30 Days to Understanding the Bible Session 11

Faith Church May 1, 2004

Today we are coming to the end of a segment in our book.

As we finish up with the epistles, we will have finished section 2 in our books , “The Story of the New Testament


I.  Epistles

Epistles are letters written to churches (as we have seen in Paul’s missionary Journeys, individuals, or in some cases, general letters to the Christian public at large.  They deal with specific problems and issues of the day but do so in a way that the information is universal and timeless.  The typical pattern of an epistle is to write a section of doctrinal truth and following up with the practical implications of that truth.  (Rom 1-11, then Rom 12-16;  Eph 1-3, then Eph 4-6).  Doctrine, then duty.  Principle, then practice.


INPUT:  Up until this point we have not seen any form of literature quite like “epistles” or “letters” in the Bible.  The “epistle” was not a typical method of religious instruction among the Jews.  Why do you think “epistles” started being used? 

(From “An Introduction to the New Testament” by Carson, Moo & Morris:  “The answer is probably two fold. First the early Christian movement, with its fast growth and missionaries, demanded a means of communication at a distance.  The letter was the obvious solution. A second reason the letter may have been chosen by the apostles is its sense of personal immediacy.  People in Paul’s day saw the letter as a means of establishing personal presence from a distance and this perfectly served the needs of the apostles in pasturing their flocks from a distance.


Let’s read an epistle all the way through, just like you would a letter.  And as I read think about these questions. . .(I recommend reading through Titus/2 Thess)


INPUT:  What is unique about an epistle compared to other forms of literature in the Bible?


INPUT:  What are some ways in which epistles are difficult to understand compared to  other forms of literature in the Bible (you have to know a little about the context and you have to follow logic.  Letters were written to specific situations.  The letters do not necessarily tell a story like we all like to hear


INPUT:  What are some ways in which epistles are easier to understand compared to other forms of literature in the Bible.  (Usually the instructions are very direct and you do not have to draw out the principles like you do in narratives, Application is usually a lot more easy)


Now, let’s see how well you remember your epistles quiz them over pp. 148-149  (if you have time be creative and make this into a game)

If time ask:  INPUT:  What is your favorite epistle and why?

Faith Church