Paul the Letter Writer
Twenty-two of the 27 New Testament books are letters. Paul—formerly Saul—is the most famous New Testament letter writer. The young Jewish scholar named Saul was determined to extinguish the growing flame of Christianity in the first century. After he became a Christian, however, Paul was of great service to the Kingdom.
As a first-hand witness to the Lord’s power and resurrection, Paul became an apostle, and the Holy Spirit inspired him to write at least 13 letters to churches and individuals before he was executed in about A.D. 67. These letters, called “epistles,” were designed to show early Christians how to live and worship, and how the church was to be organized. Prior to telephones, e-mail, and faxes, early Christians needed a way to communicate at a great distance, and the letter provided the perfect solution.
The epistles also contain encouragement for those who were struggling with their new faith, strong rebukes against false teachers, and answers to important questions related to Christianity. Often, Paul wrote to churches he already had visited during his missionary journeys. For example, Paul first visited Corinth in about A.D.52, on his second missionary journey (see Acts 18). About five years later, while Paul was preaching in Ephesus, he wrote two letters to the church at Corinth (we call these letters “First and Second Corinthians”).
Because Paul was so outspoken for the Lord, and because many people opposed Christianity, Paul spent a lot of time in prison. On these occasions, Paul wrote letters to the churches at Philippi, Colosse, and Ephesus, as well as a brief epistle to his friend Philemon. We know these four books as the “Prison Epistles.” The final three “Pauline” letters (letters Paul wrote) were First and Second Timothy (letters to the young preacher Timothy) and Titus (a letter to another young preacher named Titus). These special books may be called a “minister’s manual,” because they contain so much instruction for preachers.
You and I may write important letters, but we will never write anything as important as the letters the apostle Paul wrote almost 2,000 years ago.