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.)

First Corinthians 1-7

Paul probably wrote at least four letters to the church at Corinth. Two of them are included in the New Testament; there are no known copies of the others. First Corinthians 5:9-11 indicates that Paul had written a letter to the Corinthians previous to First Corinthians.

Paul arrived by himself in Corinth on the Second Missionary Journey. He made acquaintances with Priscilla and Aquila and began working with them; Silas and Timothy joined them later. Together, they established the church in Corinth. Paul stayed in Corinth for about a year and a half. There is no doubt he had strong relationships with the people and knew them individually.

First Corinthianswas written about three or four years after Paul left Corinth, toward the end of the Second Missionary Journey. The letter is addressed from Paul and Sosthenes, a former resident of Corinth who was previously the leader of its synagogue.

By the time of the letter, the church at Corinth had become a disaster, forcing Paul to address a long list of problems. The church was divided over who they counted as their leader; rather than following Christ, some of them wanted to follow Paul, Apollos, or Peter. Paul had to convince them that Christ is the head of the church, and all others are followers who use their gifts to serve the Lord.

Once again, Paul found it necessary to prove his apostleship and show why he had the authority to teach and be followed. Apparently, the Corinthians were either being influenced by false teachers or were being so prideful they simply did whatever they wanted.

The Corinthians chose to overlook a case of shameful incest among their members. A man was sleeping with his stepmother, and that church did not mourn about it. In fact, the church members were proud of it. Paul insisted that they put the man out of their fellowship. Paul made it clear that they must not even associate with a church member who is sexually immoral, greedy, an idol worshiper, slanderer, or drunkard. As evidenced by this letter, the Corinthians had a lot to learn about living as Christians.

Priscilla and Aquila
Primary Scriptures:
First Corinthians 1-7
Story Summary:
Paul’s first New Testament letter to the church in Corinth
Roman Empire; Greece, Corinth
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 56 Paul writes 1 Corinthians