Category: New Testament (A through H)

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.

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.

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

Date of Writing: The Book of Ephesians was very  likely written between A.D. 60-63.

Purpose of Writing: Paul intended that all who long for Christ-like maturity would receive this  writing. Enclosed within the Book of Ephesians is the discipline needed to  develop into true children of God. Furthermore, a study in Ephesians will help  to fortify and to establish the believer so he can fulfill the purpose and  calling God has given. The aim of this epistle is to confirm and to equip a  maturing church. It presents a balanced view of the body of Christ and its  importance in God’s economy.

Key Verses: Ephesians 1:3: “Praise be  to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the  heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”

Ephesians 2:8-10: “For  it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves,  it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s  workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in  advance for us to do.”

Ephesians  4:4-6: “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope  when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of  all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

Ephesians 5:21:  “Submit  to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Ephesians  6:10-11: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the  full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s  schemes.”

Brief Summary: Doctrine occupies the greatest  portion of the Book of Ephesians. Half of the teaching in this epistle relates  to our standing in Christ, and the remainder of it affects our condition. All  too often those who teach from this book bypass all the foundational instruction  and go directly to the closing chapter. It is this chapter that emphasizes the  warfare or the struggle of the saints. However, to benefit fully from the  contents of this epistle, one must begin at the beginning of Paul’s instruction  in this letter.

First, as followers of Christ, we must fully understand  who God declares us to be. We must also become grounded in the knowledge of  God’s accomplishment for all humanity. Next, our present existence and walk must  become exercised and strengthened. This must continue until we no longer totter  or stagger back and forth with every spirit of teaching and subtlety of  men.

Paul’s writing breaks down into three main segments. (1) Chapters  one through three introduce principles with respect to God’s accomplishment. (2)  Chapters four and five put forth principles regarding our present existence. (3)  Chapter six presents principles concerning our daily  struggle.

Connections: The primary link to the Old  Testament in Ephesians is in the startling (to the Jews) concept of the church  as the body of Christ (Ephesians  5:32). This amazing mystery (a truth not previously revealed) of the church,  is that “the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one  body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3:6). This was a  mystery completely hidden from the Old Testament saints (Ephesians 3:5, 9). The Israelites who  were true followers of God always believed they alone were God’s chosen people  (Deuteronomy  7:6). Accepting Gentiles on an equal status in this new paradigm was  extremely difficult and caused many disputes among Jewish believers and Gentile  converts. Paul also speaks of the mystery of the church as the “bride of  Christ,” a previously unheard-of concept in the Old  Testament.

Practical Application: Perhaps more than any  other book of the Bible, the Book of Ephesians emphasizes the connection between  sound doctrine and right practice in the Christian life. Far too many people  ignore “theology” and instead want to only discuss things that are “practical.”  In Ephesians, Paul argues that theology is practical. In order to live out God’s  will for us in our lives practically, we must first understand who we are in  Christ doctrinally.

Author: Galatians  1:1 clearly identifies the Apostle Paul as the writer of the Epistle to the  Galatians.

Date of Writing: Depending on where exactly  the Book of Galatians was sent and during which missionary journey Paul started  the churches in that area, the Book of Galatians was written somewhere between  48 and 55 A.D.

Purpose of Writing: The churches in  Galatia were formed partly of converted Jews and partly of Gentile converts, as  was generally the case. Paul asserts his apostolic character and the doctrines  he taught, that he might confirm the Galatian churches in the faith of Christ,  especially with respect to the important point of justification by faith alone.  Thus the subject is mainly the same as that which is discussed in the Epistle to  the Romans, that is, justification by faith alone. In this epistle, however,  attention is particularly directed to the point that men are justified by faith  without the works of the Law of Moses. Galatians was not written as an  essay in contemporary history. It was a protest against corruption of the gospel  of Christ. The essential truth of justification by faith rather than by the  works of the law had been obscured by the ‘Judaizers’ insistence that believers  in Christ must keep the law if they expected to be perfect before God. When Paul  learned that this teaching had begun to penetrate the Galatian churches and that  it had alienated them from their heritage of liberty, he wrote the impassioned  remonstrance contained in this epistle.

