Journey Through the Bible – 14

(From the Series: CONCISE NEW TESTAMENT SURVEY found at



Paul identifies himself as the author of this epistle with the words, “Paul an apostle.” Apart from a few 19th-century scholars, no one has seriously questioned his authorship. Further, his authorship is virtually unchallenged. Unger writes, “No trace of doubt as to the authority, integrity, or apostolic genuineness of the epistle comes from ancient times.”49

The title is Pros Galatas, “To the Galatians.” Being addressed to “the churches of Galatia,” it is the only epistle of Paul addressed to a group of churches.

DATE: A.D. 49 OR 55

The date when Paul penned this letter depends on the destination of the letter. There are two main views, The North Galatian View and The South Galatian View. Ryrie summarizes this and writes:

At the time of the writing of this letter the term “Galatia” was used both in a geographical and in a political sense. The former referred to north-central Asia Minor, north of the cities of Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe; the latter referred to the Roman province (organized in 25 B.C.) that included southern districts and those cities just mentioned. If the letter was written to Christians in North Galatia, the churches were founded on the second missionary journey and the epistle was written on the third missionary journey, either early from Ephesus (about A.D. 53) or later (about 55) from Macedonia. In favor of this is the fact that Luke seems to use “Galatia” only to describe North Galatia (Acts 16:6; 18:23).

If the letter was written to Christians in South Galatia, the churches were founded on the first missionary journey, the letter was written after the end of the journey (probably from Antioch, ca. A.D. 49, making it the earliest of Paul’s epistles), and the Jerusalem council (Acts 15) convened shortly afterward. In favor of this dating is the fact that Paul does not mention the decision of the Jerusalem council that bore directly on his Galatian argument concerning the Judaizers, indicating that the council had not yet taken place.50


The Epistle to the Galatians was the battle cry of the Reformation because it stands out as Paul’s Manifesto of Justification by Faith. It has therefore been dubbed as “the charter of Christian Liberty.” Luther considered it in a peculiar sense his Epistle.51 Galatians stands as a powerful polemic against the Judaizers and their teachings of legalism. They taught, among other things, that a number of the ceremonial practices of the Old Testament were still binding on the church. Thus, the apostle writes to refute their false gospel of works and demonstrates the superiority of justification by faith and sanctification by the Holy Spirit versus by the works of the Law.

In addition, these Judaizers not only proclaimed a false gospel, but sought to discredit Paul’s apostleship. In the first two chapters Paul vindicated his apostleship and message. In these two chapters Paul demonstrated convincingly that his apostleship and his message came by revelation from the risen Christ. Then, in chapters 3 and 4 he contended for the true doctrine of grace, the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Some, however, would immediately claim such a doctrine leads to license, so the apostle demonstrates that Christian liberty does not mean license. Thus, chapters 5 and 6 show that Christians must learn to live by the power of the Spirit and that the Spirit controlled walk will manifest not the works of the flesh but rather the fruit of the Spirit.


The phrases “justification by faith” and “freedom from the Law” form the key words of the epistle.


  • 2:20-21. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 2:21 I do not set aside God’s grace, because if righteousness could come through the law, then Christ died for nothing!
  • 5:1. For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery.
  • 5:13-16. For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity to indulge your flesh, but through love serve one another. 5:14 For the whole law can be summed up in a single commandment, namely, “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” However, if you continually bite and devour one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another. 5:16 But I say, live by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.


The fact that believers are not under the Law in no way means the freedom to do as one pleases, but the power to do what we should by God’s grace through the Spirit. In this sense, chapter 5 is a key chapter. Our freedom must never be used “as an opportunity to indulge the flesh” but rather as a basis for loving one another by walking in the strength of the Spirit (5:13, 16, 22-25).


Through His death by which believers have died to the Law and through the Christ exchanged life (2:20), believers have been freed from bondage (5:1f.) and brought into a position of liberty. The power of the cross provides deliverance from the curse of the law, from the power of sin, and from self (1:4; 2:20; 3:13; 4:5; 5:16, 24; 6:14).


  1. Personal: The Gospel of Grace, Justification by Faith Defended (1:1-2:21)
    1. Introduction (1:1-9)
    2. The Gospel of Grace Came by Revelation (1:10-24)
    3. The Gospel of Grace Was Approved by the Church in Jerusalem (2:1-10)
    4. The Gospel of Grace Was Vindicated in the Rebuke of Peter, the Chief of the Apostles (2:11-21)
  2. Doctrinal: The Gospel of Grace, Justification by Faith Explained (3:1–4:31)
    1. The Experience of the Galatians: The Spirit is Given by Faith, Not by Works (3:1-5)
    2. The Example of Abraham: He was Justified by Faith, Not by Works (3:6-9)
    3. Justification Is by Faith, Not by the Law (3:10–4:11)
    4. The Galatians Received Their Blessings by Faith, Not by Law (4:12-20)
    5. Law and Grace Are Mutually Exclusive (4:21-31)
  3. Practical: The Gospel of Grace, Justification by Faith Applied (5:1–6:18)
    1. The Position of Liberty: Stand Fast (5:1-12)
    2. The Practice of Liberty: Serve and Love One Another (5:13-15)
    3. The Power of Liberty: Walk by the Spirit (5:16-26)
    4. The Performance of Liberty: Do Good to All Men (6:1-10)
    5. The Conclusion (6:11-18)
The Prison Epistles

