We now come to a part of the Bible known as the epistles, or the letters. These writings explain and expound on the truths about the person and the work of Jesus Christ, as presented in the gospels, and on the person and work of the Holy Spirit, as seen throughout the book of Acts. Most were written as letters to churches in specific cities or regions such as Rome or Galatia. Some were addressed to individuals like Timothy or Titus. Others, like Hebrews and James, seem to be addressed to believers in general. We have thirteen of the epistles sent by Paul and three by John, and James and Jude each wrote one. We are uncertain about the author of Hebrews. When reading these letters, consider the following:
- Acquaint yourself with the author, the recipients, and the occasion for writing. They were all written in the first century, and most have their narrative background in the book of Acts.
- They are meant to be read in one sitting if at all possible. Reading them through several times, even in different translations will provide greater coherence and clarity.
- Maintain sound principles of interpretation. Honor the context and be methodical in reading in paragraphs to allow the meaning to surface.
- Remember that the doctrine and practice in these letters are mutually dependent. Instruction and obedience thrive as one.
- As a genre, their common message is, “It is time to grow up and to mature as a follower of Jesus Christ.”
Next time…How to read the book of Revelation.