Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Modern Day Epistles

In 2 Peter 3:1-2, Peter reminds his readers that he had written two letters to them. These were not ordinary letters to home (as you can tell by reading both of them) but were epistles. Do you know what an epistle is? Here is what one researcher says about them.

“An epistle is a writing directed or sent to a person or group of people, usually an elegant and formal didactic letter. … The ancient Egyptians wrote epistles, most often for pedagogical reasons. Egyptologist Edward Wente (1990) speculates that the Fifth-dynasty Pharaoh Djedkare Isesi—in his many letters sent to his viziers—was a pioneer in the epistolary genre. … Epistles in prose and verse were a major genre of literature among the Greeks and particularly the Romans.”

As a driver manager for a transportation company, one of my jobs is to communicate the owner’s wishes to each of the drivers. At times, I write simple text messages while at others long emails. One of my recent emails was called, Whose Responsibility is it? In the email, I told the story of a driver who was misled by someone into driving his van into a drainage ditch. In the article, I told the story, gave contrasting opinions, and then asked the question, Whose responsibility is it? One driver responded to the email saying that she had never thought of that before and would be more careful. Hopefully, the other drivers got the same message and will drive more carefully in the future.

As indicated above, an Egyptian pharaoh used epistles to teach his viziers. This must have been helpful to keep everyone on the same page in his administration. They would have no doubt as to what they should do after reading his letters. The Greeks and Romans used epistles to, among other things, teach history. Whether their history was accurate or not, I do not know, but having a written history would be helpful in keeping the story of their nation in memory and in learning from the past. It would appear that Peter did both. He used his epistles to teach past history and teach his readers truths that would help them in their Christian lives. We will look more closely at his reasons for writing both epistles in the future. But for now, let us consider one of the reasons.

Peter's goal was to stir "up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles." This is the same goal we should have today. We need to be stirred up and should desire to stir up other Christians to love God and follow what the Bible says. How can we do this? It can be done on an individual basis, but what if you wrote a letter to someone who needed encouragement? God no longer inspires godly men to infallibly write down the Word of God. However, He still uses Spirit-filled believers to encourage each other to grow in Christ. Have you ever been encouraged by an email from your pastor or a missionary letter? There is still a great need for modern day epistles. With the many temptations, false doctrines, errors, and our own tendency to become lackadaisical, we need encouragement from godly men who lovingly share with us our needs. Perhaps God can use us to encourage others in the same way.

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