The New Testament is the revelation of Jesus. And he is the fulfillment of everything in the Old Testament. The New Testament contains information about Jesus’s teachings, death, and resurrection. But it has much more.
The New Testament teaches us how to live Christ-centered lives that are rich and full. And it is also a source of comfort in trials.
The New Testament as Part of God’s Word
Many Christians don’t read the Bible.
Have you ever felt guilty about not reading the Bible more often? Does it seem that Christian friends, other people in your small group, or people at church know more than you? You are not alone.
In the 1960s, before beginning a “Bible as Literature” class, a teacher quizzed her students. What answers did these Massachusetts high school juniors and seniors give?
- The four horsemen appeared “on the Acropolis”
- The New Testament Gospels were written by Matthew, Mark, “Luther,” and John
- Eve was created “from an apple”
- Moses baptized Jesus
- And “Golgotha was the name of the giant who slew the apostle, David”
If you are a new or younger Christian, there is no need for embarrassment in not knowing these answers. Most people in America are unfamiliar with the Bible. But it doesn’t have to stay that way for us.
What I Bring with Me
American culture’s illiteracy with Bible knowledge is extensive. Meaning that young adults only receive wrong-headed ways to deal with their problems. And as a result, most new Christians bring baggage into their faith but may not get God's resources. Issues like:
- Dysfunctional families
- Struggles with addiction (porn, alcohol, drugs)
- Distorted body image
- Intimacy issues
- Fears (of unemployment, student debts, increasing violence, racial inequities, climate change, etc.)
If you feel any of these things, you’re not alone. God does not want you holding on to these past hurts.
The community of people most poised to help is God's Church. But how can the Church help?
- It can become a sanctuary
- By welcoming you in and caring for you
- Through Christians who address hard issues with love and transparency
- By dealing with real problems and getting into the grit of real life
- Providing valuable answers, answers from the most reliable source of proven and timeless advice: the Bible
The New Testament Focuses on Jesus
Scripture provides everything we need to live contented and godly lives (2 Tim. 3:16-17). But trying to figure out where to begin can feel intimidating.
The Bible is a library of 66 books written by forty authors over 1,500 years. The Bible has two major divisions the Old Testament (OT) and the New Testament.
And while Jesus is the focus of the whole Bible (Matt. 5:17; Luke 24:27, 44; John 5:39; Heb. 10:7), it is most useful for the new Christian to concentrate on the New Testament. It is there we see Christ, doctrine, and practical application most clearly revealed.
Where Did We Get the New Testament?
The New Testament has 27 books. The authors are nine eyewitness or their close companions (Luke and Mark):
- All the authors were Jews, except for the Greek physician Luke (author of Luke and Acts). He was a companion of Paul
- Greek was the original language of all the New Testament books
- The books were written just 20-60 years after Christ’s resurrection (AD 30-33)
- This brief period between Christ’s resurrection and writing is significant. Not enough time had elapsed for legend development. And the eyewitnesses were still alive!
What About the Order of the New Testament Books?
- The first five books (the four Gospels and Acts) are historical narratives. They tell of the life and ministry of Jesus and the early church’s growth.
- Then come 21 letters or “epistles” (13 by Paul and 8 General Epistles). The epistles provide a variety of material. They include personal messages and practical application of doctrines. And they encourage godly living.
- Finally, Revelation is an apocalyptic genre. It uses graphic imagery to relate Christ’s return and end times.
Here is that structure with all the books listed:
1. Historical-Narrative Books:
- Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
2. Letters (Epistles):
- Paul’s Letters (Romans, 1& 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon)
- General Epistles (Hebrews, James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1, 2, & 3 John, Jude)
The Gospels: Jesus from 4 Different Angles
- Virgin conception
- Sinless life
- Many miracles
- Sacrificial death on the cross
- Resurrection on the third day following his burial
The first three Gospels are the “Synoptic” Gospels (seeing with the “same eye” or similar view). They have content and order that resemble each other in many ways. The fourth Gospel, John, takes a somewhat different approach from the first three. However, all four Gospels are consistent with each other.
Each Gospel author wrote for a particular readership:
- Matthew (written between AD 50-55) presents Jesus as King to the Jews.
- Mark (written ca. AD 55-60 to a Roman audience) shows Christ as a Servant.
- The Greek physician Luke wrote to Greeks around AD 60. He portrays our Lord as fully human (although also divine).
- John wrote his Gospel during the reign of Domitian in AD 81-96. This time was of intense persecution of Christians. John presents Jesus as God to the whole world.
Acts: A Sequel
Luke wrote the Book of Acts (ca. AD 61-62) as the sequel to his Gospel. Acts narrates the early spread of Christianity. It concentrates on the first thirty years of church growth (AD 30-33 to AD 62).
Acts begins with Jesus going back to heaven. And then the Holy Spirit’s coming upon the apostles and their ministry in Jerusalem.
- The first part features Peter
- The final part focuses on the Apostle Paul. His conversion and ministry of preaching and planting churches throughout the Mediterranean
Epistles: Letters Across the World
Following Acts, there are twenty-one epistles or letters. These Apostolic letters interpret and apply the gospel. These letters were read in public, copied, and circulated among the churches.
In general, the epistles explain doctrines and give practical advice. They address spiritual growth, proper Christian behavior, and pastoral concerns. They also address specific church problems, church discipline, church growth.
Paul wrote the first 13 epistles. Although they discuss various topics in each letter, these Pauline Epistles focus on:
- Salvation (Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians)
- The Church (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon)
- Last things (1 & 2 Thessalonians)
- Advice to pastors (1 & 2 Timothy, Titus)
The following eight epistles are the General Epistles (Hebrews through Jude). The authors included Jesus’s half-brothers James and Jude (Matt. 13:55; Acts 1:14), two disciples (Peter and John), and an anonymous writer (Hebrews).
- Hebrews presents Jesus as the High Priest to the Jews
- James provides practical instructions on applying doctrinal truths
- 1 & 2 Peter provide comfort and encouragement for persecuted Christians. And they warn against false teachers
- 1, 2, & 3 John encourages fellowship with God and other believers. He writes his greatest joy was to see his disciples faithful to God’s word (3 John 1:4). He emphasizes Christ’s humanity. This emphasis was to guard against false teaching (called Docetism) infiltrating the church.
- Jude encourages believers to remain steadfast and mature in their faith. And to avoid false teachers.
Revelation: The End
The last book of the Bible is Revelation or “The Revelation of John” (note: singular, not plural).
Revelation is a “coded” message. It was to comfort persecuted believers encouraging them to remain faithful. The overall message is clear. Christ will come again and defeat Satan and the evil forces that oppress God’s children. He will restore all things and make an eternal home for his followers.
There are no NT books after the death of the apostles. Meaning the New Testament is a “closed” canon (or complete authoritative collection).
Let’s Do This!
I hope this brief introduction has encouraged you to start reading the Bible daily. Finding practical help with life’s many challenges is essential.
But the real benefit of spending time in God’s word is a more intimate relationship with Christ himself.
The message of the New Testament is clear. Christ loves you so much that he sacrificed himself for you (Mark 10:45).
The New Testament reminds us that we are God’s beloved children when we trust and follow Jesus.
John wrote toward the end of the New Testament, let’s “[s]ee what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1).