The epistles are a deeply important part of the New Testament and the Bible as a whole. Where the gospels reveal the person and teaching of Jesus and the example He sets and detail His atoning death and resurrection, and Acts gives us insight into how the early church was formed and functioned in light of all of that, it is the epistles that really unpack for us what so much of this means for our daily lives, how the teachings of Jesus became the theology of the church, and how the whole story of the Bible fits together and hinges on Christ.
Of the twenty-two epistles, we can say for certain that thirteen were written by Paul. These Pauline epistles tend to be more densely packed with theological discussion, openly addressed to specific situations and therefore concerned with very concrete application, and longer than the remaining epistles. This is great for the unity of our understanding, but it does tend to mean that our preaching and study of these issues are frequently limited in scope to one man's theology--admittedly, a man writing scripture under the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit and therefore trustworthy in his teaching, but still only one man--when there are nine other books that explore some of the same themes and can offer, at the very least, a different perspective.
The following three posts will each study the general epistles' handling of one major theme. The first theme will be false teachers, the second will be on redemptive history and the nature of salvation, and the final one will be the Christian life. This sequence is intentional and bears consideration when reading the following posts, because the overarching sequence will influence how they are each presented. We will begin by narrowing our focus only to that which is valid theology, and then we will explore the heart of that theology, and then how to live that theology out.
Church planter and ministry student with a bad habit of questioning authority and writing too much.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation