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Survey of the New Testament

 A couple of weeks ago when we studied the books of Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, I referred to them as ‘Letters for Hard Times.’  In the same way, the letters we are looking at tonight were written to believers going through difficult times.  We could call them ‘Letters of Perseverance,’ for they each encourage their readers to persevere in the faith even during seasons of difficulty.  As we look at these letters, notice how the authors encourage us in persevering in the faith.  Let’s begin with the letters of Peter.

II.  1 Peter:

 A.  Author: The Apostle Peter identifies himself as the author of this letter (see 1:1).

 B.  Time and Setting: This letter is addressed to a broad group of believers.  Look at 1:1.  Peter is writing to these different groups of believers as they are facing times of difficult persecution and suffering (see 1:6).  These believers are seemingly all facing various trials for their belief in Christ.  Yet, Peter writes to encourage them to persevere in the faith.

 C.  Outline:
  1.  1-2 Holy Living
  2.  3-4 Families and Obedience in Suffering
  3.  5 Charge to Elders and Conclusion

 D.  Theme:  As we have noted, the theme of 1 Peter is to trust in God even during difficult days.  Peter tells us to do this by looking to Christ as our example.  Look at 1:13.  As we await the coming day of the Lord, we are to hope in God who has promised to give us grace on that day.  Look at 2:18-25.  We see clearly from this passage that we are to see Christ as our example in suffering.  He was perfect, yet He suffered for our sins.  Thus, when we are called to suffer for Him, we must remember what He has done for us and entrust ourselves to Him (see 4:19).

III.  2 Peter:

 A.  Author: Once again Peter identifies himself as the author (see 1:1).

 B.  Time and Setting: It is difficult to know the particular group to which Peter is writing (see 1:1).  We can see from the letter that he is writing near the end of his life.  Look at 1:12-15.  Peter knows that his time is drawing short.  Thus, he writes this letter to confront the issue of false teachers and try to encourage the readers in their faith in Christ.  

 C.  Outline:
  1.  1 Make your calling sure
  2.  2 The False Teachers
  3.  3 The Coming Judgment

 D.  Theme: The theme of the letter of 2 Peter is that we persevere in the faith by remembering the gospel of Christ and sound doctrine.  Look at 1:12-15 with me again.  Peter is not writing them anything new.  Rather, he is writing to remind them of the truths they already know.  We see in these verses the purpose of continually preaching the Scriptures.  We do so to stir you up by way of reminder.  Each week, as Peter saw necessary, we want to remind each other of the truth of the gospel.  Look at 3:1-3.  Again, Peter speaks of reminding his readers the truth they already know.  He does this that they may be prepared to follow after Christ even during the difficulties of the last days.  By remembering the truth of the gospel and trusting in Christ, we will be able to persevere in the faith through grace.

IV.  1 John:

 A.  Author:  Although the author does not identify himself in this book, tradition holds that John, the Apostle, wrote 1 John.  Likewise, the style and content of these letters is similar to the Gospel of John (compare John 1 with 1 John 1:1-4).

 B.  Time and Setting: John is writing to a particular group of believers who were struggling with false teachers who had left the Church and were leading others astray.  Look at 2:19, 26-27.  John is writing to encourage these believers in their understanding and practice of the faith in the face of these false teachers.

 C.  Outline:
  1.  1-3 Living as Believers
  2.  4-5 Contrasting the Godly and the World

 D.  Theme: John identifies his purpose for writing the letter in 5:13, I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.  Thus, he is writing to them to give them assurance that they have eternal life.  He offers three tests by which to examine our lives: the moral test (1:5-10, 3:4-10), the social test (2:7-11, 3:14-15, 4:20), and the doctrinal test (2:22-23, 4:1-3, 15, 5:1-2).  Thus, true biblical assurance comes from examining our hearts and lives to see whether or not we hate sin, love the brethren, and believe in Christ, the Son of God.  Due to our struggle with false assurance in the Church today, we need to hear and heed the message of 1 John.  We also see the importance and necessity of persevering in the truth.

V.  2 John:

 A.  Author: The author identifies himself as the elder in verse 1.  Tradition holds that this is a reference to John, the Apostle.  Again, we have no reason to disagree with this, so we hold that John, the Apostle, wrote this letter as well.

 B.  Time and Setting: This short letter is addressed to the elect lady and her children (verse 1).  It is hard to know to whom this is referring.  Most see this as a reference to a particular Church and its members.  Although it could be a reference to an individual family, it does seem that John is writing to a Church.  As usual, he is writing to encourage this Church in their practice of the faith.

 C.  Outline:
  1.  1-3 Greeting
  2.  4-11 Truth and Love
  3.  12-13 Conclusion

 D.  Theme: A major theme is the letter is the connection between truth and love.  Although some may see these ideas as a dichotomy that one must choose between, John does not agree.  Rather, he writes that you cannot have true love outside of the truth and that the truth is always loving.  Look at verses 5-6.  John calls us as Christians to love one another in the truth.  Again, with the current state of the Church and her tendency to compromise the truth in order to be ‘loving,’ we need to hear what John has written.

VI.  3 John:

 A.  Author: As with 2 John, the author of 3 John identifies himself as the elder, who we see as John, the Apostle (see verse 1).

 B.  Time and Setting: This letter is addressed to an individual, namely Gaius (see verse 1).  John is writing to Gaius to encourage him in the faith and give him so directions, while at the same time correcting Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first and does not acknowledge our (the Apostles and Church leaders) authority (see verse 9). 

 C.  Outline:
  1.  1-4 Greeting
  2.  5-12 Encouraging Hospitality
  3.  13-15 Conclusion

 D.  Theme: As you can see from the outline, the theme of 3 John is the practice of Christian hospitality.  Look at verses 5-10.  John is writing to encourage Gaius in being hospitable to the brothers.  By being hospitable, John tells us that we are becoming fellow workers for the truth.  Thus, we may not be able to go and serve, but we can stay and support.  Of course, this is no excuse to be disobedient in going, but it does show us the different ways that we can serve the cause of the gospel.

VII.  Jude:

 A.  Author: The letter of Jude was written by Jude…brother of James (see verse 1).  Thus, he is probably the brother of Jesus as well.

 B.  Time and Setting: The setting, or occasion, for the letter of Jude is laid out in verses 3 and 4.  Look at those with me.  Jude is writing to a group of believers and calling them to contend for the faith against those who are abandoning the truth.  Thus, Jude identifies the errors of the false teachers and encourages the believers to avoid these errors.

 C.  Outline:
  1.  1-2 Greeting
  2.  3-4 Purpose of the Letter
  3.  5-16 The Errors of the False Teachers
  4.  17-25 The Call to Persevere and the Hope of Perseverance

 D.  Theme: Again, as we have seen with the other letters tonight, the theme of this letter is persevering in the faith.  Jude tells his readers to recognize what happens to those who abandon the faith and reject God by citing some Old Testament examples.  Then, he calls his readers to persevere.  Look at verses 17-23.  Yet, what is our hope and strength in perseverance?  Look at verses 24-25.  Jude tells us that is the Lord who will persevere us in the faith.  Thus, we fight to persevere, knowing and trusting that God will indeed see us through. 

VIII.  Conclusion:

 As we said at the beginning, these letters call us to persevere in the faith.  We are to look to the example of Christ, while reminding each other of the truth of the gospel.  We are to examine ourselves based on Scriptural terms.  We are to hold truth and love together along with showing hospitality to fellow believers.  We are to persevere, believing that we will by the strength and grace of God, our Savior.  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Sunday, 19 November 2006 )

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