There is treasure hidden in Paul’s thirteen letters, but the path to find it is not obvious. Here is a tip: in the Bible, Paul’s letters are not sequenced in chronological order.
The Bible rarely gives us specific dates about events it addresses, which can be frustrating for modern readers. As an example, this is a very brief timeline of the first four decades of Christianity that is probably correct to within a few years:
27 AD to 30 AD Ministry of Jesus
30 AD to 39 AD Death, resurrection of Jesus; Christianity spreads among the Jews
40 AD to 48 AD Christianity spreads increasingly to non-Jews
48 AD to 57 AD Paul’s three missionary journeys
58 AD to 70 AD Paul’s imprisonment; Paul’s death; Temple destroyed
Paul wrote his letters within the two decades of 48 AD to 68 AD. His thirteen generally accepted letters are arranged in the New Testament in two blocks: the nine written to churches, then the four written to individuals. The nine written to churches are generally placed in order by length. (This also assumes Hebrews was not written by Paul.)
Most modern Christians probably think the people of the Roman Empire were thrilled to have Christianity come to them. After all, the Gospel means “good news.” That was true for many people, but for many others the Gospel was bad news. Jesus aptly described what Christianity would do when He said, “Don’t think that I’ve come to bring peace on earth; I didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword. I have come to set a man against his father, the daughter against her mother, and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And, a man’s foes shall be those in his own household.”
Throughout virtually all the Empire, the historical purpose of religion and gods was to provide protection and prosperity. In the time of Jesus, emperor worship had become more common; the emperor became the religious entity to provide that protection and prosperity. Christianity completely up-ended the way people behaved and believed, encouraging Christians to act against the social norms, which often had an effect on family stability, community behavior, and economic circumstances.
Acts 19 is the beginning of Paul’s Third Missionary Journey. He arrived in Ephesus, baptized twelve new believers, taught about Jesus in the synagogue for three months, and taught for two years in the hall of Tyrannus. The results were astounding. Everyone in the province of Asia heard the Gospel, extraordinary miracles were done through Paul, and many people were converted to Christianity.
The effects of Paul’s teachings were so extraordinary that a vast number of people quit worshiping the main local god, dramatically affecting the local economy as incomes dropped for workers who supported the local temple and served the worshipers. On an economic basis, the coming of Christianity was not good news to them and their families; it was horrible news. Keep that point of view in mind as you read the letters Paul wrote.
Demetrius the Silversmith – JC Scott
Eunice – Mollie Milligan
Lois – Rebekah Turner
Silas – Tony Schneider
Jason – Cory Phillips
Priscilla – La’Netia D. Taylor
Aquila – Joe Rojas Jr.
Sosthenes – Selase Botchway
Titus – Orlando Valentino
Tertius – Curtis Von
Phoebe – Kenneisha Thompson
Tychicus – Ace Anderson
Onesimus – Hevin Hampton
Paul – Brian Shoop
Epaphroditus – Tim Taylor
Euodia – Salome Charron
Apollos – Tim Urban
Cretan Elder – Garry Nation
Timothy – Paul Christian