5 May 2016

Guide to the Bible (9) Other letters - By Jack Lewis

Hello everyone, it's Thursday, which means that it must be time for another Guide to the Bible post. Hopefully you have enjoyed them, as this is the penultimate one. I'm today covering the letters from Collosians all the way to Jude, if that's possible! The letters are 1&2 Thessalonians, 1&2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1,2&3 John, 1&2 Peter, and Jude.

Anyway, straight to the point, and Thessalonians. These are two pastoral letters written by Paul to the church in Thessalonica. In the first of the two, Paul joyfully expresses his love and joy for the church and the way it is thriving, while also touching upon the main subject of the second letter, Jesus' second coming. Some forged letters under Paul's name had been sent to the people saying that since Jesus had already come, they didn't need to continue their works, so Paul uses this letter to correct them. 

The next double act, is 1&2 Timothy. These were pastoral letters written to the person after whom they are named. Paul basically gives Timothy all the advice a young pastor could want from an experienced elder. The second letter was written by Paul while under arrest for the final time. He was being kept in a dungeon, chained up like a criminal, and his second letter to Timothy was his last before his execution in Rome. However Paul reminds him that he is still joyful, and looking forward to receiving his full reward upon death. 

Titus is a also a pastoral letter very similar to Timothy. Practically all I said about 1 Timothy also applies to Titus. Enough said!

If you thought Titus was a short book, then flip the page to Philemon. (Any more and you'd miss it!) The 25 verse book is simply a personal letter from Paul to Philemon asking him not to punish the since saved runaway slave Onesimus. (Great rhyme, that!!!) 

Now, back onto the longer books, and Hebrews. No one knows who wrote this book, but it was written to some Jews who had converted to Christianity, but were tempted to go back to their old law system. The author reminds them that Jesus is all they need for salvation, and that laws can't save them. In chapter 11 the "Honour roll of Old Testament heroes" is also found. 

After Hebrews, is James. This is a very practical teaching letter written to no one specific, but it's a really interesting book that's surely one of the first letters to read. James places particular emphasis on the link between words and actions, reminding us the simple fact that "actions speak louder than words".

During his life, Jesus had what he called his three "Chosen disciples." Peter, John, and James, and the next five letters were written by two of those, Peter and John. Firstly are the two letters by Peter. Both deal with the issue of persecution and trials, but in different formats. In the first letter, Peter deals mainly with the physical persecution the people were receiving, reminding them that if they stay strong and trust God, he will protect and reward them. The other type of attack, mentioned in Peter 2, is spiritual. False preachers were coming in, bent on doing evil and turning the church away from the Lord. Peter again reminds them that God will be with them and one day he will punish those doing evil.

The Penultimate letter writer, is John. He wrote three short letters; the first being a bit of a circular teaching letter, while the other two are more personal. In the first book, it seems the people had been influenced by false teaching, so John tried to persuade them to turn back to the true God. The main theme of the book is love, so he writes extensively about how loving God is. Letters 2&3 are both 13 verses long, and concisely address a particular subject. In book 2, John writes to remind the people to be discerning about who is, and isn't Godly. The people were accustomed to giving accommodation to visiting missionaries, but false prophets were asking for the same treatment. In letter 3, he address a man named Gaius, and reminds him to stay away from the evil actions of someone he calls Diotrephes, but instead to remain holy. (The charges against Diotrephes are detailed in v. 10)

Finally for now, is Jude. He was a brother of Jesus, and wrote to urgently remind people to stay away from the false teaching that was infecting the church. Some were claiming that the grace of God could be used as an excuse for ungodly behaviour, but Jude reminds them of the punishment that befell Sodom and Gomorrah because of their sin.