The General Letters

This is part of ‘the epistles*’. The word epistles* means ‘letters’. The leaders of the new church* wrote these letters. Peter, James, and John wrote most of the general letters.  These letters tell the readers how to live as God’s people.  The letters remind them that God will keep his promises.

HEBREWS

THE NEW TESTAMENT | THE GENERAL LETTERS

THE BOOK OF HEBREWS

Where does the book begin?

The book begins with a word about Jesus. God had spoken through him.

 

Where does the book end?

The book ends with a blessing and a prayer.

PEOPLE TO KNOW
  • Jesus
  • Moses
  • Aaron
  • Melchizedek
PLACES TO GO
  • How has God spoken?
         
    Hebrews 1:1-4
  • Jesus was the great high priest.
         
    Hebrews 4:14-16
  • Jesus made the perfect sacrifice*.
         
    Hebrews 10:8-18
  • What does faith* look like?
         
    Hebrews 11:1-40
  • Look to Jesus.
         
    Hebrews 12:1-2
THE STORY OF HEBREWS

This book is the first of the books called the ‘general letters’. Paul wrote all of the letters from Romans to Philemon. Five other men wrote the last eight letters. We do not know who wrote the book of Hebrews. But we do know that the writer knew many things about the scriptures*. We also know that he loved Jesus. Hebrews is a book about Jesus. It says many things about Jesus. But it says one thing above all. Jesus is better.

There are many stories in Hebrews from the books Moses wrote. All of the stories tell us more about Jesus. Hebrews tells you that Jesus brought a new promise from God. He brought a new covenant*. Jesus was the eternal* Son of God. He was the One who came to make peace* between all people and God. He was the only one who could do that.

Hebrews is about Jesus and how great he was. It tells us many stories from the Old Testament*. If we did not know those stories, we would not know how great Jesus was. Those stories show us many things about God and what Jesus came to do. We could not know these things if we did not know those Old Testament* stories.

Hebrews tells us many things about Jesus. But it says one thing most of all – Jesus was better. He was better than Moses. He was better than the prophets*. He was better than the priests in the Old Testament*. He made a better promise. He would give his people a better rest.

Jesus came to speak for God. But he was better than all of the prophets* that came before him. He was the exact image of God. He did not just speak for God. He was God speaking.

Jesus was not an angel*. He was different from the angels*. He was better than the angels*. He was the son of God. He made all things. And God put everything under his control.

Moses and Joshua were great leaders. They brought people to a new land. And the people of God found rest there. But Jesus was a better leader than Moses and Joshua. He led God’s people to a better rest.

Jesus also came to be our priest. But he was not like the priests from Aaron’s family. God chose Jesus, God’s own son, to be the great high priest. He was the perfect priest. He understood us. He was ‘a high priest who can feel it when we are weak and hurting’. He was a high priest who has been tempted in every way, just as we are. But he did not sin*’.[1]

Jesus acted as the perfect priest when he died on the cross*. On the cross*, he offered the perfect sacrifice*.

‘But Jesus gave one sacrifice* for the sins* of the people. He gave it once and for all time. He did it by offering himself.’[2]

Now those people who believed on Jesus had great hope*. They were the people of God’s new covenant*. God would give them new desires. He would forgive* their evil* ways. He would not hold their sins* against them.

The last part of Hebrews is filled with instructions for those who believed in Jesus. They must live their lives with confidence and hope*. They could love each other. They could be loyal to their family. They should care for people who suffer. And when they suffered, they did not need to be sad. God kept his promises to the people in the Old Testament* days. He would keep his promises to them too. They could show faith* in God just like Abraham and Moses did.

[1] Hebrews 4:15
[2] Hebrews 7:27

JAMES

THE NEW TESTAMENT | THE GENERAL LETTERS

THE BOOK OF JAMES

Where does the book begin?

James is a book for people who may suffer for Jesus. It is a book that helped those people find joy.

  

Where does the book end?

James ended his book by asking people to help each other when they lost their way.

PEOPLE TO KNOW
  • James
  • Job
  • Elijah
PLACES TO GO
  • Find joy when your faith* is tested.
         
    James 1:2-8
  • God gives good gifts.
         
    James 1:16-18
  • Care about everyone.
         
    James 2:1-5
  • Be careful with your tongue.
         
    James 3:1-5
  • Be patient when you suffer.
         
    James 5:7-11
THE STORY OF JAMES

The book of James is a letter. In that way, it is just like the other letters. But James is also different. In some ways, James is like the wisdom books in the Old Testament*. It is filled with wise sayings much like the books of Proverbs or Ecclesiastes.

James told you how to live as you followed Jesus. He talked about many things. But he talked most about two things. He talked about[1] suffering. And he talked about how to obey the Scriptures*.[2] The book of Hebrews ends with those two lessons. James wrote his whole letter about them.

