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General Epistles

General Epistles – What are the Non-Pauline Epistles?
What are the General Epistles or non-Pauline Books? These epistles (letters) include:

  • Hebrews
  • James
  • 1 and 2 Peter
  • 1, 2, and 3 John
  • Jude
With the exception of Hebrews, the Book’s titles denote the author of each epistle. They are called General or Universal Epistles to differentiate them from the Letters written by Paul to specific churches or people. Hebrews on the other hand is written to an unidentified but seemingly specific group and its author is not clearly identified. However, it is believed to have been written before the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple (A.D. 70).

General Epistles – The Letters

  • Hebrews – The purpose of this letter is to reassure these second generation Jewish Christians of Jesus as the Messiah. It is written during times of social and physical persecution and while some were considering a return to Judaism. They had come from a wonderful traditional and faithful heritage so they were cautious about accepting the Gospel. This letter is to show the continuation and fulfillment of a better (new) covenant from God.

    The author warned them of drifting away and told them to look forward to Christ’s return. They were also urged to pattern their lives after Christ and assured of Jesus’ complete sacrifice for sin. One of the most outstanding verses in this letter addresses faith saying “Now faith is the assurance that what we hope for will come about and the certainty that what we cannot see exists” (Hebrews 11:1).

  • James – Teaching Christian behavior and exposing dishonorable Christian behaviors, James identifies that many times Christians may profess their faith but often their actions do not. His concerns were for these Jewish Christians to turn from evil desires, watch their speech, and to obey God. He asked them to be patient, pray for one another, and remain faithful to God.

    A key passage is James 2:18-20, “But someone will say, ‘You have faith, but I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works…Faith without works is dead” (NKJV). Back in James 1:22 we are told that we must not just ‘hear’ the word of God, but we also must ‘do’ what it says.

  • 1 Peter – The Christians had been beaten, persecuted, dispersed, and even put to death. Peter’s letter was addressed to those scattered throughout Asia Minor and to all believers who would read this epistle. He starts his letter by giving thanks for salvation and how it had been made known through Jesus.

    Peter too experienced imprisonment and encouraged others to still be loving and honest. He reminded them of their role in society, being above reproach. Then he gives instruction to the elders to lead, to younger men to follow, and that all should trust and follow God.

  • 2 Peter – In this letter, Peter warns about falling prey to false teachers whom God predicted would come. He stresses to only trust godly authority of experienced and faithful apostles. His warning included guarding against being prideful, bragging, and doing whatever they pleased.

    Peter knew his time was limited; he was martyred for his faith shortly after writing this letter. In it, he wanted to stress faithfulness to Christ and offer comfort in the midst of suffering and persecution.

  • 1 John – This letter was not written to a particular church, but written in general and passed on to several congregations. John felt protective over his readers so he was warning against false teachers.

    John authoritatively writes to offer confidence in having a relationship with God. He says if we know God, and believe in the Son, Jesus, we can have eternal life. John 14:14 that if we have that confidence and ask anything according to God’s will, He will hear our prayers and answer what we ask of Him. Praying according to God’s will is key.

  • 2 John – In this brief epistle, John emphasizes the foundation of following Christ Jesus and highlighting truth and love. His letter is written to a woman (or possibly a church) and her children. He once again warns to be sure to walk in truth and to not follow after false teachers who seek to deceive. Transgressors who will not confess Jesus as the Son of God who died for our sins are false teachers bringing false doctrines.

  • 3 John – This epistle is only 1 brief chapter. John is thanking a man named Gaius for his hospitality to missionaries and traveling teachers of the gospel. It is a letter of gratefulness and encouragement to another believer whom John loves. John recognizes the gift of charity in this man and wishes him blessings and prosperity.

  • Jude – Reminding the church of their need to stay strong in the faith and to remain vigilant is this epistle’s purpose. Jude was Jesus’ half-brother and the brother of James. His commitment to the lordship of Christ brings him also to warn of false doctrines and teachers. He beseeches them to be careful of falling away from their faith and to remember that rebellion against God will bring punishment.

General Epistles – Their Relevance
The General Epistles encourage faithfulness in Christ, love and service for one another, and awareness of false teachers. These lessons written so long ago are just as vital to us today. Our faithfulness will be rewarded and we will inherit the eternal life made possible through the sacrifice of Jesus.

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What do you think?
We have all sinned and deserve God’s judgment. God, the Father, sent His only Son to satisfy that judgment for those who believe in Him. Jesus, the creator and eternal Son of God, who lived a sinless life, loves us so much that He died for our sins, taking the punishment that we deserve, was buried, and rose from the dead according to the Bible. If you truly believe and trust this in your heart, receiving Jesus alone as your Savior, declaring, "Jesus is Lord," you will be saved from judgment and spend eternity with God in heaven.

What is your response?

Yes, I want to follow Jesus

I am a follower of Jesus

I still have questions

How can I know God?

If you died, why should God let you into heaven?

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