Presentation on theme: "Paul’s letters to the Hebrews, Philippians and Ephesians."— Presentation transcript:
Paul’s letters to the Hebrews, Philippians and Ephesians
The time line of Paul and these letters AD 35Paul converted to Christianity AD 60 Paul writes to the church at Ephesus AD 61 Paul writes to the church at Philippi AD 65 Someone with Paul’s knowledge of the OT and Gospel of Christ writes to the Hebrews; in particular those being persecuted by Emperor Nero in Rome AD 67/68 Paul martyred for Christ in Rome by Nero
The geographical importance of these churches to the spread of Christianity Rome, Philippi and Ephesus were all major trading centres through which large numbers of people flowed. Merchants and sailors converted in these cities travelled to all parts of the Roman Empire taking with them the extraordinary message, of a single all powerful creator God. A God whose son had been killed then raised from the dead and would give eternal life to all who believed in him and obeyed his command to love God and one another. At a time when most people worshipped a multiplicity of gods, death was the end of everything and gods were to be feared and appeased through continual sacrifice; so this was an extraordinary message.
Rome – the geographical context. The capital city of the world’s largest Empire at that time. An Empire that included every other civilised community from Britain to Arabia. An Empire controlled by the most powerful and successful military force that the world had known. A city from which the Empires laws and decrees were given, administered and enforced. Many converts would carry the gospel of Christ from this city throughout the wider Roman Empire. It was the city in which the Christian message would be brutally suppressed; but by the third century AD it would be the state religion.
Philippi – the geographical context. A Roman trading centre whose port accessed the Via Egnatia, a major military road that linked Rome to the port of Byzantium and the northern coast of the Black Sea. A city that was a trading gateway into Macedonia and north eastern Europe for finished goods and the gold and silver that were mined in the local area. A city whose Christian church would financially support Paul in his missionary work. A church whose leadership included women such as Lydia a merchant in the finest purple cloth.
Ephesus – the geographical context. An important and prosperous trading city in the province of Asia; that is the land mass to the east of the Mediterranean Sea. A city with an inland harbour connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Asiatic caravan routes into Persia and the Caspian Sea. It was a city dominated by the Temple of the pagan god Artemis. This was to be a major spiritual battle ground for the Gospel of Christ and Paul stayed here for two years preaching and teaching. Many converts carried the message of Christ from this city along the trading routes.
How does Christianity spread in the first century AD?
The historical context of Hebrews Emperor Nero planned to rebuild Rome as a memorial to his majesty and greatness. But the senate would not approve the funds. In AD 64 a major fire destroyed much of the city so that it needed rebuilding. Most Romans held Nero responsible for the fire. To deflect criticism Nero blamed the Christians and ordered that they all be put to death; men, women and children no one was to be spared. The persecution was barbaric. Some were crucified, some sewn into animal skins then hunted by dogs and torn to pieces. Some were covered in pitch and set alight to serve as living torches to light the city gardens and squares when darkness fell.
The historical context of Hebrews. These atrocities against a people who worshipped a different God and proclaimed a Saviour, Christ, who gave grace and eternal life as blessings went far to defeat what Nero intended. Many converts refused to renounce Christ and people came together to support each other in great adversity. Many died with great dignity; men, women and children dying certain of the hope they had in Christ. Rome was witnessing the Christian life and death being lived out and many were moved to believe. But it was tempting for Jewish Christian converts to turn back to the old religion of Israel to escape persecution. Back to the Mosaic Law.
The themes of Philippians - A letter to the first church that Paul founded in Europe. Paul saw this church as a ‘colony of heaven’. Paul gives thanks for their financial gifts which support him in prison. He exhorts the Philippian church to stay humble and united in Christ so that their witness may be a beacon for all to see. He warns them to be aware of the Judaisers and libertines inside the church who wish them to turn from Christ. He reminds them to recognise and value the gifts which God gives to each of them every day. He urges them to forever rejoice in the Lord and stand firm for Christ against any form of persecution.
The themes of Ephesians - A general letter to all Paul’s churches. A summary of Christian belief and how we are to relate to God and Christ and those inside and outside the church. Know your relationship with God, in Christ, and what he expects your relationships with others to be. Never forget God’s purpose and power, at all times, as you walk with him through your life. Never forget what you are saved by and what you have been saved for. Know, clearly, both Christian doctrine and your daily duty to Christ. Never stop showing the world how a spiritual life of purity and deference to Christ stands in such contrast to a worldly life.
The themes of Hebrews – A letter relating the Old and New Testaments. In particular you are to know:- that the old Jewish system of the Mosaic Law and animal sacrifice has been superseded by the new covenant of Christ. that the prophecies and promises of the OT are fully fulfilled in Christ. the absolute supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus Christ as the revealer and mediator of God’s grace and plan for mankind. that God’s people must now look only to Christ, who has opened the way for all mankind to enter the heavenly sanctuary of God’s presence. that all Christians will be tested and must stand firm in the face of these tests and worldly persecution.
So are we just studying ancient history or will there be something for us to change our lives today? Well Paul has no doubt that our study time will be worthwhile and he tells us this in no uncertain terms. 2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. NIV And this is what our Christian life is for - to ‘know Jesus’ and through the way we live out our lives to ‘make his message known to others’ by example and actions not words.
A few verses which give a taste of the studies to come. Teaching Philippians 4:4-9 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near do not be anxious about anything, but in prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. NIV
A few verses which give a taste of the studies to come. Inspiration Ephesians 2:8-10 For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. NIV So we are here to serve God every day by doing the good works that he will place in our path. This is the reason for our God given gifts and talents; they are to be used to serve the Lord and make Jesus known. The Bible gives no other reason for us to exist.
And the verses which launch our study of Hebrews. Who is the Christ; the Messiah; the Anointed one; the great King of the Israelites through whom the kingdom of God will come? Hebrews 1:1-4 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and an exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. NIV So the Christ is the Son of God.
The greatness and authority of the Son of God Hebrews 1:1-4 - in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son - whom he appointed heir of all things - through whom he made the universe. - the Son is the radiance of God’s glory; an exact representation of his being - sustaining all things by his powerful word - he provided purification for sins If Jesus is the Son of God then this is his authority over the world.