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Survey of the New Testament - Philippians to 2 Thessalonians Print E-mail
Survey of the New Testament

I.  Introduction:

 We could possibly call the letters of Paul that we will be looking at tonight ĎLetters for hard times.í  Each of the four books that we are considering were either written when Paul was in prison or to a Church who was facing persecution.  Thus, as we look at these letters, we need to take note of how Paul handles and how he encourages the Church to handle hard times.  Letís begin with Philippians.

II.  Philippians:

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

 B.  Time and Setting: Paul is writing this letter from a prison in Rome (see 1:12-13).  Apparently, the Church at Philippi had provided gifts for some of Paulís needs and Paul is writing to thank them and encourage them (see 4:18).  Yet, in such a horrible situation, notice how Paul responds in 1:12-14.  Paul is excited that the gospel has been advanced due to his imprisonment.  Others have been encouraged to be bolder in their proclamation of the good news.  Thus, this is not Paulís letter of complaint against the Providence of God.  Rather, he continues to see that Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice (1:18).

 C.  Outline:
  1.  1 Introduction and Paulís joy in the spread of the gospel
  2.  2 Follow the example of Christ
  3.  3 We are righteous through faith
  4.  4 Concluding encouragements

 D.  Theme: A real focus of the letter to the Philippians is that of humility.  Whether it is Paulís humility in being a prisoner for Christ as we looked at above, or it is his call to the Philippians to count others more significant than yourselves, the letter really calls us to humility.  Paul calls us to consider Christ as our example for humility.  Look at 2:1-11.  Then, as he considers his own life, Paul freely admits that his only boast can be in Christ.  Look at 3:2-11.  In both of these passage we see the call to the Christian to remain humble in all circumstances.  The King of the universe made himself nothing in faithful obedience to the Father and anything good we have has been given to us by Him.  Therefore, with Paul, we have no room for boasting, save our boasting in the cross of Christ!

III.  Colossians:

 A.  Author: Paul identifies himself along with Timothy again in 1:1.

 B.  Time and Setting: Seemingly, Paul is again writing from prison (see 4:3).  The Church at Colassae was struggling with false teachers and Paul is writing to offer instructions concerning what they are teaching.  Look at 2:8, 16-23.  It is hard to know exactly what the situation was in the Church, but from these passages we can see that the false teachers were focusing on philosophies and errors that were not according to Christ.  Likewise, as we saw with the false teachers that Paul is combating in 1 Timothy, these teachers were emphasizing a false asceticism and straying away from faith in Christ.  Paul writes to encourage the Colossians in their belief in the gospel over and above everything else, even as he sits in prison for preaching Christ.

 C.  Outline:
  1.  1 Introduction and Deity of Christ
  2.  2-3 Life in Union with Christ
  3.  4 Concluding exhortations

 D.  Theme: One of the major themes in the book of Colossians is union with Christ and what that doctrine means for living out the faith.  As Paul is correcting the errors of the false teachers, he keeps coming back to the truth that we are united with Christ and that is our hope for reconciliation with the Father.  Look at 2:8-15.  We were circumcised in Christ and we have been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him.  God has made us alive in Him and canceled our debt through what He accomplished on the cross.  Look at 2:20.  Because we have died with Christ to the elemental spirits of the world, we are not to submit ourselves to regulations concerning eating and certain days.  Finally, look at 3:1-4.  Again, since we have been raised with Christ we are to seek the things that are above.  All of this obedience is made possible by our union with Christ through faith. 

IV.  1 Thessalonians:

 A.  Author: Paul identifies himself as the author along with Silvanus and Timothy in 1:1.

 B.  Time and Setting: Both 1 and 2 Thessalonians are addressed to the Church of the Thessalonians.  Paul started this Church during his second missionary journey (see Acts 17:1-9).  Due to much persecution in the area, Paul was not able to stay very long in Thessalonica.  Apparently, the persecution of the Church continued there even after Paul left (see 3:1-5) and Paul is writing to encourage them in their faith as they face such difficult affliction.

 C.  Outline:
  1.  1-2 Paul recounts his ministry among them
  2.  3 Paul longs to visit them
  3.  4-5 Teaching on Christís return

 D.  Theme: A major theme is this letter is the coming day of the Lord.  It seems that the  Thessalonians were misinformedÖabout those who are asleep (4:13).  Thus, in the middle of Paulís encouragement of them, he writes to them about the second coming of Christ.  Look at 4:13-5:11.  Paul tells us that we can live in hope because God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.  Thus, we are to take courage and stand firm as we await the coming Day of the Lord.

V.  2 Thessalonians:

 A.  Author: (see 1 Thessalonians)

 B.  Time and Setting: This second letter to the Thessalonians was written shortly after the first letter.  Paulís purpose for the letter was to continue in encouraging the young Church in their belief in Christ and in their practice of the faith.  Specifically, it seems that they had come to believe that Christ had already returned and that they had somehow missed it (see 2:1-3).  Paul writes to correct their thinking on this issue.

 C.  Outline:
  1.  1 Christ is coming
  2.  2 Concerning the Day of the Lord
  3.  3 Concerning the present day

 D.  Theme: The real theme of the letter is that in light of Christís promise to return (which has not yet happened), we should labor to be faithful and not idle.  Look at what Paul writes in 3:6-12.  It seems that some were so concerned with Christ returning that they had given up on faithful service.  Yet, Paul reminds them that even though the Christian is to look with great expectation to the coming Day of the Lord, this does not mean that the Christian is to spend his days in idleness.  Rather, we are to labor and toil in faithfulness as we await Christís return.

VI.  Conclusion:

 As we said earlier, we could call these books the ĎLetters for hard times.í  When we consider them all together (along with the other writings of the Bible), we see that even in difficult times we must look to Christ and wait expectantly for His return as we labor faithfully at what He has given us to do.  We should not expect life to be easy.  We should not groan and complain when the difficulties come.  Rather, we must keep our eyes fixed on Christ and be faithful in our obedience to Him.  Thus, when He returns may He find His people expectant and faithful.  Amen.

1  Mark Dever, The Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2005), 258-77.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Sunday, 22 October 2006 )

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