Ephesians along with Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon are sometimes referred to as the prison epistles because they were each written while Paul was confined or in chains. Each of these letters contain references to this situation (Eph. 3:1; 4:1; 6:20Phil. 1:7, 13Col. 4:10, 18Philemon 1, 9, 10).

Whether he was imprisoned once or twice in Rome is debated, though two imprisonments seem to fit the facts better. During the first, Paul was kept in or near the barracks of the Praetorian Guard or in rental quarters at his own expense for two years (Acts 28:30), during which these epistles were written. He anticipated being released (Philem. 22), and following his release he made several trips, wrote 1 Timothy and Titus, was rearrested, wrote 2 Timothy, and was martyred (see the Introduction to Titus, Titus 1:1 book note). These, then, are the first Roman imprisonment letters, whereas 2 Timothy is the second Roman imprisonment letter.52

The fact these great epistles were written while Paul was imprisoned, either in Roman barracks or chained daily to a Roman soldier in his own rented house (Acts 28:30), which gave him access to the whole elite Praetorian Guard, is a marvelous illustration of how God takes our apparent misfortunes and uses them for His glory and the increase of our opportunities for ministry (see Phil. 1:12-13). It shows how we may be chained and hindered, but that the Word of God is not imprisoned (see also 2 Tim. 2:9).



As clearly stated in the opening verse of each of the prison epistles, Paul is declared to be the author. That the apostle is the author of Ephesians is strongly supported by both internal and external evidence. Twice, the writer calls himself Paul (1:1; 3:1). Also this epistle is written after Paul’s usual manner or pattern with greetings and thanksgiving, a doctrinal section followed by the practical application of that doctrine with concluding personal remarks. As to external evidence, several church fathers (Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, Clement of Alexander, and others) either quote from or use language closely resembling that found in Ephesians.53

In recent years, however, critics have turned to internal grounds to challenge this unanimous ancient tradition. It has been argued that the vocabulary and style are different from other Pauline Epistles, but this overlooks Paul’s flexibility under different circumstances (cf. Rom. and 2 Cor.). The theology of Ephesians in some ways reflects later development, but this must be attributed to Paul’s own growth and meditation on the church as the body of Christ. Since the epistle clearly names the author in the opening verse, it is not necessary to theorize that Ephesians was written by one of Paul’s pupils or admirers, such as Timothy, Luke, Tychicus, or Onesimus.54

There is some debate as to the title and destination of this epistle. The traditional title is Pros Ephesious, “To the Ephesians.” Many ancient manuscripts, however omit en Epheso and for this and other reasons, many scholars believe this was an encyclical letter (intended for circulation among several churches).

Several things indicate that Ephesians was a circular letter, a doctrinal treatise in the form of a letter, to the churches in Asia Minor. Some good Greek mss. omit the words “at Ephesus” in 1:1. There is an absence of controversy in this epistle, and it does not deal with problems of particular churches. Since Paul had worked at Ephesus for about three years and since he normally mentioned many friends in the churches to whom he wrote, the absence of personal names in this letter strongly supports the idea of its encyclical character. It was likely sent first to Ephesus by Tychicus (Eph. 6:21-22Col. 4:7-8) and is probably the same letter that is called “my letter … from Laodicea” in Col. 4:16.55

DATE: A.D. 60-61

As previously mentioned, the apostle was a prisoner when he wrote this epistle (Eph. 3:1; 4:1; 6:20). Though scholars differ on whether Paul wrote Ephesians while he was imprisoned at Caesarea (Acts 24:27) in A.D. 57-59, or in Rome (28:30) in A.D. 60-62, the evidence favors the Roman imprisonment. As also mentioned, it is believed that Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon were also written during the same time period (cf. Phil. 1:7Col. 4:10Philemon 9). Because Ephesians gives no hint of Paul’s release from prison, as in Philippians (1:19-26) and Philemon (v. 22), many believe that Ephesians was written in the early part of his imprisonment about A.D. 60, while Paul was kept under house guard in his rented quarters (Acts 28:30). After he was released he wrote 1 Timothy and Titus, was arrested again, wrote 2 Timothy, and was martyred in Rome.


