Books of the New Testament Summaries: Letters of Paul

Romans

The apostle Paul wrote the book of Romans as a letter, or epistle, to the Christians in Rome. He had not yet visited them but wanted to encourage them to be faithful.

In the letter, he told how wonderful God was for sending Jesus to die for our sins. Paul wrote that we did not deserve to be saved and that we did not do anything that could earn our salvation.

In the Garden of Eden, God said that the penalty or punishment for sin was death. Since all have sinned, all deserve death. It would not be fair for God to overlook our sin and yet God wanted to save us. When Jesus died on the cross, He had committed no sin and He was God living as a man. Jesus died so that we would not have to die. We deserve to die for our sins but Jesus died in our place. When we obey the gospel, Jesus’ blood washes away our sins so that we can be right with God. This was God’s plan from the beginning.

The book of Romans also instructs in the way we should live as Christians. In chapter 12, Paul wrote to have pure love and to hate things that are evil. He listed many things one should do if he is God’s child.

Paul also wrote that the Christian should obey the laws of the government (unless they would make us break one of God’s laws). He commanded his readers to love one another and do good to others because the Christian has “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Just like we wear clothes, we should “wear” Jesus; we must do the things He would do if He were living our life.

Paul told the Romans to help one another during the difficult times. Sometimes we can help others when they are weak. You might say something to encourage or comfort someone who is sad. You can help them do something that they need done but cannot do for themselves.

Paul ends the letter with a warning to stay away from people who teach false things and who try to cause problems in the church. When people try to divide the church, they are fighting against God and we should not encourage them.
Romans is a difficult book to read but, in time, you may find it enjoyable.

Lessons from Romans

  • God sent Jesus to die though we did not deserve His love
  • Jesus took away the penalty of sin that we deserved for our sins
  • If we are God’s children, we should have proper love and be busy doing the things that God wants us to do
  • We must avoid people who teach false things and try to divide the church

1 Corinthians

Paul wrote 1 Corinthians as a letter, or epistle, to the church in Corinth. Corinth was a wicked city and the church had many problems as members sought to serve God when people who lived around them worshipped idols.

In this epistle, Paul tried to fix several problems within the church. Since Paul used the phrase “concerning the things of which you wrote,” we can assume that Paul was answering questions sent to him from Corinth.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul told them to not to divide into little groups but to join together. He also urged them to learn more of God’s wisdom though many people in the world thought it was foolish. Even in our day many people do not see the wisdom in God’s word.

During the time Paul wrote, the Holy Spirit gave some Christians the ability to talk in languages they had not studied, heal sick people, and preach things revealed directly from God. We do not have this ability now since we have the Bible—the Corinthians did not have the Bible. Paul told them how to use these gifts of the Holy Spirit in their service and urged them not to think they were better than some who did not get the spiritual gifts.

While traveling throughout the region of Asia, Paul was gathering money from Christians to help Christians who lived in Judea who had no food because there was no rain for a couple of years. Paul told them they were doing a good work and that they should make sure to have the money ready when he visited. The Christians took up their collection on the first day of the week—Sunday—and so do we.

Since Corinth was such a wicked city, Paul had to teach the Christians how to be pure. He also told them to change several things they were doing that displeased God and did not make the church look good to their neighbors.

Though they lived in difficult circumstances, and had many problems within, Paul urged them to be faithful to God and to live pure lives. He told them that he might have to be stern with them in order to solve some issues if they did not resolve them by his arrival.

Lessons from 1 Corinthians

  • You can live pure even when others are talking and acting dirty and impure
  • Christians should not be divided
  • God’s wisdom is better than the wisdom of the world
  • Christians should help other Christians in their time of need
  • We must not do things that displease God and make His church look bad

2 Corinthians

Paul wrote this book as a letter, or epistle, to the church in Corinth.

As mentioned in the article on First Corinthians, Corinth was a very wicked city . The Christians had to be faithful in a place where many people worshipped idols and did bad other bad things. The church had many problems as members tried to learn to do good after spending much of their lives living sinfully like other people in the city.

Paul sent the first letter, 1 Corinthians, to correct problems in the church and answer some of their questions. In the second letter, Paul told them he was happy about some of the changes they made and hoped they would continue to grow in the faith.
Some people were saying bad things about Paul. It seems that some people said that he was not as good an apostle as Peter and the original apostles. Paul told them to think about how he lived and what he taught and they would know that he was just like the other apostles.

