Week 2 Letter – Introduction to Letters in the New Testament (Feb 25)
What is a letter in the New Testament? The answer is quite simple, it is a letter, just like we would receive in the mail, from a friend or a family member who lives far away. The difference is that this letter was written by a Church leader, often an Apostle, who was writing to a Church in a particular city or area. The letters in the New Testament start at Romans which is right after the book of Acts, and then go all the way to Jude, which is right before Revelation.
How should we read or interpret the New Testament letters? Once again, in a similar way we would read and understand a letter from a friend or family member. If you are a member of a House Church, think about how Pastor Todd might write a letter to your group, encouraging you about your strengths and challenging you on your weaknesses. We should approach one of the letters in the New Testament the same way.
When you read a letter from a friend or family member, do you read a few sentences and then set it down to continue reading tomorrow? Of course not! Do you read one paragraph each day? Once again, of course not! A letter is usually read from beginning to end, or at the very least, several pages at a time, not just a little one day and a little the next. If you read one or two sentences every day, you would have great difficulty understanding what your friend or family member is trying to tell you. In the same way, the best way to read a letter in the New Testament is to read it from the beginning to the end in one sitting. If the letter is really long, like Hebrews, 1 Corinthians, or Romans, you could read several pages or chapters at a time (although it would still be a great experience to read the whole thing at once).
Tomorrow we will read one of the shorter letters from beginning to end. Try to find a quiet place where you will not be distracted. Maybe a secluded room in your house, or your favourite coffee shop (It’s a great idea to do this every day, but especially important when reading a whole letter). Today, however, we will skip the above advice, and look at a particular passage in one of Paul’s letters.
Read Philippians 2:5-11
Consider the Context and try to get at the Original Meaning: Read a few verses before the passage (start at verse one or two). Verses six to eleven are probably a hymn, song, or some kind of saying that was common in the early Church. Paul is quoting this “song”. What is Paul trying to say to the Church at Philippi in this passage? From the context, we see that Paul is writing about unity and loving one another. This quote is an example of how we can do this. The key is humility and Jesus is the ultimate example, just like the “song” that is quoted here.
Apply the meaning:
- How is humility the key to unity and love?
- Are there situations or people in your life where you could better follow the example of Jesus?
- What kind of impact could you have on the people around you, if you followed the example of Jesus?
- Refer to your Prayer Journal.