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Setting The Scene

The Final Instructions

This week we will be reading letters written by Paul and Peter.  As the age of the apostles drew to a close, it was necessary for the aging apostles to instruct the believers in the truths of God's doctrine.  These letters were written to encourage and to instruct and to guide the fledgling churches.

Paul was in prison in Rome, many miles from his beloved churches.  His imprisonment, harsh as it may have been, forced him to communicate God's truths through letters rather than in person.  Through God's providence, the content of these letters was preserved so that today we can also partake in these teachings.  Paul's prison letters include Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon.

We begin our readings this week in the book of Philippians.  This is a letter of rejoicing, because even though Paul was in prison, he rejoiced in the righteous, loving church at Philippi.  Paul told the Philippians that he was ready to die and go to be with the Lord, except that he could minister to them as long as he was alive.  Thus, “To live is Christ, to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)  He also encouraged them to have the mind in them that was in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5)

Paul's two letters to Timothy are known as the Pastoral letters.  As a young man, Timothy was led to the Lord by Paul.  Timothy became a faithful companion of Paul and was sent to pastor several of the early churches.  The two letters to Timothy contain instructions concerning the conduct of pastors and deacons, church discipline, and guidance to the congregations.  The book of Titus is similar to 1 Timothy except that it focuses more on the qualifications of church leaders.  The second letter to Timothy, which you will read next week, was Paul's last.  In it he stated that he fought a good fight and finished his course and kept the faith and henceforth gained a crown of righteousness. (2 Timothy 4:7)  In the last verse, Paul penned his benediction to Timothy and to us.

The books of 1 and 2 Peter were written by Peter as he realized that his martyrdom was near.  Like Paul, Peter welcomed death in the Lord.  But he also recognized that many false teachings would pervade the churches after the apostles were gone.  His letters, which were written to both the scattered Jewish and Gentile believers, admonish the believers to remain faithful to the true doctrines of Christ and to endure the suffering that is to come.

The book of Hebrews is the third longest epistle.  The authorship is anonymous, but the theology is Pauline and the author is most likely Paul.  Jewish tradition taught that salvation was gained by following the Mosaic law and the Jewish traditions.  Hebrews was written to the Jewish Christians to declare the lordship and sufficiency of Christ and to warn them against putting the law and traditions ahead of Jesus.  Hebrews is a rich reading for those familiar with Old Testament teachings.  As we read this, we too need to apply the sufficiency of Christ to our lives.

During this Christmas season, enjoy your readings about the “reason for the season”, the ultimate priest, the single sacrifice, the only begotten son of God who died for our sins.