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Survey of the New Testament - 1 Corinthians to Ephesians Print E-mail
Survey of the New Testament

I.  Introduction:

 For the next few weeks we will be looking at the rest of the letters of Paul.  We are told in the book of Acts of Paulís conversion and missionary journeys.  Most of these letters were written during these times and to the Churches that were started during these journeys.  Paul loves the Churches and is burdened for them.  We see this love and burden in the letters that we now have.  Tonight, we want to consider the letters of 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and Ephesians.  Letís begin with 1 Corinthians.

II.  1 Corinthians:

 A.  Author: Paul identifies himself as the writer of 1 Corinthians (see 1:1).

 B.  Time and Setting: Paul is writing of course to the Church at Corinth.  We read of Paul planting this Church in Acts 18.  Yet, since Paul has left the Church, it has begun to struggle tremendously.  Apparently the Corinthians had written a letter to Paul addressing some of their struggles (see 7:1).  Thus, Paul writes 1 Corinthians to address their struggles and answer the questions that they brought up in their letter to him. 

 C.  Outline:
  1.  1-4 The Problem of Division
  2.  5-10 Problems in Relationships (Sex, Lawsuits, Marriage, Using Freedom)
  3.  11-14 Problems in Worship
  4.  15-16 Priority of the Gospel (the Resurrection) and Conclusion

 D.  Themes: One of the major themes in this letter (as in many of Paulís letter, see discussion of Ephesians below) is that our belief should drive our practice and eliminate certain problems.  As we have noted in our outline, the Church at Corinth was facing many problems.  Paul addresses each of these problems by reminding the Corinthians what they have claimed to believe and how such belief impacts these issues.  For example, look at 1:10-14 (Division), 6:19-20 (Relationships), 14:26-33 (Worship), and 15:1-5 (The Gospel).  In each of these passages, Paul is answering particular problems in Corinth with the truth of God and the Gospel.  As he relates in the last passage, it is the gospel that the Corinthians need. Even today, in the midst of Church controversies and struggles, we need the gospel as revealed in the pages of the Old and New Testaments to resolve our problems.

III.  2 Corinthians:

 A.  Author: Paul identifies himself as the author in 1:1.

 B.  Time and Setting: The letter that we call 2 Corinthians is probably Paulís third letter to the Church at Corinth.  It seems that there was a letter written between the two that we now have (see 2:4 and 7:8).  From 2 Corinthians we can see that the situation in Corinth has gone from bad to worse.  Paul had written the first letter to correct some of the problems.  Yet, when he visited them things did not go well (see 2:1-4).  After that he wrote the second letter which was apparently very harsh in his correction.  Thus, 2 Corinthians is the third letter written to try and correct certain errors in the Church in Corinth.

 C.  Outline:
  1.  1-7 Paulís defense of his Apostleship and Focus on Reconciliation
  2.  8-9 Giving
  3.  10-13 Paulís continued defense of his Apostleship

 D.  Themes:  One of the major themes in this book is living the Christian life in the midst of suffering and persecution.  The tone of the letter suggests Paulís battle and the Corinthians battle to persevere in the face of such difficulty.  He writes much of affliction and suffering in this letter.  He wants to encourage the Corinthians to persevere in the true faith even as it grows increasingly difficult.  Look at 4:7-5:1.  Paul wants the Corinthians to realize that this world is not our home.  He wants them to keep an eternal perspective during these difficult days.  Thus, we endure persecution because we know it will not last, we give our money freely because we have no hope in material riches, we trust in Christ because His promise of eternal life is sure.

IV.  Galatians:

 A.  Author:  Once again, Paul identifies himself as the author in 1:1.

 B.  Time and Setting: As we stated when we looked at this book on Sunday morning, Paul is writing to churches that were planted during his missionary journeys in the area of Galatia.  It seems that a group of men (known as the Judaizers) were teaching the Galatians that they had to be circumcised and follow the Law in order to be saved (see 1:6-9, 2:15-16, 6:12-13, also Acts 15:1).  Paul is writing to correct this erroneous view of the gospel and to encourage the Galatians in their faith in Christ and their love for one another. 

 C.  Outline:
  1.  1-2:14 Identifying the Problem and Autobiography
  2.  2:15-4 Justification by Faith
  3.  5-6 Practical implications of faith in Christ

 D.  Themes: As we have already mentioned, the major theme in the book of Galatians is justification by faith in Christ.  Look at 2:15-16.  This is the real crux of the letter.  Paul does not want the Galatians to be led astray into thinking that salvation depends upon anything other than faith in Christ.  Salvation is not Ďfaith andÖí no matter what we put after the Ďand.í  No, salvation is through faith in Christ.  Paul argues this by reminding them of the gospel that he has preached and by looking at several Old Testament passages that speak of the necessity of justification by faith.  He closes the letter by reminding them that the doctrine justification by faith does not give us grounds for licentious living.  Rather, it calls us to use our freedom to avoid sin and to love and serve one another.  Like the Galatians, we must avoid adding anything to faith in Christ in our understanding and proclamation of the gospel.

V.  Ephesians:

 A.  Author: Paul is the author of the letter to the Ephesians (see 1:1).

 B.  Time and Setting: As we see in 1:1, Paul wrote this letter to the Church at Ephesus.  Granted, other churches in and around the city could have received the letter, but Paul specifically addresses the saints who are in Ephesus in his introduction.  Unlike the letters to Corinth and Galatia, there is no identifiable problem or problems in Ephesus that stand behind this letter (these will come later).  Thus, Paul is not writing to necessarily address particular problems but to simply encourage the saints in Ephesus in their faith in Christ, be they Jew or Gentile, and in their faithful living out of the gospel.

 C.  Outline:
  1.  1-3 Theology of the Gospel
  2.  4-6 Practice of the Gospel

 D.  Themes: A major theme in the book of Ephesus is that the gospel is for the glory of Christ and therefore, our lives are to be lived for His glory.  To see this, look at 1:7-10.  In the midst of Paulís writing on predestination and free grace, Paul gives us Godís reason for our redemption, namely to unite all things in him (Christ), things in heaven and things on earth.  Our redemption is ultimately for the glory of Christ, that is Godís plan for the fullness of time.  Look also at 2:4-10, 4:1.  Since our redemption is for the glory of Christ, then, as the redeemed, we are to live lives that bring glory to Christ through obedience.  God has made us alive in Christ by grace through faith and we are to live lives of good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  Again, as we have already noted, our belief is never separated from our practice.  Through faith in Christ we have been redeemed and through faith in Christ we are to walk in obedience to His commands, all for His glory.

VI.  Conclusion:

 As we mentioned above, the situations in these three churches were very different when Paul wrote to them.  Corinth had all kinds of problems and the Galatians were being tempted to believe in a different gospel.  Needless to say, both situations called for Paulís attention.  So, how did Paul respond?  He wrote them letters reminding them of the gospel of Jesus Christ and calling them to live out their faith in Him.  In Ephesus there seemed to be no apparent problem.  Yet, Paul still wrote to them about the gospel and encouraged them in their following Him.  Thus, be the situation bad (as in Corinth and Galatia) or good (as in Ephesus) our constant need is the glorious gospel of Godís grace in Christ.  We never mature beyond our need for the gospel.  We never face a problem that does not demand that we be faithful to the good news of Christ.  Like Paul, may we approach every situation with the gospel, in belief and practice, for the glory of our Savior.  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Sunday, 15 October 2006 )

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