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.)
In the second half of First Corinthians, Paul goes into detail about how a unified church and its members should behave. The Corinthians’ bad behavior provided a backdrop for Paul’s teachings that would be very valuable for churches of all time. We must have humility and remember that reading this letter is a bit like listening to one side of a phone conversation: Paul may be addressing questions and situations we do not fully understand.
For instance, Paul starts 1 Corinthians 8 by addressing food sacrificed to idols. While few people face this situation today, the self-sacrificing, self-disciplined principles Paul lays out are invaluable to modern Christians who live in a self-centered, I-want-my-way society. Paul goes on to show how he personally uses those same principles, the principles that help give Christians freedom and liberty.
Much of Paul’s instructions about spiritual gifts, behavior in worship gatherings, communion, and orderly worship are found nowhere else in the Bible, so modern Christians benefit by the Corinthians’ need for detailed instruction. On the other hand, passages such as 1 Corinthians 11, 12 and 14 are some of the most challenging in the Bible when applying them to modern life.
1 Corinthians 13 is one of the most well-known passages in the Bible. Paul moves from the intricacies of right behavior to the overwhelming, sublime power of love. Throughout his letters, Paul stresses the importance of faith. The early church was motivated by hope. Yet Paul writes, “and these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Paul addresses the subject of resurrection in chapter 15, another subject treated in more detail in this letter than anywhere else in the Bible. Paul’s conclusion: since Jesus has victory over death, we should praise and thank God.
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