Category: Books of the New Testament

2 Thessalonians 1:1 indicates that the Book of 2 Thessalonians was written by the apostle Paul, probably along with Silas and Timothy.

Date of Writing: The Book of 2 Thessalonians was likely written in AD 51-52.

Purpose of Writing: The church in Thessalonica still had some misconceptions about the Day of the Lord. They thought it had come already so they stopped with their work. They were being persecuted badly. Paul wrote to clear up misconceptions and to comfort them.

Key Verses: 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7, “God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with powerful angels.”

2 Thessalonians 2:13, “But we ought always thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.”

2 Thessalonians 3:3, “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.”

2 Thessalonians 3:10, “For even when we were with you we gave you this rule: If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”

Brief Summary: Paul greets the church at Thessalonica and encourages and exhorts them. He commends them for what he hears they are doing in the Lord, and he prays for them (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12). In chapter 2, Paul explains what will happen in the Day of the Lord (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12). Paul then encourages them to stand firm and instructs them to keep away from idle men who don’t live by the gospel (2 Thessalonians 3:6).

Connections: Paul refers to several Old Testament passages in his discourse on the end times, thereby confirming and reconciling the OT prophets. Much of his teaching on the end times in this letter is based on the prophet Daniel and his visions. In 2 Thessalonians 2:3-9, he refers to Daniel’s prophecy regarding the “man of sin” (Daniel 7–8).

Practical Application: The Book of 2 Thessalonians is filled with information that explains the end times. It also exhorts us not to be idle and to work for what we have. There are also some great prayers in 2 Thessalonians that can be an example for us on how to pray for other believers today.

The key to Bible interpretation, especially for the book of Revelation, is to have a consistent hermeneutic. Hermeneutics is the study of the principles of interpretation. In other words, it is the way you interpret Scripture. A normal hermeneutic or normal interpretation of Scripture means that unless the verse or passage clearly indicates the author was using figurative language, it should be understood it in its normal sense. We are not to look for other meanings if the natural meaning of the sentence makes sense. Also, we are not to spiritualize Scripture by assigning meanings to words or phrases when it is clear the author, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, meant it to be understood as it is written.

One example is Revelation 20. Many will assign various meanings to references to a thousand-year period. Yet, the language does not imply in any way that the references to the thousand years should be taken to mean anything other than a literal period of one thousand years.

A simple outline for the book of Revelation is found in Revelation 1:19. In the first chapter, the risen and exalted Christ is speaking to John. Christ tells John to “write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.” The things John had already seen are recorded in chapter 1. The “things which are” (that were present in John’s day) are recorded in chapters 2–3 (the letters to the churches). The “things that will take place” (future things) are recorded in chapters 4–22.

Generally speaking, chapters 4–18 of Revelation deal with God’s judgments on the people of the earth. These judgments are not for the church (1 Thessalonians 5:2, 9). Before the judgments begin, the church will have been removed from the earth in an event called the rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52). Chapters 4–18 describe a time of “Jacob’s trouble”—trouble for Israel (Jeremiah 30:7; Daniel 9:12, 12:1). It is also a time when God will judge unbelievers for their rebellion against Him.

Chapter 19 describes Christ’s return with the church, the bride of Christ. He defeats the beast and the false prophet and casts them into the lake of fire. In Chapter 20, Christ has Satan bound and cast in the Abyss. Then Christ sets up His kingdom on earth that will last 1000 years. At the end of the 1000 years, Satan is released and he leads a rebellion against God. He is quickly defeated and also cast into the lake of fire. Then the final judgment occurs, the judgment for all unbelievers, when they too are cast into the lake of fire.

Chapters 21 and 22 describe what is referred to as the eternal state. In these chapters God tells us what eternity with Him will be like. The book of Revelation is understandable. God would not have given it to us if its meaning were entirely a mystery. The key to understanding the book of Revelation is to interpret it as literally as possible—it says what it means and means what it says.

Book of Jude

Jude 1 identifies the author of the Book of Jude as Jude, a brother of James. This likely refers to Jesus’ half-brother Jude, as Jesus also had a half-brother named James (Matthew 13:55). Jude likely does not identify himself as a brother of Jesus out of humility and reverence for Christ.

