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How to study the Bible - New Testament Overview

How to study the Bible

Lesson Three: New Testament Overview 

Mat 4:4 (KJV) 
But (Jesus) answered and said, 
It is written, 
Man shall not live by bread alone, 
but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

The New Testament consists of 27 books. The word "Testament" means a "covenant, agreement, contract".  "New" is used as in contrast to the "Old" Testament, or the way God related to men and women after the coming of Christ.
Perhaps the we could title the Bible God's Plan. The "Old" Testament would be Volume One: The Plan Begins. And the "New" Testament would be called Volume Two: The Plan Completed.

The Purpose of the New Testament: TO REVEAL THE PERSON AND WORK OF CHRIST, as the fulfillment of Old Testament history, ceremony and prophecy.

The General Content of the New Testament  (Open your Bibles to the 'Table of Contents" as we work through this material.) The New Testament is very similar in its structure to the Old Testament. Last week we learned the Old Testament has three major sections: history, poetry, and prophecy. The New Testament also has three major divisions:
a. HISTORY, including .the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) and Acts.
b. TEACHING, or the Epistles (personal letters) of Paul, Peter, James and John.
c.  PROPHECY, the Revelation, also known as the Apocalypse of Saint John.

The Specific Content of the New Testament Books.

History: The Gospels

The Gospels   (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John)  are not biographies in the pure sense, although they are historical in every sense. Perhaps "portraits" is a better word than "biographies."  In each of the Gospels, Jesus is painted in a different pose. Each Gospel writer saw Jesus from a different angle and wrote his Gospel for a unique purpose.

MATTHEW was the tax collector. He wrote his Gospel for the purpose of showing a Jewish audience how Jesus was the Messiah promised in the Old Testament, More than in any other Gospel. Matthew uses the phrase, "This was to fulfill ..." 
See Matt. 1:22.

MARK was the first Gospel account to be written, and it seems quite clear that Matthew and Luke borrowed material from Mark. Mark begins with the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan river and contains no Christmas story.  Some feel Mark was addressed more to the Roman mind.  His use of "straightway" throughout the book, and his direct "get to the point" writing style may be a reflection of the Roman attitude.

LUKE was a physician and the only non-Jewish author in the Bible. He also wrote Acts. He was not one of the original apostles, but was a traveling companion of Paul. Luke's Gospel is the most detailed and carefully organized of the four gospels. See Luke 3:1. Luke also has the most extensive material on the birth and early childhood of Jesus.

JOHN is very different in its content and style from the other Gospels. It is the most theological, in that it is almost entirely teaching. You can see this stand out in a red letter edition of the Bible. In fact, of the 21 chapters in John, the last 10, almost half the book, are about the last week in Jesus life. Chapters 13, 14, 15, 16, arid 17 are composed of teaching that took place in the Upper Room the night before Jesus' crucifixion. A key phrase in John is "I am ..."   The purpose of John is clearly stated in John 20:30-31:    BELIEVE.

History: Acts of the Apostles

ACTS is Luke's record of the events that took place in the early church, Underlying the special events is a powerful explanation and defense of Christianity, to the Jews, the Greeks and the Romans. If you read the book carefully you can "see" where Luke joined Paul by change of the tense (from "they" to "we").

IMPORTANT NOTE:  The pivotal event in each of the Gospels is the baptism of Jesus, when the Holy Spirit came on his life. The pivotal event of Acts is the Spirit baptism of the disciples. Acts is the story of God's people, receiving what Jesus received (the power of the Holy Spirit) in order to do what Jesus did.

The Epistles: Paul

ROMANS, written to the Christians in Rome, is the most systematic presentation of Christian doctrine in the Bible. Its themes are judgment and righteousness, Jew and Gentile, law and grace, free will and predestination.....or in one word, salvation,

1 CORINTHIANS, written to the Christians in the Greek city of Corinth, is about a myriad of seeming!y unrelated issues--like law suits, communion, spiritual gifts, women in the church, matters of conscience, the resurrection. But the unifying theme is the community, or how Christians are to relate to one another in all kinds of settings and situations.

2 CORINTHIANS. It seems that there were some leaders in Corinth who were questioning Paul's authority, so much of 2 Corinthians is autobiographical, defending Paul's calling and right to apostolic authority.

GALATIANS was written to the Christians in the Roman province of Galatia, or modern-day Turkey. It is the declaration of the Christian's independence from the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament. The theme of Galatians is that salvation is by grace..Jesus plus nothing.

EPHESIANS, written to the Christians in the Greek city of Ephesus, is about the church - what it is and how God wants to use it. See Ephesians 3:10.

PHILIPPIANS, which Paul wrote from prison to the Christians in the Greek city of Philippi, is about the joy of our salvation.

COLOSSIANS, written to the Christians in the Greek city of Colosse, is about the magnificence of Christ.

PHILEMON is a short personal letter from Paul to a wealthy Christian by the name of Philemon. Paul had somehow met Philemon's runaway slave, and sent this letter back to Philemon, imploring him to receive back his former employee - as a brother in Christ.

1 & 2 TIMOTHY and TITUS are personal, instructional letters from Paul to his young understudies.

The Epistles: Hebrews

HEBREWS is in a class by itself in that no one really knows who wrote it. Written to Jewish Christians, it is perhaps the most profound book of the New Testament. The letter presents a comparison between the Old Covenant of law and ceremony and the New, or "better" Covenant of grace in Christ.

The Epistles: James

JAMES is a short but powerful letter about the importance of how you live out your faith. It is a kind of New Testament book of proverbs.

The Epistles: Peter

1, 2 PETER, among other things, focus on how the Christian is supposed to respond in adversity. Keywords in the book are sanctification, suffering and obedience.

The Epistles: John

1,2,3 JOHN are three little letters by the "Apostle of Love" ...the same John who wrote the Gospel of John. The themes epistles are Christian love and character, assurance of salvation, and truth.

The Epistles: Jude

JUDE is a fiery little letter about serving God with purity and integrity.


REVELATION is the most mysterious book in the Bible. It has been understood and misunderstood many ways! It's purpose, if it can be simply stated, is that Jesus and his kingdom will triumph, no matter how bleak life becomes. This was an incredibly important message at the time, because the church was going through one of the most fierce persecutions in its history.  


Mat 26:26-29 (KJV) 
And as they were eating, 
Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, 
and said, Take, eat; this is my body. 
{27} And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, 
Drink ye all of it; 
{28} For this is my blood of the new testament, 
which is shed for many for the remission of sins. 
{29} But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine,
 until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.

Jer 31:31-34 (KJV) 
Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, 
that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, 
and with the house of Judah: 
{32} Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers 
in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; 
which my covenant they brake, 
although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: 

{33} But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel;
 After those days, saith the LORD, 
I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; 
and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 
{34} And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, 
and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: 
for they shall all know me, 
from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: 
for I will forgive their iniquity, 
and I will remember their sin no more.


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