Much of the Reformation centered on how to interpret the letters of Paul. James, 1&2 Peter, 1,2,3 John, and Jude were afterthoughts. In fact, Martin Luther thought that James was a letter made of straw and if he had the choice, he would remove it from the Bible.
The Wesleyan tradition has placed a large emphasis on James and on the idea that faith without works is dead. John Wesley didn’t see James as advocating works-righteousness, or the idea that we are saved by our works apart from grace. But that we cannot claim the grace in our life if we are not responding to grace through the works of mercy and the works of piety. It is not enough to be baptized, go to church on Sunday, and then live the rest of the week like a practical atheist.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. (James 1:22-25)
The Epistles of Peter are quite strong of language but bring a different perspective to a lot of the same themes that Paul covers. Like the rest of the General Epistles, they do not contradict Paul but offer different perspectives on following Jesus in the aftermath of the resurrection and ascension. What should we do? How should we be? How should we live?
The Epistles of John contain perhaps the second most famous verse in the bible after John 3:16: God is love. The love of God and the connection between love and God reveal the deep consonance between the General Epistles and the Epistles of Paul, especially 1 Corinthians 13’s famous ode to love.
In sum, these letters are brief but powerful, worthy of continued reflection and prayer.