For several years now, I have not read through the NT in the order that most Bibles today have for the books of the NT: Gospels; Acts; Epistles; Revelation. Instead, I have been reading through the NT in the following order, which is likely the chronological order in which the books were first given to the Church by God:
1 & 2 Thessalonians; 1 & 2 Corinthians; Romans
Ephesians; Colossians; Philemon; Philippians
1 & 2 & 3 John
Reading the NT in chronological order repeatedly, I hope to have a better sense of how the early Church would have understood the relationship between various books of the NT. In particular, reading in this way has helped me, I believe, to have a greater understanding of the contemporary value of Acts and John.
For example, a strong contemporary emphasis on the current topical order of the NT books can easily lend itself to a flawed perspective that the Pauline Epistles somehow are more important than Acts for our understanding of what the actual gospel message was that the apostles preached. On the contrary, Acts was written after perhaps as many as ten of Paul’s Epistles had already been written and careful attention to this fact and the full content of Acts corrects some wrong notions about apostolic ministry of the gospel message that some have espoused through their placing undue emphasis on selected teachings of the Synoptics and the Pauline Epistles.
In a related manner, a lumping of John with the Synoptics lends itself to a lack of appreciation that John is a Gospel that was written many years after all the Pauline Epistles were written. We should then take care that our handling of the Gospel of John informs our understanding of apostolic ministry of the gospel at least as much as the Synoptics and the Pauline Epistles do.
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