James said many things about how to become wise. You began by asking God to make you wise. God gave wisdom. He helped people know how to pass the test when they suffered. The tests made us stronger[3] when we trusted* God to help us. God made our faith* stronger when we trusted* him and did not doubt.

God’s people may suffer. They may be tested by problems. But God used the tests. He could make people strong. God used the tests as a tool to make people wise. But God’s wisdom was not the same as man’s wisdom. God’s wisdom did not make people proud. God gave wisdom that brings peace*.

When God gave us wisdom, it taught us how to live. God’s wisdom helped us to be humble. It showed us that we must not care about rich people more than we care about poor people. James wanted people to remember the words of Jesus,

‘love your neighbour as yourself’.[4]

God’s wisdom also helped people do good work. They listened to God’s words. And they did not forget what God said. They obeyed the things that God told them to do. They served God and served other people too. The person who was wise said ‘yes’ to God’s words.

James also said that wise people controlled their tongue. The tongue was a part of the body that was hard to control. But God helped his people tame their tongue. Wise people used wise words. Wise people spoke words that blessed* God. They did not curse* people. They did not fight and argue with each other. They wanted to have the things that God wanted them to have.

James wrote to people who would suffer because they believed in Jesus. So he wrote to give them hope*. He told them to be patient. The Lord* was coming. The rich and the proud may succeed now. But God would judge the rich and the proud when he returned. And he would give his people good things. So he told them to be patient – just like Job was patient. And they must believe God and pray – just like Elijah did.

Wise people helped each other find the way. When people followed the wrong way, wise people brought them back to the right way.

If you wanted to live well and be wise, James is filled words that would help you.

[1] James 1:2-18
[2] James 1:19-27
[3] James 1:4; See Hebrews 12:5-6
[4] James 2:8

1 PETER

THE NEW TESTAMENT | THE GENERAL LETTERS

THE BOOK OF 1 PETER

Where does the book begin?

Peter wrote this letter to people that were spread far away from Jerusalem. He wrote this letter 20-30 years after Jesus went up into heaven*.

  

Where does the book end?

Peter told them to stand in God’s grace* and know God’s peace*.

PEOPLE TO KNOW
  • Peter
  • Mark
  • Silas
PLACES TO GO
  • God was a living hope*.
         
    1 Peter 1:2-6
  • The people were living stones and chosen people.
         
    1 Peter 2:1-10
  • Continue when you suffer.
         
    1 Peter 2:25
  • Love as brothers.
         
    1 Peter 3:8-16
  • Give grace to the humble.
         
    1 Peter 5:5-11
THE STORY OF 1 PETER

Peter is the author of the letter. He was one of the men that Jesus chose. He became a leader in the church* at Jerusalem. He wrote this letter to help Christians that were having problems. Many people did not like these new Christians. They did not want anyone to follow Jesus. These people made trouble for them. So, many of the new Christians left their homes and moved to other places. They felt like strangers in a strange land. They were far away from home. And people were still not kind to them.

Peter wrote this letter to encourage them.

He wanted them to remember that God chose them to be his people. And Jesus would return to earth to set up his kingdom*. They may suffer now for a short time. But they would never suffer again when Jesus returned. That was why they could have hope*. Even the prophets* in the Old Testament* talked about this hope*. So the Christians could trust* God to take care of them. He sent Jesus to rescue them. He made Jesus come alive again after he died. He brought him out of the grave. God did this for them. He had great power. Nothing could make him break his promise.

Now they should live in a way that pleased God. They should be a holy people. They must stop doing evil* things. They must not lie. They must stop wanting what other people had. They must not speak against each other. But they should desire to listen to God’s words and obey them.

If they did, people would see how they lived. And when they saw how they lived, they would want to know why. When the people asked them questions, they must be ready to answer them. Then they could tell them about Jesus.

When they suffered, they must remember that Jesus suffered too. He took the punishment for the evil* things that they did. That is how he made them his people. When Jesus suffered, many people shouted at him and said angry words. But Jesus did not shout back at them. He did not say bad things would happen to them. He trusted God. He knew that God always judged fairly. That was the way they should act when they suffered too.

Peter did not want them to forget who they are. They were priests.[1] They were God’s royal people. Together, they were the place where God lived. They were God’s holy nation. They were the people who trusted* God’s word. God’s word gave them new life. God’s word was true now and for ever.[2]

So they could follow the kind of life Jesus lived. They could love one another. They could show respect for their husbands or wives. Show proper respect to everyone. Love God’s people. Have respect for God. Honour the king.

