S E C O N D C O R I N T H I A N S
Second Corinthians was written by the apostle Paul to the church at Corinth late in the year A.D. 55. The situation in the church has changed since they had received First Corinthians. New Problems were beginning in the church.
Jewish Christians had come to Corinth after Paul’s writing and claimed to be apostles. They worked at undermining Paul’s authority . Paul writes to defend his ministry.
Paul had great love for the Corinthians and it hurt him deeply that someone was sowing the seed of discontent among them. He defends himself so that the Work of Christ would not be ruined. He rejoices to learn that they had put to practice the matter of church discipline against a sinful brother and he encourages the church to forgive the brother who repents. He then describes his ministry in detail and then urges the Corinthians to get their collection ready for the needy saints in Jerusalem.
Important teachings in Second Corinthians include, Church Discipline, Collection for the Saints, The Blessings of Trials and the importance of Apostolic Authority.
And that brings us to:
G A L A T I A N S
Galatians is likely the first of Paul’s letters. It is a very important little book in the Bible. It has been frequently dubbed the Magna Charta of Christian Freedom. It tells us clearly what the marks of a New Christian are, according to Scripture. Some were saying in Paul’s day that circumcision, or kosher food, or works of the Law of Moses were important for the Christian. The Biblical answer is :
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.
This letter is written to the “churches of Galatia” referring to a region rather than a city. Not long after the church was established in the region of Galatia Judaizers came along teaching another gospel. Paul is very direct in his confrontation of this error:
6 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel;
7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.
8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have
preached to you, he is to be accursed!
9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!
You see these Judaizers demanded that all Christians obey the requirements of the Law of Moses (Gal. 3:1-3), and at the same time they were challenging the apostolic authority of Paul. Galatians seems to have been written before the famous “Jerusalem Conference” (Acts 15), probably in the year 48 A.D.
The Book of Galatians teaches us how to avoid the error of legalism and liberalism in Christianity. Legalism says that man’s duty to God requires of him a strict performance of rituals and ceremonies, sometimes affliction of the body and asceticism. Liberalism in Christianity teaches that man should be totally free to do as he pleases and that any restraint placed on man is man made and not God ordained.
Paul’s response is to say that freedom and joy in genuine New Testament Christianity are found in neither legalism or liberalism (Gal. 3:10-5:10; 5:19-21). Real freedom and Joy are found in voluntary bondage to Christ.
5:1 ¶ It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
Important teachings in Galatians include, Freedom in Christ, We are save by Grace, not by Law, The Christian’s relationship to the Law of Moses, Warnings about false teachers and a chronology of the life of Paul.
New Testament Christianity is what is important to God, not man made rules and regulations which take away from our freedom to serve Christ. Christians are saved by grace through faith, not by law keeping. There are many similarities between the book of Romans and the book of Galatians. Some have even called Galatians a condensed version of Romans.
and that brings us to:
E P H E S I A N S
Ephesians may have been intended, like Galatians, for a region rather than a specific congregation. Written by the apostle Paul during his Roman imprisonment (61-63 A.D.), it addresses the concept of the Glorious Church.
The New Testament presents the church of Christ as the body of Christ.
22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church,
23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
Paul wanted his readers to understand that in the mind of God there was but one church.
Eph 4: 4-6
4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling;
5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
Not a “Jewish church” and a “Gentile church” but ONE CHURCH, the body of Christ.
Ephesians tells us how important the church is in the mind of God. Many today have the tendency to minimize the significance of the church. Denominationalism has destroy the concept of the New Testament church. Most people think of the church as an institution rather than a fellowship and therefore disregard its importance. Paul presents the divine origin of the church and prays that his readers will realize the significance of their relationship to God through the church (Eph. 1:15-23).
Important doctrines in Ephesians include: The importance of the church, The Unity of the Church, How God “chose” the church from the foundation of the world, God’s great love for the church compared to the love between a husband and his wife, The armor of the child of God and the kind of lives that Christians are to live.
One of my favorite verses:
5:1 ¶ Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children;
2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
And that brings us to:
P H I L I P P I A N S
The book of Philippians was written by the apostle Paul from a Roman prison to one of his favorite congregations in about 61-63 A.D.. Paul established the church in Philippi (Acts 16) and they helped to support Paul’s ministry in other locations (Phil. 4:14-17).
Philippi was in Macedonia, the northern part of what we know as Greece today. It was a very strategic city on the trade routes from East to West and was noted for its gold mines. It had the distinction of being a Roman “colony” which gave it great status in the Roman Empire. The city could govern itself with the blessing of the Caesars, and its citizens had citizenship rights in the Roman Empire (Cf. Acts 16:20f).
Philippians is often referred to as the Epistle of Joy. “Joy,” and “Rejoice” are found some sixteen times in the book.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
When you consider that Paul was writing from a Roman prison and he talks predominantly about Joy and Contentment, you realize just what a remarkable and important book in the New Testament this is.
Paul tells us that the key to confidence and joy in life is Jesus Christ. He urges Christians to imitate the humility of the Lord Jesus Christ (Phil. 2:1-11), and then he says something that the world really needs to remember:
6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,
Jesus Christ is God. He is divine and has existed from all eternity (John 1:1). He became a man (Phil. 2:7) to accomplish our salvation. He is now our exalted Lord (Phil 2:8-11).
If we as Christians can keep this perspective on things everything else falls into place. No matter what circumstances life will bring we can say with Paul:
11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.
13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Important teachings in Philippians include: The Deity of Christ, His preexistence, His equality with the Father, His incarnation, His perfect humanity, His death on the cross and His glorious exaltation, The organization of the church, Warnings about false teachers, the Need to defend the Truth, and the art of Rejoicing.