No specific purpose is stated and no particular problem or heresy is addressed. Rather, in Ephesians, Paul sets forth the glorious mystery, “the church which is Christ’s body,” Christ as the head of the Church (1:22, 23), and believers as co-members of one another and blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ (1:3; 2:11-22). Clearly, Paul’s purpose is to broaden the believer’s horizons regarding the limitless wealth of his blessings in Christ who is the head of the church, the body of Christ. Out of this, two great purposes emerge in the epistle. The first is to set forth something of the wealth of blessings that believers have in Christ, and how, through them, the eternal purposes of God are summed up in the person of Christ, the things in heaven and on earth (1:3-12). The second theme flows out of the first, namely, the believer’s responsibility to know, grasp, and walk in a manner that is fitting with his heavenly position and calling in Christ (1:18-23; 3:14-21; 4:1).

While not written to be remedial or to correct any specific errors, Paul designed this epistle as a prevention against those problems that so often occur because of a lack of maturity or a failure in grasping and applying what believers have in Christ. Closely associated with this is a short section on the believer’s warfare with the onslaughts of Satan (6:10-18). Thus, Paul writes about the believer’s wealthwalk, and warfare.


In view of the theme or purpose, the key words are “wealth,” “walk,” and “warfare.”


  • 1:3. Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ.
  • 2:8-10. For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 2:9 it is not of works, so that no one can boast. 2:10 For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.
  • 4:11-13. It was he who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 4:12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ, 4:13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God—a mature person, attaining to the measure of Christ’s full stature.
  • 5:17-18. For this reason do not be foolish, but be wise by understanding what the will of the Lord is. 5:18 And do not get drunk with wine, which is debauchery, but be filled by the Spirit,


As with many of Paul’s epistles, picking a key chapter is difficult, but perhaps chapter 6 stands out because of its very important revelation regarding the nature of our warfare with Satan (6:10-18). While we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ (1:3), we are nevertheless faced with a formidable enemy for which we need the armor of God. Thus, we must seriously take the exhortation “to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (6:10).


Phrases in Ephesians like “in Christ” or “with Christ” appear some 35 times. These are common Pauline expressions, but they appear in this epistle more than in any other. By this, we see much of what believers have through their position in the Savior. They are in Christ (1:1), blessed with every blessing in Christ (1:3), chosen in Him (1:4), adopted through Christ (1:5), in the Beloved (1:6), redeemed in Him (1:7), given an inheritance in Him (1:11), have a hope that is to the praise of His glory in Christ (1:12), sealed with the Spirit through Him as an earnest installment of their inheritance (1:13-14), made alive, raised, and seated with Him in the heavenlies (2:5-6), created in Christ for good works (2:10), partakers of the promise in Christ (3:6), and given access to God through faith in Christ (3:12).


  1. Salutation or Greeting (1:1-2)
  2. The Doctrinal Portion of the Epistle, the Wealth and Calling of the Church (1:3-3:21)
    1. Praise for Redemption (1:4-14)
      1. Chosen by the Father (1:4-6)
      2. Redemption by the Son (1:7-12)
      3. Sealed With the Spirit (1:13-14)
    2. Prayer for Wisdom a Revelation (1:15-23)
      1. The Cause of the Prayer (1:15-18a)
      2. The Content of the Prayer (1:18b-23)
    3. Positional Relocation (2:1-22)
      1. The New Position in the Heavenlies (2:1-10)
      2. The New Position in the Household (2:11-22)
    4. Parenthetical Explanation (3:1-13)
      1. The Mystery, the Product of Revelation (3:1-6)
      2. The Minister, Appointed to Proclamation (3:7-13)
    5. Prayer for Realization (3:14-21)
  3. The Practical Portion of the Epistle; The Walk and Conduct of the Church (4:1-6:24)
    1. The Believer’s Walk in Unity (4:1-16)
      1. The Appeal to Preserve Unity (4:1-3)
      2. The Basis for Unity (4:4-6)
      3. The Means of Unity (4:7-16)
    2. The Believer’s Walk in Righteousness (4:17-5:18)
      1. The Previous Walk of the Old Life (4:17-19)
      2. The Present Walk of the New Life (4:20-32)
      3. The Pattern for Our Walk (5:1-7)
      4. The Proof and Reason for Our Walk (5:8-13)
      5. The Power and Provision for Our Walk (5:14-18)
    3. The Believer’s Walk in the World (5:19-6:9)
      1. As to One’s Self and the Church (5:19-21)
      2. As to One’s Home (5:22-6:4)
      3. As to One’s Profession (6:5-9)
    4. The Believer’s Walk in Warfare (6:10-20)
      1. The Exhortation to Arms (6:10-13)
      2. The Explanation of Our Armor (6:14-17)
      3. The Employment of Our Armor (6:18-20)
    5. Conclusion (6:21-24)


Both the internal and external evidence again points to Paul as the author. “The early church was unanimous in its testimony that Philippians was written by the apostle Paul (see 1:1). Internally the letter reveals the stamp of genuineness. The many personal references of the author fit what we know of Paul from other NT books.”56

The epistle to the church at Philippi, the first church Paul established in Macedonia, is titled in the Greek text, Pros Philippesious, “To the Philippians.”

