After St. Paul traveled the Roman empire as a missionary, converting many Gentiles to Christianity and establishing local churches, he would later be confronted by these new Christians with questions of faith and practice. Since he could not return to these areas right away, Paul would respond by letter.
Of the twenty-one letters or epistles in the New Testament, fourteen of the letters are either authored by or attributed to St. Paul. The letters addressed many of the issues of the early Church—for example, the second coming of Christ (Parousia), divisions in the Church, attitudes for worship—and others.
Have your students read and reflect on the following questions. When Scripture citations are listed, have them look them up and read them. Have them write their answers to the questions. Also, call on students to share their answers as part of a class discussion.
- How do you imagine Christ’s second coming, the Parousia? Describe what you think would happen if Christ returned to the world today?
- St. Paul says that Christians are not to live in darkness, but as “children of the light and children of the day” (1 Thess 5:5). How would you explain the meaning of these words to a new Christian today?
- Apparently some Christians awaiting the Parousia had stopped working and were depending on others for food. How would you respond to people doing this? How does your response differ from the one offered in 2 Thessalonians 3:16-15?
- Paul was critical of the Galatians for listening to bad advice and following the burdensome rules of the Jewish-Christian missionaries. Name someone you have accepted constructive criticism from? What was the advice he or she offered? What do you do to act on the advice?
- In dealing with the Corinthians, Paul faced the problems of division in the Church. What are some factions in the Church today? What do you know about the issues, beliefs, or people they support?
- In 1 Corinthians 1:27-34, Paul writes of the need for proper preparation before celebrating Eucharist. What attitude do you seek when you attend Mass? How do you prepare yourself to celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist?
- Paul writes that our faith is worthless unless we believe that Christ is raised from the dead (1 Cor 15:14). Do you agree? Why is the resurrection the central belief of the Christian faith?
- Being free from the law does not allow Christians to do whatever they want. St. Paul asks, “How can we who died to sin yet live in it?” (Rom 6:2). If you knew for sure you were going to heaven after you died, how would this change the way you lived?
- St. Paul wrote: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31). When was a time you have found this to be true in your life?