After Jesus rose from the grave, he spent forty days on earth continuing to witness to his disciples and others. After that time, he ascended into heaven. The disciples expected his return to be quick. As Luke described it in the book of Acts, after the birth of the church the new believers would gather together daily. They sold their belongings and shared whatever they had with one another, all as they waited for Jesus to return (Acts 4:32). But as time passed, it became clearer to the apostles and the early teachers of the church that their wait would be longer than they had originally anticipated, and life needed to go on. Motivated by their love and concern for the wellbeing of the church, they began teaching the early believers what it meant to live as followers of Jesus in their ordinary lives, even as they waited for their savior’s return.
And that’s exactly what the New Testament letters bring to the story of the Bible. Beginning with Romans and all the way through Jude, whether we’re studying Paul’s instructions to Philemon about how to receive a runaway slave back into his home or John’s call to love one another, the letters teach us how to live lives that reflect Jesus—what Paul called “walking in a manner worthy” of God’s calling—in practical, ordinary ways all the while never letting go of “our blessed hope,” which is the day Jesus will return (2 Peter 3:11–12; Ephesians 4:1; Titus 2:13).