DATE: A.D. 60-61

As with Ephesians, this epistle was written while Paul was imprisoned. His reference to the Praetorian guard (Phil. 1:13) along with the possibility of death (vv. 20-26) suggest he was writing from Rome. Though death was possible, Paul also seemed confident of his release. This suggests Philippians was written after Ephesians later in A.D. 60 or 61.


Whereas Ephesians sets forth the glorious mystery, “the church which is Christ’s body,” Christ as the head of the Church (1:22-23), and believers as co-members of one another who are equally blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ (1:3; 2:11-22), Philippians guards the practice of Ephesians. Philippians guards against the failure to practice Christ-provided unity and against the failure of believers to rejoice in their blessings and position in Christ (Phil. 1:27; 2:2; 4:1f.). The theme of Philippians might well be “joy and unity in Christ.”

Paul had several obvious purposes in writing this letter to the Philippians: (1) He sought to express his love and gratitude for the gift they had sent him (1:5; 4:10-19); (2) to give a report about his own circumstances (1:12-26; 4:10-19); (3) to encourage the Philippians to stand firm in the face of persecution and rejoice regardless of circumstances (1:27-30; 4:4); (4) to exhort them to live in humility and unity (2:1-11; 4:2-5); (5) to commend Timothy and Epaphroditus to the Philippian church (2:19-30); and (6) to warn the Philippians against the legalistic Judaizers and the libertarian antinomians who had slipped in among them (ch. 3).


The key word, occurring in one form or the other some 16 times, is “joy” or “rejoice.” “Unity” or “oneness” is another key idea of the book. This is expressed in a number of ways like, “being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” (2:2); “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together” (1:27), and “be in harmony” (4:2).


  • 1:21. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
  • 3:8-11. More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things—indeed, I regard them as dung!—that I might gain Christ, 3:9 and be found in him, not because of having my own righteousness derived from the law, but because of having the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness—a righteousness from God that is based on Christ’s faithfulness. 3:10 My aim is to know him, to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings, and to be like him in his death, 3:11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
  • 4:11-13. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content in any circumstance. 4:12 I have experienced times of need and times of abundance. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment, whether I go satisfied or hungry, have plenty or nothing. 4:13 I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me.


Chapter 2 is certainly a key chapter in the way it sets forth Christ as our example in putting others before ourselves by having the mind of Christ. In the process of this, Paul then launches into a grand revelation regarding the humility and exaltation of Christ in 2:5-11.


No passage is clearer and more declarative regarding the nature, fact, and purpose of the incarnation of Christ as is found in this book, the great kenosis passage (2:5f.). Further, in view of all Christ was, is, has and will accomplish, Paul declares Christ as the believer’s life, “for to me to live is Christ” (1:21), that He is the perfect model of humility and sacrificing love (2:4-5), that He is the one who will transform our humble bodies into the likeness of His glorious body at the resurrection (3:21), and He is our means of enablement in any and all circumstances of life (4:12).


  1. Salutation and Thanksgiving for the Philippians (1:1-11)
  2. The Personal Circumstances of Paul in Rome: The Preaching of Christ (1:12-30)
  3. The Pattern of the Christian Life: Having the Mind of Christ (2:1-30)
    1. The Exhortation to Humility (2:1-4)
    2. The Epitome of Humility (2:5-11)
    3. The Exercise of Humility (2:12-18)
    4. The Examples of Humility Seen in Timothy and Epaphroditus (2:19-30)
  4. The Prize of the Christian Life: Having the Knowledge of Christ (3:1-21)
    1. The Warning Against Legalistic Judaizers (3:1-4a)
    2. The Example of Paul (3:4b-14)
    3. The Exhortation to Others (3:15-21)
  5. The Peace of the Christian Life: Knowing the Presence of Christ (4:1-23)
    1. Peace With Others (4:1-3)
    2. Peace With Self (4:4-9)
    3. Peace With Circumstances (4:10-23)


Because of the greetings in 1:2, Colossians became known as Pros Kolossaeis, “To the Colossians.” As with the other epistles of Paul surveyed thus far, both the external and internal evidence strongly support Paul’s authorship. But the authorship of this epistle has been doubted by some on the grounds of the vocabulary and the nature of the heresy refuted in this epistle. Expositor’s Bible Commentary has an excellent summary of the key issues involving the authorship and date of Colossians.

That Colossians is a genuine letter of Paul is not usually disputed. In the early church, all who speak on the subject of authorship ascribe it to Paul. In the 19th century, however, some thought that the heresy refuted in ch. 2 was second-century Gnosticism. But a careful analysis of ch. 2 shows that the heresy there referred to is noticeably less developed than the Gnosticism of leading Gnostic teachers of the second and third centuries. Also, the seeds of what later became the full-blown Gnosticism of the second century were present in the first century and already making inroads into the churches. Consequently, it is not necessary to date Colossians in the second century at a time too late for Paul to have written the letter.

