Up until the first century a.d., mirrors in the Near East were made of polished bronze or other metals. With the invention of glass in Lebanon, new techniques could be used to create more reflective surfaces. James compares God’s Word to a mirror in which people can see themselves in the light of God’s truth (James 1:22–25).
Rahab is a remarkable example of the fact that God can use whomever he chooses to accomplish his will (1 Cor. 1:26–31). Though a prostitute and a Gentile, Rahab is listed in the genealogy of Jesus (Matt. 1:5). She is remembered as a model of faith completed in works (James 2:25) and is listed among the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11.
Familiar word pictures. The images James uses to describe the power of the tongue (James 3:1–12) were well chosen to communicate to his original readers. The Greek playwright Sophocles spoke of wild horses being tamed by a small bit in the mouth. The Jewish philosopher Philo compared one’s senses to a helmsman steering a boat. And the Roman historian Plutarch compared a loose tongue to a blazing forest fire.
What does it mean to submit? Submission means that one has willingly placed himself or herself under the authority of another. It means humility and obedience, rather than rebellion. Submission to God means that the believer has surrendered to God’s will and embraced the Lord’s rule in his or her life (James 4:7).
There are two rainy seasons in Palestine (James 5:7). The “early rains” come during the fall. Rain during this time is crucial to farmers, because it helps seeds germinate. “Late rains” come in early spring and help the seedlings turn into mature plants.
The Greek phrase translated preparing your minds for action (1 Peter 1:13) was used to describe the action of wrapping one’s robes around one’s belt before beginning some physical activity. The modern equivalent would be “rolling up your sleeves.” Christians should be prepared to fully engage their minds in their service for Christ.
What is God’s purpose for civil government?
God has established civil governments around the world in order to punish wrongdoers and promote the good of society (Rom. 13:1–4). Peter teaches believers to “be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution” (1 Pet. 2:13–17; see 1 Tim. 2:1–2).
Husbands and wives. Peter’s statement about wives being heirs with their husbands (1Pet. 3:7) was revolutionary. In Roman tradition, the husband usually decided which religion his family would follow. Christian husbands, however, are to honor their wives as their equals in God’s sight (see Gal. 3:28).
The fiery trial. Peter warned his readers that they would soon endure a “fiery trial” (1 Pet. 4:12). In other words, they should expect persecution. He probably wrote this letter not long before the Roman emperor Nero began a campaign of persecution against Christians in Rome.
A kiss of love (1 Peter 5:14) was simply a kiss on the cheek. It was usually practiced among family members. Both Peter and Paul encouraged believers to greet one another in this fashion because it reminded them that they were brothers and sisters in Christ. Such a greeting is still common in some parts of the world today.
Facing death. As Peter wrote this second letter, apparently he knew that he would die soon (2 Pet. 1:14). He was probably martyred during the persecution of Christians following the Great Fire of Rome in a.d. 64. See also 1 Pet. 4:12.
What is a “heresy”?
The word “heresy” refers to any doctrine that contradicts the teaching of Scripture. The heresy addressed in 2 Peter also involved sexual permissiveness, greed, and dishonesty. Wrong doctrine often leads to sinful moral choices.
Like a thief in the night. Peter says the return of Christ at the end of time will be unexpected, “like a thief” (2 Pet. 3:10). Several other NT passages describe the Lord’s return in this same way (see Matt. 24:43; 1 Thess. 5:2; Rev. 3:3). Christ’s return will be a welcome surprise, however, for his true disciples.
Propitiation (1 John 2:2) is the appeasement of wrath. God’s holy anger against sin needed to be appeased before sin could be forgiven. By dying on the cross, Christ bore God’s wrath for all who trust in him (see also Rom. 3:25), anywhere in the world, giving us the ultimate example of love (1 John 4:10).
The terms light and darkness come up often in John’s writing. The light of God’s truth is shining on the darkness of ignorance and sin—and the darkness is passing away (1 John 2:8–11).
Giving to those in need. Jews in the time of Christ were generous in giving to the needy. In fact, the Jewish historian Josephus remarked that no Jew ever needed to depend on the charity of outsiders. John encourages generosity among Christians as well (1 John 3:17).
To abide in Jesus means living in a daily, close relationship with him, characterized by trust, prayer, obedience, and joy. The Holy Spirit’s presence and activity within Christians gives evidence that they are abiding in Christ (John 8:31, 6:56, 15:4; 1 John 2:6, 27–28; 3:6).
John wants his readers to know about eternal life. Whoever knows and believes in God’s Son and believes he is the Christ, no matter what their cultural or social background, has been born of God and has eternal life (1 John 5:1–12).
The elder (2 John v. 1) is clearly a self-description of the apostle John. “Elder” was a common term for a pastoral leader in the early church (see Titus 1:5; 1 Pet. 5:1). Although “elder” does not imply “elderly,” John himself was probably quite old when he wrote this letter.
John 3 - A personal letter.
John’s letter to Gaius follows the pattern of personal letters of his day: greetings (v. 1), a prayer for Gaius’s health (v. 2a), the main message (vv. 5–12), and a brief farewell (vv. 13–15). John departs from the standard form only in his expression of concern for his friend’s spiritual well-being (vv. 2b–4).