Date of Writing: The Book of Jude is closely related to the book of 2 Peter. The date of authorship for Jude depends on whether Jude used content from 2 Peter, or Peter used content from Jude when writing 2 Peter. The Book of Jude was written somewhere between A.D. 60 and 80.

Purpose of Writing: The Book of Jude is an important book for us today because it is written for the end times, for the end of the church age. The church age began at the Day of Pentecost. Jude is the only book given entirely to the great apostasy. Jude writes that evil works are the evidence of apostasy. He admonishes us to contend for the faith, for there are tares among the wheat. False prophets are in the church and the saints are in danger. Jude is a small but important book worthy of study, written for the Christian of today.

Key Verses: Jude 3: “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.”

Jude 17-19: “But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, ‘In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.’ These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.”

Jude 24-25: “To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”

Brief Summary: According to verse 3, Jude was anxious to write about our salvation; however, he changed topics to address contending for the faith. This faith embodies the complete body of Christian doctrine taught by Christ, later passed on to the apostles. After Jude warns of false teachers (verses 4-16), he advises us on how we can succeed in spiritual warfare (verses 20-21). Here is wisdom we would do well to accept and adhere to as we go through these days of the end times.

Connections: The Book of Jude is filled with references to the Old Testament, including the Exodus (v. 5); Satan’s rebellion (v. 6); Sodom and Gomorrah (v. 7); Moses’ death (v. 9); Cain (v. 11); Balaam (v. 11); Korah (v. 11); Enoch (vv. 14,15); and Adam (v. 14). Jude’s use of the well-known historical illustrations of Sodom and Gomorrah, Cain, Balaam, and Korah reminded the Jewish Christians of the necessity of true faith and obedience.

Practical Application: We live in a unique time in history and this little book can help equip us for the untold challenges of living in the end times. Today’s Christian must be on guard for false doctrines which can so easily deceive us if we are not well versed in the Word. We need to know the Gospel—to protect and defend it—and accept the Lordship of Christ, which is evidenced by a life-change. Authentic faith always reflects Christ-like behavior. Our life in Christ should reflect our very own heart-knowledge that rests on the authority of the Almighty Creator and Father who puts faith into practice. We need that personal relationship with Him; only then will we know His voice so well that we will follow no other.

Author: 2 Peter 1:1 specifically states that the apostle Peter was the author of 2 Peter. Peter’s authorship of 2 Peter has been challenged more than that of any other book in the New Testament. However, the early church fathers found no good reason to reject it. We find no good reason to reject Peter’s authorship of 2 Peter.

Date of Writing: The Book of 2 Peter was written toward the end of Peter’s life. Since Peter was martyred in Rome during the reign of Nero, his death must have occurred prior to A.D. 68. He very likely wrote 2 Peter between A.D. 65 and 68.

Purpose of Writing: Peter was alarmed that false teachers were beginning to infiltrate the churches. He called on Christians to grow and become strong in their faith so that they could detect and combat the spreading apostasy. He strongly stressed the authenticity of the Word of God and the sure return of the Lord Jesus.

Key Verses: 2 Peter 1:3-4, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”
2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
2 Peter 3:18: But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever! Amen.”
The key word is “knowledge,” with its related words, occurring at least 13 times in the Book of 2 Peter.

Brief Summary: Knowing that his time was short (2 Peter 1:13-15) and these churches faced immediate danger (2 Peter 2:1-3), Peter called upon the readers to refresh their memories (2 Peter 1:13) and stimulate their thinking (2 Peter 3:1-2) so that they would remember his teaching (2 Peter 1:15). He challenged the believers to become more mature in their faith by adding to it specific Christians virtues, thereby becoming effective and productive in their knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:5-9). The Old and New Testament writers were set forth as their authority for their faith (2 Peter 1:12-21, 3:2, 3:15-16). Peter desired they become strong in their faith to withstand the false teachers that had crept in and adversely affected the churches. In his denunciation of them, he described their conduct, their condemnation, and their characteristics (2 Peter chapter 2), and also that they ridiculed the Lord’s Second Coming (2 Peter 3:3-7). For the Christians, Peter taught that the Second Coming is the incentive for holy living (2 Peter 3:14). After a final warning, Peter again encouraged them to grow in the grace and knowledge of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He concluded with a word of praise to his Lord and Savior (2 Peter 3:18).

