It is logical that an all-wise Creator has a purpose for those He creates. It is also reasonable to assume those He creates are inferior in knowledge. God desires His people to connect with Him – to bridge the tremendous gap between His great wisdom and the ignorance of human beings. Books have proven to be the most effective way to safeguard truth. Because written languages are the standard medium of global communication, God wrote specific instructions for all human beings. He has ensured these truths are perfectly and permanently preserved in a volume called “The New Testament”.
Whereas the Old Testament concerns the preparation for the arrival of Christ, the New Testament is the fulfillment of those prophecies. The Old Testament was temporary, external and national, but the New Testament is permanent, internal and global. The New Testament writers held the deepest respect for the Old Testament and collectively quote it nearly 300 times. Jesus affirmed He did not come to destroy the law, but rather to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17). The insufficiency of the Old Covenant called for a New Covenant which Jesus said would be ratified by His shed blood (Lk.22:20). His redemptive covenant is the unifying thread that binds all the books of the New Testament together.
The term is derived from the Latin Novum Testamentum. The Greek word for “testament” (covenant) is diatheke and is used most often regarding a last will and testament. The New Testament consists of 27 books, written by nine different authors before the turn of the first century. All were written in Greek, the language of the Roman Empire and the dialect of the working class. These books and epistles were sent to churches and individuals to address both doctrinal and pragmatic issues. Although many sacred writings were considered by the Church over the years, the final authority for acceptance into the canon was always the question of inspiration. Before the end of the fourth century, the New Testament canon we have today was adopted and is complete.
Representing a wide variety of persons, themes, literary forms and purposes, each book abounds with expressions of mutual love and fellowship in Jesus Christ. Such intimate association with God proves Christianity is not an abstract theological belief system. Through the truth contained in these books, the Holy Spirit bears witness in the hearts of Believers everywhere, bringing them into the fullness of the knowledge of God. The teachings of Christ and the writings of the New Testament are universal and easily comprehended by all who “hunger and thirst after righteousness” (Matt. 5:6). The Apostle John sums up the New Testament when he wrote: “These things are recorded that you might believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and by believing you might have life through His name” (John 20:31).
MATTHEW is the bridge between the Old and New Testaments. Christ’s prophetic roots, genealogy, messages and miracles present Him as the Messianic King. This Gospel has a strong interest in eschatology, showing Jewish Christians the nature and requirements of the Kingdom of God.
MARK provides a brief, fast-paced account of the life of Christ as he writes to the Roman world. Jesus is depicted as the Son of God who demonstrates His Deity through his powerful, miraculous deeds. His character is portrayed more by what He does than by what He says.
LUKE presents Christ as the Perfect Man who communicates truth through vivid stories and parabolic teachings. It is a comprehensive, chronological account written to strengthen the faith of Gentile Believers. As an accurate historian with strong literary skills, Luke writes to show God’s global plan of salvation through Christ.
JOHN has as its theme the deity of Jesus Christ and His unique relationship with the Father. Over ninety percent of the content of this book is comprised of material not found in the other Gospels. Although John records many of Jesus’ teachings and dialogues, he also interprets them theologically. Underlying everything John writes is the objective of bringing people to faith in Christ. John stresses that Jesus is God’s sacrifice for human sin – and that acceptance of this fact means eternal life.
ACTS is the vital historical bridge between the Gospel era and the rest of the New Testament. It is the drama of early church history, from the Holy Spirit’s arrival to the spread of the Gospel into Rome. Luke writes his gospel to show what Jesus did on earth and writes Acts to show what He continues to do through the Holy Spirit. It traces the rapid growth of the Church as it transitions from a primarily Jewish to a predominantly gentile membership.
ROMANS is the most complete and comprehensive explanation of the doctrine of justification by faith. It is the most formal, logical and systematic of all of Paul’s epistles. It is written to reveal God’s plan of salvation, to show how the Jews fit into that plan, and to exhort all Believers to live holy lives.
FIRST CORINTHIANS is written to address a variety of moral, ethical, doctrinal and practical concerns. This letter is a corrective response designed to refute improper attitudes and promote a spirit of unity within the church at Corinth. Paul seeks to show how every Believer must care for one other as members of the body of Christ.
SECOND CORINTHIANS contains Paul’s defense of His apostolic and ministerial authority. In this personal letter, he vindicates his calling, character and conduct. He shows the Christian ministry has been entrusted to faithful Believers who are assured of Christ’s strength and guidance throughout every trial.
GALATIANS establishes the doctrine of justification by faith and the subsequent freedom from works of the law. The letter is directed against Jewish opponents whose teachings threaten to contaminate the Gospel of grace. Paul refutes false doctrines that lead to bondage and exhorts Believers to stand fast in the liberty of Christ.
EPHESIANS focuses on the responsibility of Believers to walk in accordance with their heavenly calling. The predominant theme is the relationship between Jesus and His body, the Church, and the ultimate union of all things in Him. The epistle provides pragmatic encouragement for Believers to remain steadfast in the faith and to mature in Christ.
PHILIPPIANS is a warm and personal epistle, expressing commendation, affection and encouragement to a church in the midst of adverse circumstances. There is a prevailing undertone of joy throughout the book, based on the all-sufficiency of Christ. This epistle provides profound insight regarding Jesus’ preexistence, incarnation, humiliation and exaltation. It conveys clearly the worldview all Believers must adapt concerning suffering for Christ.
COLOSSIANS stresses the all-sufficiency of Christ and the preeminent salvation He offers. Paul unmasks the false teachers who have crept into the church, promoting elements of Jewish ceremonialism, Gnosticism, rationalism, mysticism, and ascetic legalism. Paul stresses that a firm adherence to Gospel truth is necessary to refute the syncretism of all philosophical views.