Instead, it is to be dated during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, where he spent at least two years under house arrest (see Ac 28:16-31).58

DATE: A.D. 61

Paul wrote all four prison epistles during his first Roman imprisonment. This means he wrote it in A.D. 60-61 (see the discussion on the date of Ephesians and Philippians).


The theme is the fruitful and effective power of the gospel message which heralds the supremacy, headship, and the utter sufficiency of Christ to the church which is His body. In this little epistle, we see Paul’s “full-length portrait of Christ.”59 Colossians demonstrates that because of all that Jesus Christ is in His person and has accomplished in His work, He, as the object of the believer’s faith, is all we need for in Him we are complete (2:10). In scope, Colossians presents the all supremacy, all sufficiency, uniqueness, and the fullness of the person and work of Jesus Christ as the God-man Savior, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, and the total solution for man’s needs both for time and eternity. It is a cosmic book, presenting the cosmic Christ: the Creator/Sustainer and Redeemer/Reconciler of man and all the universe.


Key words in this book are “supremacy” and “sufficiency.”


  • 1:15-20. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation, 1:16 for all things in heaven and on earth were created by him—all things, whether visible or invisible, whether thrones or dominions, whether principalities or powers—all things were created through him and for him. 1:17 He himself is before all things and all things are held together in him. 1:18 He is the head of the body, the church, as well as the beginning, the firstborn from among the dead so that he himself may become first in all things. 1:19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him 1:20 and through him to reconcile all things to himself by making peace through the blood of his cross—whether things on the earth or things in heaven.
  • 2:8-10. Be careful not to allow anyone to captivate you through an empty, deceitful philosophy that is according to human traditions and the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 2:9 For in him all the fullness of deity lives in bodily form 2:10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head over every ruler and authority.
  • 3:1-3. Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 3:2 Keep thinking about things above, not things on the earth, 3:3 for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.


Chapters 2 is key in that it demonstrates why and how the believer is complete in Christ and needs nothing added to the saving person and work of Christ. Chapter 3 then builds on this as root to fruit or cause and effect. Because believers are complete in Christ (2:10) and are thereby risen with Him, they now have all they need for Christ-like transformation in all the relationships of life (3:1f.).


Wilkinson and Boa point out:

This singularly christological book is centered on the cosmic Christ—“the head of all principality and power” (2:10), the Lord of creation (1:16-17), the Author of reconciliation (1:20-22; 2:13-15). He is the basis for the believer’s hope (1:5, 23, 27), the source of the believer’s power for a new life (1:11, 29), the believer’s Redeemer and Reconciler (1:14, 20-22; 2:11-15), the embodiment of full Deity (1:15, 19; 2:9), the Creator and Sustainer of all things (1:16-17), the Head of the church (1:18), the resurrected God-Man (1:18; 3:1), and the all-sufficient Savior (1:28; 2:3, 20; 3:1-4).60


  1. Doctrinal: The Person and Work of Christ (1:1-2:3)
    1. Introduction (1:1-14)
      1. Paul’s Greeting to the Colossians (1:1-2)
      2. Paul’s Gratitude for the Colossians’ Faith (1:3-8)
      3. Paul’s Prayer for the Colossians’ Growth (1:9-14)
    2. The Person of Christ (1:15-18)
      1. In Relation to the Father (1:15)
      2. In Relation to the Creation (1:16-17)
      3. In Relation to the New Creation (1:18)
    3. The Work of Christ (1:19-2:3)
      1. The Description of His Work (1:19-20)
      2. The Application of His Work (1:21-23)
      3. The Propagation of His Work (1:24-2:3)
  2. Polemical: The Heretical Problems in Light of Union With Christ (2:4-3:4a)
    1. The Exhortation Against False Teaching (2:4-8)
      1. Exhortation Regarding the Methods of False Teachers (2:4-5)
      2. Exhortation to Progress in the Life of Faith (2:6-7)
      3. Exhortation Regarding the Philosophy of the False Teachers (2:8)
    2. The Instruction of the True Teaching (2:9-15)
      1. The Believer’s Position in Christ (2:9-10)
      2. The Believer’s Circumcision (2:11-12)
      3. The Believer’s Benefits (2:13-15)
    3. The Obligations of the True Teaching (2:16-3:4)
      1. Negative: Emancipation from Legalistic and Gnostic Practices (2:16-19)
      2. Negative: Emancipation from Ascetic Ordinances (2:20-23)
      3. Positive: Aspirations for the Heavenly Life (3:1-4)
  3. Practical: The Practice of the Believer in Christ (3:5-4:6)
    1. In the Inward Life (3:5-17)
    2. In the Home and Household Life (3:18-4:1)
    3. In the Outward Life (4:2-6)
  4. Personal: The Private Plans and Affairs of the Apostle (4:7-18)
    1. His Special Representatives (4:7-9)
    2. His Personal Salutations (4:10-18)
First Thessalonians


