Who is writing what to whom − when, where, and why?

“what”JAMES

“who” – Written by the apostle James, “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1). The name in Greek was Iakobos (Jacobus/Jacob), but was translated as “James” in the KJV and other early English translations. This James was identified as “the Lord’s brother” (Galatians 1:19).

“to whom” – To the leaders (ekklesias – out-positioned) of “the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad.”

“when” – During The Great Scattering described in Acts 8-12 (A.D. 40s).

“where” – Written from Jerusalem.

“why” – The purpose of James was to address the leaders (ekklesias) of those who were scattered during The Great Scattering, the second period of Acts, following The Great Unity. It was written to deal with issues that the believers were facing, such as personal trials of faith, the conflict between rich and poor, and the hypocrisy of those who said they had faith and yet did not act upon it.


“what”I JOHN

“who” – Written by the apostle John, brother of the apostle James who was martyred in A.D. 42 by Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:2).

“to whom” – To those Jews who had formerly been his students in the great unity in Jerusalem who now had been scattered abroad.

“when” – During The Great Scattering described in Acts 8-12 (A.D. 40s).

The idea that I John was written from Ephesus in the A.D. 90s comes from the notion that the so-called “John of Ephesus” was the author. (See the comments on this man in the Introduction to the Gospel of John noted below.) The gospel was first presented in Ephesus by Paul in Acts 18-19.

“where” – Possibly written from Jerusalem, since the apostles were headquartered there during The Great Scattering.

“why” – The purpose of I John was to address the Jews who had been dispersed abroad in The Great Scattering, all of whom had been part of The Great Unity in Jerusalem – as opposed to James, which was written to those who were the ekklesia (leaders among the newly formed groups of Jews) during The Great Scattering. John was writing to those who had once been his pupils, but who had now become teachers themselves. He wrote to remind them of the lessons he had formerly taught them, as well as to offer them advice in dealing with the issues that they were now facing. One of the primary issues was the presence of false teachers and liars, men whom Satan had caused to come in craftily among them.


“what”II JOHN

“who” – Written by the apostle John, brother of the apostle James who was martyred in A.D. 42 by Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:2).

“to whom” – To “the elder unto the elect lady and her children” (II John 1:1).

“when” – During The Great Scattering described in Acts 8-12 (A.D. 40s).

“where” – Possibly written from Jerusalem, since the apostles were headquartered there during The Great Scattering.

“why” – The purpose of the book of II John was to remind John’s wife and children of the truth that they knew and the importance of love. It was a warning to them against deceivers, probably the same ones that were causing problems in I John.


“what”III JOHN

“who” – Written by the apostle John, brother of the apostle James who was martyred in A.D. 42 by Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:2).

“to whom” – To “the elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius,” John’s friend (III John 1).

“when” – During The Great Scattering described in Acts 8-12 (A.D. 40s).

“where” – Possibly written from Jerusalem, since the apostles were headquartered there during The Great Scattering.

“why” – The purpose of the book of III John was to warn Gaius about deceivers. Apparently, John’s agents had been rejected and mistreated by a man named Diotrephes, one of the deceivers mentioned in I and II John. Demetrius, John’s highly recommended agent, personally carried this letter to Gaius, so Diotrephes could not intercept it. John urged Gaius to do the right thing until he himself could come and deal with Diotrephes, no doubt with the sword that every apostle carried in the Acts period.


“what”JUDE

“who” – Written by Jude, “the servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James” (Jude 1). This James was identified as “the Lord’s brother” (Galatians 1:19), and hence, so was Jude.

“to whom” – To the Jews scattered abroad from Jerusalem.

“when” – During The Great Scattering described in Acts 8-12 (A.D. 40s).

“where” – Possibly written from Jerusalem.

“why” – The purpose of the book of Jude was to give advice to the faithful brethren as to how to deal with the false teachers who had come in stealthily among them and how to help those who were being led astray.


“what”GALATIANS

“who” – Written by Paul, “an apostle (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the father, Who raised Him from the dead)” (Galatians 1:1).

“to whom” – To “the ekklesia of Galatia” (Galatians 1:2) that he had visited on his first apostolic journey to the southern portion of the province of Galatia in Asia that included Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Derbe, and Lystra.

“when” – About A.D. 49, during the time described at the end of Acts 14 and the beginning of Acts 15, after Paul’s first apostolic journey.

“where” – Written from Antioch in Syria.

“why” – The purpose of the book of Galatians was to address the leadership in Galatia regarding those who were quickly turning away from the gospel Paul had taught them by the Holy Spirit to a new gospel, spread among them by false teachers. These were urging the “Greeks” (Greek-speaking ancestral Jews not adhering to a Jewish lifestyle) among them to circumcise themselves and start keeping the law. Paul wrote to remind them of the gospel he had proclaimed and the grace in which they had believed.

