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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Parnell

Grasping Paul’s Thought (Ephesians 4:29)

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. —Ephesians 4:29

This week’s verse from Ephesians 4 is immensely practical. It’s about how we talk. And yet, it’s also embedded within a larger demonstration of the apostle Paul’s theology. Paul’s practice throughout his epistles is a one-two punch of both indicative and imperative. The commands to do are always rooted in who we are in Christ. Paul indicates our identity, that is, what God has done in Christ for us. And then He commands our action in light of this identity.

This inspired pattern of Paul’s thought has deep implications for how we live. As we continue to grasp Paul’s theology the apostolic commands become more at home in our hearts. So then how do we grasp Paul’s thought? How might we get in his head, as it were, and understand the foundational pieces of what he received from our Lord Jesus? (Galatians 1:12)

The first thing, of course, is to read Paul’s letter. Read the Old Testament. Read the whole Bible.

And then another idea is to memorize key chapters throughout his letters. There are some chapters that we can point to as pillars in Paul’s theology. Without belaboring your current practice, if you wanted to focus on Paul’s thought, here’s a list of key chapters to memorize, including how it contributes to Christian theology:

  1. Romans 8—wide-lens gospel

  2. 1 Corinthians 1—wisdom of God

  3. 2 Corinthians 4—our calling

  4. Galatians 2—zoom-lens gospel

  5. Ephesians 2—nature of the church

  6. Philippians 2—ethos of life

  7. Colossians 1—Jesus’ preeminence

  8. 1 Thessalonians 5—last things

  9. 2 Thessalonians 1—Jesus’ return

  10. 1 Timothy 2—local church practice

  11. 2 Timothy 4—priority of Scripture

  12. Titus 2—applied doctrine

  13. Philemon 4-7—gospel, practical


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