I THESSALONIANS is composed to comfort this fledgling church concerning other Believers who have died and to instruct them in the fundamental truths of the Gospel. Paul exhorts them to be optimistic concerning the Lord’s return and encourages them to resist the temptations of moral impurity, slothfulness and complacency. They are commended for their diligence, faith, love, and steadfastness in the face of persecution.
II THESSALONIANS is the sequel to First Thessalonians. Paul corrects the erroneous idea their current persecutions are proof The Day of the Lord has already arrived. Because this false doctrine inspires idleness, he exhorts them to continue their steadfast spiritual growth. The pre-tribulation Rapture of the Church should encourage expectancy and holy living.
I TIMOTHY is an instructional letter to a young pastor regarding ministerial qualifications and conduct. A minister’s life is to be above reproach as he cares for his people, refutes error and teaches sound doctrine. Paul provides practical guidelines for the management of a congregation and encourages Timothy to be mature, diligent and faithful in the performance of his pastoral duties.
II TIMOTHY outlines the attitude and world-view of a servant of Christ in an era of doctrinal declension. Writing in the shadow of his impending martyrdom, he stresses the importance of godly living and soldierly endurance in preparation for the approaching era of apostasy. Imparting his final words of wisdom and encouragement, Paul appeals to Timothy to fulfill his pastoral calling by using the Word of God to overcome all spiritual obstacles.
TITUS is a pastor to whom Paul gives instructions regarding the organization and supervision of churches on the isle of Crete. Titus is exhorted to firmly exercise the authority necessary to put these churches in order. While godly leaders are chosen on the basis of proven character, false teachers must be quickly detected and replaced. Guidelines are provided concerning the character and qualifications of ministers.
PHILEMON is Paul’s shortest and most intimate letter; a masterful blend of tact, courtesy and diplomacy. Onesimus, a servant of Philemon, ran away to Rome and comes into contact with Paul. He appeals to Philemon to reconcile with Onesimus, who is returning as a brother in Christ. The transition from estrangement to brotherhood is made possible through forgiveness and restoration.
HEBREWS is written to demonstrate the absolute superiority of Christ over the Judaic system. Eloquently constructed and of high literary quality, it abounds in quotations from the Old Testament. Because of the growing persecution, the readers are encouraged to mature in Christ and endure whatever reproach is necessary for His sake. Warnings against apostasy are combined with strong doctrines that embolden them to continue to embrace Christ as their Great High Priest.
JAMES is the most pragmatic of all the epistles. Its purpose is to call Believers to develop an active faith that produces changes in both character and conduct. Through a series of self-tests, James helps Believers re-evaluate their attitudes and relationship to Christ. Written to Jewish Believers of the Dispersion, a Judaic tone permeates the epistle. Illustrations of patience, faithfulness and prayer are found in Old Testament characters such as Abraham, Rahab, Job and Elijah. In his terse and vivid style, James employs imperative statements, abrupt questions and moral maxims. Recurring themes include the superiority of actions over theory, the dangers of slander, endurance under trials, mercy on the poor, humility and sincerity.
I PETER has a vivid and energetic style, offering encouragement during times of persecution. Peter teaches the proper response to suffering, setting forth Christ as our supreme example. Central themes include the need for patience and hope amid adverse circumstances and the relationship of suffering to salvation. Powerful doctrines such as soteriology, eschatology, and ecclesiology are laced with tenderness and empathy. Peter stresses submission to God’s will, holiness, steadfast endurance, and unswerving loyalty to Christ.
II PETER teaches that a more complete knowledge of Christ is the only safeguard against the prevalent heresies promoted by false teachers. Such seductive men are greedy, boastful, cynical, immoral and insubordinate. Peter urges his readers to self-examination regarding perseverance, godliness, love, kindness, and steadfastness. He affirms the timeless truths of the Gospel are key to their continued spiritual growth and gives them hope by reminding them of Christ’s eminent return.
I JOHN is characterized by love, intimacy, originality, simplicity and gentleness. John addresses the Church in familial terms and views all Believers as God’s children. Yet John’s affectionate regard for his readers is balanced with a decisive intolerance of all who would lead them into error. Eternal life and victory over sin is assured, despite the allurements of the world. He seeks to prevent heresies and promote holiness by encouraging perpetual obedience to Christ.
II JOHN calls the Church to steadfastly adhere to sound doctrine. This brief letter includes a warning against giving aid to false teachers, for Christian love cannot be extended to those who willfully seek to corrupt the Gospel message. His readers are encouraged to walk in truth by keeping God’s commandments.
III JOHN is a brief note commending Gaius who consistently walks in the truth and aids itinerate missionaries. However, Diotrephes has rejected John’s authority and forbade assistance to them. Serving as a warning against schism, the letter contrasts the selfishness of Diotrephes with the selflessness of Gaius.
JUDE provides a fiery, vigorous defense of the apostolic faith. He vehemently denounces arrogant, self-indulgent and immoral apostates who have created division within the Church by teaching false doctrines. He graphically describes the principles and practices of these ungodly intruders who have infected the Church. He provides Old Testament illustrations that warn of sins leading to apostasy. He urges his readers to develop spiritually, stand firm, contend for sound doctrine, have compassion, and pray in the Spirit.
REVELATION is the only distinctly prophetic New Testament book. It is characterized by a blend of apocalyptic visions, cataclysmic judgments and eschatological events. The earth is the center of a global spiritual conflict, but the absolute and permanent victory of Christ is the inevitable conclusion of God’s redemptive program. Abounding in symbolism and imagery, it depicts the triumph of Christ and His Church, His Second Advent, and the arrival of His future kingdom.