Keith Hunt - Church History #31 - Page Thirty-one   Restitution of All Things

  Home Previous Page Next Page

History of the Church #31

The Epistles of Paul #1


BRIEF CHURCH HISTORY #31

30-100 AD


From "History of the Christian Church " by Philip Schaff
(1858)

THE EPISTLES OF PAUL
     
GENERAL CHARACTER


Paul was the greatest worker among the apostles, not only as a
missionary, but also as a writer. He "labored more than all."    
And we may well include in this "all" the whole body of
theologians who came after him; for where shall we find an equal
wealth of the profoundest thoughts on the highest themes as in
Paul? We have from him thirteen Epistles; how many more were
lost, we cannot even conjecture.   

(14 EPISTLES ACTUALLY, as I believe Paul wrote Hebrews - Keith
Hunt)

The four most important of them are admitted to be genuine even
by the most exacting and sceptical critics. They are so stamped
with the individuality of Paul, and so replete with tokens of his
age and surroundings, that no sane man can mistake the auth-
orship. We might as well doubt the genuineness of Luther's work
on the Babylonian captivity, or his small catechism. The heretic
Marcion, in the first half of the second century, accepted ten,
excluding only the three Pastoral Epistles which did not suit his
notions.

The Pauline Epistles are pastoral addresses to congregations of
his own founding (except that of Rome, and probably also that of
Colossae, which were founded by his pupils), or to individuals
(Timothy, Titus, Philemon). Several of them hail from prison, but
breathe the same spirit of faith, hope, and joy as the others,
and the last ends with a shout of victory. They proceeded from
profound agitation, and yet are calm and serene. They were
occasioned by the trials, dangers, and errors incident to every
new congregation, and the care and anxiety of the apostle for
their spiritual welfare. He had led them from the darkness of
heathen idolatry and Jewish bigotry to the light of Christian
truth and freedom, and raised them from the slime of depravity to
the pure height of saving grace and holy living. He had no family
ties, and threw the whole strength of his affections into his
converts, whom he loved as tenderly as a mother can love her
offspring. This love to his spiritual children was inspired by
his love to Christ, as his love to Christ was the response to
Christ's love for him. Nor was his love confined to the brethren:
he was ready to make the greatest sacrifice for his unbelieving
and persecuting fellow-Jews, as Christ himself sacrificed his
life for his enemies.

His Epistles touch on every important truth and duty of the
Christian religion, and illuminate them from the heights of
knowledge and experience, without pretending to exhaust them.
They furnish the best material for a system of dogmatics and
ethics. Paul looks back to the remotest beginning before the
creation, and looks out into the farthest future beyond death and
the resurrection. He writes with the authority of a commissioned
apostle and inspired teacher, yet, on questions of expediency, he
distinguishes between the command of the Lord and his private
judgment (Ah but his judgment was inspired by the Holy Spirit -
Keith Hunt). He seems to have written rapidly and under great
pressure, without correcting his first draft. If we find, with
Peter, in his letters, "some things hard to be understood," even
in this nineteenth century, we must remember that Paul himself
bowed in reverence before the boundless ocean of God's truth, and
humbly professed to know only in part, and to see through a
mirror darkly. All knowledge in this world "ends in mystery." 
Our best systems of theology are but dim reflections of the
sunlight of revelation. Infinite truths transcend our finite
minds, and cannot be compressed into the pigeon-holes of logical
formulas. But every good commentary adds to the understanding and
strengthens the estimate of the paramount value of these
Epistles.

THE CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER

Paul's Epistles were written within a period of about twelve
years, between A.D.52 or 53 and 64 or 67, when he stood at the
height of his power and influence. None was composed before the
Council of Jerusalem. From the date of his conversion to his
second missionary journey (A.D. 37 to 52) we have no documents of
his pen. The chronology of his letters can be better ascertained
than that of the Gospels or Catholic Epistles, by combining
internal indications with the Acts and contemporary events, such
as the dates of the proconsulship of Gallio in Achaia, and the
procuratorship of Felix and Festus in Judaea. As to the Romans,
we can determine the place, the year, and the season of
composition: he sends greetings from persons in Corinth (16:23),
commends Phoebe, a deaconess of Kenchreae, the port of Corinth,
and the bearer of the letter (16:1); he had not yet been in Rome
(1:13), but hoped to get there after another visit to Jerusalem,
on which he was about to enter, with collections from Macedonia
and Achaia for the poor brethren in Judaea (15:22-29; comp. 2
Cor.8:1-3); and from Acts we learn that on his last visit to
Achaia he abode three months in Corinth, and returned to Syria
between the Passover and Pentecost (Acts 20:3,6,16). This was his
fifth and last journey to Jerusalem, where he was taken prisoner
and sent to Felix in Caesarea, two years before he was followed
by Festus. All these indications lead us to the spring Of A.D.
58.

The chronological order is this: 

Thessalonians were written first, A.D. 52 or 53; then Galatians,
Corinthians, and Romans, between 56 and 58; then the Epistles of
the captivity: Colossians, Ephesians, Philemon, Philippians,
between 61 and 63; last, the Pastoral Epistles, but their date is
uncertain, except that the second Epistle to Timothy is his
farewell letter on the eve of his martyrdom.

It is instructive to study the Epistles in their chronological
order with the aid of the Acts, and so to accompany the apostle
in his missionary career from Damascus to Rome, and to trace the
growth of his doctrinal system from the documentary truths in
Thessalonians to the height of maturity in Romans; then through
the ramifications of particular topics in Colossians, Ephesians,
Philippians, and the farewell counsels in the Pastoral Epistles.

DOCTRINAL ARRANGEMENT

More important than the chronological order is the topical order,
according to the prevailing object and central idea. This gives
us the following groups:

1. ANTHROPOLOGICAL and SOTERIOLOGICAL: Galatians and Romans.
2. ETHICAL and ECCLESIASTICAL: First and Second Corinthians.
3. CHRISTOLOGICAL: Colossians and Philippians.
4. ECCLESIOLOGICAL: Ephesians (in part also Corinthians). 
5. ESCHATOLOGICAL: Thessalonians.
6. PASTORAL: Timothy and Titus.
7. SOCIAL and PERSONAL: Philemon.