Connections: In his denunciation of false prophets, Peter repeats a prevalent Old Testament theme that must have been very familiar to his readers. Many of the early Christians were converted Jews who had been well taught in the law and the prophets. When Peter referred to the “word of the prophets” of the Old Testament in 2 Peter 1:19-21, he at one time denounced false prophets and affirmed that true prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit who spoke through them (2 Samuel 23:2). Jeremiah was equally forceful in his criticism of false prophets, asking, “How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds?” (Jeremiah 23:26). Clearly, the same deluded false teachers who plagued God’s people in both the Old and New Testaments are still with us, making Peter’s second epistle as relevant today as it was 2000 years ago.

Practical Application: Certainly, as Christians in the 21st century, we are nearer our Lord’s return than the first-century Christians to whom this epistle was written. Through television and other means of mass communications, mature Christians are aware that many charlatans are parading as true Christian leaders, and that immature Christians have been “taken in” by their quackery and false interpretation of Scriptures. It behooves all born-again Christians to be so grounded in the Word that we will be able to discern truth from error.

The same prescription for growth in faith that Peter gave (2 Peter 1:5-11), when applied to our lives, will assure us also a rich reward “into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:10-11). The foundation for our faith is and always will be the same Word of God that Peter preached.

Author: 1 Peter 1:1 identifies the author of the Book of 1 Peter as the apostle Peter.

Date of Writing: The Book of 1 Peter was likely written between A.D. 60 and 65.

Purpose of Writing: 1 Peter is a letter from Peter to the believers who had been dispersed throughout the ancient world and were under intense persecution. If anyone understood persecution, it was Peter. He was beaten, threatened, punished and jailed for preaching the Word of God. He knew what it took to endure without bitterness, without losing hope and in great faith living an obedient, victorious life. This knowledge of living hope in Jesus was the message and Christ’s example was the one to follow.

Key Verses: 1 Peter 1:3, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

1 Peter 2:24, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”

1 Peter 5:8-9, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”

Brief Summary: Though this time of persecution was desperate, Peter reveals that it was actually a time to rejoice. He says to count it a privilege to suffer for the sake of Christ, as their Savior suffered for them. This letter makes reference to Peter’s personal experiences with Jesus and his sermons from the book of Acts. Peter confirms Satan as the great enemy of every Christian but the assurance of Christ’s future return gives the incentive of hope.

Connections: Peter’s familiarity with the Old Testament law and prophets enabled him to explain various OT passages in light of the life and work of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. In 1 Peter 1:16, he quotes Leviticus 11:44: “Be holy, for I am holy.” But he prefaces it by explaining that holiness is not achieved by keeping the law, but by the grace bestowed upon all who believe in Christ (v. 13). Further, Peter explains the reference to the “cornerstone” in Isaiah 28:16 and Psalm 118:22 as Christ, who was rejected by the Jews through their disobedience and unbelief. Additional Old Testament references include the sinless Christ (1 Peter 2:22 / Isaiah 53:9) and admonitions to holy living through the power of God which yields blessings (1 Peter 3:10:12; Psalm 34:12-16; 1 Peter 5:5; Proverbs 3:34).

Practical Application: The assurance of eternal life is given to all Christians. One way to identify with Christ is to share in His suffering. To us that would be to endure insults and slurs from those who call us “goodie two shoes” or “holier than thou.” This is so minor compared to what Christ suffered for us on the Cross. Stand up for what you know and believe is right and rejoice when the world and Satan aim to hurt you.

Author: The author of the Book of Philemon was the apostle Paul (Philemon 1:1).

Date of Writing: The Book of Philemon was written in approximately A. D. 60.