Key Verses: Galatians 2:16: “Know  that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.  So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith  in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will  be justified.” Galatians  2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ  lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who  loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians  3:11: “Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, ‘The  righteous will live by faith.’” Galatians  4:5-6: “to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of  sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the  Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’” Galatians  5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience,  kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such  things there is no law.” Galatians  6:7: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he  sows.”

Brief Summary: The result of justification by  grace through faith is spiritual freedom. Paul appealed to the Galatians to  stand fast in their freedom, and not get “entangled again with a yoke of bondage  (that is, the Mosaic law)” (Galatians  5:1). Christian freedom is not an excuse to gratify one’s lower nature;  rather, it is an opportunity to love one another (Galatians  5:13; 6:7-10). Such freedom does not insulate one from life’s  struggles. Indeed, it may intensify the battle between the Spirit and the flesh.  Nevertheless, the flesh (the lower nature) has been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20); and, as  a consequence, the Spirit will bear His fruit such as love, joy, and peace in  the life of the believer (Galatians  5:22-23). The letter to the Galatians was written in a spirit of  inspired agitation. For Paul, the issue was not whether a person was  circumcised, but whether he had become “a new creation” (Galatians 6:15). If Paul  had not been successful in his argument for justification by faith alone,  Christianity would have remained a sect within Judaism, rather than becoming the  universal way of salvation. Galatians, therefore, is not only Luther’s epistle;  it is the epistle of every believer who confesses with Paul, “I have been  crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and  the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who  loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians  2:20). The books of James and Galatians illustrate two aspects of  Christianity that from the very beginning have seemed to be in conflict, though  in reality they are supplementary. James insists on the ethic of Christ, a  demand that faith prove its existence by its fruits. Nevertheless, James, no  less than Paul, emphasizes the need of the transformation of the individual by  the grace of God (James 1:18).   Galatians stresses the dynamic of the gospel that produces ethic (Galatians 3:13-14).  Nor was Paul less concerned than James about the ethical life (Galatians 5:13). Like the  two sides of a coin, these two aspects of Christian truth must always accompany  each other.

Connections: Throughout Paul’s Epistle to  the Galatians, saving grace—the gift of God—is juxtaposed against the law of  Moses, which does not save. The Judaizers, those who would return to the Mosaic  law as their source of justification, were prominent in the early church, even  temporarily drawing such a prominent Christian as Peter into their web of deceit  (Galatians  2:11-13). So attached were the early Christians to the law that Paul had to  continually reiterate the truth that salvation by grace had nothing to do with  law-keeping. The themes connecting Galatians to the Old Testament center around  the law vs. grace: the inability of the law to justify (2:16); the believer’s  deadness to the law (2:19); Abraham’s justification by faith (3:6); the law  bringing not salvation but God’s wrath (3:10); and love, not works, fulfilling  the law (5:14).

Practical Application: One of the main  themes of the Book of Galatians is found in 3:11: “The righteous shall live by  faith.” Not only are we saved by faith (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9), but  the life of the believer in Christ—day by day, moment by moment—is lived by and  through that faith. Not that faith is something we conjure up on our own—it is  the gift of God, not of works—but it is our responsibility and joy to exhibit  our faith so that others will see the work of Christ in us and increase our  faith by the application of the spiritual disciplines (Bible study, prayer,  obedience). Jesus said we would be known by the fruit of our lives (Matthew 7:16) which gives  evidence of the faith within us. All Christians should be diligent in striving  to build upon the saving faith within us so that our lives with reflect Christ  and others will see Him in us and “glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, NKJV).

Author: The apostle Paul was the primary writer of the Book of  Colossians (Colossians  1:13). Timothy is also given some credit (Colossians  1:1).

Date of Writing: The Book of Colossians was  likely written between A.D. 58-62.

Purpose of Writing: The Book of Colossians is a mini-ethics course, addressing every area of  Christian life. Paul progresses from the individual life to the home and family,  from work to the way we should treat others. The theme of this book is the  sufficiency of our Lord, Jesus Christ, in meeting our needs in every  area.

