This week, I am hoping to embark on something a little different with you. This week, we are going to take a step back from the usual "Guide to Christianity"–type posts and look at a very specific portion of the bible. This week, we will look at the Letters of the Apostle Paul! Now, I won't be doing a very in depth study of the letters individually; rather, I will be looking at the letters on a more general plane and what their aim was when Paul wrote them. First, however, before we dig into the letters that make up thirteen books of the New Testament, I want to look at the man himself and really find out who Paul is.
Well, let's start with the obvious: Paul was an Apostle. "What's that?" you say? An apostle was a leader of the Early Church with authority to speak for Jesus. As the biblical account goes, Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus in approximately 34 AD and was converted to a believer in Christ. Quoting Acts 9:3-4, “As he was approaching Damascus, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”
Wait one second... Back up... Did you hear something strange there? "I thought you said his name was PAUL?" Well well, reader, thank you for paying attention! This is where our story begins. Many, if not all of us have heard of the Apostle Paul; but, did you know that before he was an Apostle, Paul was a Pharisee named Saul?
What is a Pharisee?
A Pharisee was a Jewish religious leader. They were experts in the Old Testament and many many MANY of them opposed Christianity. Paul was one of these men. In fact, Paul himself (back when he was still Saul) opposed Christianity so much that he persecuted and killed Christians! That was the entire reason he was on the road to Damascus when he was converted! He was on his way to the synagogues in the city of Damascus to ask for cooperation in arresting Christians to bring them back – in CHAINS – to Jerusalem. What a change of heart, right?! And we are so glad he was saved because, if not for the grace of God, we would not have the Mission of the Apostle Paul.
Paul's Missionary Journey
And what a missionary he was! Between about 47 to 65 AD, Paul traveled throughout “Asia” which would be better understood to be Asia Minor, straddling South Eastern Europe and western Asia (geographically the region of modern day Turkey); as well as throughout the Southern part of Europe, into Greece and eventually over to Rome. His missionary work consisted of three round trips by land and boat throughout the region as well as a voyage to Rome. This was NO JOKE! Paul and his friends must have had really amazing endurance to make the voyage, not once but MULTIPLE times; and here I am really getting restless in the comfort of my car on the way to San Francisco!
But these trips are really significant because with them, this Apostle, this former Pharisee, this missionary, this MAN OF GOD built the early churches without which, we would not have our own church today. We also would not have the Paul’s Letters, which he wrote to the early churches in his absence to encourage and strengthen early believers. These letters are the subject of our discussion today.
So, as you can see, Paul is a pretty important character in the Bible and very important to the salvation of all of us, even today! To think, it all began as he was making his way to Damascus, to stop the very thing he ended up helping spread! On Wednesday, I hope you join me as we begin to dive into Paul's letters, when they were written, their historical context, and why it matters to our understanding of Paul's New Testament teachings!
Are you looking for a good reading plan and just don't know where to start? Join me in reading all about the Bible's teachings on Thanksgiving throughout the whole month of November! Check out our November reading plan below and don't forget to stop by our Instagram Live (@whitneygibbsministries) each evening to discuss the day's readings!