Throughout the New Testament, you will find 20 letters (books) that were written to encourage the early church. Of those letters, the apostle Paul, the former persecutor of the early church, wrote 13 of them. Not only was the conversion of Paul to Christianity an incredible story, but he also went on to become what many would consider one of the greatest apostles in the New Testament.
Paul’s letters—which are sometimes referred to as epistles—where Paul takes the divine teachings of Jesus and explains the practical application and provides guidance for Christian living, gives warnings against false teachings, and bless believers with encouragement to see them through tough times that they would likely experience.
The early church certainly saw its share of hardships from ruling governments and sects of other faiths at the time—but disputes within the church itself also created a burden to its growth. Paul recognized this, and throughout his letter, he reminds the brethren to refocus on what matters most—our own repentance, sharing the gospel and loving one another.
Here are three such letters.
Aim High: The New Testament Book of Romans
The book of Romans, as you may have guessed, was a letter written to the believers in Rome—the center of the world back in Paul’s day. He offered the church much encouragement (Day 1) in this book, by explaining the riches of God’s grace offered when they answer the call to follow Jesus Christ.
Believers in Christ are assured that:
- They receive new life in the Spirit and are no longer bound to the limitations of the flesh.
- They are now fellow heirs with Christ—adopted children of God.
- They not only possess the hope of eternal life, but have the Holy Spirit working through them and for them while they are on earth.
- They carry God’s promise that His love is everlasting and that there is nothing that will ever separate us from that love.
Although Paul encouraged the church with these wonderful promises, he did not make light of the fact that they will endure hardship because of their faith. Even so, he reminds them of another promise:
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
Battle Rattle: Avoid Ambush and Strap on the Protective Gear
Paul often used terms that the believers would be able to easily associate with and understand. When he described putting on the full armor of God (Day 8) to the Ephesians, they knew full well what these articles looked like and what they were used for. Since much of the known world was under the rule of Rome, the presence of Roman soldiers was not an uncommon sight.
The armor of God in the Book of Ephesians serves as an active warning—beware of the ambush of the enemy and be prepared for battle. Paul makes it clear that spiritual warfare is very real. Our enemy, the devil, wages war against the church daily, and believers must stay alert and be weary of his tactics.
By using the armor God gives us to fight the enemy, reading the Word, constantly remaining in prayer, and listening to the Spirit of the Lord, Paul makes a case that we can do anything when we rely on God’s strength.
Full Speed Ahead: Racing Toward the Goal
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul likened the Christian faith to running a life-long race (Day 9), finishing in victory. Just as a physical race has obstacles and challenges, the spiritual race also has roadblocks threatening to slow down the believer as they try to finish well—falling to the woes of evildoers and even self-confidence.
Paul humbly made it clear to the church that he was no exception to the rule when it came to his own stumbling blocks. As a Pharisee, he enjoyed the prestige and honor bestowed upon the Jewish leadership at the time. In his own eyes, he was righteous of his own accord. But he strongly warned the Phillipians that true righteousness cannot come from one’s own works or good deeds but rather through faith in Christ.
Along with the righteousness we gain through Christ, believers also have the hope of salvation through Him as well. Paul told the brethren that their faith in Jesus is how one attains resurrection after death—a promise that all Christians should celebrate and cling to as they boldly finish the race set before them.
Stay Strong in the Faith and Fulfill the Mission
Writers of the New Testament epistles, like the apostle Paul, not only encouraged the new church thousands of years ago but the church today as well. In a world where Christianity is under constant attack by the enemy, it is important that we too hold onto these words—accept the Good News while giving it your all, strap on the armor of God, and finish the race with excellence.
To read more letters written to the church by Paul, as well as other great apostles, read the rest of Challenge 5 in the Military Bible Challenge. You will find their words as encouraging and inspirational to you as our brothers and sisters in Christ did so long ago.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:37-39 (ESV)