Paul, Letters, and Nero

It is worth a few minutes to look over this timeline of Paul’s life so far:

  • The first row: year 5 AD to 44AD
  • The second row: year 45 AD to 56 AD
  • The third row: year 57 AD to 68 AD

We are about to start the 3rd row in the reading.

Click here to print

Ygs submit browser v2017.12.12 incl keygen cff | preccasa | Bible history, New testament, Galatia

Click here to print

Take a look at this chart. First, we will begin Romans, and then we will read the Prison Letters.  The dates are significant because we are entering a period when Christians are being persecuted greater each year.

We recently read a bulleted list of hardships Paul went through during his ministry.  It is hard for us in safe America to imagine real Christian persecution.  One of the most famous of the tyrannic leaders of this time was Nero.

Born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus in December of AD 37, Nero became the fifth emperor of Rome. Nero, along with Rome’s first four emperors:

  1. Augustus,
  2. Tiberius,
  3. Caligula, and
  4. Claudius

They made up what is called the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Nero was adopted by his great uncle Claudius to become his successor, and upon Claudius’s death in AD 54, Nero became the youngest emperor at age 16. His reign lasted nearly fourteen years until AD 68 when he committed suicide at 30.

Christianity was spreading rapidly during this time. In fact, approximately fourteen of the New Testament’s twenty-seven books were written in whole or in part during Nero’s emperorship.

Nero is the “Caesar” who Paul will appeal to for justice during his trial in Caesarea (Acts 25:10–12).

His regime began with mildness and idealism; it ended with cruelty and tyranny. Then, he began murdering anyone who became an obstacle to him; his victims included his own wife and mother as well as his step-brother Britannicus—Emperor Claudius’s biological son.

In July of 64, the Great Fire of Rome broke out and lasted for six days.  Some historians believe Nero may have been responsible for the fire (he wanted to rebuild the city, so he burned the poor section), although his involvement is unclear. What is clear is that Nero deflected the focus from himself by blaming the fire on the Christians, many of whom he tortured and killed.  Some of Nero’s tactics towards Christians were”

  • Covering them with fresh animal skins and letting wild dogs tear them apart
  • were nailed to crosses
  • Burned alive: Nero’s use of Christians as human torches to light his evening garden parties is well documented.

Long story short, Nero was declared a public enemy. As a result, Nero was forced to flee Rome and later took his own life. Having no heir to succeed him, Nero was the last of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Nero’s death was followed by a brief period of civil war, which was then followed by the rise and fall of four emperors in a single year, a chaotic period of Roman history known as “The Year of the Four Emperors.”

D. Persecution of Christians - Christianity and the Roman Empire

Three Radio Shows this Week | Defenders of the Catholic Faith | Hosted by Stephen K. Ray

The Great Fire of London Was Blamed on Religious Terrorism | History | Smithsonian Magazine


2 Corinthians 10-13

We finish out the letters the Corinthians today.✅

Chapter 10-  Actually if you jump down to verse 10 “For some say…” you will see that this chapter is a defense or an appeal to a verbal attack on Paul.    Paul’s appeal is necessary because some in Corinth have tried to persuade the church from not continuing allegiance to Paul.

  1. They try to belittle Paul by drawing a distinction between his letters and his “in-person” personality.
  2. Those who oppose Paul are elevating their own authority by boasting on their credentials and status.

I literally could cut and paste this whole chapter.  It was amazing.  Worth a second read.  Click here.

Homework: I KNOW a scripture stood out to you!  What was it?   (put it in comments, I really love reading them)

Chapter 11

Paul continues with a major concern that they will be led astray.

For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.

I am telling you…now that you have read the Bible all the way through, you ARE going to see how the world takes so much scripture out of context.  Let me tell you a quick story.  Within the FBI department, there is a unit just for dealing with counterfeit money.  The agents study for a long time.  They ONLY study real money.  They know it so well,  that when a counterfeit bill is put in front of them they know it immediately.  They never study the counterfeit (it would confuse them)

Now, the matter of $$$ comes up again.  Think of it this way.  If you were hiring a keynote speaker for an event.  One was free and the other was expensive.  You may think, the one that was expensive must be more knowledgeable!  How effective would a speaker be if he didn’t even charge for it?  This was an accusation that was obviously being used to discredit Paul.  He was not willing to take money for sharing the Gospel.

I may indeed be untrained as a speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way. Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge?

Paul boasts about his suffering

Those who came to speak against Paul boasted in being Hebrew (so was he), an Israelite (so was he), and a descendant of Abraham (so was he).  So they want to boast?  Paul gives them something to boast about!


  • I have worked much harder
  • been in prison more frequently
  • been flogged more severely
  • been exposed to death again and again
  • Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one
  • Three times I was beaten with rods 
  • once I was pelted with stones
  • three times I was shipwrecked
  • I spent a night and a day in the open sea
  • I have been constantly on the move
  • have been in danger from rivers
  • in danger from bandits
  • in danger from my fellow Jews
  • in danger from Gentiles
  • in danger in the city
  • in danger in the country
  • in danger at sea
  • and in danger from false believers
  • I have labored and toiled
  • have often gone without sleep
  • I have known hunger and thirst
  • have often gone without food
  • I have been cold and naked

28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

Chapter 12

BUT if Paul wanted to BOAST he could!  If he was going to boast it would be about a vision he received 14 years ago that no else has seen.  This must-have occurred sometime between his 1st and 2nd mission trips.