Paul reminded the church in Corinth to keep saving the money that they were going to send with Paul to help the Christians in Jerusalem who needed food since it had not rained for a long time. He told them to give much because God loves a cheerful giver.

Paul had to tell the church to change some things in order to help them please God. He did this because he loved them and wanted them to be saved.

Lessons from 2 Corinthians

  • A person can please God even if he lives in a wicked place
  • A person can change from a sinful life to a godly life
  • A Christian, he must continue to grow in the faith
  • God loves a cheerful giver
  • Sometimes you need to tell someone you love to change some bad actions but you must do it in love

Galatians

The book of Galatians was written to people who had served God by following the Old Testament and became Christians. When they obeyed, they no longer had to obey the Old Testament rules. Some of the people thought that they must keep the rules in the Old Testament and the New Testament. Paul told the Galatians that if they tried to do this, God would not be happy with them.

Paul said the Old Law was like a teacher preparing the people of Israel—the Jews—for Jesus to come. Since Jesus came they no longer had to follow the Old Law.

Galatia was an area north of Lystra and Derbe. Paul was writing to many Christians in this part of Asia.

In this letter, Paul told how Jesus appeared to him and taught him the gospel. He went out to a desert area for about three years after which he met Peter and James, the brother of Jesus.

Paul told about a time when Peter was acting like he was not friends with some people when another group came into the room. Paul told Peter that he was not acting as a Christian should. Paul was not being mean but wanted Peter to please God. Even very good people sometimes do wrong things and other good people must correct them.

Paul wrote that anyone can become a child of God through faith and obedience to Jesus. God’s children enjoy His care while they live and get to live with Him in heaven after death.

Finally, Paul told the Galatians that if they were Christians that people should be able to see it in their lives. God wanted them to tell the truth, love one another, be kind, and other things that please Him. He told them that selfishness, lying, and other bad behaviors would make God angry. Paul told them not to grow tired in doing good since God would reward them.

Lessons from Galatians

  • People must follow Jesus, not the Old Testament law
  • The Old Testament told about Jesus
  • Even good Christians like Peter do wrong things but can change and do right
  • One can become God’s child by faith
  • If someone is a child of God, his life must be filled with good things, not evil

Ephesians

The book of Ephesians is a letter from Paul to the church in Ephesus. Paul probably wrote Ephesians and Colossians at the same time since they are very similar.

The book of Ephesians tells how Christ is better than all powers in the world and is stronger than Satan. Paul told how Jesus is God who lived life as a man. He also told the Ephesians how Jesus made a way for us to go to heaven when we die if we obey Him.

Paul wrote about the church which is the kingdom Jesus made on earth. The church shows the power and wisdom of God because He was able to build the church even through many people tried to stop Him and Satan fought against Him. Jesus won.
Paul told his readers to be kind and get along with one another since they were all trying to go to heaven. They needed each others help and needed to help others.

Paul told the church to try hard not to sin since that did not please God. When they chose to serve Jesus, they had to quit doing things that were wrong and start doing what pleased God. All that God commanded them would help them live a better life. God knows what is best for us.

Paul wrote that children should obey their parents since this is right and will help them live a long life. Our parents, just like God, want us to be safe and happy which means that sometimes they will not let us do some things because they love us.

Paul compared the church to a husband and wife. Jesus died to save the church because He loved it so much. A husband must love his wife just as much. The church loves Jesus and obeys His commands. The wife must love her husband and know that
God put him in charge of the family. Both must love one another and help one another.

Finally, Paul told the church at Ephesus to arm themselves with the word of God and the spiritual armor to face the attacks of the enemy, Satan. If we will trust God to help us do what is right and pray for strength, God will help us do what is right even when other people want us to do what is wrong. By trusting in God’s power, we can have the victory.

Lessons from Ephesians

  • Jesus rules over all powers on earth
  • God’s people must be kind and helpful to one another
  • We should not do things that God does not like if we want to live a good and happy life
  • God wants children to obey their parents
  • Jesus loved us so much that He died to save us—we must do what He commands

Philippians

The letter to the church in Philippi has often been called the letter of joy. Several times Paul urges the church to rejoice in the Lord. Even though Paul was in prison when he wrote the letter he could rejoice that the gospel was still being preached and the Christians in Philippi were faithful to God.

In this letter Paul urged the Christians to not think that they were better than other people. He reminded them how Jesus was better than them but did not act like it. Jesus served others and so those who want to be like Jesus must serve others also. Jesus was not selfish or boastful but wanted to help others. We must do this too.