(And as I've said Hebrews was written by Paul, it has all the
technical knowledge of the Hebrew system given to Israel, such as
Paul would have known as a great Pharisee before being called by
God to the Gospel. This would make 14 books written by Paul and
the number 14 is the number used in the Bible for SALVATION. It
makes complete logic then for the great writer of the NT that
Paul was, to write 14 books or epistles - Keith Hunt)

THE STYLE

The style is the man. This applies with peculiar force to
Paul. His style has been called "the most personal that ever
existed." It fitly represents the force and fire of his mind and
the tender affections of his heart. He disclaims classical
elegance and calls himself "rude in speech," though by no means
"in knowledge." He carried the heavenly treasure in earthen
vessels. But the defects are more than made up by excellences. In
his very weakness the strength of Christ was perfected. We are
not lost in the admiration of the mere form, but are kept mindful
of the paramount importance of the contents and the hidden depths
of truth which lie behind the words and defy the power of
expression.

Paul's style is manly, bold, heroic, aggressive, and warlike; yet
at times tender, delicate, gentle, and winning. It is involved,
irregular, and rugged, but always forcible and expressive, and
not seldom rises to more than poetic beauty, as in the triumphant
paean at the end of the eighth chapter of Romans, and in the ode
on love (1 Cor.13). His intense earnestness and overflowing
fulness of ideas break through the ordinary rules of grammar.    
His logic is set on fire. He abounds in skilful arguments, bold
antitheses, impetuous assaults, abrupt transitions, sudden turns,
zigzag flashes, startling questions and exclamations. He is
dialectical and argumentative; he likes logical particles,
paradoxical phrases, and plays on words. He reasons from
Scripture, from premises, from conclusions; he drives the
opponent to the wall without mercy and reduces him ad absurdum,
but without ever indulging in personalities. He is familiar with
the sharp weapons of ridicule, irony, and sarcasm, but holds them
in check and uses them rarely. He varies the argament by touching
appeals to the heart and bursts of seraphic eloquence. He is
never dry or dull, and never wastes words; he is brief, terse,
and hits the nail on the head. His terseness makes him at times
obscure, as is the case with the somewhat similar style of
Thucydides, Tacitus, and Tertullian. His words are as many
warriors marching on to victory and peace; they are like a
mountain torrent rushing in foaming rapids over precipices, and
then calmly flowing over green meadows, or like a thunderstorm
ending in a refreshing shower and bright sunshine.

Paul created the vocabulary of scientific theology and put a
profounder meaning into religious and moral terms than they ever
had before. We cannot speak of sin, flesh, grace, mercy, peace,
redemption, atonement, justification, glorification, church,
faith, love, without bearing testimony to the ineffaceable effect
which that greatest of Jewish rabbis and Christian teachers has
had upon the language of Christendom.

Notes

CHRYSOSTOM justly compares the Epistles of Paul to metals more
precious than gold and to unfailing fountains which flow the more
abundantly the more we drink of them.
BEZA: "When I more closely consider the whole genius and
character of Paul's style, I must confess that I have found no
such sublimity of speaking in Plato himself ... no exquisiteness
of vehemence in Demosthenes equal to his."
EWALD begins his Commentary on the Pauline Epistles (Gottingen,
1857) with these striking and truthful remarks: "Considering
these Epistles for themselves only, and apart from the general
significance of the great Apostle of the Gentiles, we must still
admit that, in the whole history of all centuries and of all
nations, there is no other set of writings of similar extent,
which, as creations of the fugitive moment, have proceeded from
such severe troubles of the age, and such profound pains and
sufferings of the author himself, and yet contain such an amount
of healthfulness, serenity, and vigor of immortal genius, and
touch with such clearness and certainty on the very, highest
truths of human aspiration and action ... The smallest as well as
the greatest of these Epistles seem to have proceeded from the
fleeting moments of this earthly life only to enchain all
eternity; they were born of anxiety and bitterness of human
strife, to set forth in brighter lustre and with higher certainty
their superhuman grace and beauty. The divine assurance and
firmness of the old prophets of Israel, the all-transcending
glory and immediate spiritual presence of the Eternal King and
Lord, who had just ascended to heaven, and all the art and
culture of a ripe and wonderfully excited age, seem to have
joined, as it were, in bringing forth the new creation of these
Epistles of the times which were destined to last for all times."

On the style of Paul: ... To the testimonies there given I add
the judgment of Reuss (Geschichte Schr. N. T., I. 67): "Still
more [than the method] is the style of all these Epistles the
true expression of the personality of the author. The defect of
classical correctness and rhetorical finish is more than com-
pensated by the riches of language and the fulness of expression.
The condensation of construction demands not reading simply, but
studying. Broken sentences, ellipses, parentheses, leaps in the
argumentation, allegories, rhetorical figures express inimitably
all the moods of a wideawake and cultured mind, all the
affections of a rich and deep heart, and betray everywhere a pen
at once bold, and yet too slow for the thought. Antitheses,
climaxes, exclamations, questions keep up the attention, and
touching effusions win the heart of the reader."