Key Verses: Colossians 1:15-16, “He is the image of the invisible  God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created: things  in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or  rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him.”

Colossians 2:8, “See to  it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which  depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on  Christ.”

Colossians 3:12-13, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people,  holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility,  gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances  you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Colossians  4:5-6, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every  opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt,  so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

Brief Summary:  Colossians was written explicitly to defeat the heresy that had arisen  in Colosse, which endangered the existence of the church. While we do not know  what was told to Paul, this letter is his response.

We can surmise based  on Paul’s response that he was dealing with a defective view of Christ (denying  His real and true humanity and not accepting His full deity). Paul appears also  to dispute the “Jewish” emphasis on circumcision and traditions (Colossians 2:8-11; 3:11). The heresy  addressed appears to be either a Jewish-Gnosticism or a mix between Jewish  asceticism and Greek (Stoic?) philosophy. He does a remarkable job in pointing  us to the sufficiency of Christ.

The Book of Colossians contains  doctrinal instruction about the deity of Christ and false philosophies  (1:15-2:23), as well as practical exhortations regarding Christian conduct,  including  friends and speech (3:1-4:18).

Connections: As with all the early churches, the issue of Jewish legalism in Colosse was of  great concern to Paul. So radical was the concept of salvation by grace apart  from works that those steeped in Old Testament law found it very difficult to  grasp. Consequently, there was a continual movement among the legalists to add  certain requirements from the law to this new faith. Primary among them was the  requirement of circumcision which was still practiced among some of the Jewish  converts. Paul countered this error in Colossians 2:11-15 in which he declares that circumcision  of the flesh was no longer necessary because Christ had come. His was a  circumcision of the heart, not the flesh, making the ceremonial rites of the Old  Testament law no longer necessary (Deuteronomy 10:16, 30:6Jeremiah 4:4, 9:26; Acts 7:51; Romans  2:29).

Practical Application: Although Paul  addresses many areas, the basic application for us today is the total and  complete sufficiency of Christ in our lives, both for our salvation and our  sanctification. We must know and understand the gospel so as not to be led  astray by subtle forms of legalism and heresy. We must be on guard for any  deviation that would diminish the centrality of Christ as Lord and Savior. Any  “religion” that tries to equate itself with the truth using books that claim the  same authority as the Bible, or which combines human effort with divine  accomplishment in salvation must be avoided. Other religions cannot be combined  with or added to Christianity. Christ gives us absolute standards of moral  conduct. Christianity is a family, a way of life, and a relationship—not a  religion. Good deeds, astrology, occultism and horoscopes do not show us God’s  ways. Only Christ does. His will is revealed in His word, His love letter to us;  we must get to know it!

Author: Although some include the Book of Hebrews among the apostle Paul’s writings, the certain identity of the author remains an enigma. Missing is Paul’s customary salutation common to his other works. In addition, the suggestion that the writer of this epistle relied upon knowledge and information provided by others who were actual eye-witnesses of Christ Jesus (2:3) makes Pauline authorship doubtful. Some attribute Luke as its writer; others suggest Hebrews may have been written by Apollos, Barnabas, Silas, Philip, or Aquila and Priscilla. Regardless of the human hand that held the pen, the Holy Spirit of God is the divine author of all Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16); therefore, Hebrews speaks with the same canonical authority as the other sixty-five books of the Bible.

Date of Writing: The early church father Clement quoted from the Book of Hebrews in A.D. 95. However, internal evidence such as the fact that Timothy was alive at the time the epistle was written and the absence of any evidence showing the end of the Old Testament sacrificial system that occurred with Jerusalem’s destruction in A.D. 70 indicates the book was written around A.D. 65.

Purpose of Writing: The late Dr. Walter Martin, founder of the Christian Research Institute and writer of the best-selling book Kingdom of the Cults, quipped in his usual tongue-in-cheek manner that the Book of Hebrews was written by a Hebrew to other Hebrews telling the Hebrews to stop acting like Hebrews. In truth, many of the early Jewish believers were slipping back into the rites and rituals of Judaism in order to escape the mounting persecution. This letter, then, is an exhortation for those persecuted believers to continue in the grace of Jesus Christ.