Purpose of Writing: The letter to Philemon is the shortest of all Paul’s writings and deals with the practice of slavery. The letter suggests that Paul was in prison at the time of the writing. Philemon was a slave owner who also hosted a church in his home. During the time of Paul’s ministry in Ephesus, Philemon had likely journeyed to the city, heard Paul’s preaching and became a Christian. The slave Onesimus robbed his master, Philemon, and ran away, making his way to Rome and to Paul. Onesimus was still the property of Philemon, and Paul wrote to smooth the way for his return to his master. Through Paul’s witnessing to him, Onesimus had become a Christian (Philemon 10) and Paul wanted Philemon to accept Onesimus as a brother in Christ and not merely as a slave.

Key Verses: Philemon 6: “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.”

Philemon 16: “…no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.”

Philemon 18: “If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me.”

Brief Summary: Paul had warned slave owners that they had a responsibility towards their slaves and showed slaves as responsible moral beings who were to fear God. In Philemon, Paul did not condemn slavery, but he presented Onesimus as a Christian brother instead of a slave. When an owner can refer to a slave as a brother, the slave has reached a position in which the legal title of slave is meaningless. The early church did not attack slavery directly but it laid the foundation for a new relationship between owner and slave. Paul attempted to unite both Philemon and Onesimus with Christian love so that emancipation would become necessary. Only after exposure to the light of the gospel could the institution of slavery die.

Connections: Perhaps nowhere in the New Testament is the distinction between law and grace so beautifully portrayed. Both Roman law and the Mosaic Law of the Old Testament gave Philemon the right to punish a runaway slave who was considered property. But the covenant of grace through the Lord Jesus allowed both master and slave to fellowship in love on an equal basis in the body of Christ.

Practical Application: Employers, political leaders, corporation executives and parents can follow the spirit of Paul’s teaching by treating Christian employees, co-workers and family members as members of Christ’s Body. Christians in modern society must not view helpers as stepping stones to help them achieve their ambitions but as Christian brothers and sisters who must receive gracious treatment. In addition, all Christian leaders must recognize that God holds them accountable for the treatment of those who work for them, whether the helpers are Christians or not. They must eventually answer to God for their actions (Colossians 4:1).

Author:  2  Corinthians 1:1 identifies the author of the Book of 2 Corinthians as the  apostle Paul, possibly along with Timothy.

Date of Writing:  The Book of 2 Corinthians was very likely written approximately A.D.  55-57.

Purpose of Writing: The church in Corinth began  in A.D. 52 when Paul visited there on his second missionary journey. It was then  that he stayed one and a half years, the first time he was allowed to stay in  one place as long as he wished. A record of this visit and the establishment of  the church is found in Acts  18:1-18.

In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul expresses his  relief and joy that the Corinthians had received his “severe” letter (now lost)  in a positive manner. That letter addressed issues that were tearing the church  apart, primarily the arrival of self-styled (false) apostles (2 Corinthians 11:13)  who were assaulting Paul’s character, sowing discord among the believers, and  teaching false doctrine. They appear to have questioned his veracity (2 Corinthians  1:15-17), his speaking ability (2  Corinthians 10:10; 11:6), and his unwillingness to accept support from the  church at Corinth (2  Corinthians 11:7-9; 12:13). There were also some people who had not repented  of their licentious behavior (2  Corinthians 12:20-21).

Positively, Paul found the Corinthians had  well received his “severe” letter. Paul was overjoyed to learn from Titus that  the majority of Corinthians repented of their rebellion against Paul (2 Corinthians  2:12-13; 7:5-9). The apostle encourages them for this in an  expression of his genuine love (2  Corinthians 7:3-16). Paul also sought to vindicate his apostleship, as some  in the church had likely questioned his authority (2  Corinthians 13:3).

Key Verses: 2 Corinthians 3:5:  “Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our  competence comes from God.”

2  Corinthians 3:18: “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s  glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which  comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

2  Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;  the old has gone, the new has come!”

2  Corinthians 5:21: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in  him we might become the righteousness of God.”

2 Corinthians 10:5:  “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the  knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to  Christ.”

2  Corinthians 13:4: “For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he  lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will  live with him to serve you.”

