Friday, May 31, 2013

Meet the New Testament

Hebrews 9:11  "But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation." 


We will begin today's post with a quiz: What has 7,959 verses; 181,253 words and has been in existence for nearly 2,000 years.  Answer: The New Testament.   The purpose of today's post is to introduce you to the New Testament.  What is it's message, contents and chief point?  All of these questions will be answered in this fast-fly over of that glorious section of our Bibles that we call the New Testament.  Hebrews 9:11-28 will be our vehicle of choice, so strap in, buckle up, because its going to be a fast ride!

The Message, contents and chief point of the New Testament

1. The Foundation of the New Testament - The Gospels: Portray Jesus

Hebrews 9:11-12 states - "But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation;12 and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption." Where in the New Testament do we go to find out when and where Jesus appeared and what He did? The foundational books of the New Testament, the four Gospels, give us four portraits of what Jesus did.

Matthew presents the Majestic Christ, Christ our King.  In Matthew 1 we see the opening genealogy demonstrating His legal right to Israel's throne.  By the time you reach Matthew 27:37, you find our Lord on the cross with a sign above Him reading: "This is Jesus the King of the Jews." Following His resurrection from the dead, Jesus asserts in Matthew 28:18 that all power has been given to Him on Heaven and on earth.  Mark comes next, with his emphasis being upon the Mission of Jesus - the Suffering Servant.  Mark 10:45 has Jesus coming to serve and give His life a ransom for many.  Luke's account is the most historical, connecting us to Jesus the Perfect man, the New Adam.  In Luke 3:23-38 we see Jesus' genealogy differently from Matthew's.  Matthew traced Jesus bloodline through Joseph as being legally related to David, since Joseph was not his biological father according to the flesh.  However Luke traces Jesus' bloodline through Mary to demonstrate him to be be the biological heir of David, the biological fulfillment of Abraham's promise and biologically included in the bloodline of humanity.  As the New Adam, Jesus states in Luke 19:10 how He came to seek and save that which was lost.  

Those first three portraits together present Jesus in his humanity, with glimpses of His Deity.  In John's Gospel we see the emphasis being upon Jesus Christ as God in human flesh.  By the time you get through all four Gospels, you get the full picture of what Jesus Christ had done.   

2. Historical Section: The Book of Acts is about Jesus being Preached 

Hebrews 9:14-15a states - "how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (15) For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant..."  The Gospels view Jesus in the past tense: what He did.  With the Book of Acts and the Epistles, we are seeing Jesus in the present tense: Who He is.  The Book of Acts is really a companion volume to the Gospel of Luke.  Together with Luke, both occupy nearly 30% of the New Testament's length!  The point of Acts is to show what happened following Jesus' resurrection.  In Acts 1 we see Jesus giving final instructions to His disciples before His ascension into Heaven.  Acts 1:8 is really the key to the whole book: "but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” The reception of the power of the Holy Spirit occurs in Acts 2, with the early church going forth to proclaim the Gospel first in Jerusalem. (Acts 1-8)  Then we see the second stage of the church's mission going forth into all Judea and Samaria under the leadership of Peter and John in Acts 9-12.  Then the third stage of the church's mission occurs when Saul is converted and as Paul, spreads the Gospel to the remotest reaches of the Gentile world - northward and Westward. (Acts 13-28)  

The Book of Acts is undoubtedly a book of missions, but it is also a book of preaching.  Nearly 20 sermons are recorded in part or in full length, giving the reader first hand information on what was preached about Jesus in the 30 or so years of time recorded in Acts. Then finally, Acts is a book of the Holy Spirit, wherein He is mentioned some 40 times.  

The Book of Acts' relationship to the remaining section of the New Testament (Epistles) is to provide the historical backdrop and occasions for the writing of most of Paul's letters.  

3. The Writings or Epistles Explain Jesus Christ

Hebrews 9:15 tells us - "For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance."  From Hebrews 9:15-26 we see a full explanation of what Jesus did and is doing, a function that describes the main point of the 21 New Testament Epistles.  In the Gospels we see 30% of the material being devoted to the final week of Jesus life, crucifixion, burial and resurrection.  In those six hours that He hung on the cross, all four Gospels reveal what happened.  However in order to understand the meaning of the cross and resurrection, we need to hear the preaching of Acts and the explanation of the Epistles.  What is an epistle?  An epistle is a 1st century form of what we would call a handwritten letter.  Normally there was an introductory section (salutation), a doctrinal section, a practical section and then a closing section (epilogue or conclusion).  Thus in Galatians we see Christ our curse bearer, Ephesians depicts Him as the Ascended King, Philippians details Him as God who humbled himself into full humanity and Colossians reveals His Full Deity revealed in full humanity.  1 and 2 Thessalonians unfold the truth of His snatching away of the church prior to His touching down upon this world in His return.  1 and 2 Timothy and Titus unfold Christ as the Chief Shepherd over his church, with under shepherds doing His bidding through the preaching of the word and loving of the people.  Philemon is devoted entirely to the theme of forgiveness and Hebrews explains the relationship of Christ's accomplished work to the predictions of the Old Testament. 

With Paul's letters being 13 or 14 in number (depending upon your view of Hebrews' authorship), the remaining epistles cover the entire range of the composition of the New Testament.  James is the earliest of all the Epistles, connecting the preaching and teaching of the Early church back to Jesus.  As half-brother of Jesus according to the flesh, he would have unique insight along with the other half-brother of Jesus who authors the book of Jude.  1 and 2 Peter came from the hand of the Apostle Peter who was the leading spokesman in the first 12 chapters of Acts.  1,2,3 John represents the end of the Apostolic period, with the Apostle John being the author who wrote them in 90 A.D.  Then the book of Jude, being composed by Jesus half-brother Jude, closes out the section of the New Testament sometimes called "The General Letters or Epistles". Paul's letters explain Christ's accomplishment and Christian salvation to the end of time.  The General Epistles take this same theme and show how Christ's work give power to endure suffering and to overcome the increasing encroachment of the world upon the Christian.  

4. The Book of Revelation Prioritizes Jesus Christ
Hebrews 9:28 states - "so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him."  We have seen how the Gospels provide the foundation of the New Testament in their portrayal of Christ.  Acts provides the material necessary for the preaching of Christ, with the Epistles serving to Explain Christ.  This passage in Hebrews 9:28 illustrates a summary statement about the New Testament's final book - The Book of Revelation.  Revelation is all about revealing to the reader Jesus Christ. (Revelation 1:1).  In Revelation 1-3 we see Christ and His church.  By reading Revelation 4-5 you see Christ worshipped and in the section of 6-18 you see Christ Sovereign over history.  In the fourth major section of Revelation 19-20, you see revealed Christ and His coming reign, with the final two chapters devoted to Christ in eternity with His bride.  

Like the book of Acts, the book of Revelation has a key verse, 1:19 - "Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things."  Therefore "the things which you have seen" covers the main bulk of chapters 1-3.  Then "the things which are" could overlap into Revelation 4-5.  Finally, "the things which will take place" could include the overlap of 4-5 as well as chapters 6-22.  Whether looking at the book thematically as we did in the previous paragraph, or structurally from the standpoint of 1:19, Jesus Christ still retains His central Priority.

In tomorrow's blog we will use Hebrews 9:1-14 to do a fly-over view of the Old Testament.  I hope you will be back to see what God has to say in that section of His Word.  Until then, God bless!

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