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New Testament Survey


A Side Trip into the Land of . . .



When one thinks of the New Testament, one usually thinks of Jesus Christ — and Paul. No single, ordinary human has influenced Christianity as much as this Apostle. While the Gospels explain who the Christ is and what it means to believe in Him, the early church had no manual on how to act as a Christian. Into this void walk the writers of the epistles. The most prominent of these is Paul, for he writes 13 of the 21 letters.


Epistle comes from the Greek epistole, a word which simply means letter.

So, who is this Paul? Why did God choose him?

5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; 6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
Philippians 3:5-6

Paul is the Apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15, Gal 2:9). Philippians 3:5, 6 is the way he describes himself to the church at Philippi. Paul was a Jew through and through. His love for his people is evident in his evangelistic method. In each city, Paul would first go to the Jews and teach in their synagogues in an effort to win his people, Israel, to the Lord. Only after they rejected him and Jesus, did the Apostle turn to the Gentiles.

From Scripture we learn about Paul.


Little else is known about Paul. Based upon his teachings on marriage, many believe he was a widower. He describes himself as a blasphemer and the chief sinner. Paul clearly recognizes that it is only through the grace of God that his salvation occurred.

13 Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14 And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. 15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.
1 Timothy

This is the man God chose as His representative to the Gentile nations. This is the man who writes the majority of the New Testament epistles.

Paul undoubtably received some teaching from the early church. Portions of his letters read like early hymns (Phil 2:6-11) or statements (creeds) of faith (1 Cor 15:1-7). He also drew on the Old Testament, interpreting it in light of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. But most importantly, Paul received his instruction from Jesus and the Holy Spirit. He went off to be by himself with God to learn and receive instruction (Gal 1:12-14; Eph 3:1-7). God guided Paul’s ministry and writings.

It should be noted that the Apostles understood the letters they were writing had been received from God (2 Cor 10:8; 12:1-4). Peter calls Paul’s letters Scripture in 2 Peter 3:16.

Paul’s conversion is described in Acts 9. It is a dramatic story and Paul uses his salvation experience in his evangelistic outreach twice in Acts (Chps 22 and 26).


Note that while the three accounts of Paul’s salvation are essentially the same, different details and differing emphasis occur in each telling. The formula of 1) life before Christ, 2) salvation, and 3) life after Christ should be a pattern for all of us. But while we need to learn to use our basic testimony in this fashion, we also, like Paul, need to be flexible in its telling. Sometimes we will have a long time and an interested audience. On other occasions, we may only have a few minutes. Learn to discern the difference and adjust. Your personal salvation message is the most powerful evangelistic tool you possess!

All of Paul’s letters have certain characteristics which support the argument that what he writes are letters, but which also distinguish them from the letters of the day. These include:

Paul’s letters break down into two main groups, those to the churches and those to individuals. Three of the ones to individuals, 1 and 1 Timothy and Titus, are generally called the Pastoral letters. They deal more with issues such as how to be a church leader and with threats against the saints. Philemon is the more personal of the individual letters and is a unique summary of Pauline theology in action.

The letters of Paul to the churches each serve a unique function in describing the Person of Christ, the message of the Gospel, and the place of the Good News in the life of the believer. The following chart will show the patterns and themes to look for as you review the epistles of Paul.

Paul&s Letters and Their Doctrines


Presentation of Jesus

Doctrinal Theme


Power (1:16)

Salvation/ Justification

1 Corinthians

Wisdom (1:1-9)


2 Corinthians

Comfort (1:5)



Righteousness (3:11)



Blessings (1:3)

Position in Christ


Sufficiency (4:13)

Attitude in Christ Rejoicing


Lord (1:15-19)


1 Thessalonians

Promise/Hope (1:3)


2 Thessalonians

Judge 1:8-10


1 Timothy

Pattern (1:16)


2 Timothy

Rewarder (4:8)



Fullness ((3:6)

Full measure of ministry




This, then, is the outline of Paul’s letters. It will help to keep their chronological sequence in mind as we study these letters. Keep in mind that they are not presented in chronological order in the Bible. They are, rather, arranged by length based upon two groupings of addressees -- churches and individuals. Paul’s ministry looks something like this:

An Outline of Paul&s Ministry




A.D. 33


Acts 2:1ff

A.D. 34/35

Stoning of Stephen

Acts 7:1ff

A.D. 34/35

Paul’s Conversion

Acts 9:1ff


Paul’s years of learning

Gal 1:12-21

A.D. 44

Paul to Antioch


A.D. 45

James Written


A.D. 47

With Barnabas to Jerusalem

Acts 11:22-30

A.D. 47-49

1st Missionary Trip:

Cyprus, Asia Minor

Acts 13-14

A.D. 49

Peter at Antioch

Gal 2:11-16

A.D. 49

Galatians Written


A.D. 49/50

Jerusalem Council

Acts 15

A.D. 50-52

2nd Missionary Trip

Asia Minor, Macedonia, Greece

Acts 15:36-18:22

A.D. 51

1st & 2nd Thessalonians


A.D. 53-57

3rd Missionary Trip (Ephesus)

Asia Minor, Macedonia, Greece

Acts 18:23-21:16

A.D. 55/56

1st & 2nd Corinthians


A.D. 56/57



A.D. 57

Paul’s arrest

Acts 21:26-33

A.D. 57

Paul before Felix

Acts 24:24-26

A.D. 58/59

Paul before Festus

Acts 25:7-12

A.D. 59

Paul before Agrippa

Acts 26

A.D. 59/60

Voyage to Rome

Acts 27-28

A.D. 61-63

Paul’s first imprisonment

Acts 28:30

A.D. 61-63

Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon


A.D. 61-63

Philippians written


A.D. 62/63

Paul released from prison


A.D. 62

James, the Lord’s brother killed


A.D. 62

Peter in Rome


A.D. 63

1st Timothy written


A.D. 63

Trip to Crete with Titus


A.D. 63/64

Titus written


A.D. 64/67

1st Peter written


A.D. 64/65

2nd Timothy written


A.D. 66/67

2nd Peter written


A.D. 65/67

Paul’s second imprisonment


A.D. 65/67

Paul’s death


A.D. 67/68

Peter’s death


A.D. 68/69

Hebrews written


A.D. 70

Destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by Titus




Paul writes to the Philippians:

25 Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants. 26 For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick. 27 For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. 29 Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation: 30 Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.
Philippians 2:25-30

Can you describe your church leaders in these terms?

Can people describe you this way?

7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. 8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; 10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.
2 Corinthians 4:7-10

This is Paul’s description of life in Christ doing the work of God.


Does it resemble your life?

Should your life resemble this description?


Why not?




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