Sunday, April 17, 2016

General Epistles

The General Epistles are so called because most are addressed to the entire church. This is in contrast to the Pauline Letters, which are typically addressed to particular people or congregation. They are sometimes referred to as the Catholic Letters, catholic in this case referring to universal or for everyone.

These letters were written by different people at different times with somewhat different intentions. Even so, some common themes can be found in these books. Some themes that I observed are
-the importance of the Gospel taught by the apostles, and a defense against false teachers,
-that Christians should imitate the love and character of Christ,
-that helping others is a particularly important way to of practically emulating Christ, and
-encouragement for Christians, especially those who are suffering or persecuted.

The Gospel

The Gospel was central to the teaching of the apostles, as it is central to the church today. The writings of the apostles particularly emphasized the deity of Jesus Christ, His death on the cross for the atonement of our sins, and His bodily resurrection from the grave as proof of who He was and the authority of His teachings. Even in that first generation, the church was beset with people who tried to alter, twist, or reimagine God’s Word, putting aside the truth to suit themselves and their own agendas. These authors defend the Gospel against false teachers.


Salvation involves an amazing transformation. It is also just the beginning of a life walking with God. God’s Word works in our minds, and the Holy Spirit works in our heart, to change us so we are increasingly more like Christ. The authors of these letters encourage believers to embrace this process and actively imitate Christ. If a person belongs to God, their character will show it, and it will show more as they mature.

Helping Others

One of the most practical ways to show what Christ is like, and to imitate him, is to help other. The authors of these letters encourage Christians to help the widowed, orphaned, hungry, imprisoned and oppressed, especially if there is a fellow Christian in need.


People suffered in the First Century, even as they do today. Christians in those days sometimes faced active persecution. Even where they were tolerated, their new beliefs and behaviors sometimes brought them into painful conflict with family and friends. The writers of these letters encouraged them to stick with the truth. God is with them and will help them overcome. Often it is the character of believers, especially the way they behave in suffering, that is the testimony that touches the heart of a love-one or even a stranger in a way that eventually brings them to Christ.

The General Epistles are

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