The initial purpose for Paul writing his pre-Acts 28 epistles, beginning with Galatians, was to provide God’s message for the believers living during the Acts period. Paul backed up his ministry to each of the places he went in the Acts period with a letter that followed his visit (with the exception of Rome, where his letter preceded his ministry). These letters were written first and foremost to help the people at that time.


“what”HEBREWS

“who” – Written by Silas (Sylvanus), “one of the chief men among the brethren” (Acts 15:22).

“to whom” – To the Thessalonians.

“when” – Between A.D. 50-54, just prior to Paul writing I and II Thessalonians.

“where” – Written from Macedonia.

Silas and Timothy were left behind when Paul left Macedonia and went into Achaia (Acts 17:14). Apparently, the two of them had been separated since then (Hebrews 13:23). Perhaps Timothy had rejoined Paul in Athens (I Thessalonians 3:1-2), while Silas remained in Derbe. Neither one was in Thessalonica. But Silas was expecting that both he, and hopefully Timothy as well, would be in Thessalonica shortly. Therefore, Silas was writing from elsewhere in Macedonia, perhaps Derbe.

“why” – The purpose of the book of Hebrews was to stress to the believers in Thessalonica the importance of giving Christ the highest position ─ that of being God Himself. Paul and company had been forced to flee from Thessalonica after only three weeks of ministry there. They had gotten the gospel out and many had believed, but they were worried that they had not been able to get the entirety of their message across properly. Silas was concerned that although they had believed in Jesus Christ as their Messiah, they might not have given Him the highest place ─ higher than the law, Moses, the tabernacle, and all else. Thus, he wrote to emphasize the truth of Christ being God, as well as to encourage them in the trials and hardships of persecution that they were facing.


“what”I THESSALONIANS

“who” – Written by the apostle Paul, in the company of Silvanus (Silas) and Timotheus (Timothy) – (I Thessalonians 1:1).

“to whom” – To “the ekklesia of the Thessalonians” (I Thessalonians 1:1).

“when” – Between A.D. 50-54, after Paul’s visit, during his second apostolic journey.

“where” – Written from Corinth in Achaia.

“why” – The purpose of the book of I Thessalonians was to encourage the leadership in Thessalonica to urge the believers to stand fast in the persecution they were facing, even as Paul had heard from Timothy that they had done. Paul also dealt with several problems among them, such as sexual immorality and the way they were grieving over those who had died in the persecution.


“what”II THESSALONIANS

“who” – Written by the apostle Paul, in the company of Silvanus (Silas) and Timotheus (Timothy) – (II Thessalonians 1:1).

“to whom” – To “the ekklesia of the Thessalonians” (II Thessalonians 1:1).

“when” – Between A.D. 50-54, after Paul’s visit, during his second apostolic journey.

“where” – Written from Corinth in Achaia.

“why” – The purpose of the book of II Thessalonians was to alert the leadership in Thessalonica about the false epistle written to the believers there by an imposter claiming to be Paul, saying that the day of the Lord had already come and that they had somehow missed it. Paul also addressed those among the Thessalonians who had refused to work and were taking advantage of the generosity of their brothers who were supporting them. Paul wrote to condemn these and to establish the principle that one who will not work shall not eat.


“what”I CORINTHIANS

“who” – Written by the apostle Paul, in the company of Sosthenes (I Corinthians 1:1).

“to whom” – To “the ekklesia of God which is at Corinth….with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord” (I Corinthians 1:2).

“when” – About A.D. 54-56, after Paul’s visit, during his third apostolic journey.

“where” – Written from Ephesus.

“why” – The purpose of the book of I Corinthians was to correct many problems that had developed among the believers in Corinth and to answer the letter that the leaders there had written to Paul after his visit. Most importantly, Paul had heard of the many divisions among the Corinthians. They were allowing gross sexual immorality in one of their number and were not correcting him. Secondarily, they had written him a letter with several questions, none of which had to do with the significant problems that were extant among them.


“what”II CORINTHIANS

“who” – Written by the apostle Paul, in the company of Timothy (II Corinthians 1:1).

“to whom” – To “the ekklesia of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia” (II Corinthians 1:1).

“when” – About A.D. 57-58, just before Paul revisited Corinth (Acts 20:2-3).

“where” – Written from Macedonia.

“why” – The purpose of the book of II Corinthians was to encourage the believers in Corinth in the face of persecutions that had arisen since the first letter had reached them. They had responded very well to Paul’s first letter of rebuke, and he commended them for this, but they had been taking their zeal too far, and Paul had to correct them. With Paul’s credentials as an apostle having been called into question by some, Paul defended his own apostleship most convincingly.


“what”ROMANS
Romans was the last Acts period book written by the apostle Paul before the great dispensational change at Acts 28:28.

“who” – Written by the apostle Paul, “a servant of Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:1).