Brief Summary: After  greeting the believers in the church at Corinth and explaining why he had not  visited them as originally planned (vv. 1:3–2:2), Paul explains the nature of  his ministry. Triumph through Christ and sincerity in the sight of God were the  hallmarks of his ministry to the churches (2:14-17). He compares the glorious  ministry of the righteousness of Christ to the “ministry of condemnation” which  is the Law (v. 3:9) and declares his faith in the validity of his ministry in  spite of intense persecution (4:8-18). Chapter 5 outlines the basis of the  Christian faith—the new nature (v. 17) and the exchange of our sin for the  righteousness of Christ (v. 21).

Chapters 6 and 7 find Paul defending  himself and his ministry, assuring the Corinthians yet again of his sincere love  for them and exhorting them to repentance and holy living. In chapters 8 and 9,  Paul exhorts the believers at Corinth to follow the examples of the brothers in  Macedonia and extend generosity to the saints in need. He teaches them the  principles and rewards of gracious giving.

Paul ends his letter by  reiterating his authority among them (chapter 10) and concern for their  faithfulness to him in the face of fierce opposition from false apostles. He  calls himself a “fool” for having to reluctantly boast of his qualifications and  his suffering for Christ (chapter 11). He ends his epistle by describing the  vision of heaven he was allowed to experience and the “thorn in the flesh” he  was given by God to ensure his humility (chapter 12). The last chapter contains  his exhortation to the Corinthians to examine themselves to see whether what  they profess is reality, and ends with a benediction of love and  peace.

Connections: Throughout his epistles, Paul  frequently refers to the Mosaic law, comparing it with the surpassing greatness  of the gospel of Jesus Christ and salvation by grace. In 2 Corinthians  3:4-11, Paul contrasts the Old Testament law with the new covenant of grace,  referring to the law as that which “kills” while the Spirit gives life. The law  is the “ministry of death, written and engraved on stone” (v. 7; Exodus 24:12) because it  brings only the knowledge of sin and its condemnation. The glory the law is that  it reflects the glory of God, but the ministry of the Spirit is much more  glorious than the ministry of the law, because it reflects His mercy, grace and  love in providing Christ as the fulfillment of the law.

Practical  Application: This letter is the most biographical and least doctrinal  of Paul’s epistles. It tells us more about Paul as a person and as a minister  than any of the others. That being said, there are a few things we can take from  this letter and apply to our lives today. One thing is stewardship, not only of  money, but of time as well. The Macedonians not only gave generously, but “they  gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will” (2  Corinthians 8:5). In the same way, we should dedicate not only all we have  to the Lord, but all that we are. He really doesn’t need our money. He is  omnipotent! He wants the heart, one that longs to serve and please and love.  Stewardship and giving to God is more than just money. Yes, God does want us to  tithe part of our income, and He promises to bless us when we give to Him. There  is more though. God wants 100%. He wants us to give Him our all. Everything we  are. We should spend our lives living to serve our Father. We should not only  give to God from our paycheck, but our very lives should be a reflection of Him.  We should give ourselves first to the Lord, then to the church and the work of  the ministry of Jesus Christ.

Author:  1  Corinthians 1:1 identifies the author of the Book of 1 Corinthians as the  apostle Paul.

Date of Writing: The Book of 1  Corinthians was written in approximately A. D. 55.

Purpose of  Writing: The apostle Paul founded the church in Corinth. A few years  after leaving the church, the apostle Paul heard some disturbing reports about  the Corinthian church. They were full of pride and were excusing sexual  immorality. Spiritual gifts were being used improperly, and there was rampant  misunderstanding of key Christian doctrines. The apostle Paul wrote his first  letter to the Corinthians in an attempt to restore the Corinthian church to its  foundation—Jesus Christ.

Key Verses: 1 Corinthians 3:3:  “You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you,  are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?”

1 Corinthians  6:19-20: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who  is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were  bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”

1 Corinthians 10:31:  “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of  God.”

1  Corinthians 12:7: “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given  for the common good.”

1  Corinthians 13:4-7: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it  does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is  not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil  but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes,  always perseveres.”

1  Corinthians 15:3-4: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first  importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he  was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the  Scriptures.”

