I told you in the last Gems, “There is no evidence that Luke copied any of Paul’s epistles.” That being the case, and having left behind the Gospel harmonisation method, we don’t need to spend time as we did with Luke’s Gospel, in using parallel columns in tables and comparing the text of one account with another. That is not the relationship between Acts and the Pauline letters. Rather if we read Acts in the context of the letters Paul wrote to the churches and individuals, then we gain a clearer picture of what went on and what the issues were. The benefit to us, the readers, is two-way. Acts provides us with the historical background as to what went on in the area of each church to which Paul wrote. Luke provides us with invaluable information, especially related to the first contact with the church, as well as the ongoing or subsequent contact between Paul and others with each particular church. Paul’s letters on the other hand give us both specific information related to the issues about which he is writing, as well as internal evidence within the letter related to continuing contact. The two Corinthian letters give us a clear understanding of the letters, visits and forms of on-going contact between Paul and this church. I have dealt with this when I gemmed the Corinthian Letters.
Paying attention to the internal evidence within a letter of the contact or history behind the relationship with the church is important for our understanding. At times we gain this information from the letter itself as in the case of the contact with the Corinthians. On other occasions we gain the information from Luke’s account in Acts or what happened with that church and how initial contact came about, as in the case with the Philippians. We need to pay attention to the details. In Deeper Bible I tell the participants that the Book of Acts is the Historical Hub of the New Testament.
History 1 refers to Luke’s Gospel which is the first historical account of the events related to Jesus. History 2 refers to Luke’s second book, Acts, covering the historical events of what happened when the Jesus story was spread abroad. (after David Pawson). It is important for us to realise Acts in particular lies at the centre of the New Testament and binds the letters together. Notice the letters are divided into three categories.
Blue – Letters written by Paul
The larger circles are letters written with the purpose of being read by the whole church in a locale.
The smaller circles are letters written to specific individuals
Red – Other letters which were not written by Paul
If you understand this well and the differences between them and how these letters are connected through the Book of Acts, then you will go a long way to understand the make-up of the New Testament of your Bible.
How to do this?
As you read the Book of Acts stop with each visit to a church and read the letter or letters written to that church. Yes, I know that may mean you read the letter multiple times but that is good for you. Remember repetition is helpful for emphasis. Furthermore, it will help you to understand the connection between Paul’s encounters with the church and the reasons he wrote what he did. Before you read a New Testament letter, read first the historical account of the contact with this church and how it was established. It will help you put the pieces together.
As I gem the Book of Acts however, I am not intending to stop with the mention of each church and spend time analysing the associated letter in detail. I am equally sure you don’t want me to do that. If I were to do it, I don’t think I would be finished either before Jesus comes back or before I depart and be with Him. So I will spare you the trauma. The suggestions above are for you to do, not for me to practice with you. I won’t hold your hand on this one.
Don’t allow these Gems or the pressure of keeping up to stop you having fun. Many who receive these Gems carry out all I suggest to you to do, but they proceed at their own pace and make sure they are not rushed to do it. They simply take the e-mailed Gems I send out and save them in a folder. Then they can “practise” the Gems in their own time. I live in Indonesia where road rules are just a suggestion. Likewise these Gem Rules are my suggestions to you for Deeper Bible study. Above all, have fun being Bible Detectives – CSU’s not CSI’s. (CSU = Cari Sense Unit – Chase the Sense Unit)
God can do more for you in a minute than you can do in a lifetime.Joyce Meyer
The greatest tragedy is not death, but life without purpose.Rick Warren
The day you start cutting corners is the day you start losing your edge!Anon
Wisdom is knowing what to do next, skill is knowing how to do it, and virtue is doing it!Anon