As declared in 1:1 and 2:18, all evidence (external and internal) supports the claim of the book that Paul is the author of 1 Thessalonians. Early church fathers support Paul’s authorship beginning as early as A.D. 140 (Marcion). Those things that characterize Paul are evident throughout (cf. 3:1-2, 8-11 with Acts 15:362 Cor. 11:28). In addition, a number of historical allusions in the book fit Paul’s life as recounted in Acts and in his own letters (cf. 2:14-16; 3:1, 2, 5-6 with Acts 17:1-15). In view of this evidence, few (some radical critics of the nineteenth century) have ever questioned Paul’s authorship.

As the first of two canonical epistles to the church at Thessalonica, this book was called in the Greek text, Pros Thessalonikeis A, “First to the Thessalonians.”

DATE: A.D. 51-52

Both 1 and 2 Thessalonians were written from Corinth during the apostle’s eighteen-month stay in that city (cf. Acts 18:1-11). The first epistle was written during the earlier part of that period just after Timothy had returned from Thessalonica with news of the progress of the church. The second letter was dispatched just a few weeks (or at the most a few months) later. Any date assigned will have to be approximate, though probably A.D. 51-52.


The purpose and burden of the apostle in writing to the Thessalonians can be summarized as follows: to express his thankfulness for what God was doing in the lives of the Thessalonians (1:2-3), to defend himself against a campaign to slander his ministry (2:1-12), to encourage them to stand fast against persecution and pressure to revert to their former pagan lifestyles (3:2-3; 4:1-12), to answer a doctrinal question pertaining to the fate of Christians who had died (4:1-13), to answer questions regarding the “Day of the Lord” (5:1-11), and to deal with certain problems that had developed in their corporate life as a church (5:12-13; 19-20).


Two key words and concepts stand out in this short epistle: “sanctification” (4:3, 4, 7), and “the coming of the Lord,” which is referred to in every chapter of the epistle (1:10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23). The coming of the Lord should not only comfort our hearts, but stir us to godly living.


  • 1:9-10. For people everywhere report how you welcomed us and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God 1:10 and to wait for his son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus our deliverer from the coming wrath.
  • 2:13. And so we too constantly thank God that when you received God’s message that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human message, but as it truly is, God’s message, that is at work among you who believe.
  • 4:1-3. Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that, as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you may excel still more. 2 For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; (NASB)
  • 4:13-18. Now we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest who have no hope. 4:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and arose, so also we believe that God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep as Christians. 4:15 For we tell you this by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not go ahead of those who have fallen asleep. 4:16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will arise first. 4:17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be snatched up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord always. 4:18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.


Chapters 4 and 5 undoubtedly stand out as key chapters because of their teaching on both the coming of the Lord for the church, the rapture (4:13-18), and the day of the Lord (5:1-11), the time in the future when He will intervene in human events to consummate His redemption and judgment.


With the coming of the Lord mentioned in every chapter, Christ is presented as the believer’s hope of salvation both now and at His coming. When He comes, He will deliver us from wrath (undoubtedly a reference to the Tribulation) (1:10; 5:4-11), give rewards (2:19), perfect us (3:13), resurrect us (4:13-18), and sanctify (set apart) all those who have trusted in Him (5:23).


  1. The Past: The Work of Faith (1:1-3:13)
    1. The Commendation of the Thessalonians (1:1-10)
      1. The Evaluation of Paul (1:1-4)
      2. The Evidence of Life (1:5-7)
      3. The Explanation of the Evidence (1:8-10)
    2. The Conduct of the Apostle and His Fellow Workers (2:1-12)
      1. Their Witness (2:1-2)
      2. Their Word (2:3-7a)
      3. Their Walk (2:7b-12)
    3. The Conduct of the Thessalonians (2:13-16)
      1. Their Reception of the Word (2:13)
      2. Their Response to the Word (2:14)
      3. The Rejection of the Word (2:15-16)
    4. The Concern of the Apostle (2:17-20)
      1. His Heart for the Thessalonians (2:17)
      2. His Hindrance by Satan (2:18)
      3. His Hope in the Thessalonians (2:19-20)
    5. The Confirmation of the Thessalonians (3:1-10)
      1. The Sending of Timothy (3:1-5)
      2. The Report of Timothy (3:6-10)
    6. The Concluding Prayer (3:11-13)
      1. The Prayer That He Might Return to the Thessalonians (3:11)
      2. The Prayer That the Thessalonians Might Grow in Love (3:12)
      3. The Prayer That Their Hearts Might Be Established in Holiness (3:13)
  2. The Present: The Labor of Love (4:1-12)
    1. Their Love for God Expressed in Sanctified Living (4:1-8)
    2. Their Love for the Brethren, an Expression of Being God Taught (4:9-10)
    3. Their Love for the Lost Expressed in Godly Living (4:11-12)
  3. The Prospective: The Endurance of Hope (4:13-5:28)
    1. Concerning the Day of Christ: The Comfort of His Coming (4:13-18)
      1. The Resurrection of Sleeping Saints (4:13-16)
      2. The Rapture of Living Saints (4:17-18)
    2. Concerning the Day of the Lord (5:1-11)
      1. The Coming of the Day of the Lord (5:1-5)
      2. The Conduct of Christians (5:6-10)
      3. The Conclusion (5:11)
    3. Concerning Deportment in the Congregation (5:12-28)
      1. The Concluding Prescription (5:12-22)
      2. The Concluding Petition (5:23-24)
      3. The Concluding Postscript (5:25-28)
Second Thessalonians