“to whom” – To “all that be in Rome, beloved of God,” (Romans 1:7), about three years prior to his arrival there, in contrast to all of Paul’s other Acts period epistles which were written after his respective visits. Of the 5,500,000 dispersed ancestral Jews (descendants of those in the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities), 100,000 of these “other sheep” were living in Rome as “far off ones.” This letter was addressed to them, and recognition of this fact is essential to rightly dividing the content of this letter according to the charismatic administration (dispensation) of God during the Acts period. Paul was the God-commissioned herald to these ancestral Jews and the Gentiles among them who had aligned themselves with Israel in the hope of sharing the Jews’ blessings. Upon arriving in Rome, Paul waited three days before calling for the foremost Jews to set an appointed day for his address to them (Acts 28:17). After subsequently presenting the gospel to them, he made the pronouncement recorded in Acts 28:28.

“when” – About A.D. 57-58, during Paul’s third apostolic journey, before heading back to Jerusalem (Acts 20:1-3).

“where” – Written from Corinth in Achaia.

“why” – The purpose of the book of Romans was to prepare those in Rome for the gospel (right message) that Paul was about to proclaim to them. He was to be a mediator, imparting some special spiritual gift to them, in keeping with the Acts period, prior to his declaration in I Timothy 2:5. Paul reiterated the advantages that belonged to the Jews at that time, as he had declared in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:46), yet he prefaced his gospel by citing the condemnation of the whole world, including the Israelites, who considered themselves more righteous than Gentiles. After demonstrating the necessity of it, he then presented the idea of justification through Christ Jesus. He argued for justification by grace, apart from works. He showed that this justification had come by one Man – Jesus Christ. He then answered some arguments that the Romans may have heard against his gospel. He was not saying that since they were saved by grace, they should freely sin so that grace might abound. He refuted the charge that he was characterizing the law as sin. He demonstrated the true freedom of those who had entered into God’s love by means of his gospel. He also answered the charge that he did not care about those in the land of Israel, explaining what his true teaching was regarding them. He displayed God’s righteousness in choosing Israel to receive his gospel of salvation first (initially to the Jews within the land through the twelve, and then to the dispersed ancestral Jews through Paul). He justified his Acts-period proclamation to Gentiles among the Israelites for the purpose of provoking the Jews to jealousy. Then, he set forth the worthy walk, beseeching believers to live in the light of the principles he had declared. He answered those who were fearing their first visit from an apostle, reminding them that those who do good have no reason for such fear. He argued against those who lorded it over others who did not have as much faith as they had. Paul’s closing words regarded his future coming to them, personal greetings and salutations, and a final two-fold statement about his gospel, which had been kept a secret until revealed by God-commissioned heralds and which would be “hushed in eonian times,” when God’s kingdom comes to earth.


“what”REVELATION

“who” – Written by the apostle John (Revelation 1:4), brother of the apostle James who was martyred in A.D. 42 by Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:2).

“to whom” – To “the seven ekklesias which are in Asia” (Revelation 1:4). Although delivered to the leadership of the dispersed Jews of John’s day, the fulfillment of the book is entirely in the distant future.

“when” – In the A.D. 50s.

In his book, Approaching the Bible, Michael Penny placed the martyrdom of John (Matthew 20:23; Mark 10:39) in A.D. 61 or 62, shortly after Acts 28:28. Revelation could not have been the last book of the Bible written, as that privilege was reserved for Paul (Colossians 1:24-26; II Timothy 4:6-7). Stories told about the late first-century “John of Ephesus” (who died at a very old age in his bed) are not consistent with the truths written by the martyred apostle John. We have no writings of the so-called John of Ephesus, and stories about him came from Polycarp, who also left no writings. Thus, the stories were third-hand, from Polycarp’s disciple, Irenaeus, and later from Tertullian.

“where” – Written from “the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:9).

John may have either been exiled in Patmos himself or there voluntarily as a witness to the Jews exiled during the reign of Nero (A.D. 54-68), rather than during the reign of Domitian (A.D. 81-96).

“why” – The purpose of the book of Revelation was to prophesy events that will be shown unto the servants of God living in a yet future dispensation. Aside from the introductory verses (1:1-9), Revelation is a book of prophecy concerning the Day of the Lord (including the later tribulation period, the 1,000-year parousia of Christ, and the “little season”) and then continuing on to the Day of God (the new heavens and new earth). It does not pertain to the current dispensation of grace or the coming Day of Christ (the kingdom of God that fulfills the prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27 and encompasses at least 500 years).


ACTS 28:28 − THE GREAT DISPENSATIONAL CHANGE

Let it then be known unto you, that the salvation-bringing message of God has been authorized to the nations, and they will hear it.

The Resultant Version (TRV)
Otis Q. Sellers, Bible teacher (1901-1992)

The gospel (the right message; in this instance, the salvation-bringing message; the Gospel of John) was sent to all nations without distinction (Ephesians 3:6). The great dispensational change was characterized by the fact that no longer was any man commissioned by God to carry the gospel, but rather the gospel itself was God-commissioned.

