This post is primarily context and key scripture for each letter. Hopefully you find it helpful in your studies.
CHAPTERS FOR STUDY WEEK 41-43 – Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon
Context and Timeline:
Philippians (58-62 AD):
The church in Philippi was organized during Paul’s second missionary journey. The settlers of this area we mostly former Roman soldiers and Eupropean immigrants. The first family baptized was Lydia and her household after Paul received a vision to visit this area.
Paul was imprisoned during the writing of this letter, many years after his visit to Philippi. His main purpose for the letter was to give thanks for the monetary support he had received from these saints while imprisoned. He is also concerned, as in other letters, that Judaizers were causing problems within the church.
Key Scripture Passage: Philippians 4:8
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Colossians (58-62 AD):
Colossae was located about 120 miles east of Ephesus and was also near Laodicea. Paul would have likely spent time in both of these areas while living in Ephesus for over two years. Many believe that this letter to the Colossians was written in conjunction with the letter to Ephesus. It is also mentioned that this letter was accompanied by another letter to the Laodiceans that we have no record of, unless it is the same letter to the Ephesians.
There was a schism happening in Colossae regarding some sort of Jewish mysticism that was growing with a large number of members. Paul was concerned about the issues enough to write the letter that was centered around Jesus Christ being the object of faith and that we should be focused on our Christian worship and living. One very important historical part of this letter is that it was asked to be read out loud to local congregations. This is important because it was the first evidence we have that these letters became more than just letters, they became the original foundation for Christian doctrine that was passed from congregation to congregation.
Key Scripture Passage: Colossians 3:1-2
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
1 & 2 Thessalonians (50-52):
Paul visited Thessalonica shortly after Philippi on his second mission. If you remember, Paul baptized some very important people, but this caused a dangerous situation for him and Silas. They were actually sent away for their own protection, and even though he desired to return and minister to the saint there, he was unable to do so.
These letters were some of the earliest Christian writings we have. Only predated by Galatians, and written before the four gospels. The influence of Jewish Christians in this area was much less and so these letters are important in that they give us the Christian message without the Law of Moses as the opposition. Timothy is a key person in these letters, not only as a contributor to the letter, but he actually visited these saints after Paul was cast out and his report was the impetus for the letters.
One point of doctrine that is important is that the members in this area were preaching that Christ would be returning immediately and so Paul had to spend time shooting that idea down. He teaches, quite importantly, that the Second Coming will not happen until there is an apostasy and Satan is given reign upon the world.
Key Scripture Passage: 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4
Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.
1 & 2 Timothy (60-64 AD):
The letters written directly to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon are what scholars call “Pastoral Letters.” They are letters written as a church leader giving instruction and policy to another church leader and friend. They are important because they are the foundation of what we know about early Christian leadership. Scholars also wonder if the letters were actually penned by Paul, or rather compiled as things Paul taught Timothy and other leaders of the church as a form to send to leaders of the church around the world.
Important instructions on calling other church leaders, stamping out false doctrine, and how to love and lead their congregations are contained in the pastoral letters.
Paul loved Timothy and was lonely in prison during these periods of time. He would have valued any correspondence he could have given or received.
Timothy was an important Bishop of the early church and would have wielded tremendous influence on surrounding church leaders as well.
Key Scripture Passage: 2 Timothy 1:7
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
Titus (60-64 AD):
Titus is a lesser known early Christian, but he is incredibly important. When Paul and Barnabas met Titus in Antioch, he wanted to join the church, but the Jewish Christians at the time were adamantly opposed to that happening with Titus being circumcised, among other things. So when Paul and the early Christian leaders had the first general conference, it was Titus that was the case study that Paul brought with him to discuss at the conference. When Peter and the other leaders agreed that Titus did not have to follow the full Law of Moses, it was the breakthrough to all Gentile converts becoming part of the church.
The letter written to Titus is short, but you can sense the love that Paul has for Titus. He is, as in the letters to Timothy, gives counsel on calling other church leaders and helping unite the church where Titus is ministering. We also get one of the clearest passages of scripture declaring that Jesus Christ is in fact deity.
Key Scripture Passage: Titus 2:11-14
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
Philemon (58-62 AD):
This letter to a man named Philemon, is a personal letter, but less of a “Pastoral” letter. The context is important. Paul had converted one of Philemon’s slaves by the name of Onesimus. Onesimus, apparently, then fled his master and stole from him on his way to meeting up with Paul. Paul took Onesimus as an apprentice and then latter realized the full situation and sent this letter. The letter is pleading with Philemon to accept Onesimus back as more than a slave, a brother in Christ. Paul also says he will repay Philemon for whatever damages were done.
Philemon seems like he was an important Christian convert in the area of Colossae, but it is not clear for sure. Paul, has the confidence of Philemon as a church leader, but I love the passage I selected that shows true leadership instead of compulsion by authority.
Key Scripture Passage: Philemon 1:8-9
Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love.
We will pick back up on November 3rd to begin the Book of Hebrews, which is much longer and has so much great information, and a mysterious history.