Week 12 of our 90-Day Journey, and plodding through the footsteps of Paul!
Breadcrumbs For The Journey
After the Gospels, the New Testament leads us right into Luke’s second volume of history – the Book of Acts, which describes the acts or actions of the early church after Jesus’ life. The Book of Acts describes the ministry of the church as summarized by the risen Jesus in Acts 1:8 – “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts summarizes the Jerusalem ministry by Jesus’ disciples in the first part of the book, then describes an amazing conversion of a persecutor-turned-proselyte of the Church – the Apostle Paul. We follow the history of Paul’s missionary journey’s to various Gentile cities in Acts (remember that Luke traveled with Paul for some of his ministry, so it was natural for him to record the history of these trips). However, Paul’s letters to the churches that he helped to establish are provided for us in the Book of Romans through the Book of Philemon in the New Testament. These “Pauline Epistles” are one-way conversations where Paul is dealing with specific problems and issues in these churches. They help us understand Paul’s ministry and servant heart for each of these locations and people.
As we read these books, it is good for us to remember that the Book of Acts is “descriptive” writing in that it describes the history of the early church, whereas Paul’s Epistles to churches is “prescriptive” writing that prescribes certain teachings and practices that churches are encouraged to follow. It is best to form our doctrines and theology of the church based upon the prescriptive writings of the New Testament rather than the descriptive history of the church in the Book of Acts. I hope you enjoy these writings and remember the personal purpose behind these letters as described by Paul in 1 Timothy 3:14-15, “Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”
Tip Of The Week
To better remember the Pauline Epistles, it is helpful to understand how they are grouped together in the New Testament:
Romans to 2 Thessalonians – Paul wrote to these entire churches to encourage them through specific issues and questions they were having as they sought to grow in Christ.
Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians – Sometimes called the “Prison Epistles,” these letters were most likely written by Paul while he was in jail or under house arrest. Some people remember the order of these four books with the acrostic “God’s Electric Power Company.”
1 Timothy to Philemon – Paul wrote these letters to individuals who were significant leaders within churches. Timothy and Titus were disciples of Paul and were pastors of specific churches: Timothy was pastor of the church in Ephesus, while Titus became the pastor of a difficult area of ministry in Crete. Philemon is a very personal letter that Paul wrote to this leader in the Colossian church. The church of Colosse met in his home, and Paul was writing to him regarding one of Philemon’s slaves named Onesimus who had run away.
Good To Know
Saul (Jewish name), whose Christian name became Paul, was the perfect individual to bridge the gap between Jewish Christians and the Gentile Church. Saul was from a Jewish family but born in Tarsus (in modern Turkey). So, he was a Roman citizen and well-acquainted with Greek ways, but he was also Jewish and trained in Jerusalem under the teaching of Gamaliel, one of the leading Jewish rabbis of his day. It is amazing how God uniquely fitted Paul for his ministry on earth, and he is still doing that in each of our lives today!
Activity For The Week
There are so many individual books we are reading this week that I encourage you to pause at the end of each book or letter you read and ask, “What were the unique issues or problems that this church or individual was dealing with that Paul is writing to encourage them about or resolve?” Asking that question will help you solidify the reason or purpose for each of these books being written.
Pressing on with you!