Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Isn't it amazing that we can meet together and follow the same traditions and rituals every Sunday without ever realizing these same traditions and rituals are never found in Scripture and are, in most cases, at odds with the New Testament?  Tradition is a powerful thing! Jesus told the religious leaders, "...Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition"  (Matthew 15:6b).

This brings to mind the question, "What does the New Testament really say?  As it appears in our Bible, it's quite easy to get a skewed picture of  what God's Word is saying to us.  When we put it in its proper context, the Word of God comes alive!  

The New Testament is comprised mostly of Paul's epistles, or letters.  Paul wrote thirteen letters in nearly a twenty year time frame.  Breaking Paul's letters down, nine letters were written to churches in different cultures, at different times  who were experiencing different problems.  The remaining four were written to individual Christians who were dealing with different issues at different times.

Its important to note that Paul's letters do not appear in chronological order.  All of Paul's letters appear after the Book of Acts and were put in to our Bible from longest letter to shortest.

Early in the second century, someone took it upon themselves to compile all the Pauline epistles into one volume.  At the time, no one really knew when Paul's letters were written. Even if they had known, it wouldn't have mattered.  At the time, the writings of the day were not listed alphabetically or chronologically.  Instead the Greco-Roman world ordered its literature according to decreasing length (Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, Paul The Letter Writer, 120-121).

According to the best scholars, the chronological order of Paul's letters are as follows:

1 Thessalonians
2 Thessalonians
1 Corinthians
2 Corinthians
1 Timothy
2 Timothy
There is a Chronological Bible available that is quite handy for personal study.  I recommend it.  It flows quite well as you are reading the New Testament.

Believers are rarely, if ever, given the view of the flowing story of the early church with the New Testament books arranged in chronological order.  Because of that, most Christians know little about the social and historical events associated with each of the New Testament letters.

One Bible scholar put it this way, "The arrangement of the letters of Paul in the New Testament is in general that of their length.  When we arrange them into their chronological order, fitting them as far as possible into their life-setting within the record of the Acts of the Apostles, they begin to yield up more of their treasure; they become self explanatory, to a greater extent than when this background is ignored" (emphasis mine; G.C.D. Howley in "The Letters Of Paul," New International Bible Commentary, 1095).

What's the answer?  What is the answer that will bring you into a living, organic expression of body life today?  The first thing would be to get a good grasp of the understanding of the New Testament itself.  We need to look at the New Testament as a whole especially the epistles.  We need to look at them from beginning to end in order to have a better understanding of the context.

When we do this, we will learn the story from beginning to end.  We'll no longer take Scripture out of context.  We will see and understand the entire picture and the Bible will come alive to us like never before!

Enjoy the journey!


This blog post is another in a series looking at the practices of churches today and how they line up with the New Testament.  Perhaps this series could be better called, "Kicking Over Sacred Cows". For further reading and research, I recommend the book "Pagan Christianity?" by Frank Viola and George Barna.

I want to thank those of you who are sharing this blog with others.  I so appreciate it.  It's my desire to encourage and challenge believers everywhere to be the church Jesus has called us to be.  Leave the baggage of organize religion and serve Jesus in freedom following the leading of the Spirit as we gather in His name.  Please feel free to continue to post a link to this blog on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or even email it by using the icons below.  Let's see what God will do!

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