Whole Life Whole Bible Day 44
Philippians 3:1 (NASB)
1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.
43: How RU CU L8R Love Paul
No Royal Mail, no telephones, no email, no text messaging. How were the apostles to communicate with the numerous churches that sprang up in the years after Jesus’ resurrection?
The New Testament letters are a priceless resource for us, 2000 years later, containing the bulk of the doctrinal and ethical teaching that has defined the Christian life and informed the church through the ages. But what were these letters to their original recipients? If not their lifeblood (that, surely, was the Spirit himself), then they were their sustenance, their diet, their nutrition.
The letters give us astonishing insight into the life of these early churches and a unique body of teaching. Writing to the Romans, Paul establishes the essential principle of justification by faith in Christ (3:21-5:1). To the Galatians, who were being pressed to observe the Jewish law in addition to their faith (2:11-3:25), he becomes passionate and forthright: ‘Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?’ (3:3). James, for his part, recognizing that some Christians were beginning to presume too much on their faith, argues that genuine faith has to express itself in action: ‘Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead’ (2:17).
All the writers ground their moral and ethical exhortations on the great truths of God’s salvation in Christ — even though the letters differ in style and in the situations that they address. For instance, while Paul’s letters to the Galatians and the Colossians seek to correct false teaching from outside the church, others, particularly the Corinthian correspondence, highlight problems and dilemmas that were causing trouble within the church.
Paul’s approach to these particular issues establishes broader principles, which can be seen to be applicable in our own day. ‘Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself?’ he demands. ‘Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!’ (1 Corinthians 6:15). Other examples include the Corinthians’ question about eating food sacrificed to idols (8:4–13). Again, he tells them, ‘You are the body of Christ’ (12:27), and on this fact he builds his teaching about the church.
Above all else, however, the New Testament letters interpret Christ, revealing him in his glory and his sacrificial love, and giving hope to his people in every age.
For further reflection and action
Reflect on the significance of the fact that the New Testament contains several letters addressed to the particular situations and needs of different churches. How might this help in our application of them to today’s world?
How far are we willing to subject our own churches and denominations to the probing light of the letters? Do we personally allow ourselves to be challenged, in our thinking and behavior, by the truths they expound?
Can we seek, in our generation, to revive or maintain the art of letter-writing, to bring truth, encouragement and hope to others? How might we do so? How do email, Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media work in this respect?
Visit LICC to find out more or get an overview of the Biblical narrative and the ways it can shape us by reading the Introduction to Whole Life, Whole Bible from the Whole Life, Whole Bible book.