Key Verses: Hebrews 1:1-2: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.”

Hebrews 2:3: “How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation…”

Hebrews 4:14-16: “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

Hebrews 12:1-2: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Brief Summary: The Book of Hebrews addresses three separate groups: believers in Christ, unbelievers who had knowledge of and an intellectual acceptance of the facts of Christ, and unbelievers who were attracted to Christ, but who rejected Him ultimately. It’s important to understand which group is being addressed in which passage. To fail to do so can cause us to draw conclusions inconsistent with the rest of Scripture.

The writer of Hebrews continually makes mention of the superiority of Christ in both His personage and in His ministering work. In the writings of the Old Testament, we understand the rituals and ceremonies of Judaism symbolically pointed to the coming of Messiah. In other words, the rites of Judaism were but shadows of things to come. Hebrews tells us that Christ Jesus is better than anything mere religion has to offer. All the pomp and circumstance of religion pales in comparison to the person, work, and ministry of Christ Jesus. It is the superiority of our Lord Jesus, then, that remains the theme of this eloquently written letter.

Connections: Perhaps nowhere in the New Testament does the Old Testament come into focus more than in the Book of Hebrews, which has as its foundation the Levitical priesthood. The writer to the Hebrews constantly compares the inadequacies of the Old Testament sacrificial system to the perfection and completion in Christ. Where the Old Covenant required continual sacrifices and a once-a-year atonement for sin offered by a human priest, the New Covenant provides a once-for-all sacrifice through Christ (Hebrews 10:10) and direct access to the throne of God for all who are in Him.

Practical Application: Rich in foundational Christian doctrine, the Epistle to the Hebrews also gives us encouraging examples of God’s “faith heroes” who persevered in spite of great difficulties and adverse circumstances (Hebrews 11). These members of God’s Hall of Faith provide overwhelming evidence as to the unconditional surety and absolute reliability of God. Likewise, we can maintain perfect confidence in God’s rich promises, regardless of our circumstances, by meditating upon the rock-solid faithfulness of God’s workings in the lives of His Old Testament saints.

The writer of Hebrews gives ample encouragement to believers, but there are five solemn warnings we must heed. There is the danger of neglect (Hebrews 2:1-4), the danger of unbelief (Hebrews 3:7–4:13), the danger of spiritual immaturity (Hebrews 5:11–6:20), the danger of failing to endure (Hebrews 10:26-39), and the inherent danger of refusing God (Hebrews 12:25-29). And so we find in this crowning masterpiece a great wealth of doctrine, a refreshing spring of encouragement, and a source of sound, practical warnings against slothfulness in our Christian walk. But there is still more, for in Hebrews we find a magnificently rendered portrait of our Lord Jesus Christ—the Author and Finisher of our great salvation (Hebrews 12:2).

Book of Acts

Author: The Book of Acts does not specifically identify its  author. From Luke 1:1-4 and Acts 1:1-3,  it is clear that the same author wrote both Luke and Acts. The tradition from  the earliest days of the church has been that Luke, a companion of the apostle  Paul, wrote both Luke and Acts (Colossians  4:14; 2 Timothy  4:11).

Date of Writing: The Book of Acts was likely  written between 61-64 A.D.

Purpose of Writing: The Book  of Acts was written to provide a history of the early church. The emphasis of  the book is the importance of the day of Pentecost and being empowered to be  effective witnesses for Jesus Christ. Acts records the apostles being Christ’s  witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the rest of the surrounding  world. The book sheds light on the gift of the Holy Spirit, who empowers,  guides, teaches, and serves as our Counselor. Reading the book of Acts, we are  enlightened and encouraged by the many miracles that were being performed during  this time by the disciples Peter, John, and Paul. The book of Acts emphasizes  the importance of obedience to God’s Word and the transformation that occurs as  a result of knowing Christ. There are also many references to those that  rejected the truth that the disciples preached about the Lord Jesus Christ. The  lust for power, greed, and many other vices of the devil are evidenced in the  book of Acts.