Brief Summary: The Corinthian church was  plagued by divisions. The believers in Corinth were dividing into groups loyal  to certain spiritual leaders (1  Corinthians 1:12; 3:1-6). Paul exhorted the Corinthian believers to be  united because of devotion to Christ (1  Corinthians 3:21-23). Many in the church were essentially approving of an  immoral relationship (1  Corinthians 5:1-2). Paul commanded them to expel the wicked man from the  church (1  Corinthians 5:13). The Corinthian believers were taking each other to court  (1  Corinthians 6:1-2). Paul taught the Corinthians that it would be better to  be taken advantage of than to damage their Christian testimony (1 Corinthians  6:3-8).

Paul gave the Corinthian church instructions on marriage and  celibacy (chapter 7), food sacrificed to idols (chapters 8 and 10), Christian  freedom (chapter 9), the veiling of women (1  Corinthians 11:1-16), the Lord’s Supper (1  Corinthians 11:17-34), spiritual gifts (chapters 12-14), and the  resurrection (chapter 15). Paul organized the book of 1 Corinthians by answering  questions the Corinthian believers had asked him and by responding to improper  conduct and erroneous beliefs they had accepted.

Connections:  In chapter 10 of the Book of 1 Corinthians, Paul uses the story of the  Israelites wandering in the wilderness to illustrate to the Corinthian believers  the folly of the misuse of freedom and the danger of overconfidence. Paul has  just warned the Corinthians about their lack of self-discipline (1 Corinthians  9:24-27). He goes on to describe the Israelites who, despite seeing God’s  miracles and care for them—the parting of the Red Sea, the miraculous provision  of manna from heaven and water from a rock—they misused their freedom, rebelled  against God, and fell into immorality and idolatry. Paul exhorts the Corinthian  church to note the example of the Israelites and avoid lusts and sexual  immorality (vv. 6-8) and putting Christ to the test and complaining (vv. 9-10).  See Numbers  11:4, 34, 25:1-9; Exodus 16:2, 17:2, 7.

Practical  Application: Many of the problems and questions the Corinthian church  was dealing with are still present in the church today. Churches today still  struggle with divisions, with immorality, and with the use of spiritual gifts.  The Book of 1 Corinthians very well could have been written to the church today  and we would do well to heed Paul’s warnings and apply them to ourselves.  Despite all the rebukes and corrections, 1 Corinthians brings our focus back to  where it should be—on Christ. Genuine Christian love is the answer to many  problems (chapter 13). A proper understanding of the resurrection of Christ, as  revealed in chapter 15, and thereby a proper understanding of our own  resurrection, is the cure for what divides and defeats us.

The seven churches described in Revelation 2-3 are seven literal churches at the  time that John the apostle was writing Revelation. Though they were literal  churches in that time, there is also spiritual significance for churches and  believers today. The first purpose of the letters was to communicate with the  literal churches and meet their needs at that time. The second purpose is to  reveal seven different types of individuals/churches throughout history and  instruct them in God’s truth.

A possible third purpose is to use the  seven churches to foreshadow seven different periods in the history of the  Church. The problem with this view is that each of the seven churches describes  issues that could fit the Church in any time in its history. So, although there  may be some truth to the seven churches representing seven eras, there is far  too much speculation in this regard. Our focus should be on what message God is  giving us through the seven churches. The seven churches are:

(1) Ephesus (Revelation  2:1-7) – the church that had forsaken its first love (2:4).

(2) Smyrna (Revelation  2:8-11) – the church that would suffer persecution (2:10).

(3) Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17) – the church that needed to repent  (2:16).

(4) Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29) –  the church that had a false prophetess (2:20).

(5) Sardis (Revelation  3:1-6) – the church that had fallen asleep (3:2).

(6) Philadelphia (Revelation  3:7-13) – the church that had endured patiently (3:10).

(7) Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22) – the church with the lukewarm faith  (3:16).

(How many of the seven Churches of Revelations sound like the church of today?)

Theologically speaking, scholars generally regard the book of Hebrews to be  second in importance only to Paul’s letter to the Romans in the New Testament.  No other book so eloquently defines Christ as high priest of Christianity,  superior to the Aaronic priesthood, and the fulfillment of the Law and the  Prophets. This book presents Christ as the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). However,  both the authorship and audience are in question.