Anyone of any nation (including Israel) was invited to believe in the person and work of Jesus Christ in order to have resurrection life in the coming aion (Greek, ahee-ohn’ – flow) − the eon, the kingdom of God on earth, the times of refreshing, the Day of Jesus Christ (John 20:31).


“what” JOHN
The Gospel of John was the God-commissioned, salvation-bringing message that was itself “apostled” in writing after the dispensational change recorded in Acts 28:28.

“who” – Written by John, brother of the apostle James who was martyred about A.D. 44 by Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:2), having been commissioned of God with an apostleship (job) in the dispensation of grace to write a book.

“to whom” – To the people of all nations without distinction (John 1:6-7) to whom the salvation-bringing message had been apostled (Acts 28:28).

“when” – During the two years that Paul was in his own hired house in Rome (A.D. 61-63), continuing to preach the kingdom of God (Acts 28:31). John probably wrote his gospel very soon after the dispensational change and just prior to his martyrdom, which occurred during this time frame (Acts 28:30), along with many others of the twelve.

“where” – Written from an unspecified location.

“why” – The purpose of the Gospel of John was to present the Lord Jesus Christ as God, the Savior of the world. It was written so that people might believe that Jesus is the Christ and have life through His name (reputation for Who and what He is). The purpose of the book was stated in John 20:30-31:

“And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”

The fullness of the right message (gospel) of Who Jesus is and what He had accomplished was now written down for all to believe. The salvation-bringing message itself had been “apostled” to all nations without distinction, in contrast to the God-commissioned men who, during the Acts period, were sent with a spoken message that was to reach every Jew − a great commission that was fully accomplished by the apostles (Mark 16:15, 20; Colossians 1:6, 23).

While the other three Gospels (“Godspells” − narratives about God) set forth the life of Christ from different perspectives (Matthew − as Israel’s rightful king; Mark − as God’s servant; Luke − as God’s perfect Man), John was a treatise on the life of Jesus that concluded that He is the Christ, the Son (representative) of the living God. Christ was set forth as the Word Who “was” in the beginning (the creation of the heavens and the earth). Signs (miracles) proving that Jesus is God were recorded in the book for Jews, and the very wisdom of God was set forth for Greeks (here, a reference to followers of the Greek culture, regardless of ancestry). The characters in this book were witnesses to the truth about Jesus as God.


“what” MATTHEW

“who” – Written by Matthew, having been commissioned of God with an apostleship (job) in the dispensation of grace to write a book.

“to whom” – To the Israelites.

“when” – During the two years that Paul was in his own hired house in Rome (A.D. 61-63), continuing to preach the kingdom of God (Acts 28:31).

“where” – Written from an unspecified location.

“why” – The purpose of the Gospel of Matthew was to present the Lord Jesus Christ as Israel’s king.

Matthew was “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1). It was the book of Jesus Christ as the perfect Israelite − the rightful king of Israel. Christ was presented as the inheritor of David’s throne, having traced His royal lineage from Abraham (the patriarch of the nation) to David (the patriarch of the throne) to Joseph (the husband of Mary, but not the father of Jesus). As the son of Abraham, Jesus represented the nation of Israel to God (as the Son of man).

Matthew was the book of being “in Israel.” From the call of Abraham, God had chosen a people for His name. This family that became a nation had greater revelation of God than the other nations. They also had greater accompanying privileges, as well as greater responsibility before God. The Jews living during the earthly ministry of Jesus were all under the Mosaic law, a national code of conduct that had long since been added for Israel’s observance. The law was not meant to be a means of salvation, for a Jew was born into a relationship with Jehovah (as servants of God). The law was a revelation of a righteous way of living for those who were already redeemed by God (at the Passover out of Egypt) and, therefore, belonged to Him. However, the Israelite was not guaranteed eonian life (resurrection life in the kingdom of God). He was expected to fear God and keep His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13). If he did not, God could, and probably would, cut him out of Israel, and he would lose all the privileges that he once had by being a part of that nation.

Today, when those who have not understood right division have gone to the Bible to determine if there is eternal security and have started with the Gospel of Matthew, they come out of the book assured that one certainly can lose his salvation. The reason is that a “servant,” as described in this book, received his position by means of birth as an Israelite, yet upon proving to be an unfaithful servant, he could be cast into outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (great sorrow and regret at having lost a place in the kingdom as a Jew). He found no security at all in being “in Israel.” Having been born a servant of God, he did not have to have faith at all in order to attain it. The only determination was whether or not he would be deemed a faithful servant. This is not at all like being “in Christ,” as set forth in Ephesians − the position which can only be a reality through one’s personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, regarding Who He is and what He did that procured salvation for us.


