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Lessons in Context

Martin Luther described the Bible as the cradle that holds Christ. Christians read the whole of Scripture and find meaning through Christ.

From the New Testament: The Gospels 


The Gospel according to St. John

The gospel of John is attributed to the disciple John, or to one of his disciples, but we don't really know who wrote it. It was a common practice in ancient times to write in the name of a well known authority. Even to a first time reader, it's obvious that the Gospel of John, written about 90-110 C. E., is very different from the synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. John begins by describing Jesus as the Word of God made flesh. Although he includes many of the same events of Jesus' ministry as the other Gospel writers, they're in a different order and the focus is on Jesus' Godly identity, including his own description of himself as I AM. The Gospel of John is more interested in Jesus as God who has returned to his people, bringing his Kingdom to the world and connecting heaven to earth. God chose to become incarnate in the human race. He came to save his people from their sins, and his coronation as their King took place on the cross. He has swallowed up death (depicted in the ancient world as a monster who swallowed his prey) and his Spirit is alive in the world through his people.


From the New Testament: Acts and Revelation


The Book of Acts

The Acts of the Apostles is the story of the early Church, told through the experiences of its leaders. The word apostle is based on a Greek word that means "one who is sent out." The Holy Spirit was poured out on the Church at Pentecost, fifty days after Easter (Pentecost means fifty). It was probably written about 80-85 C.E. and, like the Gospel which bears his name, is attributed to Luke, referred to in Colossians as a doctor and a disciple of Paul. Traditionally he has been identified as a Greek, but some scholars think he may have been a Hellenic Jew who had become a follower of Christ through Paul's ministry. It was a common practice in ancient times to attribute authorship to an individual of note, so we can't know for sure that the actual author of the Gospel and Acts was Luke the physician. The author was obviously educated, fluent in Greek, and possessed of a fine literary style. Scholars refer to the books of Luke and Acts as Luke/Acts and treat them as a double volume, meant to be read and studied together, because the story of Christ in Luke then broadens into the story of the early Church in Acts. The Gospel according to St. Luke ends with the story of the Ascension. Acts begins with it. At the heart of the Book of Acts, as throughout the Bible, is the story of God's love and grace in Jesus Christ. It is a book of faith, for all people.


The Book of Revelation

The book of Revelation (Apocalypse) is attributed to John, the beloved disciple of Jesus. The author does not claim this identity, and John was a common name (in Hebrew Yohanan, "Yahweh is gracious"). Whether he was Jesus' disciple, who would have been a very old man in the late first century, when the book was probably written, or one of John's own disciples, the author had worked with the seven churches to whom he writes. At this time it had become the law that Roman emperors were to be worshiped as gods, and refusal to do so was punishable by death. Christian churches were also facing many other challenges and threats. The book of Revelation is a beautiful book, written in the style of an apocalypse, an ancient form of writing. This word simply means "revelation." This wonderful book, meant to encourage and uplift believers experiencing terrible persecution, has been misused and misinterpreted (as has the Bible in general), especially in the last 150 years or so when it, together with the OT book of Daniel, has been twisted to support the un-Biblical teaching of a secret rapture of Christians before great tribulations are poured out on the earth in its last days. Neither Daniel nor Revelation were meant to be taken literally or as prophecies of the "end times," which their Jewish and early Christian readers would have understood. What John wants to convey to his readers is that the Roman Empire (and all worldly powers) has been defeated by the Lamb of God on the cross. "....The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever." (Revelation 11:15, NRSV)