When is the last time you received a letter that encouraged you… or challenged you? A powerful letter from an important person can have an amazing impact on what we believe and how we live! This is why much of the New Testament is made up of spiritual correspondence from Christian leaders to everyday people like us! This week, as we finish our series the genres of the Bible, we’ll learn how to read and apply the Letters or “Epistles” in the Bible. We’ll see how these ancient letters can help us to follow Jesus and find spiritual community with others!
Group Discussion Guide
To see the leader guide for this week click here.
Spend a few minutes discussing with your group how their application of last week’s group discussion went. What were the highs and lows of their last week?
After your time of connecting, begin your meeting with prayer.
“The Lord says, ‘I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.’”
Part of the difficulty of growing up is how many decisions we need to make as an adult. Now, we learn and get better at handling these choices but that doesn’t make the world less confusing, we just get better at navigating. Thankfully, through the genre of Epistles (or Letters), we are given some directions for how to live our everyday lives, making it a little easier for us to know which decisions we should make as we go.
Big Idea For The Week
Through biblical letters we can see God’s direction for our everyday lives.
- What is the value of a letter? Are there meaningful letters you’ve gotten?
- What is the typical structure of a letter? What are some different types of letters and what is the purpose of them?
- How can knowing someone’s writing style help you understand what they are trying to communicate?
This week, we will be reading an epistle the way its authors intended: as a letter. Similar to when we went through the genre of narrative together, spend some time reading through the given epistle. Take turns, make notes about which parts stick out to you, but mostly, just listen and try to understand what was being communicated to the original audience. Afterwards, discuss the connected questions together.
- Philippians 1-2
- What can we learn from the introduction to this letter?
- What is the author trying to communicate so far in this epistle? What does this say about his perspective on life?
- What belief is Paul trying to encourage his audience to have?
- Philippians 3-4
- Now that you have read the entire letter, what is the author’s main point? What are some ways they illustrate this point to the audience?
- How is your understanding of Philippians different than it was after only reading part of the letter? Why do we only read pieces of epistles then?
- What are a few ways that Paul is calling the church in Philippi to live? What does this say about how we should live today?
Based on the verses we just read, there are some things that we can do in response. Take a moment to discuss these questions as a group to decide what your personal action steps for the week can be:
- Paul is encouraging the Philippians to not only believe but to live out their belief in his letter. What is one way you can do this from now on?
- How can you live your beliefs out in spiritual community in a new or more intentional way from now on?
- What is one way your group can grow more like Jesus together over the course of this summer? How will you keep each other accountable in this goal?
The writers of the epistles wanted other believers around them, not only, to understand but to apply the teachings of God. Jesus taught that for his lessons to be understood and lived out well, they must be done in community with others because the love his disciples show for each other will prove that they follow Jesus. The life of a Christian cannot be done apart from others. As we learn how to live everyday life through the genre of Epistles, let’s do it together to show those around us that God is the one giving directions to our lives!
Daily Bible Reading
Use the S.O.A.P. method to reflect on the verses below.
Scripture: Read the verses several times out loud.
Observation: As you read the scripture what do you observe.
Application: What is God wanting you to believe, do or feel based on what you have read?
Pray: This is a chance to talk to God about what you have read, and ask him for help in living out what you’ve learned.
- Day 1: James 1-5
- Day 2: James 1
- Day 3: James 2
- Day 4: James 3
- Day 5: James 4
- Day 6: James 5