What Are the Pauline Epistles?

No matter the issue Christians were facing at that time, Paul continually pointed them back to the Word of God, His love and sovereignty, and how the Holy Spirit was sent to help breathe new life into our souls each and every time we read the Bible.

Heather Riggleman
pauline epistle

We all know the Bible is divided into the Old Testament and New Testament. We’ve heard and generally know what the gospels are and that the first five books of the Bible are called the Pentateuch. But have you heard of the Pauline Epistles?

Maybe? Maybe not. The Pauline Epistles are the following books in the New Testament: Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon.

These are letters Paul wrote to the churches. Of the 27 seven books of the New Testament, 21 of those are Epistles. Before we get into what the Epistles are, we need to understand where the Bible came from.

What is the Bible?

All 66 books that make up the Bible are considered to be the Word of God. If the Bible is truly God’s Word, then we are to know it, understand it, apply it to our daily lives, and cherish what His Word says.

The Bible is our foundational truth because ultimately our eternity is at stake. The Bible was written through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, written by forty authors over a period of 1,500 years. Here is an entire list of each book(s) and author.

The Old Testament contains 27 books and the other 27 books make up the New Testament. Although many people believe the Bible isn’t truly God’s Word. A study from “Barna Group’s 2017 State of the Bible report gave Christians a reason to feel more hopeful about the spiritual state of their neighbors.

They found that 87% of American households own at least one Bible. But Lifeway released a 2016 report about how Americans think about that Bible sitting on their bookshelf. Their report said that only 47% of Americans described the Bible as completely accurate.”

Pew confirmed in 2018 that many were unsure about the trustworthiness of the Bible. The Pew report revealed that while 80% of Americans believe in “God,” only 56% believe God “as described in the Bible.”

What is a Pauline Epistle?

The word epistle essentially means “letter.” The word “epistle” is derived from the Greek word epistole, which translates to “letter” or “message.”

Because there wasn’t any such thing as text messages, phones, or the internet back then, the main way people communicated back in biblical times was through writing letters.

Some of Paul’s epistles were written from jail cells (commonly referred to as Paul’s Prison Epistles); some are addressed to individuals; and some are addressed to congregations. Paul wrote letters to the churches and providences and often his letters were passed from one church to the next.

He wrote these letters over approximately a 15-to 20-year-period between AD 48 and 67. For the next two years, Paul would live under house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:30-31), but during this time, he continued to minister to those who visited and encourage local churches via letters he wrote from prison.

The estimates of the dates these letters were written will vary slightly from authority to authority, but they were within this general time frame. Even then, many of his letters were written to specific churches because of the issues they faced.

In fact, all of the early apostles wrote letters. What makes these letters so incredibly valuable was the fact each and every word in every letter what inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Bible is filled with hundreds of scriptures about the Word of God being God’s actual Words for His people.

7 Scriptures about the Word of God

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right (2 Timothy 3:16).

For everything that was written in the past was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope (Romans 15:4).

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:12-13).

Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar (Proverbs 30:5-6).

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints (Ephesians 6:10-20).

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever (Isaiah 40:8).

Why the Epistles Still Apply Today

Just as the entire Bible applies today, so do the Epistles. When Paul wrote these letters, he was giving instructions on how to live godly lives. 

No matter the issue Christians were facing at that time, Paul continually pointed them back to the Word of God, His love and sovereignty, and how the Holy Spirit was sent to help breathe new life into our souls each and every time we read the Bible.

The Pauline Epistles are part of that unity, and the teachings they contain are equally inspired and in complete harmony with the rest of the Bible. After all, Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Mark 13:31).

For further reading:

Did Paul Know That His Letters Would be Scripture?

What Is an Epistle? What Are the Epistles in the Bible?

What Are the Prison Epistles?

What Are the Pastoral Epistles?

What Does it Mean That the Bible Is God-Breathed?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/RG-vc


Heather Riggleman is an award-winning journalist and a regular contributor for Crosswalk. She calls Nebraska home with her three kids and a husband of 22 years. She believes Jazzercise, Jesus, and tacos can fix anything and not necessarily in that order! She is author of I Call Him By Name Bible Study, the Bold Truths Prayer Journal,  Mama Needs a Time Out, and a contributor to several books. You can find her at www.heatherriggleman.com or on Facebook.  


Originally published February 26, 2021.