Set 19: The Apostles' Teaching

While Paul provides a significant number of the epistles in the New Testament, we have letters from several other writers. Significantly, all of these writers were either disciples of Jesus or his brothers from Mary and Joseph, so their words carried great weight in the young churches.

James: The brother of Jesus and the leader of the Jerusalem council (not the apostle James)
The apostle Peter, founder of the church at Antioch and the church in Rome
The apostle John, one of the sons of Zebedee and author of the Gospel of John as well as the book of Revelation
Understood to be the brother of Jesus and of James, not the apostle Judas Thaddeus (Judas being another form of the Hebrew name Jude)

The letters following the book of Hebrews are considered the "general" letters, aimed at teaching people generally rather than to a particular person or specific church.


Message from Sunday, March 3rd

Philemon: This letter was written from Paul to Philemon, a slave owner, about his slave Onesimus. Paul was asking Philemon to consider Onesimus a brother in Christ, worthy of forgiveness, rather than punish him according to Roman law. 
Hebrews: Many Epistles include the name of the writer and the recipient early on in the message, but Hebrew does not indicate the author; however, it is understood that whomever wrote it was well-known to the Jewish Christians of the time. This book was written to Jewish converts who had a deep understanding of the Old Testament and Jewish customs. The writer urged them to focus on the new covenant established by Christ rather than be drawn back to the Jewish traditions and requirements.
James: The letter focused on Christian living rather than God's grace. Many of the passages mirror teachings from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount as well is wisdom literature of the Old Testament, such as Proverbs.
1 & 2 Peter: Peter is considered a shepherd of the church (pastor). His first letter focuses on Christians standing up to persecutions, while the second book discusses dealing with false teachings within the church. Both address Christian life and duties.
1, 2, & 3 John: 
These were written in 90 AD and are considered to be the last New Testament letters. John's first letter was refuting Gnosticism, the belief that the body is entirely evil and the spirit is essentially good. The second letter urged discernment for those traveling and sharing the Gospel, encouraging them to determine whether they were being supported by Christian or Gnostic guests before accepting assistance. The third letter commended appropriate support for these missionaries. John upholds Jesus being both fully God and fully man as well as commends people for upholding the spread of Christianity in the Great Commission.
Jude: Jude's letter combatted the idea that having grace meant that you could sin anytime, anywhere. He advised that the truth of God's grace should lead us to right living rather than wanton actions.

These questions can apply to all readings individually or can be done after all readings are finished.
  1. How do these passages address the challenges early Christians were facing?
  2. What challenged you in these passages?
  3. What did you learn about the character of God?
  4. What does this Biblical account invite you to do, think, or believe after reading it?

Heavenly Father, we face challenges, both within the church and from outside of the church. Help us stay connected to You in Your Word and the Sacraments so that we are rooted in our faith throughout the struggles. By Your Holy Spirit, give us wisdom and guidance so that all people, including ourselves, are drawn back to the Gospel of Christ in every situation. Thank you for the teachers, apostles, and early church leaders who were faithful to sharing the Gospel that has been passed to us over many generations. Amen.

You can engage these readings and devotional times individually or as a group. If you want to send an email to Family of Christ with your thoughts and questions, you are invited to click the link below.
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