Below are some highlights that come to mind as we seek to walk through the New Testament together—things that should encourage you and make the Bible more readable for you. However, don’t miss the fact that these insights are exactly what you should find at the beginning of every book of the Bible in a good study Bible like the Life Application Bible. They are also what you will find in great detail if you read one of the recommended resources above. There’s a lot you can know and gain from an introduction to a book of the Bible that helps you read it.
Key Read: The Big Picture – Tommy Nelson
Also Recommended: From Creation to the Cross
New Testament Survey – Tenney
Walk Through the Bible – Lesslie Newbigin
Walk Through the New Testament – Wilkinson
The New Testament: It’s Background and Message – Lea and Black
A Popular Survey of the New Testament – Norman Geisler
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Matthew, Mark, Luke and John try to persuade you to follow Jesus.
Not chronological life accounts, but persuasive accounts intended to bring you to faith.
Matthew: King & Messiah
· Characteristics: Written to the Jews. Possibly originally in Aramaic. Focused on the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecy in the Old Testament.
· Big Idea: Jesus is the Jewish Messiah
· Key Verse: 17 “Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. (Matt 5:17, HCSB)
Mark: Son of God, Servant
· Characteristics: Written to Romans. The footnotes version of the gospel. Fast paced and brief. Written by Peter’s ministry colleague.
· Big Idea: Jesus is God’s Servant for all mankind.
· Key Verse: For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45
Luke: Son of Man
· Characteristics: Volume 1 of two: Luke and Acts go together as a complete set. Luke is a half-Jew, half-Gentile writing to the disenfranchised, particularly the poor and women. He was one of Paul’s traveling companions and ministers. He wrote the most of any New Testament author, 28%! And he was the only one to record details about Jesus birth and early years.
· Big Idea: Jesus came as the perfect man to save the world.
· Key Verse: 10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10, HCSB)
*Side Note: The Synoptic Gospels: Who copied who? We don’t know. It’s VERY complicated!
John: Believe the Mystery
· Characteristics: Filling in the gaps of the other gospels. Very layered in meaning. Example: “eat my body” appears in John’s story of Jesus a long time before we understand what the Lord’s supper is all about. John is very focused on the goal: He only uses 7 miracles, 7 key I AM statements, and records none of Jesus parables. John refers to himself in the gospel as “the one Jesus loved.”
· Big Idea: Jesus is the Savior of the World
· Key Verse: The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name. ~ John 20:30-31
*Basic Gospel Story: Jesus goes to the Jewish leaders, but they reject Him.
Jesus inaugurates the New Covenant for all peoples, and dies on the cross in fulfillment of the old covenant and inauguration of the new covenant.
The gospel to the ends of the earth. An extension of Luke’s Gospel (volume/scroll #2)
· James conversion – the Jerusalem church leader.
· Paul’s conversion – the thirteenth apostle.
· Planting Churches across the Mediterranean
· The first big council of the church – Gentile requirements for conversion
· Paul’s imprisonment impact
Key Verse: 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, HCSB)
Reading the New Testament for All It’s Worth:
Every story and description and command of the Bible is 100% powerful and authoritative all by itself. EVERY good Bible student should begin looking for the meaning and impact of a verse right where it is, asking the questions: What did the author mean when he wrote this? How did this impact the original audience? How does this fit into the message of its book as a whole?
However, there’s also a lot to learn and gain from looking at the people, topics, and churches that the Bible describes too. Take advantage of your ability to read the Bible as a single “book” and work through all the passages pertaining to a specific subject. Use the index in the back of your study Bible or Google, and get a full picture of a Bible character or subject.
Take care when comparing the four gospels, however, for a few reasons. These gospels where arranged by their authors to communicate specific messages. They were not trying writing chronologically sequenced accounts of Jesus’ life, rather they were writing to tell His story in a way that persuaded people to believe in Him and His message.
- They will not have the same order of events.
- They will use the same words, but often with different nuances of meaning.
- Sometimes they will record similar, but not identical events or messages. Jesus was a traveling preacher, he likely took a basic message outline and adapted it for different audiences and occasions. For example, Jesus delivers the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, but Luke records a similar message delivered to a different audience in His gospel, chapter 6. To say that these are the same message recorded differently would be wrong, and to read them as if they are saying the same thing is incorrect. We need to see each message through the mind of the author, and through the intentions of Jesus on that occasion.
Sermon on the Mount
1 When He saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain, and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He began to teach them, saying:
3 “The poor in spirit are blessed, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
4 Those who mourn are blessed, for they will be comforted.
5 The gentle are blessed, for they will inherit the earth.
6 Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed, for they will be filled.
7 The merciful are blessed, for they will be shown mercy.
8 The pure in heart are blessed, for they will see God.
9 The peacemakers are blessed, for they will be called sons of God.
10 Those who are persecuted for righteousness are blessed, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
11 “You are blessed when they insult and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. 12 Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by men. (Matt 5:1-13, HCSB)
Sermon on the Plain17 After coming down with them, He stood on a level place with a large crowd of His disciples and a great number of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and from the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon. 18 They came to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases; and those tormented by unclean spirits were made well. 19 The whole crowd was trying to touch Him, because power was coming out from Him and healing them all. 20 Then looking up at His disciples, He said:
You who are poor are blessed, because the kingdom of God is yours.
21 You who are now hungry are blessed, because you will be filled. You who now weep are blessed, because you will laugh.
22 You are blessed when people hate you, when they exclude you, insult you, and slander your name as evil because of the Son of Man.
23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! Take note — your reward is great in heaven, for this is the way their ancestors used to treat the prophets.
24 But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your comfort.
25 Woe to you who are now full, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who are now laughing, for you will mourn and weep.
26 Woe to you when all people speak well of you, for this is the way their ancestors used to treat the false prophets… (Luke 6:17-26, HCSB)
- Read through Mark’s gospel in 1-2 sittings. Read it so that you follow the flow of the book, and ask yourself, what is the overall theme and message of it?
Questions to Answer:
- Which gospel writer do you identify most with? Why?
- If you were to write a book that would be included in the Bible, what would you write?