The Bible is clear enough to grasp the essentials of the faith, but what if I want to dig deeper? What about those riddles in the Bible? Who is Apollyon? Why do the apostles care about meat being sacrificed to idols? Is Moses condoning polygamy and slavery? As I dig deeper I will need keys to unlock the deeper truths and mysteries of scripture.
First Key: The author's purpose is “mega important”
*We have got to ask, "Why did the author writes this?" Their purpose is God's purpose. If I get bogged down in the details, I miss the big point of what the author is saying.
1. Sometimes the author states his purpose very clearly.
John 20:30, 31
“Now Jesus did many signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."
These verses state two purposes: 1) “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” and 2) “that by believing you may have life in his name.”
2. Sometimes we can draw a clear inference from what the author says.
“In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach,”
If Luke was about what Jesus began to do and teach, then it follows that Acts is about what Jesus continued to do and teach through the apostles and the church in the world (Peter, Stephen, Philip, Paul). Many scholars today believe that Acts can be titled "The Acts of Jesus."
3. But often we are not told what the author's purpose is. What do we do then?
Let's play detective…
As we look at this small book, we need to ask four questions: 1) who is writing? (Paul); 2) what is the relationship between the author and the readers? (“Paul, a prisoner for Jesus Christ and Timothy our brother... Philemon our beloved fellow worker…and the church in your house” 3) are there any problems being addressed? (Onesimus is a runaway slave) 4) are there any repeated themes or a single idea? (reconciliation).Onesimus has been reconciled to God and now he is in the process and need of being reconciled with a fellow believer, his boss. Paul’s purpose is to appeal to (or persuade) Philemon to take back Onesimus. Why? There has been a dramatic change in Onesimus from a runaway useless slave to a useful beloved brother. And now, the Christian virtue of love demands that as God has received Philemon, for the sake of Christ, so he must receive Onesimus.