Peter wanted them to live good lives. When they did, people that did not know Jesus would want to know him. The church* leaders were to care for the people who were in the church*. They were to be examples to the people. The young men were to respect the older men. They were to listen to them. They were to learn from them. God wanted everyone to be humble and control themselves. Trust* God for power and strength. He would provide it.

[1] 1 Peter 2:5
[2] 1 Peter 1:23

2 PETER

THE NEW TESTAMENT | THE GENERAL LETTERS

THE BOOK OF 2 PETER

Where does the book begin?

Peter encouraged the people to remember God’s promises.

  

Where does the book end?

The book ends with a warning – ‘Do not be fooled by false teachers, but grow to know God better.’

PEOPLE TO KNOW
  • Peter
PLACES TO GO
  • Add to your faith*.
         
    2 Peter 1:5-9
  • Men spoke from God.
         
    2 Peter 1:19-21                                      
  • Watch out for false teachers.
         
    2 Peter 2:1-12
  • The Day of the Lord* is coming.
         
    2 Peter 3:3-10
  • Be on your guard.
         
    2 Peter 3:17-18
THE STORY OF 2 PETER

Peter was a leader in the early church*. He was one of the men that Jesus asked to follow him. He spent three years listening to what Jesus said. He was the man that spoke for God to the people just after the church* began. But some men had come into the church* and started to teach many false things. Peter did not like this. He did not want people to listen to these men. So Peter wrote this letter.

Peter wanted the new Christians to grow. In order to grow, they needed to know more about Jesus and know Jesus better. But that was just the beginning. He wanted them to add to their faith*. What they knew about Jesus would change the way they lived. They must grow in faith* and knowledge. This knowledge would help them to control their actions and live the way Jesus lived. People who followed Jesus could do these good things. God helped them. God gave them the power to overcome evil* and do good.

Peter knew that some evil* teachers had come into the church*. They were teaching false things. And they were acting in bad ways. Peter warned the people not to listen to them. He told them that they must not live like they lived. They were selfish. They were greedy. They followed their own desires and not the ways of Jesus. People should not listen to what these men said. God would punish these men. And God would punish those who listened to their words and did what they did. Instead, they should listen to the words of the apostles. Peter knew Jesus. He saw the glory* of Jesus when he was with Jesus on a mountain. He heard God’s voice.

And the people must listen to the words of the prophets*. Because these men spoke the words God gave them to speak. The prophets* did not make up stories about God on their own. They were ‘carried along by the Holy Spirit*’.[1] The false teachers did not know Jesus and they did not speak the truth from God.

The false teachers confused many of the people. They said that Jesus was waiting too long to come back from heaven*. So they said that Jesus was not going to come back at all. Peter told them that Jesus would come back. And when Jesus came, he would judge the false teachers. Yes, God did not come back right away. But he would keep his promise to return. Jesus delayed his return because he was patient. He wanted to give everyone time to repent* and turn to him. But, some day, the day of the Lord* would come. When that day came, God would destroy the old world by fire.[2] God would remove all evil* things from the world. Then, he would make a new heaven* and a new earth.

[1] 2 Peter 1:20-21
[2] 2 Peter 3:10-12

1 JOHN

THE NEW TESTAMENT | THE GENERAL LETTERS

THE STORY OF 1 JOHN

Where does the book begin?

John told the people to remember Jesus. Jesus could give them joy.

  

Where does the book end?

John reminded the people to stay away from idols*.

PEOPLE TO KNOW
  • John
  • Jesus
PLACES TO GO
  • Walk in the light.
         
    1 John 1:5-7
  • Do not love the world.
         
    1 John 2:15-17
  • Live as children of God.
         
    1 John 2:28-3:3
  • Love one another.
         
    1 John 3:13-18
  • God is love.
         
    1 John 4:16-21
THE STORY OF 1 JOHN

John was an apostle*. He followed Jesus when Jesus walked on the earth. He saw Jesus with his own eyes.[1] He heard him speak. He touched the body of Jesus. So he wrote this letter to witness about Jesus. He wanted people to know about Jesus. He wanted people to know Jesus too.

John wrote this letter to tell people about Jesus. He said that Jesus was God’s own son. He was the ‘Word’ that God sent to give us life. Jesus died to pay for our sins*[2] so that we could be a part of God’s family. God would forgive* people’s sins* because of what Jesus did. People did not have to sin* after they believed in Jesus. But, if they did, God would forgive* them.

‘But God is faithful* and fair. If we admit that we have sinned, he will forgive* us our sins. He will forgive* every wrong thing we have done. He will make us pure.’[3]

Now people could walk with God like people that walked in the light. When people listened to what Jesus said and did what Jesus did, they walked with God. When people said that they followed Jesus, but did not do what Jesus did, they lied.[4]

The way to walk with Jesus was to obey his commands. And Jesus commanded people to love one another.[5] This was not a new command. It was what the law said all along.[6] So, if we loved God, we would love each other also.[7] If we said we loved Jesus but we did not love other people, we were not telling the truth.

