"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." [1 Peter 3:15]

Q .How does one organize and recall the letters? (Epistles of the Bible)

A .There are 23 Epistles or Letters completing the New Testament. These letters were written by the First Followers of Jesus and tell the story of the Early Church, its beliefs and challenges in advancing the word (logos), and tell the story of the emergence of the Early Christian Church.

The Letters tell the story of the first Century First Followers of Jesus. The power of the Holy Spirit filled the disciples who became apostles (proclaiming) the faith. There are many ways to organize and order these letters. One way is to view the Epistles as a series of Books on a library shelf; to pick up, read, and recall selected passages or messages. This is the way the author has arbitrarily grouped the 23 letters into the following eight sub-groups. Thirteen of the 23 Epistles were written by one Apostle Paul. These Pauline letters make up 4 or the 8 groupings. Try to remember the theme, one key fact or passage from each of the letters and they will become your friends in dialog and exchange of Spiritual information.

  • 1. Book Ends – Acts and Revelation – The 28 chapters of Acts focus on the journeys and teaching of two main Apostles; Peter (1-12) and Paul (13-28). Peter preached boldly with the power of the Holy Spirit in the early chapters of Acts. He led many to accept Jesus as Lord. Saul, meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus, is converted from Judaism to become a follower of Christ. Saul is given a new name, Paul. Luke (the author of a Gospel and writer of Acts) tells how Paul becomes a strong early church force through missionary journeys in the Mediterranean basin. The Apostle John, concludes his life and ministry on the island of Patmos by penning Revelation to persecuted churches in Asia minor. Revelation envisions intense conflict between Satan and God. The conflict ends with Christ conquering. The book of Revelation is an apocalyptic writing, a similar form to the Old Testament book of Daniel.
  • 2. Romans – Paul’s Theology letter – Paul teaches man living by faith in Jesus is living right with God. The book of Romans is his great letter summarizing Christian theology. Humans are saved by faith is Jesus and God’s free gift of grace. The author uses an “S” outline to order Paul’s great book written to Christians in Rome. After a Salutation, Paul defines Sin, and shares a Saving faith in Jesus overcomes sin. Paul discusses his Struggle with the law and sin. Chapter 8 is pivotal because Paul reveals the Solution, a spirit filled life in Jesus. The concluding subjects; Shared root with Jews, Sanctification, Servanthood and the Saints walk us through the balance of this great book of the Bible.
  • 3. I and II Corinthians, Galatians - Paul’s Gospel letters continued – Galatians has been called the “Magna Charta of Christian liberty”. Paul shares how grace frees Christians to discover power through living in faith in Jesus. This freedom carries responsibilities. The fruits of the spirit filled life are outlined in Paul’s 5th chapter to the Galatians. 1st Corinthians deals with problems in the cosmopolitan Corinth Church. An anchor of the letter describes the meshing together of spiritual gifts in a church community (Chap. 12), and Paul’s great treatise on love (Chap. 13). In 2nd Corinthians Paul defends his ministry and outlines many of the hardships he has endured for Christ.
  • 4. Paul’s first letters and Prison letters – Paul’s first brief letters (1st and 2nd Thessalonians) were written to Christians in Thessalonica. He teaches hope for believers and the value of a good work ethic. In 2nd Thessalonians Paul predicts the return of Jesus. Paul’s Prison letters were written later in his ministry while in a Roman Prison. Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon cover a variety of subjects including avoiding heresy, keeping a clear vision of Christ, believers as Priests, and learning to rejoice in hardship.
  • 5. Paul’s Pastoral letters – (I and II Timothy and Titus) – Paul’s concern for the churches he planted and each community are apparent. Among the subjects his pastoral letters deal with are; encouragement of Pastors, guidance for church leaders, leadership of Christ centered communities, warning about false doctrine and order in early churches. The authority of God’s word is apparent. It is God breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training righteousness. Man should be thoroughly equipped to do good work. Titus, left on Crete to straighten out churches is encouraged to teach the sound doctrines of self control, love, faith and endurance.
  • 6. Hebrews – The author of Hebrews is unknown. It was written to support the faith of a group of Hebrew Christians. Christ is described as superior to angels, greater than Moses and past Hebrew leaders, and pictured as the great high priest. Hebrews supports the wavering faith of believers from persecution. Hebrews has a high Christology, Jesus is Lord, the fulfillment of the Old Testament promised Messiah.
  • 7. General Letters - Hebrews concludes the personal letters section of the New Testament. We move to study the concluding seven “general” letters; written to a general audience. These letters will be studied in two sections; those written by Jesus brothers’ (James and Jude) as well as Peter and a final section focusing on General letters written by John, the disciple Jesus loved.

    James and Jude – One reads of the conversion of Jesus’ brothers (Acts 1:14) after the crucifixion. His brother James shares practical religion; faith without works is empty. Our tongue is to be controlled. We should listen carefully and give our ears a chance. Jude warns the church against immoral teachers and alarming heresies.

    I and II Peter – Peter writes to people who are suffering for the Lord. Encouragement, living for Jesus, hope for suffering Christians and avoiding heresies and false teachers are central to Peter’s messages.

  • 8. I, II, III John – John encourages his readers to walk in love, know the truth of Christ, be careful not to sin, and be assured of eternal life. Discerning false teachers and the importance of hospitality are themes of his last two short letters.