And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses.

See the words ‘caught up’.  Paul was raptured and given a vision.  He said he really could boast about that but he won’t because it is Truth.  But to keep him from getting conceited and humble, the Lord did allow him some type of physical pain.  It must have been pretty severe, we know Paul has a high pain threshold for the Lord (from the above list):

 Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. ❤️

As Paul closes out the book, we go back to the purpose of this letter.  Was this defense really to save Paul or Titus’ name?  No.

19 Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? We have been speaking in the sight of God as those in Christ; and everything we do, dear friends, is for your strengthening.

Paul says he will return again to Corinth but leaves them some homework in the meantime.  See I am not the only one who leaves homework!  (His is just better)

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test.

2 Corinthians 1-4

The recipients of this epistle knew “Timothy” well. He had come to faith in Christ evidently through Paul’s ministry in Lystra in Asia Minor. He had accompanied Paul on his journey from the second missionary journey on and had gone to Corinth.

Corinth was an important commercial center. The city may have contained over a half-million people at this time. It stood on the narrow land bridge (isthmus) that connected the southern part of Greece (the Peloponnesus) with the northern part.

A Church as a Body, Part 2 | Mark Roberts

This shortcut saved merchants the long trip around the southern coastline of Greece. Corinth was the capital of the province of Achaia and the headquarters of a Roman proconsul (governor). It had been the notorious center for the immoral worship of the goddess Aphrodite, and its population was cosmopolitan, consisting of Romans, Greeks, Orientals, and Jews.

Paul intended that the Corinthian Christians would read this letter in the church, but he also wanted all the Christians in the province of Achaia to read it. We know that at this time there was another Achaian church in Cenchrea, and perhaps one in nearby Athens.

“Comfort” (paraklesis) is the keyword in this section, occurring 16 times.  2 Corinthians truly is a letter of encouragement.   Paul opens with a greeting and tells them had he intended to visit them but he has experienced trouble, pressure, and at times near death.  For their sake, he did not return. BUT he has comfort in all things.

21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

  1. they had experienced an “anointing,” as had Christ (the “Anointed One”). This took place when they trusted Christ as their Savior.
  2. they had all experienced a “sealing.” A seal signified ownership, authentication, confirmation, and security.
  3. they had received the Holy “Spirit” as a down payment of the inheritance God has promised.

Chapter 2.

Discipline and correction are hard.  Paul’s last letter was stressful so this time he writes:

For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.

Verse 5 talks about forgiving an offender.  This might be talking about the man he referenced in the first letter that was unrepentant.  They were told to disassociate with him so that he would repent.  It appears now it is time to forgive.

For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.

When proper sacrifices were made in the Old Testament, it was noted that it was a pleasing aroma to God.  The smell was not pleasing,  it was what the smell represented that was.  When we sacrifice ourselves to the Lord’s will we are a pleasing aroma to the Lord.

Chapter 3

You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.


He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills (The Law: The Old Testament), but the Spirit gives life (The Cross: The New Testament).

I know it is frustrating for Christians to talk to unbelievers.  WHY DON’T THEY GET IT??  The scriptures will confuse them because there is a “Veil” that is between them and the Truth.  (So don’t get frustrated).  The veil was torn for you!

16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Before that Paul goes on to say that, just as Moses gave Israel the Law with a veil over his face, even today, when the Law is read, a veil descends over the hearts of unbelieving Israelites. Then and now, Israel’s vision is obscured, and they are hard of heart. The “veil” prevents them from seeing the true glory of God. The veil is only taken away when they turn to Christ.

7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

You are the jar of clay that the hands of God created:  “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being”. Genesis 2:7.    The Gospel is the treasure inside you.  The sacrifice and resurrection of Christ.

13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

AND my favorite in this read is:

18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. ❤️.

(this scripture always takes me to Hebrews Chapter 11: Faith.)

2 Corinthians Overview

Paul writes a second letter to Corinth.  His purpose is

  1. To encourage them. He will also encourage to forgive and restore a sinning brother (from the ist letter)
  2. To explain to them why he has not returned
  3. To enlist their help.  He needs to give to build the church in Jerusalem
  4. To establish his apostleship (many leaders were talking bad about Paul)

Paul had been in Corinth for 18 months. He stayed with Priscilla and Aquilla.  He then started the church in Corinth. He left and received the note from Cloe with many concerns.  He writes a letter (1 Corinthians).  He leaves Timothy there to be the leader.  Timothy writes a letter to Paul to update him.  Timothy basically says “The leaders are talking smack about you and undermining you”.  So Paul writes another letter (2 Corinthians)

There are 5 sections (besides the introduction and the conclusion)

  1. Corrections- things happening in the church and his own plan to come back unraveled
  2. Explanations-the message of the Gospel
  3. Exhortations- don’t listen to these guys!  Separate yourself from them.
  4. Solicitations- he is going to explain why he needs to take up an offering
  5. Vindications- he is going to defend his apostleship and his mission.

Dec 4: 2Cor 1-4
Dec 5: 2Cor 5-9
Dec 6: 2Cor 10-13