“what”PHILIPPIANS

“who” – Written by Paul, in the company of Timotheus (Timothy), (Philippians 1:1), having been commissioned of God with an apostleship (job) in the dispensation of grace to write a book.

“to whom” – To “all the saints in Christ Jesus in Philippi, with the overseers (episkopos) and servants (diakonos)” (Philippians 1:1).

“when” – During the two years that Paul was in his own hired house (A.D. 61-63), continuing to preach the kingdom of God (Acts 28:31).

“where” – Written from Rome.

“why” – The purpose of the book of Philippians was to serve as a comfort to the believers in Philippi who had come to know Christ under the extraordinary circumstances of the Acts period (when the preaching of Christ was done only by God-commissioned messengers, using God-inspired words, and with God-given miracles accompanying their actions) and had now lost their privileges. The Philippians were now to have the same disposition that Christ had when He gave up His prerogatives (Philippians 2:5).

Now that the gospel itself had been sent to the nations (Acts 28:28), suddenly the acts of the apostles were ended and the acts of the apostled gospel had begun. Understandably, this predominantly Jewish group of believers in Philippi would have been confused by the proclaimed dispensational change, mourning over the loss of their miraculous gifts, and disappointed at the postponement of the kingdom. Paul admonished them to take the same attitude as Christ did when He gave up His position of equality with God in order to take the form of a servant and to die on the cross. The book of Philippians revealed what God was expecting of these believers now that they were living in the dispensation of grace. However, when a dispensation changes, it does not mean that everything changes. In this post-Acts 28:28 book, Paul prayed “that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:10). The Greek word for “are excellent” (diaphero) is badly translated. The word has two possible meanings. One is “to differ” and the other is “to carry through.” Probably both meanings carry truth. We must distinguish in the Acts period epistles which things differ from today and which things carry through to today. The things that carry through are still as relevant now as they were back then. While we can learn from the things that differ, we must not try to apply them directly to our situation today. Thus, in the things that carry through, the Acts period books are still very relevant.

When reading later things written to dispensation of grace believers (things in Ephesians, in particular), the Philippian believers could not directly apply everything said of these believers to themselves. In postponing the kingdom, God had begun to write a record of His dealings with man, exclusively in grace, in secret, in silence, and through the faith of those who would take Him at His written Word. Although the Philippians had to rightly divide what they were reading, most noteworthy is the fact that the gospel of salvation is one of the things that did not change between the Acts period and the current dispensation. The God Who began a good work in the Philippian believers (the blade stage of the kingdom during the Acts period, according to the most important parable in Mark 4:26-29), promised to resume that work in the Day of Jesus Christ − the pre-parousia kingdom of God on earth (II Timothy 4:1).


“what”EPHESIANS

“who” – Written by Paul, “an apostle of Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:1), having been commissioned of God with an apostleship (job) in the dispensation of grace to write a book.

“to whom” – To “all the saints, the ones being and believing in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:1, TRV). The words “in Ephesus” are not in some manuscripts. This book may be the “epistle from Laodicea” that is referenced in Colossians 4:16.

“when” – During the two years that Paul was in his own hired house (A.D. 61-63), continuing to preach the kingdom of God (Acts 28:31).

“where” – Written from Rome.

“why” – The purpose of the book of Ephesians was to set forth God’s intention in the present dispensation of grace (Ephesians 3:6). With the apostolic conditions of the Acts period suspended, God’s administration of His will toward mankind (His “house law” for the new dispensation) was proclaimed in this book. Of Paul’s letters, only the book of Ephesians, the book of being “in Christ,” was written to all believers of today without exception. All the other letters after the dispensational divide, including Colossians, were written to specific believers or groups of believers living at that time.

Chapter 1
God has eulogized (spoken well of) believers with all well-speakings as among the most exalted (the commendable of Scripture), simply because we have believed in Christ. His mighty power is exercised in us, producing faith. Having been chosen in Him before the founding of His coming world (the kingdom of God), believers are predestined to the adoption as sons (representatives, not “children”) to the praise of the glory of His grace.

In the future kingdom dispensation, when Christ has been made known to the world through the Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 36:27; John 16:8), God’s rule will be exclusively in government (judgment), with all things being set in order according to God’s righteous standard. At that time, we will be manifested as object lessons of His grace, the exclusive manner in which He dealt with mankind in the dispensation prior to the establishment of His kingdom.

Chapter 2
God’s mercy is shown to believers who, although dead to (not “in”) sins, still do sin but continue to be saved by grace. We are seen as seated with Him in super-exalted (heavenly – “heaved up”) seats, in order to show the riches of His grace.

Ancestral Jews living outside the land of Israel − the “other sheep” who could not keep all of the Law of Moses from “afar off” and who were disparagingly called “Foreskinners” (not “Uncircumcision, ” KJV) by Jews inside the land − are made one with the “sheep” inside the fold as the “one new man.” The “inner wall” (the middle wall of partition − the keeping of the Law as the rule of life) had been broken down.