The Epistles to the Thessalonians

Thessalonica, a large and wealthy commercial city of Macedonia,
the capital of "Macedonia secunda," the seat of a Roman proconsul
and quaestor, and inhabited by many Jews, was visited by Paul on
his second missionary tour, A.D. 52 or 53, and in a few weeks he
succeeded, amid much persecution, in founding a flourishing
church composed chiefly of Gentiles. From this centre
Christianity spread throughout the neighborhood, and during the
middle ages Thessalonica was, till its capture by the Turks (A.D.
1430), a bulwark of the Byzantine empire and Oriental
Christendom, and largely instrumental in the conversion of the
Slavonians and Bulgarians; hence it received the designation of 
"the Orthodox City." It numbered many learned archbishops, and
still has more remains of ecclesiastical antiquity than any other
city in Greece, although its cathedral is turned into a mosque.
To this church Paul, as its spiritual father, full of affection
for his inexperienced children, wrote in familiar conversational
style two letters from Corinth, during his first sojourn in that
city, to comfort them in their trials and to correct certain
misapprehensions of his preaching concerning the glorious return
of Christ, and the preceding development of "the man of sin " or
Antichrist, and "the mystery of lawlessness," then already at
work, but checked by a restraining power. The hope of the near
advent had degenerated into an enthusiastic adventism which
demoralized the every-day life. He now taught them that the Lord
will not come so soon as they expected, that it was not a matter
of mathematical calculation, and that in no case should the
expectation check industry and zeal, but rather stimulate them.
Hence his exhortations to a sober, orderly, diligent, and
prayerful life.

(Ah did you catch it? By the time Paul wrote what most think was
his FIRST epistles - Thessalonians - he had come to the
realization Jesus would NOT return as soon as they expected when
the New Testament church was first founded. He had revealed to
himself that CERTAIN prophetic events HAD to happen before Christ
would return. And dear readers we are STILL waiting for many of
those events to come to pass - Keith Hunt)

It is remarkable that the first Epistles of Paul should treat of
the last topic in the theological system and anticipate the end
at the beginning. But the hope of Christ's speedy coming was,
before the destruction of Jerusalem, the greatest source of
consolation to the infant church amid trial and persecution, and
the church at Thessalonica was severely tried in its infancy, and
Paul driven away. It is also remarkable that to a young church in
Greece rather than to that in Rome should have first been
revealed the beginning of that mystery of anti-Christian
lawlessness which was then still restrained, but was to break out
in its full force in Rome.

The objections of Baur to the genuineness of these Epistles,
especially the second, are futile in the judgment of the best
critics.

THE THEORETICAL THEME

The parousia of Christ

THE PRACTICAL THEME: 

Christian hope in the midst of persecution.

LEADING THOUTHTS: 

This is the will of God, even your sanctification (1 Thess.4:3).
Sorrow not as the rest who have no hope (4:13). The Lord will
descend from heaven, and so shall we ever be with the Lord
(4:16,17). The day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night
(5:2). Let us watch and be sober (5:6). Put on the breastplate of
faith and love, and for a helmet, the hope of salvation (5:8).   
Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks
(5:16). Prove all things; hold fast that which is good; abstain
from every form of evil (5:21,22). The Lord will come to be
glorified in his saints (2 Thess.1:10). But the falling away must
come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition
(2:3,4). The mystery of lawlessness doth already work, but is
restrained for the time (2:7). Stand fast and hold the traditions
which ye were taught, whether by word, or by epistle of ours
(2:15). If any will not work, neither let him eat (3:10). Be not
weary in well-doing (3:13). The God of peace sanctify you wholly;
and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire,
without blame at the coming (Greek ) of our Lord Jesus Christ (1
Thess.5:23).

The Epistles to the Corinthians

Corinth was the metropolis of Achaia, on the bridge of two seas,
an emporium of trade between the East and the Westwealthy,
luxurious, art-loving, devoted to the worship of Aphrodite. Here
Paul established the most important church in Greece, and
labored, first eighteen months, then three months, with, perhaps,
a short visit between (2 Cor.12:14; 13:1). The church presented
all the lights and shades of the Greek nationality under the
influence of the Gospel. It was rich in "all utterance and all
knowledge,"  coming behind in no gift," but troubled by the
spirit of sect and party, infected with a morbid desire for
worldly wisdom and brilliant eloquence, with scepticism and moral
levity - nay, to some extent polluted with gross vices, so that
even the Lord's table and love feasts were desecrated by
excesses, and that the apostle, in his absence, found himself
compelled to excommunicate a particularly offensive member who
disgraced the Christian profession. It was distracted by
Judaizers and other troublers, who abused the names of Cepbas,
James, Apollos, and even of Christ (as extra-Christians), for
sectarian ends. A number of questions of morality and casuistry
arose in that lively, speculative, and excitable community, which
the apostle had to answer from a distance before his second (or
third) and last visit.

Hence, these Epistles abound in variety of topics, and show the
extraordinary versatility of the mind of the writer, and his
practical wisdom in dealing with delicate and complicated
questions and unscrupulous opponents. For every aberration he has
a word of severe censure, for every danger a word of warning, for
every weakness a word of cheer and sympathy, for every returning
offender a word of pardon and encourageinent. The Epistles lack
the unity of design which characterizes Galatians and Romans.
They are ethical, ecclesiastical, pastoral, and personal, rather
than dogmatic and theological, although some most important
doctrines, as that on the resurrection, are treated more fully
than elsewhere.

I. THE FIRST EPISTLE To THE CORINTHIANS was composed in Ephesus
shortly before Paul's departure for Greece, in the spring of A.D.
57. It had been preceded by another one, now lost (5:9). It was
an answer to perplexing questions concerning various disputes and
evils which disturbed the peace and spotted the purity of the
congregation. The apostle contrasts the foolish wisdom of the
gospel with the wise folly of human philosophy; rebukes
sectarianism; unfolds the spiritual unity and harmonious variety
of the church of Christ, her offices and gifts of grace, chief
among which is love; warns against carnal impurity as a violation
of the temple of God; gives advice concerning marriage and
celibacy without binding the conscience (having "no commandment
of the Lord," 7:25); (the writer does not understand what Paul
was meaning by "no command of the Lord" - fully explained in my
expounding of this epistle under "The New Testament Bible Story"
- Keith Hunt) discusses the question of meat sacrificed to idols,
on which Jewish and Gentile Christians, scrupulous and liberal
brethren, were divided; enjoins the temporal support of the
ministry as a Christian duty of gratitude for greater spiritual
mercies received; guards against improprieties of dress; explains
the design and corrects the abuses of the Lord's Supper; and
gives the fullest exposition of the doctrine of the resurrection
on the basis of the resurrection of Christ and his personal
manifestations to the disciples, and last, to himself at his
conversion. Dean Stanley says of this Epistle that it "gives a
clearer insight than any other portion of the New Testament into
the institutions, feelings, and opinions of the church of the
earlier period of the apostolic age. It is in every sense the
earliest chapter of the history of the Christian church." The
last, however, is not quite correct. The Corinthian chapter was
preceded by the Jerusalem and Antioch chapters.

