Workshop on "The teachings of St. Paul -- useful today for church guidance"

Part 2 - The Seven Unquestionably Authentic Writings of Paul

1 Thessalonians, Galatians, Philippians, Philemon, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, & Romans (1-15 & 16)

by Robert Nguyen Cramer


There are seven New Testament letters that most modern scholars believe were definitely authored by Paul. Those seven letters are:

(The 16th chapter of "Romans" was actually written to the church in Ephesus, but it is part of Romans in the canonical New Testament letters.)

Paul's letters are especially valuable, because they are the earliest writings in the New Testament, and they include the earliest recorded quotations and teachings of Jesus.


#1 - 1 Thessalonians (49-50 AD)
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(This is an excerpt from the Today's English Version, copyright American Bible Society 1992. Used by permission.)

Thessalonica was the capital city of the Roman province of Macedonia. Paul established a church there after he left Philippi. Soon, however, there was opposition from Jews who were jealous of Paul's success in preaching the Christian message among the non-Jews who had become interested in Judaism. Paul was forced to leave Thessalonica and go on to Berea. Later on, after he reached Corinth, Paul received a personal report from his companion and fellow worker Timothy about the situation in the church at Thessalonica.

Paul's First Letter to the Thessalonians was then written to encourage and reassure the Christians there. He gives thanks for the news about their faith and love; he reminds them of the kind of life he had lived while he was with them, and then answers questions that had arisen in the church about the return of Christ: Could a believer who died before Christ's return still share in the eternal life that his return will bring? And when will Christ come again? Paul takes this occasion to tell them to go on working quietly while waiting in hope for Christ's return.

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Outline of Contents

Introduction - 1Th 1:1

Gratitude and praise - 1Th 1:2-3:13

Exhortation to Christian conduct - 1Th 4:1-12

Instructions about the coming of Christ - 1Th 4:13-5:11

Final Instructions and Greetings - 1Th 5:12-28


#2 - Galatians (53-54 AD)
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(This is an excerpt from the Today's English Version, copyright American Bible Society 1992. Used by permission.)

As the good new about Jesus began to be preached and welcomed among people who were not Jews, the question arose as to whether a person must obey the Law of Moses in order to be a true Christian. Paul had argued that this was not necessary-that in fact, the only sound basis for life in Christ was faith, by which all are put right with God. But among the churches of Galatia, a Roman province in Asia Minor, there had come people who opposed Paul and claimed that one must also observe the Law of Moses in order to be right with God.

Paul's Letter to the Galatians was written in order to bring back to true faith and practice those people who were being misled by this false teaching. Paul begins by defending his right to be called an apostle of Jesus Christ. He insists that his call to be an apostle came from God, not from any human authority, and that his mission was especially to the non-Jews. Then he develops the argument that it is by faith alone that people are put right with God. In the concluding chapters Paul shows that Christian conduct flows naturally from the love that results from faith in Christ.

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Outline of Contents

Introduction - Gal 1:1-10

Paul's authority as an apostle - Gal 1:11-2:21

The gospel of God's grace - Gal 3:1-4:31

Christian freedom and responsibility - Gal 5:1-6:10

Conclusion - Gal 6:11-18


#3 - Philippians (54-55 AD)
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(This is an excerpt from the Today's English Version, copyright American Bible Society 1992. Used by permission.)

Paul's Letter to the Philippians was written to the first church that Paul established on European soil, in the Roman province of Macedonia. It was written while the apostle was in prison, and at a time when he was troubled by the opposition of other Christians workers toward himself and was distressed by false teaching in the church at Philippi. Yet this letter breathes a joy and confidence that can be explained only by Paul's deep faith in Jesus Christ.

The immediate reason for writing the letter was to thank the Philippian Christians for the gift which they had sent to help him in his time of need. He uses this opportunity to reassure them, so that they may have courage and confidence in spite of all his troubles and their own as well. He pleads with them to have the humble attitude of Jesus, rather than to be controlled by selfish ambition and pride. He reminds them that their life in union with Christ is a gift of God's grace which they have received through faith, not through obedience to the ceremonies of the Jewish Law. He writes of the joy and peace that God gives to those who live in union with Christ.

This letter is marked by its emphasis on joy, confidence, unity, and perseverance in the Christian faith and life. It also reveals the deep affection Paul had for the church at Philippi.

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Outline of Contents

Introduction - Phi 1:1-11

Paul's personal circumstances - Phi 1:12-26

The life in Christ - Phi 1:27-2.18

Plans for Timothy and Epaphroditus - Phi 2:19-30

Warnings against enemies and dangers - Phi 3:1-4.9

Paul and his Philippian friends - Phi 4:10-20

Conclusion - Phi 4:21-23


#4 - Philemon (54-55 AD)
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(This is an excerpt from the Today's English Version, copyright American Bible Society 1992. Used by permission.)

Philemon was a prominent Christian, probably a member of the church at Colossae and the owner of a slave named Onesimus. This slave had run away from his master, and then somehow he had come in contact with Paul, who was then in prison. Through Paul, Onesimus became a Christian. Paul's Letter to Philemon is an appeal to Philemon to be reconciled to his slave, whom Paul is sending back to him, and to welcome him not only as a forgiven slave but also as a Christian brother.

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Outline of Contents

Introduction, Praise, Appeal, and Conclusion - Phm 1:1-25


#5 - 1 Corinthians (55-56 AD)
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(This is an excerpt from the Today's English Version, copyright American Bible Society 1992. Used by permission.)

Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians was written to deal with problems of Christian life and faith that had arisen in the church which Paul had established at Corinth. At that time Corinth was a great cosmopolitan Greek city, the capital of the Roman province of Achaia. It was noted for its thriving commerce, proud culture, widespread immorality, and variety of religions.

The apostle's chief concerns are with problems such as divisions and immorality in the church, and with questions about sex and marriage, matters of conscience, church order, gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the resurrection. With deep insight he shows how the Good News speaks to these questions.

Chapter 13, which presents love as the best of God's gifts to his people, is probably the most widely known passage in the book.

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Outline of Contents

Introduction - 1Co 1:1-9

Factions in the church - 1Co 1:10-4:21

Sexual morality and family life - 1Co 5:1-7:40

Christians and pagans - 1Co 8:1-11:1

Church life and worship - 1Co 11:2-14.40

The resurrection of Christ and of believers - 1Co 15:1-58

The offering for the Christians in Judea - 1Co 16:1-4

Personal matters and conclusion - 1Co 16:5-24


#6 - 2 Corinthians (55-56 AD)
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(This is an excerpt from the Today's English Version, copyright American Bible Society 1992. Used by permission.)

Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians was written during a difficult period in his relation with the church at Corinth. Some members of the church had evidently made strong attacks against Paul, but he shows his deep longing for reconciliation and expresses his great joy when this is brought about.

In the first part of the letter Paul discusses his relationship with the church at Corinth, explaining why he had responded with severity to insult and opposition in the church and expressing his joy that this severity had resulted in repentance and reconciliation. Then he appeals to the church for a generous offering to help the needy Christians in Judea. In the final chapters Paul defends his apostleship against a few people at Corinth who had set themselves up as true apostles, while accusing Paul of being a false one.

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Outline of Contents

Introduction - 2Co 1:1-11

Paul and the church at Corinth - 2Co 1:12-7:16

The offering for the Christians in Judea - 2Co 8:1-9:15

Paul's defense of his authority as an apostle - 2Co 10:1-13:10

Conclusion - 2Co 13:11-13


#7a - Romans 1-15 (55-57 AD)
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(This is an excerpt from the Today's English Version, copyright American Bible Society 1992. Used by permission.)

Paul's Letter to the Romans was written to prepare the way for a visit Paul planned to make to the church at Rome. His plan was to work among the Christians there for a while and then, with their support, to go on to Spain. He wrote to explain his understanding of the Christian faith and its practical implications for the lives of Christians. The book contains Paul's most complete statement of his message.

After greeting the people of the church at Rome and telling them of his prayers for them, Paul states the theme of the letter: "The gospel reveals how God puts people right with himself: it is through faith from beginning to end" (1.17).

Paul then develops this theme. All people, both Jews and Gentiles, need to be put right with God, for all alike are under the power of sin. People are put right with God through faith in Jesus Christ. Next Paul describes the new life in union with Christ that results from this new relation with God. The believer has peace with God and is set free by God's Spirit from the power of sin and death. In chapters 5-8 Paul also discusses the purpose of the Law of God and the power of God's Spirit in the believer's life. Then the apostle wrestles with the question of how Jews and Gentiles fit into the plan of God for all people. He concludes that the Jewish rejection of Jesus is part of God's plan for bringing all people within the reach of God's grace in Jesus Christ, and he believes that the Jews will not always reject Jesus. Finally Paul writes about how the Christian life should be lived, especially about the way of love in relations with others. He takes up such themes as service to God, the duty of Christians to the state and to one another, and questions of conscience…

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Outline of Contents

Introduction and theme - Rom 1:1-17

The universal human need of salvation - Rom 1:8-3:20

God's way of salvation - Rom 3:21-4:25

The new life in Christ - Rom 5:1-8:39

Israel in the plan of God - Rom 9:1-11:36

Christian conduct - Rom 12:1-15:13

Conclusion and personal greetings - Rom 15:14-33


#7b - Romans 16 (55-57 AD)
1Th Gal Phi Phm 1Co 2Co Rom1-15 More details on Rom16 Top of Page




In a 1997 talk given by Professor Helmut Koester, of Harvard Divinity School, Dr. Koester writes:

Romans 16 was not sent to Rome. Romans 16 has a long list of several dozen names of people that Paul knows. He didn't know several dozen people in Rome. Moreover we know that these people are connected with Ephesus.

([For example,] Prisca and Aquila were in Corinth, and they came over to Ephesus when Paul started his mission there as his assistants. That Prisca and Aquila had meanwhile moved to Rome is not quite believable, because they were apparently still in Ephesus a few months earlier, when Paul left there. So were many others… [including Erastus, for whom there is archeological evidence that he was the city treasurer of Ephesus]…

Romans 16 is a letter of recommendation, the earliest letter of recommendation for a Christian minister, and it's written for a woman, Phoebe, who is, in the beginning of the chapter, said to have been a deacon, not a deaconess -- but a deacon in the sense of a preacher, a minister.

A more complete transcription a Dr. Koester's talk is found at Many other notable scholars believe that chapter 16 of what is known as "Paul's letter to the Romans" was really a separate letter of introduction on behalf of the church leader Phoebe that was sent to the church in Ephesus. To further explore, "Was Romans 16 written to the Romans or to the Ephesians?", browse


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Outline of Contents

Introduction, Instructions, and Conclusion - Rom 16:1-27


Workshop table of contents - Copyright 1996-2002 Robert Nguyen Cramer -
0. Food-for-thought: Questions & Answers