Chapter 3
With the gospel itself having been apostled at Acts 28:28 (in lieu of God-commissioned men as apostles), the mystery (secret) of God’s “unsearchable” dealing with men in the new dispensation of grace is revealed. God is acting in secret, in silence, and through the faith of believers. As such, His working is untraceable. All nations, including Israel, will be treated alike. God’s unmerited favor is extended to all. The “outer wall” is broken down. All believers may approach God directly with boldness and confidence.

Chapter 4
The believer is called unto a worthy walk in thankfulness for all that has been received by grace. Believers are to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit ─ a seven-fold, God-produced unity that has existed in all dispensations.

Reference is made to the Acts period, when God gave gifted men to the believers of that dispensation for the purpose of edifying them, such that they would not be deceived by every wind of doctrine. The believers were partakers of the “body” (substance) of Christ. The gifted men taught the Acts period believers without error. No such God-commissioned men exist in the present dispensation.

Believers are exhorted to “learn Christ” and be renewed in their minds, thereby putting off the “old man” and putting on the “new man.” The aim is to avoid grieving the Spirit, by Whom we have been sealed unto the day of redemption (II Timothy 4:1).

Chapter 5
Believers are to walk in love, as children of light, and in a wise manner. Guidelines for godly submission are given, likening the proper order in human marriage to the mystery of Christ and His ekklesia (out-positioned) of this dispensation.

Chapter 6
Subjection guidelines are given for children and those in master/servant (employer/employee) relationships.

Believers are exhorted to put on “the whole armour of God,” with the source of its entirety being the Word of God. Having done so, we are enabled to withstand in the evil day − Man’s day (I Corinthians 4:3 – “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s day” – rendered from the Greek, but lost in translations), prior to the Day of Christ, the coming kingdom of God.


“what”PHILEMON

“who” – Written by Paul, “a prisoner of Jesus Christ” (Philemon 1), in the company of Timothy, having been commissioned of God with an apostleship (job) in the dispensation of grace to write a book (a personal letter).

“to whom” – To “Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellow-labourer, and to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the ekklesia in thy house” (Philemon 1-2).

“when” – During the two years that Paul was in his own hired house (A.D. 61-63), continuing to preach the kingdom of God (Acts 28:31). Paul wrote Philemon at about the same time that he wrote Colossians.

“where” – Written from Rome.

“why” – The purpose of the book of Philemon was to exemplify dealing with others in grace, just as God deals with us in this dispensation.


“what”COLOSSIANS

“who” – Written by Paul, in the company of Timotheus (Timothy) – (Colossians 1:1), having been commissioned of God with an apostleship (job) in the dispensation of grace to write a book.

“to whom” – To “the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse” (Colossians 1:2).

“when” – During the two years that Paul was in his own hired house (A.D. 61-63), continuing to preach the kingdom of God (Acts 28:31). Paul wrote Colossians at about the same time that Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark.

“where” – Written from Rome.

“why” – The purpose of the book of Colossians was to address the doctrines of false teachers. Paul had heard of the new believers in Colosse who had believed without seeing (signs) in the new dispensation of grace. He thanked God for them, but was writing to them because of the misleading of certain false teachers. Many think these were Gnostics, a group who claimed secret knowledge through angels or other powerful beings they called aions (out-flowing sources of “truth” that only the initiated supposedly had access to). There is some question, however, as to whether the Gnostics really were a problem among the believers in the first century. It may have been that the false teachers were a Jewish group with radical ideas. At any rate, the Colossians were being urged to worship angels and look to principalities and powers rather than to Christ. Others were promoting the keeping of religious works and tenets of Judaism, such as the keeping of feasts and dietary laws. Instead, Paul urged the Colossians to a religionless faith in Christ. Then, he advised them as to the worthy walk of the believer, with teachings very similar to those presented in the last three chapters of Ephesians.


“what”MARK

“who” – Written by Mark, having been commissioned of God with an apostleship (job) in the dispensation of grace to write a book.

“to whom” – To an unspecified audience.

Mark spoke of “the prophets,” a reference meaningful only to Jews (Mark 1:2). It was the Jews who had had difficulty see the suffering servant aspect of the Messiah, looking only for His kingly role. Since Israel was then subjugated to Rome, it was meaningful that the Lord Jesus Christ had willfully taken the position of a servant, coming to earth as a Jew. It was also noteworthy that this book recorded the emotions of Christ, reserving the use of the term “Lord” in reference to Him until the final chapter.

Some, including Charles Welch, have suggested that the direct, to-the-point style of writing in Mark indicated a specific appeal to the practical Roman mindset (with its emphasis on such empire-building endeavors as the construction of roads and aqueducts), in contrast to the intellectual but impractical Greek mindset. Thus, the succinct style of the book would have appealed to ancestral Jews living in Rome at the time. It has long been thought that Mark’s source for his Gospel was Peter, who also would have appreciated brevity. This book may have been written from Babylon, while Mark was there with Peter (I Peter 5:13).

