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New Testament Survey: The Epistles


The Epistles Table of Contents

Paul's Letters to the Churches
Romans | 1 & 2 Corinthians | Galatians | Ephesians
Philippians | Colossians | 1 & 2 Thessalonians

Paul's Letters to Individuals
1 & 2 Timothy | Titus | Philemon

Letters Written by Others
Hebrews | James | 1 & 2 Peter | 1, 2 & 3 John | Jude


Introduction to the Epistles
The next division in the New Testament is the letters, also known as the epistles [from the Greek epistole-, meaning "letters"]. We have divided the letters into three groups: Paul's letters to the Churches, Paul's Letters to Individuals, and Letters Written by Others.

There are some terms that may be unfamiliar to you. We have provided this short Terminology section to help you understand these terms.

    apostasy n. 1 renunciation of a belief or faith, abandoning of principles, etc. 2 against the teachings of Christ.
    condemnation n. 1 found guilty according to the Law. 2 convict to punishment.
    exhortation n. urging strongly or with great urgency.
    justification adj. judged not guilty by some act or payment.
    sanctification n. 1 being made holy or set apart 2 free from sin.

Paul's Letters to the Churches

  • Romans
    Written to the church in Rome, this letter outlines the Gospel from condemnation to justification to sanctification to glorification (1-8). It presents God's program for Jews and Gentiles (9-11) and practical exhortations for believers (12-16).

  • 1 Corinthians
    Written to the church in Corinth, Paul seeks to correct errors of Christian conduct (1-6). He also answers questions about marriage, meat offered to idols, public worship, and the Resurrection (7-16).

  • 2 Corinthians
    In this letter, Paul discusses the true ministry of the Gospel and stewardship. He also defends his apostolic character, call, and credentials. The majority in the church of Corinth had repented of their rebellion against Paul, but there was still an unrepentant minority.

  • Galatians
    Written to the church in Galatia. It deals with the error of legalism [mixing law with faith]. It demonstrates the superiority of grace over law and magnifies the life of liberty over legalism.

  • Ephesians
    Written from prison to the church in Ephesus. Extols the believer's position in Christ (1-3) and encourages the readers to maintain a spiritual walk that is based upon their spiritual wealth (4-6).

  • Philippians
    Written from prison to the church in Philippi. Urges believers to live a lifestyle of unity, humility, and godliness. He emphasizes the joy of the Christian experience.

  • Colossians
    Written from prison to the church at Colosse. Deals with the error of Gnosticism [a false teaching that denies Jesus is truly Son of God and Son of Man]. Demonstrates the involvement of Christ in creation, redemption, and relationships. The Christian is complete in Christ and needs nothing else.

  • 1 Thessalonians
    Written to the church at Thessalonica. Paul commends them for their faith and reminds them of his motives and concerns on their behalf. He counsel them in Christian living and teaches about the return of Jesus.

  • 2 Thessalonians
    Paul corrects false conclusions about the "Day of the Lord" and explains what must come before this event. He urges them to remain faithful and diligent in their everyday lives.

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Paul's Letters to Individuals

  • 1 Timothy
    Paul counsels Timothy on the problems of false teachers, public prayer, the role of women in the church, and the requirements for elders and deacons. Stresses sound doctrine and orderly church government.

  • 2 Timothy
    Describes the true servant of Jesus Christ. Warns of the apostasy (rejecting spiritual beliefs in favor of an opposing belief) that had already begun, and presents the Word of God as the remedy to correct all error.

  • Titus
    Paul's letter to a young minister named Titus who was serving God on the island of Crete. List the requirements for elders and instructs Titus in his duties relative to the various groups in the church.

  • Philemon
    Written from prison to Philemon, a wealthy Colossian Christian. Paul appeals to Philemon to forgive Onesimus, a runaway slave, and to regard him no longer as a slave but as a brother in Christ.

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Letters Written by Others

  • Hebrews
    Explains the superiority of Christ's Person, priesthood and power over Judaism. Presents Jesus as the Great High Priest and the only acceptable mediator between God and sinful man.

  • James
    Written to James' Hebrew Christian readers, he presents a practical catalog of characteristics of true faith. This was meant to encourage them to examine the reality of their own faith.

  • 1 Peter
    A letter of comfort and encouragement to believers who were suffering for their faith in Christ.

  • 2 Peter
    A warning against spiritual attacks from false teachers who were enticing believers into their errors of belief and conduct. Appeals for growth in the true knowledge of Christ.

  • 1 John
    Written to combat Gnosticism that denied Christ's position as Son of God and Son of Man. Emphasizes fellowship and love among believers and assures true believers of eternal life.

  • 2 John
    Warns against any compromise with doctrinal error and emphasizes that truth be guarded in love.

  • 3 John
    Warns of the sin of refusing fellowship or support of those who are traveling teachers of the truth.

  • Jude
    Another warning against apostasy and false doctrine. Jude encourages his readers to build themselves up in the truth and battle for the faith.

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Epistle Groups
The epistles can also be grouped by...

  • Books Concerning Christ's Return
    1 and 2 Thessalonians
  • Books Emphasizing the Gospel
    Romans, Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians
  • Books Written by Paul from Prison
    Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, Philemon
  • Pastoral Letters
    1 and 2 Timothy and Titus
  • General Epistles
    The remaining Epistles

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