Paul also told the Christians to behave like God wanted them to since they lived around people who did not love God or follow His word. The Christian must be a light that shines the truth of God’s word to those who are dark with sin.

Though he was in prison and the Christians would be insulted and harmed by their enemies, Paul told them to rejoice since God loved them and would take care of them.

Since Christians must live like Christ, Paul said that it was his goal and that he left behind all the things that used to be important to him and the times that he failed to reach forward to the prize of heaven.

Sadly, Paul wrote of those who did not keep reaching for the goal of heaven and turned away from God. When they left God, these people became His enemies. They were more concerned with things on the earth than the glories of heaven.

Paul concluded the letter by reminding the Philippians to not be worried about anything but to pray and let God take care of the things that they need. If they did this, the peace of God would rule in their hearts.

He also reminded them to let their mind think about things that are pure, lovely, noble, and good. When one focuses on the good things he is able to develop good thoughts. When we watch TV, play video games, listen to the radio, or read books, we must choose things that are good and pure. Things that are dirty, foul, and wrong will pollute our minds and our souls.

Lessons from Philippians

  • Rejoice even in the bad times
  • Do not think you are better than others but serve others
  • Let all people see you live like Jesus even if they treat you badly
  • Make heaven your goal and reach for it
  • Pray to God so you may have peace
  • Let your mind dwell on pure, good, and holy things

Colossians

The book of Colossians is a letter from Paul to the church in the city of Colosse. Paul wrote the letter from prison and apparently wrote the book of Ephesians at the same time for the books are very similar.

The book of Colossians tells how Christ’s wisdom is so much greater than the wisdom of the world. He also told how Christ is much more powerful than the most powerful kings of earth. Jesus must be praised for his wisdom and power.

Paul warned the Colossians about the dangers of listening to those who claim to be wise but do not give honor to God. Some people think they know more than God’s word and try to use fancy words to teach their wisdom but the wisdom of God is greater even though it is given in simple words.

Paul also warned the Colossians of the danger the Jewish Christians faced if they tried to keep the Law of Moses. When Jesus gave the gospel the Law of Moses came to an end. Even today some people try to keep things in the Law of Moses but Paul says we cannot do it and please God.

Paul also warned them against the sins of the world and told them to act like Jesus. There are many things that people do that makes God sad and angry. He wants people to act like his son.

A final danger Paul warned them about was a false show of religion. A person can act like they love God but in their heart and lives do what is wrong. True service to God requires a changed life, focusing on Christ above, and being kind to one another.
Paul urged his readers to be kind to others and forgive others just as God forgave them. By doing this they would have peace in the church.

Paul encouraged the Colossians to live as Christ would in their family. Husbands and wives must love each other and the children must be obedient to their parents.

Finally, Paul wanted the Colossians to act proper when around people who were not Christians so they could be a good example. He told them to let their words by holy and encouraging which brings glory to Jesus.

Lessons from Colossians

  • God’s wisdom is greater than the world’s wisdom
  • Jesus is the most powerful being in the whole universe
  • Those who love God must not follow worldly wisdom or the Law of Moses
  • Those who love God must live and talk like Jesus would
  • God’s people should be good examples to all people

1 and 2 Thessalonians

Paul wrote two letters to Christians in the city of Thessalonica. In the first letter, he wanted to encourage them because they knew that what Paul was teaching was the word of God and they obeyed it. After they obeyed, the enemies of God began to treat them badly. They remained faithful to God and were a good example to Christians in countries around them.

Paul and some men who traveled with him had to get out of Thessalonica because the enemies did not want him to preach. The Christians who were left did not give up and it made Paul feel great. He prayed that God would help them to continue to grow stronger.

Paul warned them to always be ready for Jesus to come again to punish the evil and take the good people to heaven. Some people think that Jesus is not going to come back or will come some time in the future. Paul told them to always be ready because Jesus would return when no one is expecting Him and will punish those who are doing evil.

In his second letter, Paul again reminded them to be faithful even when God’s enemies were not treating them well. He told them that even though they had strong faith and love for each other, they still needed to grow in faith and love. The Christian should never stop growing.

Paul told them that some day Jesus would come and punish those who were mean to them and give them a life in heaven with God.

Paul warned them that people would begin to teach many false things and some would follow their lies instead of the truth of Jesus. He wanted them to know the truth so they would not be led away by evil men.

