Romans was written to deal with the particular historical problem of the relations between Jewish and Gentile Christians in Rome. The function of Paul’s gospel was to unify these two, while its content was a theology that placed Jew and Gentile on an equal footing, both in their sin and in their salvation. Sometimes a modern situation corresponds to Paul’s original one. In such a case, Romans speaks directly. Most of the time, modern situations are different from those in Paul’s time. Romans still speaks. Although the content of Romans was elaborated in a particular cultural context, its applicability goes far beyond the original milieu, as Christian history has amply demonstrated. This commentary leads readers into the biblical world of Paul’s Letter to the Romans, while at the same time it seeks to open our ears to the lasting truth of God’s word for today.
Perhaps more than any other “book” in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians offers readers a window to the life of the early church. Through this window we catch a glimpse of a community of faith struggling with questions of identity, relationship, belief, and practice. Yet our vision through the window of 1 Corinthians is not without significant limitations. The author of 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul, has framed the shape of the window. For the most part, we can see only what Paul wished to expose and only in the ways he wished to expose them. We cannot know beyond any doubt that his presentation of the situation was an accurate reflection of that situation, nor can we be certain that we even correctly understand what Paul presented.
Second Corinthians takes the reader deep into the thought world of Paul and his congregation at Corinth, exploring the social and theological tensions that shape Paul’s relationship with the Corinthian Christians. His letter expresses his joy that prior “severe” correspondence had been positively received and addresses the issues that were tearing the church apart; for one, false teachers who were sowing discord and maligning Paul’s character. Paul finds as well that many Corinthian Christians have repented of their rebellion, and he encourages them even as he seeks to vindicate his apostleship to those who challenged him.
In Galatians, Paul endeavored to prevent the Gentile converts in churches he had founded from embracing a version of the gospel that insisted on their observance of a form of the Mosaic Law. He saw with a degree of clarity not shared by many that such a message reduced the crucified Jesus Christ, who alone was the heart of the gospel, to being a mere agent of the Law. For Paul, the gospel of Jesus Christ alone, and him crucified, had no place in it for the claim that Law-observance was somehow necessary for believers in Christ to experience the power of God’s grace.
Ephesians transports the modern reader into the world of the early church. The author asserts that Ephesians was written to persuade its original readership that an ethnically inclusive church based on religious affiliation and faithfulness was part of God’s plan and that both Jew and Gentile were equal partners in the new religious commonwealth.
In this commentary on Philippians & Philemon, the author turns his learned attention to both a deeply loved letter (Philippians) and a frequently overlooked letter (Philemon) of Paul. With clarity and care, Still lays bare the meaning of these letters along lexical and socio-historical lines. What is more, the author is attentive to the rhetorical features, theological dimensions, and the pastoral possibilities of these texts. Still seeks to think Paul’s thoughts after him and to capture the Apostle’s affection for a beloved congregation and a recently converted slave.
In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, the reader is introduced to a supreme Christ who created earth and vanquished the power of death. However, this same Christ chose to bear the shame of death on a Roman cross in order to bring restoration and reconciliation to humans and all of creation affected by the chaos caused by sin. The enduring message of Colossians is uniquely challenging and instructive precisely because it testifies to the church’s cruciform life in obedience to this crucified cosmic Lord, Jesus Christ.
First and Second Thessalonians explore the first-century Mediterranean world in which the Apostle Paul writes to the community of faith in Thessaloniki. It is a complex dialogue among the Thessalonian believers, the young missionary Paul, and the readers who would follow through the centuries. Known as the Thessalonian Correspondence, these writings give us a wide window into this ancient environment where Paul lived, worked, and taught. What community fears, joys, or trauma gave rise to his words? What were the social and cultural experiences of this community of new believers? How did they understand the life of faith? How did they manage issues of life and work, faith and profession? These letters also help us, the twenty-first-century readers, understand Paul’s perspectives on leadership, ethics, community life, and death. These letters encourage and challenge us, as they encouraged and challenged the community in Thessaloniki, to live faithfully and lovingly with one another as we go about our work and worship.
The letters of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus have been grouped together and referred to as the “Pastoral Epistles” because they are addressed to individuals charged with the oversight of certain churches and, therefore, share common subject matter.