Sunday, September 14, 2008

How to read a Bible epistle or letter

When reading an epistle, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Who is writing this letter?
2. To whom is he writing it? What people are in the congregation? Jews? Greeks? To certain people in the church? To one person? To a specific minister?
3. Why is he writing it? What situation has prompted his writing it?
4. What are the main earthly concerns of this writer? How many topics does he tackle in this letter?
5. What are the spiritual doctrines mentioned in this letter?
6. What does the writer say he is writing about?
7. Is this a private letter or a letter to be read to the entire church?
8. If there is a “therefore,” what is it “there for”?
9. If there is a verse you know well, read the verses before and after it.
10. In how many different directions does this writer take us? How do all these different directions fit into his purpose of the letter?
11. What proofs, if any, does the writer use to prove his main point? Does he appeal to emotion? Scripture? His reputation?

Exercise:

Why did Paul write to Philemon? Can you use other events mentioned elsewhere --the book of Acts or other epistles—to fill in what happened?

Why did James write his general epistle?

To whom did John write his third letter? Why?

What did Jude intend to write about? Why did he change his mind and write about something else?

What do you think was happening in the church of Colossae? What do you think the people were arguing about?

Who wrote the book of The Revelations? Who is it written to? What does he mean when he says he is writing to the servants of the Lord Jesus? Is there a difference between the servants of the Lord or the bride of the Lord or the body of Christ? Is he writing to Jewish Christians or to Gentile Christians? Is he writing to Christians of his time, of our time, or of all time?
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