As with 1 Thessalonians, this letter was also written by Paul (cf. 1 Thess. 1:1). However, Paul’s authorship of this epistle has been questioned more often than that of 1 Thessalonians, even though it has more support from early church writers. There is no evidence among the writings of the early church fathers that his authorship was ever doubted. In fact several fathers mentioned Paul as the author of this epistle in their writings. It was not until the 19th century that certain questions were raised about the authorship of this epistle. The doubts came from rationalistic critics who likewise refused to accept the Bible’s claim to divine inspiration. Regardless, external and internal evidence support Paul as the author.

Objections are based on internal factors rather than on the adequacy of the statements of the church fathers. It is thought that there are differences in the vocabulary (ten words not used elsewhere), in the style (it is said to be unexpectedly formal) and in the eschatology (the doctrine of the “man of lawlessness” is not taught elsewhere). However, such arguments have not convinced current scholars. A majority still hold to Paul’s authorship of 2 Thessalonians.62

As the second letter to the church at Thessalonica, this epistle is called in the Greek text, Pros Thessalonikeis B, the “Second to the Thessalonians.”

DATE: A.D. 51-52

Because the historical circumstances are very similar to those of 1 Thessalonians, most believe it was written not long after the first letter—perhaps about six months. While conditions in the church were similar, the persecution seems to have grown (1:4-5), and this, with other factors, led Paul to write this letter from Corinth sometime in A.D. 51 or 52 after Silas and Timothy, the bearers of the first letter, had returned with the news of the new developments.


Second Thessalonians was evidently prompted by three main developments that Paul heard about: (1) there was the news of increasing persecution which they were facing (1:4-5), (2) to deal with the reports of a pseudo-Pauline letter and other misrepresentations of his teaching regarding the day of the Lord and the rapture of the church (2:1f.), and (3) to deal with the way some were responding to belief in the imminent return of the Lord. This belief was still being used as a basis for shirking their vocational responsibilities. So the apostle wrote to deal with the condition of idleness or disorderliness which had increased (3:5-15).

To meet the needs that occasioned this epistle, Paul wrote this epistle to comfort and correct. In doing so he pursued three broad purposes. He wrote: (1) to give an incentive for the Thessalonians to persevere by describing the reward and retribution that will occur in the future judgment of God (1:3-10), (2) to clarify the prominent events belonging to the day of the Lord in order to prove the falsity of the claims that the day had already arrived (2:1-2), and (3) to give detailed instructions covering the disciplinary steps the church should take in correcting those who refuse to work (3:6-15).


The key words or concepts are “judgment,” “retribution,” and “destruction” all revolving around the return of the Lord in the day of the Lord. In fact, in this epistle, 18 out of 47 verses (38 percent) deal with this subject. In 1 Thessalonians, the focus was on Christ coming for His Church (4:13-18) where as in 2 Thessalonians, the focus is on Christ coming with His Church in judgment on the unbelieving world (1:5-10; 2:3, 12).


  • 2:1-4. Now regarding the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered so as to be with him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, 2:2 that you not be easily shaken from your composure or be disturbed by any kind of spirit or message or letter allegedly from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. 2:3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not be here unless the rebellion comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction. 2:4 He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, and as a result he takes his seat in God’s temple, displaying himself as God.
  • 3:1-5. Finally pray for us, brothers and sisters, that the Lord’s message may spread quickly and be honored as in fact it was among you, 3:2 and that we may be delivered from perverse and evil people. For not all have faith. 3:3 But the Lord is faithful and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. 3:4 And we are confident about you in the Lord that you are both doing, and will do, what we are commanding. 3:5 Now may the Lord direct your hearts toward the love of God and the endurance of Christ.
  • 3:16. Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with you all.


