everything we need for life.
Christ is everything you need for life. He is the answer to your specific needs and meets these needs in your life as you trust in Him to do it. Your life will also be changed from the inside out.
Christ’s life will shine through your life as you learn to live dependently on Him and His grace overflowing to your life.
Living Dependently on Christ
1) Bible verse to learn:
“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God…To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:1, 7)
2) Response in prayer & praise:
What are your biggest challenges in life? Ask Jesus to show you through these lessons how He is the answer to each one of those needs.
3) Getting to know Him more:
Spend a few minutes each day reading these passages and reflecting on how God’s marvelous grace offers you a life of freedom and joy. This week you will be reading Acts chapters 9-15 to get a historical perspective on Paul’s life and writings.
- Read Acts chapter 9. Reflect on what you read.
- Read Acts chapter 10. Reflect on what you read.
- Read Acts chapter 11. Reflect on what you read.
- Read Acts chapter 12. Reflect on what you read.
- Read Acts chapter 13. Reflect on what you read.
- Read Acts chapter 14. Reflect on what you read.
- Read Acts chapter 15. Reflect on what you read.
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