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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. Luke

The Gospel of Luke was probably written between 80 and 90 C.E. after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (70 C.E.). The books of Luke and Acts were written by the same person, possibly an educated Hellenic Jew, fluent in Greek with a fine literary style, who had become a follower of Christ. Scholars refer to the books as Luke/Acts and treat them as a double volume, meant to be read and studied together, because the story of Christ told in Luke then broadens into the story of the early Church in Acts. Luke's gospel ends with Jesus' ascension and the disciples in the Temple, waiting to begin their ministries; Acts begins with the ascension and the return of Jesus' Spirit, guiding the disciples to the successful completion of their mission. Luke shows how the beliefs and prophecies of the Jews had pointed to the coming of the Messiah. His leading characters, including a young woman named Mary, are all faithful Jews who know the promises of God and are ready when he returns to dwell with his people and usher in his Kingdom on earth; but the promise is not exclusively for them. The Jewish faith expected that when God's glory was revealed, all people would see it. That's Luke's point: the Messiah is good news for all people, Jew and Gentile alike, and all of creation. Harold W. Attridge, the Lilian Claus Professor of New Testament at Yale University Divinity School says, "Luke's Jesus is very much interested in instilling compassion and forgiveness in his followers.... Jesus is probably at his most powerful in the gospel of Luke, from a variety of perspectives, as prophet, as healer, as savior, as benefactor."

The Old Testament: The Prophets 

The Book of Zephaniah

The message of Zephaniah is a call for trust in God. The book was probably written during the reign of Josiah, king of Judah (640-609 B.C.E.), but possibly before he had begun his religious reforms. Zephaniah has harsh words for the priests who have strayed from the proper worship of God and followed after false gods. He also speaks out against the wealthy who fail to care for the poor. He refers to Jerusalem as an oppressor. Yet, the book ends peacefully and with singing. A restored, reconciled Jerusalem is told to rejoice. The poor, oppressed, and the outcast are promised help and security.

The New Testament: Letters of Paul 

The Book of Philippians

The Philippian church was the first Christian church in Europe (Macedonia, modern day Greece; Philippi was founded in 356 B.C.E. by Philip II of Macedonia, father of Alexander the Great). Lydia and her household were Paul's first converts there (Acts 16:11-15) and he returned more than once during his ministry. Paul's letter to the Philippians reveals the close and intimate relationship he enjoyed with the members of the Body of Christ at Philippi: Paul and the Philippian Christians loved each other very much. Of all the churches he'd planted, the Philippians had remained faithful to the Gospel and united with one another even though they were facing opposition. In spite of the themes of persecution and suffering, physical and mental, this is Paul's most joyful letter. It is both a letter of thanksgiving to the Philippians for their emotional and material support of his ministry and for God's grace for both himself and them. Because of God's unconditional love and grace, it is he who deserves our ultimate thanks. Paul encourages them, and us, to live out the salvation we have in Christ. And we can do it, because God has promised to be at work in us!