LEADING THOUGHTS: 

Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you (1:13)? It was
God's pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching [not
through foolish preaching] to save them that believe (1:21).     
We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and
unto Gentiles foolishness, but unto them that are called, both
Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God
(1:24). I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus,
and him crucified (2:2). The natural man receevveh not the things
of the Spirit of God (2:14). Other foundation can no man lay than
that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ (3:11). Know ye not
that ye are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth
in you? If any man destroy the temple of God, him shall God
destroy (3:16,17).  Let a man so account of ourselves as of
ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God (4:1).
The kingdom of God is not in word, but in power (4:20). Purge out
the old leaven (5:7). All things are lawful for me; but not all
things are expedient (6:12). Know ye not that your bodies are
members of Christ (6:15)? Flee fornication (6:18). Glorify God in
your body (6:20). Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is
nothing; but the keeping of the commandments of God (7:19). Let
each man abide in that calling wherein he was called (7:20).     
Ye were bought with a price; become not bondservants of men (7:
23). Take heed lest this liberty of yours become a stumbling
block to the weak (8:9). If meat [or wine] maketh my brother to
stumble, I will eat no flesh [and drink no wine] for evermore,
that I make not my brother to stumble (8:13). They who proclaim
the gospel shall live of the gospel (9:14). Woe is unto me if I
preach not the gospel (9:16). I am become all things to all men,
that I may by all means save some (9: 22). Let him that thinketh
he standeth take heed lest he fall (10:12). All things are
lawful, but all things are not expedient. Let no man seek his
own, but each his neighbor's good (10:23). Whosoever shall eat
the bread or drink the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner,
shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord ... He that
eateth and drinketh eateth and drinketh judgment unto himself if
he discern (discriminate) not the body (11:27-29). There are
diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit (12:4). Now abideth
faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love
(13:13). Follow after love (14:1). Let all things be done unto
edifying (14:26). By the grace of God I am what I am (15:9).     
If Christ hath not been raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet
in your sins (15:17). As in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall
all be made alive (15:22). God shall be all in all (15:28). If
there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body (15:
44). This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal
must put on immortality (15:54). Be ye steadfast, immovable,
always abounding in the work of the Lord (15:58). Upon the first
day in the week let each one of you lay by him in store, as he
may prosper (16:2). Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you
like men, be strong. Let all that ye do be done in love (16:13,
14.).

II. THE SECOND EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS was written in the
summer or autumn of the same year, 57, from some place in
Macedonia, shortly before the author's intended personal visit to
the metropolis of Achaia. It evidently proceeded from profound
agitation, and opens to us very freely the personal character and
feelings, the official trials and joys, the noble pride and deep
humility, the holy earnestness and fervent love, of the apostle. 
It gives us the deepest insight into his heart, and is almost an
autobiography. He had, in the meantime, heard fuller news,
through Titus, of the state of the church, the effects produced
by his first Epistle, and the intrigues of the emissaries of the
Judaizing party, who followed him everywhere and tried to
undermine his work. This unchristian opposition compelled him, in
self-defence, to speak of his ministry and his personal
experience with overpowering eloquence. He also urges again upon
the congregation the duty of charitable collections for the poor.
The Epistle is a mine of pastoral wisdom.

LEADING THOUGHTS: 

As the sufferings of Christ abound unto us, even so our comfort
also aboundeth through Christ (1:5). As ye are par takers of the
sufferings, so also are ye of the comfort (1:7). Not that we have
lordship over your faith, but are helpers of your joy (1:24). Who
is sufficient for these things (2:16)? Ye are our epistle,
written in our hearts, known and read of all men (3: 2). Not that
we are sufficient of ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God
(3:5). The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life (3:6).     
The Lord is the Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is,
there is liberty (3:17). We preach not ourselves, but Christ
Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake 
(4:5). We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the
exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from
ourselves (4:7). Our light affliction, which is for the moment,
worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of
glory (4: 17). We know that if the earthly house of our
tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building from God, a house not
made with hands, eternal, in the heavens (5:1). We walk by faith,
not by sight (5:7). We must all be made manifest before the
judgment seat of Christ (5:10). The love of Christ constraineth
us, because we thus judge, that one died for all, therefore all
died (5:14). And he died for all, that they who live should no
longer live unto themselves, but unto him who for their sakes
died and rose again (5:15). If any man is in Christ, he is a new
creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become
new (l5:17). God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto
himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses, and having
committed unto us the word of reconciliation (5:19). We beseech
you on behalf of Christ, be ye reconciled to God (5:20).Him who
knew no sin he made to be sin in our behalf; that we might become
the righteousness of God in him (5:21). Be not unequally yoked
with unbelievers (6:14). I am filled with comfort, I overflow
with joy in all our affliction (7:4). Godly sorrow worketh
repentance unto salvation, but the sorrow of the world worketh
death (7:10). Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that,
though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye
through his poverty might become rich (8:9). He that soweth
sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he that soweth
bountifully shall reap also bountifully (9:6). God loveth a
cheerful giver (9:7). He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord
(10: 17). Not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom
the Lord commendeth (10:18). My grace is sufficient for thee; for
my power is made perfect in weakness (12:9). We can do nothing
against the truth, but for the truth (13:8). The grace of the
Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the
Holy Spirit, be with you all (13:14).

The Epistle to the Galatians

Galatians and Romans discuss the doctrines of sin and redemption,
and the relation of the law and the gospel. They teach salvation
by free grace and justification by faith, Christian universalism
in opposition to Jewish particularism, evangelical free dom
versus legalistic bondage. But Galatians is a rapid sketch and
the child of deep emotion, Romans an elaborate treatise and the
mature product of calm reflexion. The former Epistle is polemical
against foreign intruders and seducers, the latter is irenical
and composed in a serene frame of mind. The one rushes along like
a mountain torrent and foaming cataract, the other flows like a
majestic river through a boundless prairie; and yet it is the
same river, like the Nile at the Rapids and below Cairo, or the
Rhine in the Grisons and the lowlands of Germany and Holland, or
the St. Lawrence at Niagara Falls and below Montreal and Quebec
where it majestically branches out into the ocean.

It is a remarkable fact that the two races represented by the
readers of these Epistles - the Celtic and the Latin - have far
departed from the doctrines taught in them and exchanged the
gospel freedom for legal bondage; thus repeating the apostasy
of the sanguine, generous, impressible, mercurial, fickle-minded
Galatians. The Pauline gospel was for centuries ignored,
misunderstood, and (in spite of St. Augustin) cast out at last by
Rome, as Christianity itself was cast out by Jerusalem of old.
But the overruling wisdom of God made the rule of the papacy a
training-school of the Teutonic races of the North and West for
freedom; as it had turned the unbelief of the Jews to the
conversion of the Gentiles. Those Epistles, more than any book.
of the New Testament, inspired the Reformation of the sixteenth
century, and are to this day the Gibraltar of evangelical
Protestantism. Luther, under a secondary inspiration, reproduced
Galatians in his war against the "Babylonian captivity of the
church;" the battle for Christian freedom was won once more, and
its fruits are enjoyed by nations of which neither Paul nor
Luther ever heard.

The Epistle to the GALATIANS (Gauls, originally from the borders
of the Rhine and Moselle, who had migrated to Asia Minor) was
written after Paul's second visit to thein, either during his
long residence in Ephesus (A.D.54-57), or shortly afterwards on
his second journey to Corinth, possibly from Corinth, certainly
before the Epistle to the Romans. It was occasioned by the
machinations of the Judaizing teachers who undermined his
apostolic authority and misled his converts into an apostasy from
the gospel of free grace to a false gospel of legal bondage,
requiring circumcision as a condition of justification and full
membership of the church. It is an "Apologia pro vita sua," a
personal and doctrinal self-vindication. He defends his
independent apostleship (1:1 to 2:14), and his teaching (2:15 to
4:31), and closes with exhortations to hold fast to Christian
freedom without abusing it, and to show the fruits of faith by
holy living (chs.5 and 6).

The Epistle reveals, in clear, strong colors, both the difference
and the harmony among the Jewish and Gentile apostles - a
difference ignored by the old orthodoxy, which sees only the
harmony, and exaggerated by modern scepticism, which sees only
the difference. It anticipates, in grand fundamental outlines,
a conflict which is renewed from time to time in the history of
different churches, and, on the largest scale, in the conflict
between Petrine Romanism and Pauline Protestantism. The temporary
collision of the two leading apostles in Antioch is typical of
the battle of the Reformation.

At the same time Galatians is an Irenicon and sounds the key-note
of a final adjustment of all doctrinal and ritualistic
controversies. "In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth
anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith working through love" (5:
6). "And as many as shall walk by this rule, peace be upon them,
and mercy, and upon the Israel of God" (6:16).

CENTRAL IDEA: 

Evangelical freedom.

(Well, freedom from Pharisee theology of rites and freedom from
pagan theology and traditions; freedom from the forms of the Old
Covenant, into the New Covenant; freedom from physical
circumcision needed for salvation - Keith Hunt)


KEY-WORDS: 

For freedom Christ set us free: stand fast therefore, and be not
entangled again in the yoke of bondage (5:1). A man is not
justified by works of the law, but only through faith in Jesus
Christ (2:16). I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no
longer I that live but Christ liveth in me (2:20). Christ
redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for
us (3:13). Ye were called for freedom, only use not your freedom
for an occasion to the flesh, but through love be servants one to
another (5:13). Walk by the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the
lust of the flesh (5:16).

(The full understanding of this often perverted book of Galatians
is fully expounded by myself under "The New Testament Bible
Story" on this website and on my Youtube (1horsesrcool) - Keith
Hunt)

The Epistle to the Romans

A few weeks before his fifth and last journey to Jerusalem, Paul
sent, as a forerunner of his intended personal visit, a letter to
the Christians in the capital of the world, which was intended by
Providence to become the Jerusalem of Christendom. Foreseeing its
future importance, the apostle chose for his theme The gospel the
power of God unto salvation to every believer, the Jew first, and
also the Gentile (1:16,17). Writing to the philosophical Greeks,
he contrasts the wisdom of God with the wisdom of man. To the
world-ruling Romans he represents Christianity as the power of
God which by spiritual weapons will conquer even conquering Rome.
Such a bold idea must have struck a Roman statesman as the wild
dream of a visionary or madman, but it was fulfilled in the
ultimate conversion of the empire after three centuries of
persecution, and is still in the process of ever-growing
fulfilment.

