Week Fifty-One Reading Assignment:
James 5 - Revelation 6
"Believers keep up and maintain their walk with God by reading of his holy word... If we once get above our Bibles, and cease making the written word of God our sole rule both as to faith and practice, we shall soon lie open to all manner of delusion, and be in great danger of making shipwreck of faith and a good conscience... We must make his testimonies our counsellors, and daily, with Mary, sit at Jesus' feet by faith hearing his word. We shall then by happy experience find, that they are spirit and life, meat indeed and drink indeed, to our souls."
This Week's Teaching Video: The General Epistles
charting our progress
Good Book Review: Epistles to People in Pain
Almost as soon as we open the New Testament, we are confronted by the reality of undeserved suffering. The slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem is an unspeakable tragedy.
We turn a few more pages, and we see the idyllic setting of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. We picture the blue sky and green hillsides of Galilee as Jesus teaches the gathering crowds. And just as we are cherishing the beauty of the setting and of the Beatitudes, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.”
We read on, and eventually we get to an account of the suffering of the most innocent and most righteous One of all.
Undeserved suffering is a theme from the start of the New Testament. And it is the personal, real-life experience of the Christians to whom Peter writes.
We don’t know names or addresses. Peter’s epistles do not provide as many personal details as Paul’s do. But we do know this about his audience: they are suffering, persecuted, and don’t deserve what’s happening to them.
And so Peter writes to them about a theme we see all along the way. Specifi-cally, he tells them about the One who “suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous.” His suffering makes Him not only their Savior but also their example to follow.
Good Book Review: Short, But Not Sweet
Longer New Testament epistles deal — at length and in depth — with a variety of issues In Paul's first letter to Corinth, for example, we find important teaching about marriage, church discipline, spiritual gifts, the Lord’s Supper, and the resurrection.
The letter from Jude, by contrast, is very brief in length and rather narrow in scope. A summary of it is likely to be as long as the book itself.
The central issue for this quick but serious note is false teaching.
Having read now almost all of the New Testament, we shouldn’t be surprised by Jude’s theme. As we noted in our Week 48 teaching video, false teachers and their appealing heresies are mentioned again and again in the New Testament. It is a recurring theme in the early church, and it’s the main theme of Jude.
While the recipients of this letter are not specifically identified in the text, we can infer that the original audience was comprised of Jewish Christians, for the writer alludes repeatedly to stories and characters from the Old Testament, as well as to later traditions that had grow up around those stories.
In the end, we discover that Jude cuts across the grain of the theological pluralism of our culture. He assumes that there is truth; he assumes that the rest is false; and he assumes that whatever is false is damnably dangerous. And it should be treated accordingly.