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Session 8:Introduction to the Pauline Epistles

Aims

By the end of this session you should be able to: 

  • give an account of the new theology of Paul

  • be able to state approximately which epistles are ascribed to Paul and when they may have been written

  • give an account of how the main themes of the epistles relate to your faith journey and ministry as well as that of the church as a whole.

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Prayer

Loving Creator, your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light unto my path. Fill me with your  Spirit and your love as I seek you and seek to develop my faith in you during this session.  Show me new things, be with me as I am challenged and fill me with a desire to take you love out into the world.

Amen

Introduction

This session introduces us to the writings of St Pau, which take up about a quarter of the New Testament. We will look at Paul's theology, when the letters might have been written, and some interesting things within them that we might never have noticed.  It is structured in the same way as the previous sessions.

Part 1 Questions for Reflection

You can download a list and short descriptions of the books attributed to Paul in the Resources section BUT FIRST write down which you think they are. Now download the list - how close were you? Which is your favourite Pauline epistle and why?

Paul's conversion experience was at the heart of his theology.  What was you conversion experience (it may not have been as dramatic, most aren't!) and how does it underpin what you believe and how you live your life of faith?

What do you think about Paula's idea of the 'overlap' and what effect does it have on your thinking about life now?

Part 2 and Questions for Reflection

0.00 - 4.43 Paul and Hellenism

What do you thinkg about Tom's ideas of how Paul preached the gospel into the Hellenistic world?  What do you think we can learn from that in taking the good news into our modern day society?

 

4.44 - 15.13 Paul and Rome

Tom says that Paul 'subverts' (which means to overturn or destroy something particularly a political system) what is happening in the Roman Empire. How do you think he does this and in what ways might we also be called to 'subvert' the things in our society which are contrary to God's message?

15.14 - ?? Three Big Themes

Jesus is the fulfilment of the law and of God's promise to the Jews, now shared with the Gentiles (the rest of the world). The Spirit helps us to live out the life God wants us to, continually revealing God's love and purpose in the world.  Paul was only one person who did this in his time but his legacy has lasted for centuries.  Who else can you think of who you feel has done this and whose legacy lives on today?  What can we do in our own way to touch the lives of others with the love and life of God?

Spotlight on Doctrine

The doctrine of the Trinity is a complex one which has bent the minds of some of Christianity's brightest and wisest minds for centuries.  The word Trinity does not exit in the bible and it was not developed until the 3rd Century C. The idea of the Trinity came out of the kind of theology that we find in Paul's epistles.  At the end of the day, the concept of Trinity is actually one of the great mysteries of God - we can't really every fully comprehend it and it is a term used to to try to put words to an experience of God.  Where can you see the idea of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, or as some prefer to refer to it, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer in Paul's letters.  What does it mean for you?

Spotlight on Spirituality

One of the classics of Christian Spiritual writings is called 'The Cloud of Unknowing'. The author of this great work remains unknown, but it based on the idea that God cannot be grasped by our minds (though God is our intellectual capacity) but only by love “God is forever beyond the reach of the first of these, the intellectual faculty; but by means of the second, the loving faculty, [God] can be fully grasped by each individual being.” If we could fully understand God then that would make us greater than God, argues the 14th century mystic.  This is a helpful idea when thinking about the notion of the Trinity and what Paul was trying to convey of his experience of God, putting words to to the indescribable.   A lovely line in a Celtic Communion Liturgy sums this up well when it says "...nor can our small words can catch the magnificence of your kindness; yet in the space of our hearts and in the silence you can come close and repair us".

Reflection & Prayer

What has particularly struck you in this session?

 

Is there anything you found difficult and why do think that was?

 

What has particularly challenged you for your own faith journey, and what has comforted you?

Pray about what you have learned, thanking God for any new insights into the gospel of Luke and lifting to God anyone who has come into your thoughts as you have studied.

To Do in Church this Week

Where can you find the idea of the Trinity expressed in your church?  Which parts of the liturgy (the words and action of the service)? Which hymns you might have sung this week? Any stained glass windows or images? On your notices sheets or notice boards?

Share some of your findings in the discussion Forum

Resources

List of Paul's Epistles