Paul told the people to not be close friends with people who said they followed Jesus but did not follow the truth. They did not work like they were supposed to do and thought the other Christians should feed them. They were lazy and Paul said to avoid them so that they would not sin with them. Whenever they could they should try to teach these people to do what is right. Paul wanted them to obey and not give up.

Lessons from 1 and 2 Thessalonians

  • Stay faithful when people mistreat you
  • Always be ready for Jesus’ return
  • Always grow in faith and love
  • Know the truth so you will not follow the lies of evil men
  • Do not make best friends of people who are doing wrong
  • If you do not work you should not eat; do not be lazy

1 and 2 Timothy

Paul wrote his first letter to Timothy to warn him about false teachers and encourage him to stand firm on the word of God.
Timothy was a young preacher who traveled with Paul on his last two preaching trips. Paul considered Timothy his son in the faith. In 1 Timothy, Paul urged Timothy to teach men and women how to worship and behave in the church. He told Timothy to organize the church with elders and deacons. Finally, he gives Timothy instructions on how Christians should live in various relationships and be content with their lives.

Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy to encourage him to remain faithful when people tried to harm him because he was a Christian. He also warned him about false teachers who would teach wrong things that Timothy must not follow and that he needed to correct.

When Paul wrote 2 Timothy, he knew the Roman government would soon kill him for being a Christian. Paul reminded Timothy to follow his example in faith and work. Paul warned Timothy of false teachers who would rise up teaching things that are an insult to God things but through study of God’s word, he would be able to see the errors and preach against them.

He urged Timothy to preach the word when people wanted to hear it and when they did not want to hear it. As you read the end of Paul’s letter you can feel the sadness of Paul as he felt death was near and wanted to see his young friend again. Paul was not afraid of death for he knew that when he departed he would be with the Lord.

The books of 1 and 2 Timothy are very encouraging books especially for young Christians to read. Paul warned Timothy to stay away from some sins that young people often commit. Paul knew that even though Timothy was young he could do many great things for God.

The letters to Timothy remind us how important it is to study the Bible. As we study more we are able to see what is false and what we must avoid. Even at a young age Timothy had strong faith because he learned God’s word and lived it.

Lessons from Paul to Timothy

  • Men and women must know how to behave in the church
  • Christians must act like Christ in every part of their life
  • We must be faithful even when others might harm us
  • We must know God’s word so we will not follow false teachers
  • Young people can do great things in service to God

Titus

Like the letters to Timothy, the letter to Titus is a letter from Paul to a young preacher. Paul told Titus to go to the island of Crete and appoint elders over each church.

He told Titus to preach to the members old and young, men and women. At the end of his short letter, Paul encouraged Titus to remain faithful and to be a good example to everyone in the church.

Paul wanted Titus to teach young people to have self control and “in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works.” Titus wanted young people to do good works–they were not to young to serve God. In their faith he wanted them to be genuine, reverent and incorruptible. What does this mean? He did not want them to pretend to follow Jesus but to really follow Him. Reverence is showing proper respect for God by behaving in worship and remembering that you will answer to God for how you live.

He also told Titus to teach the truth so that people would not leave God to follow false teachers. Even though the people taught false things, Titus was to be wise and humble when teaching the truth.

Lessons from Titus 

  • The gospel message has lessons for all people at all ages
  • When you are young, be a good example to the old and young
  • Show respect for God in worship and life
  • Teach against false things boldly but with humility

Philemon

The last letter of Paul in the Bible is the letter to a man named Philemon about his runaway slave Onesimus.

During Paul’s lifetime some people owned slaves. Onesimus was a slave that ran away from his master Philemon. He went to Rome and while he was there he met Paul. Paul taught Onesimus the gospel and he became a Christian. Onesimus was very helpful to Paul who was in prison in Rome but Paul felt that he must send him back to his master, Philemon.

Paul sent Onesimus with this letter in which Paul urged Philemon, who was a Christian in the church at Colosse, to receive him back kindly, suggesting perhaps that his escape was a way that God used to help Paul and save Onesimus’ soul. Paul further asked that Philemon release Onesimus from his slavery for he felt that Onesimus would be useful in the kingdom of God. We do not know if Philemon freed Onesimus but out of respect for Paul I would like to think that he did.

Lessons from Philemon

  • Show respect for God in worship and life
  • Confront difficult situations  boldly but with humility
  • Though we may not understand why some things happen, God can make all things work for good
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