(Wellll .... Rome was converted to the Roman Catholic theology in
the 4th century A.D. And Roman Christianity has and is conquering
the world more and more with its ideas and traditions - she is
the Babylon Mystery religion of the book of Revelation - Keith
Hunt)

In the exposition of his theme the apostle shows: (1) that all
men are in need of salvation, being under the power of sin and
exposed to the judgment of the righteous God, the Gentiles not
only (1:18-32), but also the Jews, who are still more guilty,
having sinned against the written law and extraordinary
privileges (2:1 to 3:20); (2) that salvation is accomplished by
Jesus Christ, his atoning death and triumphant resurrection,
freely offered to all on the sole condition of faith, and applied
in the successive acts of justification, sanctification; and
glorification (3:21 to end of chapter 8); (3) that salvation was
offered first to the Jews, and, being rejected by them in
unbelief, passed on to the Gentiles, but will return again to the
Jews after the fulness of the Gentiles shall have come in (chs.
9-11); (4) that we should show our gratitude for so great a
salvation by surrendering ourselves to the service of God, which
is true freedom (chs.12 to 16).

The salutations in the last chapter, the remarkable variations of
the manuscripts in 15:33; 16:20,24,27, and the omission of the
words "in Rome," 1:7,15, in Codex G, are best explained by the
conjecture that copies of the letter were also sent to Ephesus
(where Aquila and Priscilla were at that time, 1 Cor.16:19, and
again, some years afterwards, 2 Tim.4:19), and perhaps to other
churches with appropriate conclusions, all of which are preserved
in the present form.

This letter stands justly at the head of the Pauline Epistles.

It is more comprehensive and systematic than the others, and
admirably adapted to the mistress of the world, which was to
become also the mistress of Western Christendom. It is the most
remarkable production of the most remarkable man. It is his
heart. It contains his theology, theoretical and practical., for
which he lived and died. It gives the clearest and fullest
exposition of the doctrines of sin and grace and the best
possible solution of the universal dominion of sin and death in
the universal redemption by the second Adam. Without this
redemption the fall is indeed the darkest enigma and
irreconcilable with the idea of divine justice and goodness.     
Paul reverently lifts the veil from the mysteries of eternal
foreknowledge and foreordination and God's gracious designs in
the winding course of history which will end at last in the
triumph of his wisdom and mercy and the greatest good to
mankind.  Luther calls Romans "the chief book of the New
Testament and the purest Gospel," Coleridge: "the profoundest
book in existence," Meyer: "the greatest and richest of all the
apostolic works," Godet (best of all): "the cathedral of the
Christian faith."

THEME:

 Christianity the power of free and universal salvation, on
condition of faith.

LEADING THOUGHTS: 

They are all under sin (3:9). Through the law cometh the
knowledge of sin (3:20). Man is justified by faith apart from
works of the law (3:28). Being justified by faith we have
(Greek), or, let us have, (Greek) peace with God through our Lord
Jesus Christ (5:1). As through one man sin entered into the
world, and death through sin, and so death passed unto all men,
for that all sinned (5:12) [so through one man righteousness
entered into the world, and life through righteousness, and so
life passed unto all men on condition that they believe in Christ
and by faith become partakers of his righteousness]. Where sin
abounded, grace did abound much more exceedingly that as sin
reigned in death, even so might grace reign through righteousness
unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (5:20,21). Reckon
yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ
Jesus (6:11). There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ
Jesus (8:1). To them that love God all things work together for
good (8:28). Whom he foreknew, he also foreordained to be
conformed to the image of his Son ... and whom he foreordained
them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified:
and whom he justified, them he also glorified (8:29,30). If God
is for us, who is against us (8:31)? Who shall separate us from
the love of Christ (8:35)? Hardening in part hath befallen
Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in; and so all
Israel shall be saved (11:25). God hath shut up all unto
disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all (11:32). Of Him,
and through Him, and unto Him are all things (11:36). Present
your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is
your reasonable service (12:1).

The Epistles of the Captivity

During his confinement in Rome, from A.D. 61 to 63, while waiting
the issue of his trial on the charge of being "a mover of
insurrections among all the Jews throughout the world, and a
ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes" (Acts 24:5), the aged
apostle composed four Epistles, to the COLOSSIANS, EPHESIANS,
PHILEMON, and PHILIPPIANS. He thus turned the prison into a
pulpit, sent Inspiration and comfort to his distant
congregations, and rendered a greater service to future ages than
he could have done by active labor. He gloried in being a
"prisoner of Christ" he experienced the blessedness of
persecution for righteousness' sake (Matt.5:10), and "the peace
of God which passeth all understanding" (Phil.4:7). He often
refers to his bonds, and the coupling chain or hand-cuff (Greek)
by which, according to Roman custom, he was with his right wrist
fettered day and night to a soldier; one relieving the other and
being in turn chained to the apostle, so that his imprisonment
became a means for the spread of the gospel "throughout the whole
praetorian guard." He had the privilege of living in his own
hired lodging (probably in the neighborhood of the praetorian
camp, outside of the walls, to the northeast of Rome), and of
free intercourse with his companions and distant congregations.
Paul does not mention the place of his captivity, which extended
through four years and a half (two at Caesarea, two at Rome, and
six months spent on the stormy voyage and at Malta).

The traditional view dates the four Epistles from the Roman
captivity, and there is no good reason to depart from it. Several
modern critics assign one or more to Caesarea, where he cannot be
supposed to have been idle, and where he was nearer to his
congregations in Asia Minor. But in Caesarea Paul looked forward
to Rome and to Spain; while in the Epistles of the captivity he
expresses the hope of soon visiting Colossae and Philippi. In
Rome he had the best opportunity of correspondence with his
distant friends, and enjoyed a degree of freedom which may have
been denied him in Caesarea. In Philippians he sends greetings
from converts in "Caesar's household" (4:22), which naturally
points to Rome; and the circumstances and surroundings of the
other Epistles are very much alike.

Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon were composed about the same
time and sent by the same messengers (Tychicus and Onesimus) to
Asia Minor, probably toward the close of the Roman captivity, for
in Philemon, ver.22, he engaged a lodging in Colossae in the
prospect of a speedy release and visit to the East.

Philippians we place last in the order of composition, or, at all
events, in the second year of the Roman captivity; for some time
must have elapsed after Paul's arrival in Rome before the gospel
could spread "throughout the whole praetorian guard "
(Phil.1:13), and before the Philippians, at a distance of seven
hundred miles from Rome (a full month's journey in those days),
could receive news from him and send him contributions through
Epaphroditus, besides other communications which seem to have
preceded the Epistle.