“when” – During the two years that Paul was in his own hired house in Rome (A.D. 61-63), continuing to preach the kingdom of God (Acts 28:31). Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark at about the same time as Paul wrote Colossians.

“where” – Written from an unspecified location.

“why” – The purpose of the Gospel of Mark was to present the Lord Jesus Christ as God’s servant.

As such, a record of His humiliation and suffering was set forth, rather than His lineage. Before He would be Israel’s king in His second advent, He would be God’s suffering servant (the ultimate sacrifice for sin) in His first advent.

The mission statement of the Gospel of Mark (if not the statement of purpose of the Acts period) was given in Mark 16:15-20.

And he said unto them [the disciples], Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.


“what”LUKE

“who” – Written by Luke, having been commissioned of God with an apostleship (job) in the dispensation of grace to write a book.

“to whom” – To Theophilus (God-lover), (Luke 1:3).

“when” – During the two years that Paul was in his own hired house in Rome (A.D. 61-63), continuing to preach the kingdom of God (Acts 28:31).

“where” – Written from Rome, with Paul.

“why” – The purpose of the Gospel of Luke was to present the Lord Jesus Christ as God’s perfect Man.

Luke traced Christ’s bloodline from Adam to Mary. Although Luke was not present with Christ during His earthly ministry, he stated that he had perfect knowledge of all things pertinent to his subject, thereby claiming inspiration. Luke set forth Christ as the Son (representative) of man, the only one whose sinless shed blood could be accepted as the payment for the sins of all mankind.


“what”ACTS

“who” – Written by Luke, having been commissioned of God with an apostleship (job) in the dispensation of grace to write a book.

“to whom” – To Theophilus (God-lover), (Acts 1:1), as a sequel to the Gospel of Luke.

“when” – As early as A.D. 63, after the two years that Paul was in his own hired house in Rome (A.D. 61-63), continuing to preach the kingdom of God (Acts 28:31).

“where” – Written from Rome, with Paul.

“why” – The purpose of the book of Acts was to record the continuation and completion of Christ’s earthy ministry through His chosen apostles, according to the mandate in Romans 10:9-15. The apostles’ question in Acts 1:6, regarding the full restoration of the kingdom, was answered in Acts 28:28 with a resounding “No.” While the kingdom had come in part, God would postpone it in order to initiate a dispensation of His dealing with mankind in pure grace. The Acts period was a unique time that is never to be repeated.

During the Acts period, the purpose of God was to reach all Jews everywhere with the news of Christ (Mark 16:15). Yet, when the gospel (right message) was preached, it had to be done by someone sent (apostello) by God to do so (Romans 10:9-15). It was never done without some physical, visible manifestation to accompany it (Mark 16:17). Paul explained that it was important in demonstrating the power of God (I Corinthians 2:4-5). Some men of the nations (“Gentiles,” KJV) received the preaching of Jesus Christ once the Jews in their vicinity had refused the same word of truth. The purpose of God in reaching these citizens of the nations was to serve as a means of provoking the Jews to jealousy (Romans 10:19, 11:11, 14). These believers were the wild olive tree (Romans 11:17) grafted into the olive tree (Israel). They were then partakers of Israel’s benefits. The position of these Acts period believers among the nations was vastly different from that of believers of any nation after Acts 28:28.

In Acts 13:34, Paul spoke of the “sure mercies of David” (Isaiah 55:3) to describe that which belonged to Christ and to all who would believe in Him during the Acts period. These could lose rewards in the kingdom to come through unfaithful service, or even their lives in this world as Ananias and Sapphira did, but they could not lose their salvation once they were identified with Christ.

With Acts Chapter 1 serving as an introduction, the Acts period (the 33½ years following the ascension of Christ) may be divided into four sections. The first three were periods of the sending of God-commissioned men with the gospel.

(1) The Great Unity in Jerusalem under the ministry of the 12 apostles (Acts 2:1-7:60)

(2) The Great Scattering of the believers from Jerusalem (Acts 8:1-12:25)

(3) The Ministry of the Apostle Paul to the nations where Jews were living as the result of The Great Scattering (Acts 13:1-21:16)

Paul’s letters written in conjunction with his three apostolic journeys were:
(1st ) Acts 13 – 14 Galatians (about A.D. 49)
(2nd) Acts 15:36 – 18:22 I & II Thessalonians (about A.D. 50-54)
(3rd) Acts 18:23 – 21:16 I & II Corinthians (about A.D. 54-58)
Romans (about A.D. 57-58)

(4) The Arrest, Imprisonments, and Trials of Paul (Acts 21-28)

The great dispensational change was denoted in Acts 28:28. The gospel itself was apostled to all nations. Paul’s remaining commissions (jobs) as an apostle were all for the purpose of writing books. After he finished the course laid out for him (II Timothy 4:7), any further traveling or proclaiming that he did was on the same par with any other person choosing to make known the gospel.