The title, “To the  Hebrews,” which appears in the earliest known copy of the epistle is not a part  of the original manuscript. There is no salutation, the letter simply begins  with the assertion that Jesus, the Son of God, has appeared, atoned for our  sins, and is now seated at the right hand of God in heaven (Hebrews 1:1-4).

The letter closes with the words “Grace be with you all” (Hebrews 13:25), which is  the same closing found in each of Paul’s known letters (see Romans 16:20; 1 Corinthians 16:232  Corinthians 13:14; Galatians  6:18; Ephesians  6:24; Philippians  4:23; Colossians  4:18; 1  Thessalonians 5:28; 2  Thessalonians 3:18; 1 Timothy  6:21; 2 Timothy  4:22; Titus 3:15;  and Philemon  25). However, it should be noted that Peter (1 Peter  5:14; 2 Peter  3:18) used similar—though not identical—closings. Possibly that it was  simply customary to close letters like this with the words “Grace be with you  all” during this time period.

Church tradition teaches that Paul wrote  the book of Hebrews, and until the 1800s, that issue was closed. However, though  a vast majority of Christians—both and scholars and the laity—still believe Paul  wrote the book, there are some tempting reasons to think otherwise.

First and foremost is the lack of a salutation. Some sort of personal  salutation from Paul appears in all of his letters. So it would seem that  writing anonymously is not his usual method; therefore, the reasoning goes,  Hebrews cannot be one of his letters. Second, the overall composition and style  is of a person who is a very sophisticated writer. Even though he was certainly  a sophisticated communicator, Paul stated that he purposely did not speak with a  commanding vocabulary (1  Corinthians 1:17; 2:12  Corinthians 11:6).

The book of Hebrews quotes extensively from the  Old Testament. Paul, as a Pharisee, would have been familiar with the Scripture  in its original Hebrew language. In other letters, Paul either quotes the  Masoretic Text (the original Hebrew) or paraphrases it. However, all of the  quotes in this epistle are taken out of the Septuagint (the Greek Old  Testament), which is inconsistent with Paul’s usage. Finally, Paul was an  apostle who claimed to receive his revelations directly from the Lord Jesus (1  Corinthians 11:23; Galatians  1:12). The writer of Hebrews specifically says that he was taught by an  apostle (Hebrews  2:3).

If Paul didn’t write the letter, who did? The most plausible  suggestion is that this was actually a sermon Paul gave and it was transcribed  later by Luke, a person who would have had the command of the Greek language  which the writer shows. Barnabas is another likely prospect, since he was a  Levite and would have been speaking on a subject that he knew much about. Martin  Luther suggested Apollos, since he would have had the education the writer of  this letter must have had. Priscilla and Clemet of Rome have been suggested by  other scholars.

However, there is still much evidence that Paul wrote  the letter. The most compelling comes from Scripture itself. Remember that Peter  wrote to the Hebrews (that is, the Jews; see Galatians  2:7, 9 and 1 Peter 1:1). Peter wrote:  “…just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave  him [emphasis added]” (2 Peter  3:15). In that last verse, Peter is confirming that Paul had also written a  letter to the Hebrews!

The theology presented in Hebrews is consistent  with Paul’s. Paul was a proponent of salvation by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8, 9), and that message is  strongly communicated in this epistle (Hebrews 4:26:12, 10:19-22, 10:37-39, and 11:1-40). Either Paul  wrote the epistle, or the writer was trained by Paul. Although it is a small  detail, this epistle makes mention of Timothy (Hebrews  13:23), and Paul is the only apostle known to have ever done that in any  letter.

So, who actually wrote Hebrews? The letter fills a needed space  in Scripture and both outlines our faith and defines faith itself in the same  way that Romans defines the tenets of Christian living. It closes the chapters  of faith alone and serves as a prelude to the chapters on good works built on a  foundation of faith in God. In short, this book belongs in the Bible. Therefore,  its human author is unimportant. What is important is to treat the book as  inspired Scripture as defined in 2 Timothy  3:16-17. The Holy Spirit was the divine author of Hebrews, and of all  Scripture, even though we don’t know who put the physical pen to the physical  paper and traced the words.