“Hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).
These words from St. Paul give me comfort. He wrote 13 books in the New Testament, and his influence in growing the early Church is convincing. His conversion gives us hope – and proof that God looks for strong leaders who may not be on the right side of truth. This is why we pray for the conversion of those destroying God’s plan for life. I read all the introductions to Paul’s letters; there are comparable struggles for our Church today. In reading this, I hope you will unite with Paul in building up the Church.
The Letter to the Romans is the longest and most detailed explanation of Paul’s thoughts. It is a powerful doctrine of the supremacy of Christ, and of faith in Christ as the source of salvation. He reveals God’s wrath against the sin and wickedness of Gentiles and Jews. The apostle’s hope is that, just as rejection of the gospel by some in Israel has led to a ministry of salvation for non-Jews, so, in God’s mercy, all Israel will be saved.
The First Letter to the church of Corinth provides insight into the life of a first-generation early Christian community. He writes about the strengths and weaknesses of people who accepted the good news of Christ by realizing the effects of their baptism. The Second Letter to the Corinthians is the most personal account of all his writings and reveals much about Paul’s character. One minute, he is venting frustration; and the next, affection. Sound familiar?
In Galatians, Paul writes to converts from paganism. They were being enticed by other missionaries to add the observances of Jewish law, including the rite of circumcision, to the cross of Christ as a means of salvation. They insisted on the necessity of following certain precepts of the Mosaic Law, along with faith in Christ. They were undermining Paul’s authority, asserting that he had not been trained by Jesus and that his writing did not agree with the original apostles in Jerusalem. When Paul learned of this, he wrote in defense of his apostolic authority, and emphasized the importance of Christ and His redemptive sacrifice on the cross; the freedom Christians enjoy from the burdens of the law; Christ as the way to eternal salvation; and new life of the Spirit.
The Letter to the Ephesians is a great Pauline letter about the worldwide Church, the head of which is Christ. He writes about the seven unities: Church, spirit, hope, one Lord, faith, baptism and the one God. He is suffering affliction in prison, and the letter may be a work of a secretary writing at Paul’s direction.
Paul established at Philippi the first Christian community in Europe. Silas, Timothy and Luke accompanied him on this mission trip. The letter to the Philippians is filled with insights into Paul’s theology, and his apostolic love for the gospel and converts. He shares from prison his hopes and convictions, his anxieties and fears, revealing a total confidence in Christ that constitutes faith.
Paul also wrote to the congregation in Colossae from prison. He had not visited there, but heard that teachers emphasizing Christ’s relation to the universe were bringing on problems. Their teachings stressed angels, principalities and powers, which were connected with cultic practices; rules about food; and ascetical practices. His letters to the Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon are all similar messages for Christians. I pray for the Holy Spirit to give me eyes of faith, a mind filled with hope and a heart full of love. We need guidance from the Holy Spirit. The past two and a half years have been rough for people all over the world, and the days ahead appear even more concerning. Keep soldiering for Christ! Amen!