Important factors to consider when reading the Epistles

This is probably the fifth time the same matter in this background series is being repeated. Context. The two most important factors when reading the Bible are context and inspiration. We have to know what was going on and what was being taught. We are lost without this knowledge.

Equally, we are lost if we know the context and what was being said but yet it’s dead to us. The Holy Spirit has to make it ‘God’s word to us here and now’. It needs inspiration. We should strive for both. Inspiration without context leads to false messages, and context without inspiration is just dead book reading.

It is not inspiration being emphasised here. But please don’t forget that the Holy Spirit wrote what we are reading. This book is from the God we want to know. It tells us that its words are life and if we follow its teaching we will come to know eternal life forevermore. Our Bible reading plan is dead if prayer and careful thought do not accompany it. Who cares if you fall a few days behind because God is talking to you through a certain passage and you really grapple with its meaning for your life.

The inspired epistles need their partner – context. The Holy Spirit will inspire the truth. The right message and teaching is the truth He will inspire and drive home. The epistles are essentially letters that were written to churches or people that were kept and copied. They are packed with truth and teaching for us. They explain and draw to a high point all that has gone before in the Old Testament and the Gospels. But they are hidden in a context. They are most often one-sided phone call conversations for which we don’t have much clue what the other party was asking or saying. Without this information we limp through our understanding of the teaching.

The writing of this background series hopes to fill in a few of the gaps in this regard. What was being said and why are vital questions to ask. Please ask them. This is not for the ‘academic’ or theologian. Actually, theology means the study of God’s revealing of himself, so we are all doing theology; some are just better at it than others.

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