On the other hand, the priority of the composition of Philippians
has been recently urged on purely internal evidence, namely, its
doctrinal affinity with the preceding anti-Judaic Epistles; while
Colossians and Ephesians presuppose the rise of the Gnostic
heresy and thus form the connecting link between them and the
Pastoral Epistles, in which the same heresy appears in a more
matured form. But Ephesians has likewise striking affinities in
thought and language with Romans in the doctrine of justification
(comp. Eph. 2:8), and with Romans (ch.12) and First Corinthians
(12 and 14) in the doctrine of the church. As to the heresy, Paul
had predicted its rise in Asia Minor several years before in his
farewell to the Ephesian elders. And, finally, the grateful and
joyful tone of Philippians falls in most naturally with the lofty
and glorious conception of the church of Christ as presented in
Ephesians.

The Epistle to the Colossians

THE CHURCHES IN PHRYGIA

The cities of Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis are mentioned
together as seats of Christian churches in the closing chapter of
Colossians, and the Epistle may be considered as being addressed
to all, for the apostle directs that it be read also in the
churches of the Laodiceaus (4:13-16). They were situated within a
few miles of each other in the valley of the Lycus (a tributary
of the Maeander) in Phrygia on the borders of Lydia, and
belonged, under the Roman rule, to the proconsular province of
Asia Minor.

Laodicea was the most important of the three, and enjoyed
metropolitan rank; she was destroyed by a disastrous earthquake
A.D. 61 or 65, but rebuilt from her own resources without the
customary aid from Rome. The church of Laodicea is the last of
the seven churches addressed in the Apocalypse (3:14-22), and is
described as rich and proud and lukewarm. It harbored in the
middle of the fourth century (after 344) a council which passed
an important act on the canon, forbidding the public reading of
any but "the canonical books of the New and Old Testaments" (the
list of these books is a later addition), a prohibition which was
confirmed and adopted by later councils in the East and the West.
Hierapolis was a famous watering-place, surrounded by beautiful
scenery, and the birthplace of the lame slave Epictetus, who,
with Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, ranks among the first heathen
moralists, and so closely resembles the lofty maxims of the New
Testament that some writers have assumed, though without historic
foundation, a passing acquaintance between him and Paul or his
pupil Epaphras of Colossae. The church of Hierapolis figures in
the post-apostolic age as the bishopric of Papias (a friend of
Polycarp) and Apollinaris.

Colossae, once likewise famous, was at the time of Paul the
smallest of the three neighboring cities, and has almost disap-
peared from the earth; while magnificent ruins of temples,
theatres, baths, aqueducts, gymnasia, and sepulchres still
testify to the former wealth and prosperity of Laodicea and
Hierapolis. The church of Colossae was the least important of the
churches to which Paul addressed an Epistle, and it is scarcely
mentioned in post-apostolic times; but it gave rise to a heresy
which shook the church in the second century, and this Epistle
furnished the best remedy against it.

There was a large Jewish population in Phrygia, since Antiochus
the Great had despotically transplanted two thousand Jewish
families from Babylonia and Mesopotamia to that region. It thus
became, in connection with the sensuous and mystic tendency of
the Phrygian character, a nursery of religious syncretism and
various forms of fanaticism.

PAUL AND THE COLOSSIANS

Paul passed twice through Phrygia, on his second and third
missionary tours, but probably not through the valley of the
Lycus. Luke does not say that he established churches there, and
Paul himself seems to include the Colossians and Laodiceans among
those who had not seen his face in the flesh. He names Epaphras,
of Colossae, his "dear fellow-servant" and "fellow-prisoner," as
the teacher and faithful minister of the Christians in that
place. But during his long residence in Ephesus (A.D.54-57) and
from his imprisonment he exercised a general supervision over all
the churches in Asia. After his death they passed under the care
of John, and in the second century they figure prominently in the
Gnostic, Paschal, Chiliastic, and Montanistic controversies.
Paul heard of the condition of the church at Colossae through
Epaphras, his pupil, and Onesimus, a runaway slave. He sent

through Tychicus (4:7) a letter to the church, which was also
intended for the Laodiceans (4:16); at the same time he sent
through Onesimus a private letter of commendation to his
master, Philemon, a member of the church of Colossae. He also
directed the Colossians to procure and read "the letter from
Laodicea," which is most probably the evangelical Epistle to the
Ephesians which was likewise transmitted through Tychicus. He had
special reasons for writing to the Colossians and to Philemon,
and a general reason for writing to all the churches in the
region of Ephesus; and he took advantage of the mission of
Tychicus to secure both ends. In this way the three Epistles are
closely connected in time and aim. They would mutually explain
and confirm one another.

THE COLOSSIAN HERESY

The special reason which prompted Paul to write to the Colossians
was the rise of a new heresy among them which soon afterward
swelled into a mighty and dangerous movement in the ancient
church, as rationalism has done in modern times. It differed from
the Judaizing heresy which he opposed in Galatians and
Corinthians, as Essenism differed from Phariseeism, or as
legalism differs from mysticism. The Colossian heresy was an
Essenic and ascetic type of Gnosticism; it derived its
ritualistic and practical elements from Judaism, its speculative
elements from heathenism; it retained circumcision, the
observance of Sabbaths and new moons, and the distinction of
meats and drinks; but it mixed with it elements of oriental
mysticism and theosophy, the heathen notion of an evil principle,
the worship of subordinate spirits, and an ascetic struggle for
emancipation from the dominion of matter. It taught an antagonism
between God and matter and interposed between them a series of
angelic mediators as objects of worship. It thus contained the
essential features of Gnosticism, but in its incipient and
rudimental form, or a Christian Essenism in its transition to
Gnosticism. In its ascetic tendency it resembles that of the weak
brethren in the Roman congregation (Rom.14:5,6,21). Cerinthus, in
the age of John, represents a more developed stage and forms the
link between the Colossian heresy and the post-apostolic
Gnosticism.

(NO IT WAS NOT THE FORM THAT THE AUTHOR HAS IN MIND AT ALL. It
had nothing to do with some "Essenic and ascetic type of
Gnosticism" as many would like to think. It was purely pagan and
pagan philisophy coupled with the worship of "spirits" and the
commandments of men, with often punishment of the body. Again I
expound it all in "The New Testament Bible Story" section of this
website, and on my Youtube [1horsesrcool] - Keith Hunt)

THE REFUTATION

Paul refutes this false philosophy calmly and respectfully by the
true doctrine of the Person of Christ, as the one Mediator
between God and men, in whom dwells all the fulness of the
Godhead bodily. And he meets the false asceticism based upon the
dualistic principle with the doctrine of the purification of the
heart by faith and love as the effectual cure of all moral evil.

THE GNOSTIC AND THE PAULINE PLEROMA

"Pleroma" or "fulness" is an important term in Colossians and
Ephesians. Paul uses it in common with the Gnostics, and this has
been made an argument for the post-apostolic origin of the two
Epistles. He did, of course, not borrow it from the Gnostics; for
he employs it repeatedly in his other Epistles with slight
variations. It must have had a fixed theological meaning, as it
is not explained. It cannot be traced to Philo, who, however,
uses "Logos" in a somewhat similar sense for the plenitude of
Divine powers.
Paul speaks of "the pleroma of the earth," i.e., all that fills
the earth or is contained in it (1 Cor.10:26,28, in a quotation
from Ps.21:1); "the pleroma," i.e., the fulfilment or
accomplishment, "of the law," which is love (Rom.13:10); "the
pleroma," i.e., the fulness or abundance, "of the blessing of
Christ" (Rom.15:29) the pleroma, "or full measure," of the time 
(Gal.4:4; comp. Eph.1:10; Mark 1:15; Luke 21:24); "the pleroma of
the Gentiles," meaning their full number, or whole body, but not
necessarily all individuals (Rom.11:25); "the pleroma of the
Godhead," i.e., the fulness or plenitude of all Divine attributes
and energies (Col.1:19; 2:9); "the pleroma of Christ," which is
the church as the body of Christ (Eph.1:23; comp. 3:19; 4:13).

In the Gnostic systems, especially that of Valentinus, "pleroma"
signifies the intellectual and spiritual world, including all
Divine powers or aeons, in opposition to the "kenoma," i.e., the
void, the emptiness, the material world. The distinction was
based on the dualistic principle of an eternal antagonism between
spirit and matter, which led the more earnest Gnostics to an
extravagant asceticism, the frivolous ones to wild antinomianism.
They included in the pleroma a succession of emanations from the
Divine abyss, which form the links between the infinite and the
finite; and they lowered the dignity of Christ by making him
simply the highest of those intermediate aeons. The burden of the
Gnostic speculation was always the question: Whence is the world?
and whence is evil? It sought the solution in a dualism between
mind and matter, the pleroma and the kenoma; but this is no
solution at all.

In opposition to this error, Paul teaches, on a thoroughly
monotheistic basis, that Christ is "the image of the invisible
God" (Greek) 1:15; comp. 2 Cor.4:4 - an expression often used by
Philo as a description of the Logos, and of the personified
Wisdom, in Wisd. 7:26); that he is the preexistent and incarnate
pleroma or plenitude of Divine powers and attributes; that in him
the whole fulness of the Godhead, that is, of the Divine nature
itself, dwells bodily-wise or corporeally (Greek), as the soul
dwells in the human body; and that he is the one universal and
allsufficient Mediator, through whom the whole universe of
things, visible and invisible, were made, in whom all things hold
together (or cohere, [Greek]), and through whom the Father is
pleased to reconcile all things to himself.

The Christology of Colossians approaches very closely to the
Christology of John; for he represents Christ as the incarnate 
"Logos" or Revealer of God, who dwelt among us "full (Greek) of
grace and truth," and out of whose Divine "fulness" (Greek)    
we all have received grace for grace (John 1:1,14,16). Paul and
John fully agree in teaching the eternal preexistence of Christ,
and his agency in the creation and preservation of the world
(Col.1:15-17; John 1:3). According to Paul, He is "the first-born
or first-begotten" of all creation (Greek) Col.1:15, distinct
from  first-created, i.e., prior and superior to the whole
created world, or eternal; according to John He is "the
only-begotten Son" of the Father (Greek)  John 1:14,18; comp. 3:
16,18; 1 John 4:9), before and above all created children of
God. The former term denotes Christ's unique relation to the
world, the latter his unique relation to the Father.

The Pauline authorship of the Epistle to the Colossians will be
discussed in the next section in connection with the Epistle to
the Ephesians.

THEME: 

Christ all in all. The true gnosis and the false gnosis. True and
false asceticism.

LEADING THOUGHTS: 

Christ is the image of the invisible God, the first-begotten of
all creation (1:15). In Christ are hidden all the treasures of
wisdom and knowledge (2:3). In him dwelleth all the fulness
(Greek) of the Godhead bodily (2:9). If ye were raised together
with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is,
seated on the right hand of God (3:1). When Christ, who is our
life, shall be manifested, then shall ye also with him be
manifested in glory (3:4). Christ is all, and in all (3:11).
Above all things put on love, which is the bond of perfectness
(3:14). Whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name
of the Lord Jesus (3:17).
..........

NOTE:

SEE THE TRUE EXPLANATION OF THIS IMPORTANT EPISTLE OF PAUL IN MY
"NEW TESTAMENT BIBLE STORY" AND ON MY YOUTUBE (1HORSESRCOOL).

Keith Hunt


  Home Previous Page Top of Page Next Page

 
Navigation List:
 

 
Word Search:

PicoSearch
  Help