John told people that Jesus was the Christ. He was the one God promised to send to rescue his people. If anyone did not believe this, that person did not know God. In fact, they were the enemies of God the Father and the son. John wanted everyone to know this.

But not everyone agreed with John. There were people in the church* that wanted to lead people down the wrong path. They did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God. They did not love their brothers and sisters. They did not live good lives. So John warned the people not to listen to them or live the way they lived. These people did not belong to God. They belonged to the devil*.[8]

How could people know the true people of God? These people listened to his word. They listened to God’s Spirit*. They told the truth about Jesus. They enjoyed friendship with God and with each other. And they had hope*, because they remembered that Jesus would return.

[1] See John 1:1-14
[2] 1 John 2:2
[3] 1 John 1:9
[4] 1 John 2:2
[5] Leviticus 19:18; Deuteronomy 30:6b
[6] 1 John 2:7
[7] 1 John 2:9-11
[8] 1 John 3:7-8

2 JOHN & 3 JOHN

THE NEW TESTAMENT | THE GENERAL LETTERS

THE BOOK OF 2 JOHN & 3 JOHN

Where does the book begin?

These books are some of the last letters written in the New Testament*. They both begin with blessings*.

  

Where does the book end?

Both books end with greetings.

PEOPLE TO KNOW
  • John
  • Gaius
PLACES TO GO
2 John and 3 John are small books.
    Enjoy every part of both of them.
THE STORY OF 2 JOHN & 3 JOHN

The letters called 2 John and 3 John are very short. But they are still very important. The writer of the book calls himself ‘the elder*’. Most people believe that John wrote these two letters. He used many of the same words that appear in the gospel* of John and the letter called 1 John. These two letters talk about many of the same things that 1 John talks about. People should love God and love other people. People should obey God’s commands. People should walk in the way of the truth.

John wrote these letters in a very personal way. He loved the people that he wrote to. He wanted them to have joy. He wanted them to have grace* and mercy* and peace*. And he did not want them to be fooled by false teachers.

So John warned them. Watch out for people who tried to fool you. They would say that Jesus did not come in a body. People like that were the enemies of Jesus. Do not let them fool you.

‘Dear friend, do not be like those who do evil*. Be like those who do good. Anyone who does what is good belongs to God. Anyone who does what is evil* has not really seen or known God.’[1]

Some people in the church* were good examples to follow.[2] And some people were bad examples.[3] John wanted them to be careful to know the difference. They must welcome people who told the truth about Jesus. They must not listen to people who did not.

[1] 3 John 11
[2] 3 John 6; 3 John 12; see 1 John 2:7; 2 John 5
[3] 3 John 9

JUDE

THE NEW TESTAMENT | THE GENERAL LETTERS

THE BOOK OF JUDE

Where does the book begin?

Jude opens with a blessing. He was the brother of James who was the brother of Jesus.

  

Where does the book end?

The letters ends with words of praise* to God.

PEOPLE TO KNOW
  • Jude
PLACES TO GO
Jude is a serious letter.
  Read each word.
THE STORY OF JUDE

The Book of Jude is a short letter. But Jude is not so easy to understand. Jude wrote the letter. He was a brother of James and a brother of Jesus. Jude wrote to people that knew many things about the Old Testament* part of the Bible. They also knew many of the stories that the Jews* told about their history. So, if you do not know these stories, Jude can be hard to understand.

Jude wrote this letter to warn people. False teachers had come into the church*. These people were saying things that were not true. But they were very clever. They were able to fool many people. They said many new and interesting things. But Jude said that the people must not listen to them. They were like many false teachers in the old days. They said things that were not true. They did things that did not please God. And they did not listen to the words that the disciples* taught. They said that their words had authority. But they did not follow God’s word that he gave to the apostles*.

Jude said many hard things against these teachers.[1] Jude said that they were very dangerous. They denied Jesus was Lord*.[2] They would fool people. They would lead people down the wrong path. These men refused all authority but their own. They lived bad lives. They were like Cain. He did not listen to God’s warning to him. [3] They only served God to make money. And God would punish these men. He would punish them like he punished Israel*.[4] He would punish them as he punished the angels*[5] who turned away.

Jude wanted God’s people to be strong. They must grow to know more about their faith*. They must keep loving God. And they must rest in the hope* that Jesus would return.

[1] Jude 4
[2] Jude 5; see Numbers 14:11; 20:12
[3] Jude 11, 17
[4] Genesis 4:6-12
[5] Jude 6