“what”I PETER

“who” – Written by Peter, “an apostle of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 1:1), having been commissioned of God with an apostleship (job) in the dispensation of grace to write a book. Peter wrote in the company of Sylvanus (Silas) (1 Peter 5:12).

“to whom” – To the Jews “scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (I Peter 1:1).

“when” – About A.D. 64-65.

“where” – Written from Babylon.

“why” – The purpose of the book of I Peter was to inform Jewish believers living in the dispensation of grace as to how God would have them live as Jews in this dispensation. They are “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people” (I Peter 2:9), the Jewish company of dispensation of grace believers. While living outside the land, they were once not a people, but now are the people of God. They are destined to represent God’s grace in Israel in the kingdom to come, while Gentile believers from this dispensation will represent Him to other nations. Yet first, they needed to know how to live worthily as Jews in this dispensation, with the law no longer being the rule of life for any Israelite. Peter offered them instruction in this, much as Paul did in I Timothy.


“what”II PETER

“who” – Written by Peter, “Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ” (II Peter 1:1), having been commissioned of God with an apostleship (job) in the dispensation of grace to write a book.

“to whom” – To “them who have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (II Peter 1:1).

“when” – About A.D. 65.

“where” – Written from an unspecified location. The book does not indicate whether or not Peter was still in Babylon.

“why” – The purpose of the book of II Peter was to remind the believers who were scattered among the nations of the truths they had learned when they had first believed, to warn them against false teachers and false brothers, and to encourage them that God’s long delay in fulfilling His promises does not prove that they will not be fulfilled or that He will never come.


“what”TITUS

“who” – Written by Paul, “a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ” (Titus 1:1), having been commissioned of God with an apostleship (job) in the dispensation of grace to write a book (a personal letter).

“to whom” – To Titus, “mine own son unto the common faith” (Titus 1:4).

“when” – Sometime after Paul left Rome, he and Titus went to Crete (Titus 1:5). Titus was left there after Paul’s departure. Paul wrote this personal letter to Titus thereafter (between A.D. 63-66).

“where” – Written from Nicopolis (city of victory). Although there were several cities with this name, Titus was probably aware of which city it was.

“why” – The purpose of the book of Titus was to advise Titus as to how to set things in order among the believers in Crete and how to choose community leaders there during the dispensation of grace, in the absence of divine inspiration to ensure the accomplishment of these things.


“what”I TIMOTHY

“who” – Written by Paul, “an apostle of Jesus Christ” (I Timothy 1:1), having been commissioned of God with an apostleship (job) to write a book (a personal letter).

“to whom” – To Timothy, “my own son in the faith” (I Timothy 1:2).

“when” – During Paul’s post-Acts ministry (between A.D. 63-66).

“where” – Written from Macedonia.

“why” – The purpose of the book of I Timothy was to outline Paul’s charge to Timothy regarding his responsibilities in Ephesus. Paul instructed Timothy how to deal with the “savage wolves” who had entered in among the Ephesian ekklesia (Acts 20:29), as well as the men from among the ekklesia who had started speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after themselves (Acts 20:30). Paul issued directives as to teaching the believers in Ephesus (mostly ancestral Israelites who had believed during the Acts period) how they should live in the dispensation of grace. Paul also instructed Timothy how to choose over-watchers (episkopos) and servants (diakonos) for the community. Paul beseeched Timothy to “fight the good fight of faith” as an example to the community in Ephesus. In 1Timothy 2:5, Paul made the astounding statement, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” absolutely disallowing any mediation of angels or men in this present dispensation.


“what”II TIMOTHY

“who” – Written by Paul, “an apostle of Jesus Christ” (II Timothy 1:1), having been commissioned of God with an apostleship (job) to write a book (a personal letter).

“to whom” – To Timothy, “my dearly beloved son” (II Timothy 1:2).

“when” – At the end of Paul’s ministry (about A.D. 67).

“where” – Written from an unspecified location.

“why” – The purpose of the book of II Timothy was to encourage Timothy not to give in to timidity and fear, but to continue steadfast in the faith, even when the Ephesian community of believers around him refused to abide by his teaching. Paul had also been completely rejected by all in Asia who refused to accept his dispensation of grace teaching (II Timothy 1:15). Timothy was told to seek individual believers who would take instruction and who were able to teach others and carry on the truth (II Timothy 2:2). He was to look forward to the reward that he will get from God for his faithfulness rather than to bemoan the fellowship he had lost with those who had sacrificed their reward for the love of this present world. Timothy was instructed to leave Ephesus and join Paul, bringing Mark with him. Paul’s God-given work came to an end as he penned his last inspired instructions to Timothy to remain steadfast in the truth.

Nathan C. Johnson with many thanks to Linda Rooks

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