The Pauline Epistles appear in the Bible after the four Gospels and the Book of Acts. The New Testament contains thirteen letters of Paul, from the Epistle to the Romans, the Epistles to the Corinthians, to the Epistle to Philemon. What do these letters teach us? Let us dive into an abbreviated explanation of Paul’s teachings in his letters, which were inspired by the Lord.
Paul the Apostle wrote most of his letters in prison. These letters were addressed to the first Christian communities, which he helped establish around the Mediterranean sea. The Pauline Epistles were meant to encourage these new Christians to persevere in their faith, to guide them and enlighten them. Paul’s teachings are still considered to be a precious spiritual resource today. They are often used in the Roman Rite during the second reading of the Word.
The structure of Paul’s Epistle is often similar from one letter to another: Paul starts with a salutation, followed by a long explanation of his message - which is inspired by the teachings of Jesus -, and the last few chapters are centered around how to apply the message to our daily lives.
A key verse from this letter is the following: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” (Romans 1: 16). Paul presents the message of the Gospel, by highlighting the grace of God, which is a part of Christ, and makes men righteous before the Lord.
(Learn more about the Epistle to the Romans).
Paul wrote to the Christians from the Church of Corinth to correct them, and push them to act with more dignity and respect towards themselves. A key verse from this letter is: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” (1 Corinthians 6: 19-20).
In his second letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul encouraged people who had repented from committing sins, warned them against false Apostles, and defended his own Apostolate, with this key verse: “but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12: 9).
(Discover a more detailed explanation of the story behind the letters to the Corinthians).
Paul wrote to the early Christian communities in Galatia, because they were slowly stepping away from the Gospel, no longer relying on the grace of God, but on the Law. He wrote: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel.”
(Click here to learn more about the letter to the Galatians).
In this letter, Paul addresses Christians wishing to attain spiritual maturity. He encourages us to follow the Word of God, and teaches us the right discipline to do so.
(Find more information on the letter to the Ephesians).
While he was in jail, Paul wrote to the Philippians to encourage them to rejoice! A key verse from the Epistle to the Philippians is the following: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)
(Learn more about the Epistle to the Philippians)
In this letter, Paul argued against the rising trend which pushed the Christian communities of Colossae to step away from the Church. In the very first chapters of the letter, Paul puts the transcendence, the might, and the sufficiency of Christ into words: “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1: 15-17).
Paul commends and encourages the faith, love, and hope manifested in the Christian communities of Thessaloniki. He also shares revelations on the resurrection of the dead, the return of Jesus, and invites us all to live in honesty and sanctification: “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. ” (1 Thessalonians 4: 7).
The second letter of Paul unveils many revelations on the second coming of Christ, and points out the behavior of some Christians who were letting themselves be taken over by idleness, persuaded that Jesus Christ had already returned. The Church of Thessaloniki was also enduring a lot of persecution, and Paul addressed his prayers to Its communities: “and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” (2 Thessalonians 1: 7-8).
(Learn more about Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians)
The Apostle Paul wrote to someone he regarded as his son, called Timothy, to give him some advice on how to fulfill his role as the bishop of the Church of Ephesus. He warned him against false teachers, and explains to him what is the correct behavior to adopt as a representative of the Church: “now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.” (1 Timothy 3: 2-3).
Paul wrote this second letter to Timothy while he was in prison, near the day of his death. He encouraged the young bishop to persevere in faith, continue to preach and reject all teaching that did not comply with the Gospel he was taught. This letter reveals to us what mattered most to the Apostle Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4: 7-8).
Paul tackles the subject of choosing who should represent the Church and the sound doctrine. He invited Titus to correct dishonest teachers. He also reminded him of what we can learn from the message of grace: ”it teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” (Titus 2: 12).
Paul wrote to Philemon to ask him for his forgiveness towards Onesimus, a servant who had run away: “formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me. I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you.” (Philemon 1: 11-12).