Free «The Doctrine of the Church in the Prison Epistles of St. Paul» Essay Sample

The first steps of Christianity as a new religion were complicated by the struggle between the Jews and the Gentiles. The Mosaic Law taught the people of Israel to deny and persecute every another teaching as Jesus Navin did. The teaching of Christ was based on the Jewish ground and at the same time was its antithesis. Orthodox Jews jailed and killed Christians as heretics, who were dangerous for Judaism. Those of Jews who became Christians did not feel themselves among baptized Gentiles as among brothers.

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Events of that time stipulated to estimate the necessity of consolidation. Christians needed the Church, which would organize them in this world on the way to the Heavens. Christ mentioned such idea in Gospels, but the fullest description of the Church, which consolidates all people together, can be found in the Apostles’ Epistles. The Prison Epistle of St. Paul is a valuable source to get useful knowledge, considering the fact that their author was one of the most desperate fanatics before he had become the Apostle of Christ. St. Paul wrote The Prison Epistles when was jailed in Roman Prison. This complex contains the Epistles to the Ephesians, the Philippians, the Colossians, and Philemon, who was St. Paul’s friend.

As was mentioned, one of the main problems of the first century of Christianity was the struggle either between Christians and non-Christians or between baptized Jews and baptized Gentiles, who could not live in peace together. St. Paul tried to solve the second problem, so he proclaimed that all Christians must be consolidated in the name of Jesus Christ. “I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing” (Philip. 1:27-28). These words may be interpreted as St. Paul’s advice to every Christian to be similar with Jesus Christ. Certainly, Christ was the main example of behavior, the perfect person. St. Paul stated “But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every day into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love” (Eph. 4:15-16).

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The teaching about Christ’s coincidence complicated the doctrine of the Church. It stated that the Church was a body of Christ, by the right hand, and Christ was the head of this body, by the left hand. As Prat (1961) wrote concerning this problem, “The apostle considers Christ in two very different ways. When he identifies with Christ the true lineage of Abraham, the sum-total of believers, when he asserts that in baptism we are immersed, buried in Christ, when he says that Christ has many members and that we are these members, he is not speaking of the natural Christ, but of the mystical Christ… In a word the mystical Christ is the Church”. St. Paul proclaimed the equality and unity of all Christians because all members of the body are equal except the head, which is Christ himself. Certainly, there can not be any confrontation between mystical Christ’s members or between those who belong to Church. Dulles (1985) wrote “The letter to the Ephesians focuses on the new-found communion between Jews and Gentiles who had until that time been enemies. Only in Christ could this deep antagonism be overcome… Christ has reconciled both groups by the Cross and has created in himself one man in place of the two”.

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The teaching of St. Paul destroyed both national and social presuppositions of Christians, proclaiming that there is no master and slave but brothers in Christ. The Apostle also wrote some recommendations for slaves and their masters. After some advice for slaves, St. Paul added “And, masters, do the same to them. Stop threatening them, for you know that both of you have the same Master in heaven, and with him there is no partiality” (Eph. 6:9). He did not deny any social institution (even the institution of slavery) but only wanted to connect all Christians in the Church. It is worth mentioning the Epistle to Philemon, which is a good illustration of practical applying of St. Paul’s teaching. Philemon was St. Paul’s friend and baptized Christian. He was a wealthy man. Ones Philemon’s slave named Onesimus escaped from Philemon’s home. After some pilgrimage, Onesimus met St. Paul and was baptized by the Apostle.  Therefore, his state was changed, and he returned to his master. St. Paul wrote to Philemon “No longer as slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother – especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord” (Phil. 16).

The doctrine of the Church was an important step in the processes of Christianity spreading and establishment. “There is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all” (Col. 3:11). This idea of unity denied all bounds and gave for all people new vector of social, political and religious development towards the brotherhood of the world. Dulles (1985) stated, “Rebirth in Christ does not, of course, eliminate human differences but it makes them non-divisive”. The early years of adopting Christianity divided the humanity into struggling organization. However, the creation of the Church led all Christians to the salvation.

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