Key Verses: Acts 1:8: “But  you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my  witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the  earth.”

Acts 2:4: “All  of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as  the Spirit enabled them.”

Acts 4:12:  “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven  given to men by which we must be saved.”

Acts  4:19-20: “But Peter and John replied, ‘Judge for yourselves whether it is  right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking  about what we have seen and heard.’”

Acts 9:3-6:  “As he [Saul] neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven  flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul,  Saul, why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked. ‘I am Jesus,  whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. ‘Now get up and go into the city, and you  will be told what you must do.’”

Acts 16:31:  “So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be  saved.’”

Brief Summary: The book of Acts gives the  history of the Christian church and the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ, as  well as the mounting opposition to it. Although many faithful servants were used  to preach and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ, Saul, whose name was changed to  Paul, was the most influential. Before he was converted, Paul took great  pleasure in persecuting and killing Christians. Paul’s dramatic conversion on  the Damascus road (Acts 9:1-31)  is a highlight of the book of Acts. After his conversion he went to the opposite  extreme of loving God and preaching His Word with power, fervency and the Spirit  of the true and living God. The disciples were empowered by the Holy Spirit to  be His witnesses in Jerusalem (chapters 1–8:3), Judea and Samaria (chapters  8:4–12:25), and to the ends of the earth (chapters 13:1–28). Included in the  last section are Paul’s three missionary journeys (13:1–21:16), his trials in  Jerusalem and Caesarea (21:17–26:32) and his final journey to Rome  (27:1–18:31).

Connections: The Book of Acts serves as a  transition from the Old Covenant of law-keeping to the New Covenant of grace and  faith. This transition is seen in several key events in Acts. First, there was a  change in the ministry of the Holy Spirit, whose primary function in the Old  Testament was the external “anointing” of God’s people, among them Moses (Numbers 11:17), Othniel  (Judges  3:8-10), Gideon (Judges  6:34), and Saul (1 Samuel  10:6-10). After the resurrection of Jesus, the Spirit came to live in the  very hearts of believers (Romans  8:9-11; 1  Corinthians 3:16), guiding and empowering them from within. The indwelling  Spirit is the gift of God to those who come to Him in faith.

Paul’s  conversion was a dramatic example of the transition from the Old Covenant to the  New. Paul admitted that, prior to meeting the risen Savior, he was the most  zealous of Israelites and was blameless “concerning the righteousness of the  law” (Philippians  3:6 NKJV), going so far as to persecute those who taught salvation by grace  through faith in Christ. But after his conversion, he realized that all his  legalistic efforts were worthless, saying he considered them “rubbish, that I  may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that  comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness  that comes from God and is by faith” (Philippians 3:8b-9). Now we, too, live by faith, not by  the works of the law, so there is no boasting (Ephesians  2:8-9).

Peter’s vision of the sheet in Acts  10:9-15 is another sign of the transition from the Old Covenant—in this case  the dietary laws particular to the Jews—to the New Covenant’s unity of Jew and  Gentile in one universal Church. The “clean” animals symbolizing the Jews and  the “unclean” animals symbolizing the Gentiles were both declared “cleansed” by  God through the sacrificial death of Christ. No longer under the Old Covenant of  law, both are now united in the New Covenant of grace through faith in the shed  blood of Christ on the cross.

Practical Application: God can do amazing things through ordinary people when He empowers them through  His Spirit. God essentially took a group of fisherman and used them to turn the  world upside down (Acts 17:6).  God took a Christian-hating murderer and changed him into the greatest Christian  evangelist, the author of almost half the books of the New Testament. God used  persecution to cause the quickest expansion of a “new faith” in the history of  the world. God can and does do the same through us—changing our hearts,  empowering us by the Holy Spirit, and giving us a passion to spread the good  news of salvation through Christ. If we try to accomplish these things in our  own power, we will fail. Like the disciples in Acts 1:8, we  are to wait for the empowering of the Spirit, then go in His power to fulfill  the Great Commission (Matthew  28:19-20).