Let the Word Speak!

Letters

Most of the books in the New Testament take the form of letters written by Paul or other early church leaders to different early churches. These letters have a sense of urgency to them, as the writers often used the letters to send a message of correction or encouragement that couldn’t wait until the next visit. At the same time, these letters also communicate profound truths and deep theology, as the writers knew those people would be stronger in their faith if they understood not just “what” but “why.”

We cannot study these letters in depth without understanding the churches and the areas to which the letters were written. That makes perfect sense to us if we were to pick up a modern letter or read a collection of letters, but we sometimes miss that point in the New Testament letters. The church in Corinth had lost their moral “anchor” and rejected the authority from God for Paul’s ministry. The tone of that letter is completely different from the letter to Rome, which Paul wrote before he visited that city and which he could base only on what he had heard about the church.

Many scholars dig deeper into analyzing the text to determine if those who were creditted with writing the letters were actually the writers. In that culture, it was accepted practice for followers of a teacher to write using that teacher’s name, and that was considered an honor to the teacher, perpetuating his work. In our culture, that is plagarism, and considered theft of identity! So, it is very likely that some of these letters are not written by who it appears wrote them. In other studies, that can at times add more clarity to understanding the letter, but for these meditations, I just don’t think that’s important! We know that these letters were written for these churches by people who, if not the named writers, were carrying on the work of the named writers with sincerity and integrity, and the message to us is the same.

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