Chapter 2 is key in that it corrects a serious error that had crept into the Thessalonian church which taught that the day of the Lord had already come. Here the apostle taught them that the day of the Lord had not come and could not until certain events had taken place, not for the rapture of the church which is imminent, but for the day of the Lord, Daniel’s seventieth week.


A major theme of this book, especially chapters 1-2, is the return of Christ in judgment when He will put down all rebellion and bring retribution. Second Thessalonians anticipates Christ, the coming Judge.


Apart from the salutation and benediction, the book easily divides up into five sections:

  1. Salutation or Introduction (1:1-2)
  2. He Commends and Comforts Regarding Persecution (1:4-12)
  3. He Corrects and Challenges Regarding the Day of the Lord (2:1-17)
    1. In Relation to the Present (2:1-2)
    2. In Relation to the Apostasy (2:3a)
    3. In Relation to the Man of Lawlessness (2:3b-4)
    4. In Relation to the Restrainer (2:5-9)
    5. In Relation to Unbelievers (2:10-12)
    6. In Relation to Believers (2:13-17)
  4. He Commands and Convicts Regarding Idleness (3:1-16)
    1. The Confidence of the Apostle (3:1-5)
    2. The Commands of the Apostle (3:6-15)
  5. His Concluding Benediction and Greeting (3:16-18)
The Pastoral Epistles

The last major group of Paul’s epistles have generally been called the “Pastoral Epistles,” a term used to designate the three letters addressed to Timothy and Titus (1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus). Originally, they were regarded as mere personal letters and were classified with Philemon, but because of their strong bearing on the life of the church, they began to be called the “Pastoral Epistles.” Though addressed to individuals, these books are not only not limited to personal and private communications, but they are more official in character. Paul addressed them to Timothy and Titus to guide them in matters concerning the pastoral care of the church, which is the household of God (cf. 1 Tim. 3:14-15; 4:6-15 with 2 Tim. 2:2).

The term, “pastoral,” is an 18th century designation that has stuck down through the years,63 and though not entirely accurate, it is a somewhat appropriate description of these three letters. Further, due to the large portion of these epistles that deal with church order and discipline, the term “pastoral” is accurate. These epistles deal with church politypolicies, and practice, all of which are concerns vital to the pastoral health of the church.

All in all, in their content, these books are pastoral in nature and give directions for the care, conduct, order, ministry, and administration of churches or assemblies of believers. This is true whether they deal with personal matters or the corporate ministry of the church. In summary, then, these books were designed by God to aid us in our pastoral responsibilities and in organic development and guidance for the life of local churches.

In this regard there is an important observation that might be made. Of Paul’s thirteen letters, these were the very last books he wrote. What is so significant about that? Since these books deal with church order, ministry, and organization, why were they not first? If you or I were doing this (especially today) we would probably first try to get the administrative organization in order, the structure, and then worry about the doctrine. So here are some suggestions to think about:

Suggestion 1. Of course, organization and order is important. The church is a spiritual body, an organism, and each believer is a member with special functions and tasks to carry out, but the primary need so essential to functioning as God has designed the church is right theology (teaching) and understanding of the Word, along with its personal application for Christ-like living. This provides us with the spiritual and moral foundation on which we base our methods, strategy, and administration. So, while our methods will often vary, they must never contradict the moral or spiritual principles of the Word of God.

Giving, for instance, is a corporate and individual responsibility, but our giving and the collection of money must be so done that it does not violate certain biblical principles such as giving voluntarily rather than by methods that employ coercion or manipulation.

Suggestion 2. Organization, or better, the organic and unified growth of a church, must be based on right teaching, which is based on rightly handling the Word, i.e., God’s objective truth along with the use of those people who are qualified and spiritually right with God. When we try to run an organization based on tradition or background, we end up with an organization that is not only not biblical, but which will lack the spiritual fervor and capacity to function as God intends.

These books, then, deal with matters of church order or ecclesiology not hitherto addressed, but before God gave the church directions for church organization (or order as specific as those we find in the pastorals) He gave us Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians. Is this because organization is unimportant? No! It is because organization and administration are not primary. They are secondary. Further, it is because sound teaching and spirituality are what ultimately produce ministries that are effective according to God’s standards and that manifest the spirit and character of Christ in ministry and outreach.

Suggestion 3. Closely related to this is another concept. Some areas of ecclesiology are more difficult to determine than others. As a result, students of the Word have debated certain issues for years like the exact form of government or how we select and appoint men to leadership. Is this selection to be carried out by the board of elders, by the congregation, or by both working together?

Since there is such a divergence of opinion does this mean we should give up on matters of church government? Of course not. We should carefully study these issues and seek biblical answers so we might come to conclusions based on our study of the facts of Scripture. But the point is simply this: regardless of the type of church government, within certain limits, of course, if God’s Word is being consistently and accurately proclaimed with prayerful dependence on the Lord, and if the people take it to heart, a church will be alive, in vital touch with Christ, and effective for the Lord.