Paul’s Letters

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.)


This episode assumes Paul wrote Ephesians in about 61 AD, while imprisoned in Rome. A few years earlier, Paul lived in Ephesus for about three years during the Third Missionary Journey, so he knew many of the Christians in the church there. From Paul’s interactions with their elders at the end of that journey, we know the people of Ephesus loved him, and he loved them back.

The church at Ephesus had been founded and established by Priscilla, Aquila, and Paul. It seems they built a firm foundation because Paul does not have to address any obvious problems in this letter to them.

If you were to be banished to an island and only got to take one of Paul’s letters, which one would you take? Ephesians would be well worth considering because in it, Paul shares theological insights and very practical information for living a Christian life.

In his opening statements, Paul offers insights about God’s will and predestination that have kept theologians befuddled and arguing through the centuries. One thing not up for disagreement is this truth: God is above all things and over all things. Through His mercy and grace, He has given life to those who follow Him. Ephesians 2:8-10 are some of the most familiar, and influential, verses in the Bible. It is worth the time to read these verses in various versions of the Bible in an effort to glean everything you can from them.

Ephesians 4-6 give guidance about powerfully living in unity in the church, within families, and among individual Christians. The Ephesians lived in a society that reveled in drunkenness, sexual excess, and idolatry. The information Paul gives them about righteous living may sound elementary to modern Christians, but it would have been surprising news to many of them. Nevertheless, everything Paul tells the Ephesians remains relevant in the modern world. That is one reason Ephesians is so important to contemporary Christians.

Primary Scriptures:
Ephesians 1-6
Story Summary:
Paul’s letter to the churches in Ephesus
Roman Empire; Asia; Ephesus
AD 30 Jesus crucified and resurrected; Pentecost; Holy Spirit arrives AD 48 Paul’s “famine visit” to Jerusalem; First Missionary Journey starts AD 50 Council at Jerusalem; Start of Second Missionary Journey. AD 53 Start of Third Missionary Journey AD 61 Paul writes Ephesians while imprisoned