Life simply would not be the same without letters. We use them to communicate our deepest thoughts and feelings, some of which can be quite “mushy.” When we turn to the twenty-one letters of the New Testament, we catch a glimpse of the practical, frontline work of early Christian disciple-makers. These letters serve as authoritative substitutes for leaders who could not always minister in person. They were written to address specific situations and meet the practical needs of their readers. The letters were carefully prepared and were meant to be read aloud to the congregation again and again.
When you approach a New Testament letter, remember that it is a letter and not a telephone book. Letters are meant to be read from beginning to end, the same way you read a personal letter today. Take the historical-cultural situation seriously and place a high priority on tracing the author’s flow of thought (i.e., the literary context). Then use the principlizing bridge to cross the river of differences and apply the meaning of the biblical text to your life.
The letters of the New Testament offer a window into the struggles and victories of the early church. They provide inspired instruction and advice for living a godly life, for which we can be forever grateful. We close this section with a typical closing from a New Testament letter: “Grace be with you. Amen.”