Chronological Bible 50: Paul finishes the race

We only have three more weeks to complete our one-year journey through the Bible. This week we’ll look at Philemon, Philippians, James, 1 Timothy, Titus, and 2 Timothy. These letters (excluding James) will complete the writings of Paul.

It is around A.D. 62. Paul is in his late 50’s and in prison in Rome. He is under house arrest, living in a house he has rented, and is able to receive visitors. He remains under guard, though.

The first letter in this week’s list is a short and very personal note to Philemon. In it Paul speaks on behalf of an escaped slave, Onesimus, who Paul has encountered in Rome. He has apparently led Onesimus into a relationship with Jesus and Onesimus has repented of running away from Philemon, his owner. Paul asks Philemon to accept Onesimus back and to forgive him for any wrongs committed, even offering to bear the cost of any necessary repayment himself. Onesimus travels with Tychicus to deliver the letters to Ephesians and Colossians and to present himself back to Philemon in Colossae.

Paul also writes his first letter to Timothy, who is serving the church in Ephesus, encouraging him in his work there.

In the meantime, James, the brother of Jesus and the primary leader of the church in Jerusalem, writes a letter to be distributed to Jewish converts around the region. He encourages them to live lives worthy of their calling, letting their lives demonstrate their faith in Jesus. James is martyred shortly after this letter is written.

Paul is released from this imprisonment after about two years. The book of Acts ends before Paul’s release, so anything that happened after that is pretty speculative. Paul apparently traveled some more. He had indicated in his letter to the Romans that he planned to go to Spain to continue sharing the gospel. He wrote to Titus sometime from the road, encouraging Titus in his work in organizing the new churches on the island of Crete.

Sometime around A.D. 64 or 65, Paul is arrested again, only this time he is placed in chains in prison, possibly in the dark underground dungeons of Mamertine. Paul was placed here (or wherever he was) without the knowledge of his friends. A convert from Ephesus (Onesiphorus) searched for and found Paul in prison and relayed that information to others (2 Timothy 1:16).

In this final letter of Paul’s he makes the following statement (2 Timothy 4:1-8):

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

May you also finish the race God has placed before you! Next week we’ll consider the book of Hebrews, 1 Peter and 2 Peter.

For Further Investigation

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