Summary: New Testament: A brief survey of the New Testament including brief descriptions of each major grouping of books. The goal is to encourage greater use of the Bible.
[Start the sermon after the presentation of the video, The Bible, from sermonspice.com]. What did you think of the video? I think that the video truly unearths realities that we are often hesitant to speak about. I also think that we have to admit that there really is that sort of either outright doubt about the Bible as God’s Word. And most certainly – even among Christians – that sort of we have to admit that there is often complete neglect for God’s Word.
Today we continue with trying to familiarize ourselves with the Bible. The end goal is to encourage frequent, if not daily use of the Scriptures. Today, our focus is going to be the Scriptures written after the birth of Jesus – the New Testament.
There is a phenomenal consistency in the central message of the Bible. In the Old Testament, we begin by reading how the world and humanity came to be. We read how God carved out a peculiar people – the Nation of Israel – and it was through this Nation that God promised to bring the Savior of all humanity. In the Old Testament, we see a steady movement from World, to Nation and finally to the specific prophecies that point us to the coming Messiah – Jesus Christ.
The New Testament also focuses on Christ, but for a slightly different purpose. We are told that in Christ, God has won forgiveness and salvation for the entire world. And so in the New Testament we have this movement that focuses on what God accomplished on the Cross, and then how that was taken to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the world.
In both the Old and New Testaments, the focus, the central message is Jesus Christ. There was one old boy in history who said that there is a Bible within the Bible and that the inner Bible is Christ. In fact, the way that he explained it was by saying that the Bible is the cradle for Christ. That old boy was Martin Luther. When we look through the lens of Christ, we have a better chance of understanding the Bible.
The original autographs – that is the original texts of the books of the Bible – are not available. The extant manuscripts (the ones available to us today) are copies of the originals. Most of these are written in Greek even though there are scholars who believe that the originals were written in Aramaic.
In saying that the New Testament has a central theme – that is to say that it speaks about Christ and his saving work for the entire world – we can look to one verse to serve as a summary of the entire New Testament: But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20.31)
Ok, with that brief introduction I’d like to invite you to open up your Bibles once again to the index page. We are going to take a quick run through the books of the New Testament to learn about the different classes of writings and their central focus.
The first four books of the New Testament [Matthew, Mark, Luke and John] are the Gospels. These paint a portrait of Jesus with slightly different focuses. For example, the Gospel of Matthew was written primarily to convince a Jewish audience that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah. That’s why Matthew spends so much time looking at the genealogies – to show how Jesus was born from the promised lineage. Matthew quotes the Old Testament prophets and repeats the phrase, “And so it was fulfilled…” or something similar frequently.
The Gospel of Mark was written to people who were persecuted. Most scholars believe that this Gospel was written to Gentile Christians in Rome who were undergoing intense persecution. He speaks of the power of Christ to deliver from suffering and persecution because his readers were under persecution. And so, because the audience was Gentile, Mark takes the time to explain Jewish terms and customs. The Gospel was also written in no-nonsense language to a people who needed a quick, succinct, get to the point type of message. Some call this the Gospel according to Peter because it is believed Mark was writing for Saint Peter.
The next book is the Gospel of Luke. A very educated and prepared man wrote it – a physician – Dr. Luke. This is a Gospel whose picture of Christ would appeal to all people, but whose eye for detail is absolutely incredible. If we just look at the first few verses of the second chapter of Luke, we can get a sense for Dr. Luke’s incredible capacity to communicate great detail in very succinct language: