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December 12, 1948 LETTERS IN THE BIBLE Phil. 1:1-11; 4:8, 9
Pointers on the Lesson The following tribute to the value of letters is engraven upon the portals of the national capital's imposing Post Office: The messenger o f sympathy and love, Servant of parted friends, Consoler of the lonely, Bond of the scattered family, Enlarger of common life, Instrument of trade and industry, Promoter o f mutual acquaintance, of peace, of goodwill among men and nations. If ordinary letters have such value, how much more important are the Let ters of God which are included within the scope o f the New Testament. A major portion of the second section of the Bible is in letter form, twenty-one of the twenty-seven books being letters of varying length. Surely all that is said in the above tribute pertains to the letters of Scripture and much more. We need to study the letters o f the Bible, not only for the rich doctrinal and practical truth they present, but also for the instruc tion they will give the believer in im proving his letters that they may be of real value to others. A comparison of multitudes of letters that Christians write with the letters o f the Bible will often reveal what poor letter writers most of us are and what opportunities we miss for witnessing. One o f the most precious letters o f the New Testament is used in this week’s lesson as a sample o f the general character of all the rest. Philippians was written from prison but radiates Christian joy, the outflow o f a vital Christian experience. The Salutation <1:1, 2 ) No empty words are used. Paul did not waste space by saying, “ I now take my pen in hand to write a few words,” or some other meaningless statement so often used by people today. The salu tation names the human authorship, sets forth the believers’ calling [serv ants], cites the ones to whom the letter is primarily directed, showing by the mention of “ bishops and deacons” that there was organization in that early church, and breathing a benediction upon those who would receive the mes sage— “ Grace and peace” in their logi cal order. The Pastoral Relationship (1:3-11) These verses depict the heart o f Paul in his relation to those whom he had served in former times. He reveals a true shepherd heart. He exhibits a prayerful remembrance o f them (3-5, although ten years had elapsed since he had been among them. He expresses con fidence as to their future well-being (6). He thinks o f them as fellow-partakers of God’s grace (7-8) and utters a prayer for their spiritual progress (9-11). This N O V E M B E R , I 9 4 8
section is filled with practical truth for believers today. Every phrase is mean ingful. God wants His children to be sin cere and fruitful. A Practical Exhortation (4:8, 9) Ofttimes it is possible in a letter to give an exhortation more forcefully and effectively than by word of mouth. In a letter it can be read over and over again and duly pondered. This exhortation in its perfect fulfillment may be considered as a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ. Think o f Him! Be like Him! That is the way to be pleasing to God. Helps for the Children Some Letters Paul Wrote Phil. 1:1-5; I Tim. 1:1, 2; 3:14; 6:17 Memory Verse: “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, Whatsoever things are just, whatso ever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report . . . think on these things” (Phil. 4:8). The New Testament contains a num ber o f letters written by different people to their friends and to the churches which they had founded. Most of these New Testament letters were written by the great Apostle Paul. One of Paul’s helpers as he preached the gospel was a young man named Timothy. In the letter to the church at Philippi, Paul and Timothy both sent their greetings (Phil. 1 :1 ). Most of the letters contained the name of the writer in the opening sentence rather than hav ing it signed at the close as we do in our letters. Paul wrote two letters to Timothy, whom he called “my own son in the faith.” The first letter told Timothy some of the things that he needed to know as he served his Lord. Paul hoped to see Timothy soon, but the letter was written “ that thou [Timothy] mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thy self in the house of God.” Just before Paul died for Christ, he wrote the second letter to . Timothy, Paul’s last letter. Many o f the things which the Holy Spirit led Paul to write in his letters are favorite verses of God’s children now. One of these precious sayings is our memory verse (Phil. 4 :8 ). About what do you write when you send a note or a letter to your friends? Do you tell your unsaved friends about the Lord Jesus? Are your letters filled with stories of answered prayer and praise? Is there an invitation for your friends to receive your Saviour? Are there promises and words o f testimony in the letters which you write to Chris tian friends? Christians’ letters should be a blessing to those who receive them even as the New Testament letters have blessed those who have read them for hundreds o f years.
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