Making Sense of Paul’s Epistles
Paul’s epistles are simply letters that Paul wrote to the early churches. Often, if you read them as they appear in the Bible, they don’t make much sense. I’m going to explain why.
Paul wasn’t always named Paul. His name used to be Saul. He describes himself in devout Jew. He was born into the “right” family and followed the Jewish law to the letter. (Read Acts 22 for Paul’s own before and after story.) He was determined to rid Israel of anything that was not consistent with pure Jewish law. He began persecuting Jesus’ followers.
Then he met Jesus. And his life changed forever. Jesus didn’t like what Saul was doing so He confronted him on the road to Damascus. (Read the whole story for yourself in Acts 9:1-31.) Once “Paul” met Jesus and learned the truth, he pursued the Christian lifestyle with more passion than ever.
The Book of Acts is full of Paul’s journeys. You will read of his dramatic conversion and how he planted churches in many different countries. Paul was imprisoned unjustly, shipwrecked, and persecuted for no other reason than sharing the truth of Jesus with others.
The Book of Acts tells Paul’s story chronologically. When his letters to the churches are placed in chronological order, they make much more sense.
Paul’s Epistles as They Appear in the Bible
Here is a list of Paul’s letters in the order they appear in the New Testament:
- I Corinthians
- II Corinthians
- I Thessalonians
- II Thessalonians
- I Timothy
- II Timothy
Paul’s Epistles in Chronological Order
These are Paul’s epistles in chronological order. You can match them up to Paul’s travels as written about in the Book of Acts.
- Galatians – written between 49 or 52 AD
- I Thessalonians – written in 51 AD
- II Thessalonians – written in 51 AD
- I Corinthians – written in 56 AD
- II Corinthians – written in 57 AD
- Romans – written in 57 or 58 AD
- Ephesians – written in 60 AD while in prison
- Colossians – written in 60 AD while in prison
- Philemon – written in 60 AD while in prison
- Philippians – written in 60 AD while in prison
- I Timothy – written in 64 ADTitus – written in 65 AD
- II Timothy – written in 67 AD
Quite a difference. Isn’t there?
The Book of Acts is the story of the new church and how it grew. It shows us where and how they worshipped and studied the Bible, which was only the Old Testament back then. This was the time when the New Testament was being written. It also tells of Paul’s journeys.
My challenge to you is to read Paul’s story in the Book of Acts. As you read about the various churches that Paul visited, take time to read the letters that he wrote to them. It’s very illuminating when you read the epistles of Paul in chronological order. I believe you will come to a better understanding of the different struggles each of the churches went through and the reasons why Paul wrote what he did to each of them.
Let me know in the comments below what insights God gives you from reading Paul’s letters chronologically.
If you want to learn more about Paul’s journeys, the churches he planted, his disciples, shipwrecks, imprisonments, and how he came to write his epistles, I recommend reading The First Century Diaries by Gene Edwards. You’ll find them on the Resources Page. They are amazing!