aspects of Galatians, Thessalonians and Corinthians applicable today
Paul’s Epistles to the
deal with numerous specific issues underpinning Christian living, many of which
are applicable today. These include the following:
Paul says that through faith in
Christ we are all one5
and, without distinction, receive the promises given to Abraham6.
This is set against the background that the Galatians, mainly Gentile converts,
were turning to a different Gospel7,
wanting to be under the law8,
were no longer obeying the truth9
and were turning back to weak principles10.
To them, Paul’s message that
Christ’s redemption means all might receive the same blessing as Abraham, that
Gentiles can receive the promise of the spirit through faith11,
must have been uplifting. Emphasising that the different gospel the Galatians
were turning to is no gospel at all12,
Paul affirms that the true Gospel offers grace and peace and is centred on Jesus
In Corinthians particularly30,
Paul lists the various situations and types of suffering he has endured31.
Indeed, suffering is one of the main themes of 2 Corinthians. He appears to
write frankly not to seek sympathy or even empathy but to allow him to expound
the comfort, good and reward which comes from suffering.
Those in present distress can
gain tangible strength from knowing that, through suffering, we receive God’s
comfort and, importantly, can pass that comfort on to others35.
Additional positive results of suffering we can apply today are Paul’s
assertions that power comes from God not ourselves36
and not to lose heart because, as he clearly explains37,
present suffering brings future reward38.
Of all Paul’s writings,
perhaps his teachings on sex are some of the most applicable in today’s
society where permissiveness, promiscuity, pre-marital intercourse and
post-marital infidelity are so rife.
However, it is in Paul’s
Epistles to the Corinthians that he deals with specific issues, primarily as a
result of questions addressed to him40.
Paul’s reaction to an act of incest41
is not only against the act but, importantly, against the Corinthian’s blazé
and arrogant, almost proud, attitude to it: they seem totally unconcerned42,
It is an attitude similar to that seen today. Paul’s solution is clear:
disciplinary action is required43,
a necessity for the good of the whole community and the individual, because the
sin of one affects the whole fellowship44.
Paul reminds the Corinthians,
many of whom formerly worshipped the goddess Aphrodite, whose temple rites
encouraged sexual immorality, that - again with a resounding reminder for today
- their bodies are bought with the price of Christ’s death and are “the
temple of the Holy Spirit”45.
Paul writes at some length
about sexual intercourse (even within marriage), marriage itself46,
abstinence and viginity47.
Lest anyone today should feel none of this is relevant, Paul makes it clear he
understands the potency of the sex drive48
and the difficulties of self control49.
He says sexual relations are normal within marriage50
and act as a safeguard against immorality51.
Although Paul states quite clearly his own feeling that it is better to be
single than married52,
he also says it is better to be married than to be burning with sexual passion53.
If Paul’s practical
guidelines in all these matters54
were practiced today, the world would undoubtedly be a healthier (in all senses)
and more wholesome place55.
Paul never set out to write a
systematic theology; each of his letters is written for particular churches
regarding the specific issues they were facing. What is striking is that so many
of today’s issues are no different to those faced by our forebears. This makes
Paul’s words absolutely relevant and appropriate in the 21st century as a
foundation for Christian Living and as a rock to which Christians and others can - or at
least should - hold fast.
Which may be the earliest letter of Paul in the New Testament, written cAD48 or
Probably, with Galatians, the earliest of the New Testament letters, written
Gal 3.26-29 which, as pointed out by Jung Hoon Kim in “
Gal 3.29, i.e. righteousness as children of
Abraham (the Father of all
As New Testament Scholar and Retired Anglican Bishop The
Rt Revd Tom Wright explains in “
Elisabeth Johnson in her “Commentary on Galatians” points out that the
categories which divide us today may be different to those in Paul's day but
divisions do persist along lines of ethnicity, socio-economic status, gender,
sexual orientation, ideology, political affiliation and many other factors. She
powerfully asserts “Paul reminds us that whatever human categories may
describe us, they do not define us. All human categories are subordinate and
ultimately irrelevant to our primary identity as members of the body of
1 Thes 1.2, 3.10 and 2
1 Thes 3.10-13, 5.23 and 2
1 Thes 5.17-18, 5.25 and 2
1 Thes 1.3 and 2
1 Thes 1.5-10
1 Thes 4.1-12, 5.12-22, 2
1 Thes 4.13 to 5.3, 2
e.g 1 Thes 2.7-8, 17-20 and 1
2 Thes 3.5. As Ian Mackervoy explains in “
2 Thes 3.16
2 Thes 2.17
Wayne Slusser in “An Examination of the Structural and Pastoral Implications
of Paul’s Prayer” powerfully states “The pastoral implications provide today’s church with a model of what and how to
shape their own prayers”.
e.g. 2 Cor 1.8-9, 2.2-4, 7.5, 11.23-29
Donald Guthrie in “The Pauline Epistles” makes a striking point: “It cannot be too strongly
emphasised that the writer of these priceless Christian letters is no arm-chair
theologian but a missionary hearted apostle who encountered and survived more
than his fair share of the punishing rigours of life. The letters themselves must be set against such a background if they are to be
2 Cor 1.3
2 Cor 1.10
2 Cor 1.4-5
2 Cor 4.7
2 Cor 4.16-18
Jeff Guinan in “Paul’s Theology on Suffering” summarises Paul’s position succinctly when he says
“Paul understands that suffering is ultimately a blessing from God given to
Christians in order to glorify Himself and promote their sanctification;
therefore, the Christian response to suffering should be one of joy, hope, and
Which Paul does in 1
It is also interesting to note, as William Barclay points out in “
1 Cor 5.1
1 Cor 5.2 This attitude may be linked to the Corinthian’s over-realised
eschatology and antinomianism/libertarianism
1 Cor 5.5
1 Cor 5.6-8. See also Achan’s sin in Joshua
1 Cor 6.19-20
In Genesis 2:18 we read that God said “It
is not good for the man to be alone: I will make him a helper suitable for him”.
Robert Diffenbaugh, in “Sex and the Spiritual Christian”, says “Being
single was not good, so God created a wife to be his companion and counterpart.
From the Book of Proverbs, we know that God designed marriage and sex not only
as a means for bringing children into this world but also as God’s appointed
means for a man to find pleasure in his wife”.
All in 1 Cor 7.1-40
Without which there would be no continuity of the human race!
e.g. in 1 Cor 7.5, 7.9
1 Cor 7.3-5
1 Cor 7.2
1 Cor 7.1, 78
1 Cor 7.9
Edward Welch, in “
55 A further extension of applicability today of Paul’s general principles might be seen in the modern condemnation of ritual female genital mutilation, which is of no benefit to a woman but is imposed as an attempt to control her sexuality.
© Richard Farquharson, Maulden, Bedfordshire December 2016