As you consider your Bible reading for 2021, how about reading through the Epistles? All you need is a daily reading calendar, some journaling pages, maybe some study prompts and you are on your way. You also need a reading plan that lets you read a little everyday. Let’s look at how to read the New Testament Epistles in 2021.
WHAT IS AN EPISTLE?
An Epistle is basically a letter. The primary difference between a letter and an epistle is that Epistles are considered to be more of a literary work produced for a larger audience. Letters are generally written only to one person or perhaps family members.
The New Testament Epistles are letters written to various groups and churches by the Apostles after Jesus’ resurrection. They are instructions to the new believers to strengthen, encourage, and guide them as, together, they established the Body of Christ – the Church.
Why Were the Epistles Written?
The New Testament Epistles were written as a means of communication because the writers were not able to visit the people in the various locations. For instance, Philippians was written to the Christians in Philippi. Paul wrote letters because he was in prison and could not go back to Philippi. He received communication about their problems and needs and the Epistle to the Philippians was written to address those things.
I want you to know, dear ones, what has happened to me has not hindered, but helped my ministry of preaching the gospel, causing it to expand and spread to many people. For now the elite Roman guards and government officials overseeing my imprisonment have plainly recognized that I am here because of my love for the Anointed One. Philippians 1:12-13 TPT
The New Testament Epistles were also written because the Apostles who wrote them cared deeply for the people they were writing to. They cared so much that they risked their lives and died for the sake of the Gospel of Christ.
WHo Wrote the Epistles?
The New Testament Epistles were written primarily by Paul. James wrote one Epistle. John wrote three as did Peter, and Jude wrote one. As you read through them you will see the similarities in the message, the varied styles of writing, and the reasons for each Epistle.
As Paul, James, John, Jude, and Peter wrote, they shared their love, encouragement, exhortation, correction, and vision. The theme throughout is the preservation of the pure message of the Gospel as it was first taught by Jesus and then by His Apostles and disciples.
Who Were these Men?
The Apostle Paul
Paul was not always Paul. His name was Saul of Tarsus and he was a Roman citizen who had wealth and power. He had been persecuting Christians and, after Jesus’ death, as he was persecuting and ordering the deaths of Christians, he and Jesus had a meeting which changed the course of his life and that of the newly forming church. Saul became Paul and became one of the leading apostles to the new church.
I was born a true Hebrew of the heritage of Israel as the son of a Jewish man from the tribe of Benjamin. I was circumcised eight days after my birth and was raised in the strict tradition of Orthodox Judaism, living a separated and devout life as a Pharisee. And concerning the righteousness of the Torah, no one surpassed me; I was without a peer. Furthermore, as a fiery defender of the truth, I persecuted the messianic believers with religious zeal. Philippians 3:5-6 TPT
There is debate about which New Testament Epistles Paul actually wrote. Some are clearly written by Paul and some were possibly written by a scribe or ‘secretary’ or were simply attributed to Paul.
Regardless, Paul is viewed as one of the most important figures in the early church, founding many churches between the mid 30’s and the mid 50’s AD. His renown grew and he continues to be one of the most well known figures in the Bible.
The Apostle James
It is thought that this James was the brother of Jesus. Evidence other than the Bible supports this. Imagine being the brother of Jesus and then being tasked with being the lead Apostle in Jerusalem! We only have one letter from James but his message is clear and still applies to Christians today, as do all of the Epistles.
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. James 2:14-17 ESV
James was a central figure for the Apostles and was eventually martyred for his beliefs. He had helped bring many Roman citizens and Jews into the Kingdom of God by sharing His brother’s message and standing for truth in the new age of the fledgling church.
The Apostle Peter
Peter, of course, is one of the more well-known Disciples who followed Jesus. His denial of Jesus is a popular story. Yet, in the Epistles and the Book of Acts, we see someone who helped bring 3,000 people into the church in one day!
Peter preached to them and warned them with these words: “Be rescued from the wayward and perverse culture of this world!” Those who believed the word that day numbered three thousand. They were all baptized and added to the church. Acts 2:40-41 TPT
As with the others, he was martyred for his faith but his message in the three letters he wrote resonates clearly. He is regarded as the first among the Disciples since his name is usually mentioned first in lists of the Apostles or disciples and he was a prominent figure throughout his time with Jesus and afterward.
The Apostle John
John was a disciple of John the Baptist and then became a disciple of Jesus. He was an Apostle in the early church and his influence was great. He wrote the Book of John along with the three New Testament Epistles and, is thought to be the author of Revelation.
He is well known as ‘the disciple Jesus loved.’ This is how he referred to himself. Eusebius, a historian who wrote during this period, did not believe that the Book of Revelation was written by John but it is widely accepted that he was the author. Many scholars believe that John the Apostle is the author since early church traditions attribute the book to his authorship.
The Apostle Jude
Jude, the brother of James and Jesus, wrote one very short letter to an unknown audience and it is primarily a warning against false teachers. He was a disciple of his brother, Jesus, and one of the Apostles of the early church. While we know little about him, we can see his heart which, like that of the other Apostles, was focused on the purity of the message of Jesus and ensuring that the gospel was preached to the ends of the earth.
Jude urged these believers “to contend earnestly for the faith:” in verse 3. There is only 1 chapter consisting of 25 verses.
These are the men ‘who turned the world upside down’ according to Acts 17:6. This is how the people in Thessalonica characterized Paul and the other apostles as they brought them before the rulers of the city. And, still today, Christians are turning the world upside down as they live out the love of Jesus here on earth,
What Are The EPistles?
The New Testament Epistles are a collection of 21 Books of the Bible –
- Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians,
- 1 & 2 Thessalonians,
- 1 & 2 Timothy,
- 1, 2 & 3 Peter,
- 1, 2 & John,
- Jude, and
The messages of these New Testament Epistles are still being put into practice today. We study these books of the Bible, learning and growing from their message. They are preached, commented on, discussed, and repeated because their message is timeless. It is a message of the love of God who became flesh and dwelt among us, dying so the we might live eternally, and reconciling us to the Father.
The New Testament Epistles give us practical steps for living and conforming to the image of Christ, not the world.
How to Read The New Testament Epistles
Now that you know more about the New Testament Epistles, you can find the link below to download the Read The Epistles In One Year Calendar that takes you from Romans to Revelation. There are 12 separate calendars with your Scripture to read for each day. The last month is the longest since Revelation is one of the longer books in the Epistles.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE READ THE EPISTLES IN ONE YEAR CALENDAR.
The calendars will help you work your way through the Epistles by giving you one section of Scripture to read each day.
You can also read How To Study the Bible to get more tips on getting more out of your daily reading.
While reading is great, we need to do more in order to make the words become part of our lives.
“The Word of God is living and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intentions of the heart,” Hebrews 4:12 NKJV
Tips for Bible Study
In order to make your reading time more profitable, it helps to have some Study Assistants. I’m not talking about people, however, having a Bible Study friend is wonderful because you can talk about what you read!
If you don’t have that, you can have tools like these:
- Journaling Pages – to write out what you’re thinking, what you learned, or what God is saying.
- Study Prompts – those are things like – how do these verses apply to me? You can then write out your steps of application.
- Scripture Prayers – these help you personalize and pray the Word of God.
- Scripture Coloring Pages – while these aren’t a necessity, they are great fun and actually helpful in meditating on the Word.
- Study Prompts – More prompts to help you take a moment to focus on the Word as it comes alive in you.
Be sure to download the free Calendar pages and learn about the additional resources (the ones listed above) you can get to help you make the Word come alive in 2021.