Introduction to the New Testament
I. Introduction to the New Testament
The books from Matthew through Revelation are called the New Testament, because they present the new covenant that Jesus made. Old Testament prophets had predicted the establishment of this new covenant. There are twenty-seven books in the New Testament. One can easily remember this number by counting the letters in the words “New Testament.” There are three letters in the word New, and nine letters in the word Testament. Three times nine is twenty-seven. These books were written over a period of approximately fifty years and cover about one hundred years of history. Writers used by the Holy Spirit for this work include Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, Peter, and Jude. The New Testament is divided into five sections: the four Gospels; one book of history; the thirteen Pauline Epistles; the eight General Epistles, and one book of prophecy. It is vitally important to recognize the purpose of each book and to whom it was originally addressed. This information helps in the interpretation of Scripture. The first four books of the New Testament—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—are called the four Gospels. These books present a biography of Jesus Christ. They describe His birth, ministry, death, burial, and resurrection.
Matthew addresses Jewish readers foremost. It strongly emphasizes Jesus Christ as the Messiah and king predicted by the Old Testament prophets.
Mark was written with Gentile readers in mind. It presents Jesus as a servant who ministered to the needs of people. It stresses the supernatural power of Jesus, demonstrating His deity by the miracles He performed. It emphasizes the things Jesus said by the things He did.
Luke presents Jesus as the Son of God. It focuses especially on the humanity of Jesus, featuring His compassion for the weak, the suffering, and the outcast.
4. The Synoptic Gospels
The first three gospels are sometimes called the Synoptic Gospels, meaning they take a common view of the order of events surrounding the life of Christ. While each book was ultimately intended for all humanity, Matthew seems to have had foremost in his mind a Jewish audience; Mark, a Roman audience; and Luke, a Greek audience.
a. Matthew and Scripture
The Jews were diligently indoctrinated with the Scriptures. They were taught to view everything from a scriptural perspective. Matthew quotes from the Old Testament again and again in support of the claim that Jesus is the Messiah.
b. Mark and Authority
The Roman mind focused on governmental authority and power. Mark stresses the miracles of Christ, emphasizing His supernatural authority over all things.
c. Luke and the Glorious Perfection of Jesus
The Greek mind was attracted to culture, philosophy, wisdom, reason, beauty, and education. Luke presents a complete, orderly, and classical story in what has been called “the most beautiful book ever written.”
The Gospel of Luke reveals the glorious beauty and perfection of the ideal man, the Lord Jesus Christ.
5. John and the Deity of Jesus
John balances the other three Gospels by its special emphasis on the deity of Jesus. This book begins in much the same way as the Book of Genesis. It reveals that Jesus Christ is the Word made flesh and that He was from the very beginning God, the Creator of all things. John stresses the things Jesus said rather than what He did. Someone has said, “The others were anxious to record; John was eager to interpret.”
The first four books of the New Testament present a historical account of Jesus Christ. The next book, Acts, provides a historical account of the early church. The first chapter continues the story of the last moments of Christ while He remained on the earth and then records the establishment of the New Testament church in Jerusalem. There the promise of the Father (the Holy Ghost) was poured out upon the waiting believers (Acts 2). The establishment of the church was prophesied in the Gospels and accomplished in Acts. To understand how the church was founded, it is necessary to study the Book of Acts. This book records the history of how the New Testament church was born.
7. The Epistles
The next twenty-one books are epistles (letters) to the believers in the churches, telling them how to live the victorious Christian life. The Epistles are not written to tell one how to be saved; they are written to people who are already saved. They teach the church how to stay saved and how to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
a. The Pauline Epistles
Paul wrote thirteen epistles that identify him as the author. They are called the Pauline Epistles.
He wrote a letter to the church at Rome, two letters to the church at Corinth, one to the churches of Galatia, one to the church at Ephesus, and so forth. Within the Pauline Epistles are three books commonly called the Pastoral Epistles—I Timothy, II Timothy, and Titus—so called because they offer instructions concerning leadership in the churches.
b. The General Epistles
The next eight books—Hebrews, James, I Peter, II Peter, I John, II John, Ill John, and Jude—are called the General Epistles because most of them were originally written to the church at large, or in general. With the exception of Hebrews, each of these books bears the name of the author. The text of Scripture does not name the author of Hebrews, although an early tradition says Paul wrote it.
Finally, the Book of Revelation stands in a class by itself. It is largely prophetic in nature, although it begins with letters to seven of the churches located in Asia Minor. John was instructed: “Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter” (Revelation 1:19).
John the Baptist - The Forerunner of Christ
II. John the Baptist
The Old Testament prophets had predicted the coming of one who would prepare the way for the Messiah. “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: and the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it” (Isaiah 40:3–5). “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 3:1). These predictions were fulfilled in the ministry of John the Baptist. “The word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; as it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Luke 3:2–6). “For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee” (Matthew 11:10).
1. John, the Forerunner of Jesus Christ
John the Baptist was the messenger of Malachi 3:1 and the voice in the wilderness from Isaiah 40:3. John preached that he was not the Christ but that another would come, and He would be the One they should follow. “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire” (Matthew 3:11; see also Mark 1:7–8).
2. John Preaches Repentance and Baptism
John preached repentance and water baptism for the remission of sins (Matthew 3:2; Mark 1:2–4; Luke 3:2–6). Many came to hear John and to be baptized.
3. John Introduces Christ to the World
The One whom John predicted would come after him was none other than Jesus Christ. John introduced Him as “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God” (John 1:29–34). John’s statement not only identified Jesus as the Messiah but also described the foundation of His ministry: “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” This saving work had been revealed in advance to Joseph, Mary’s husband: “The angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20–21).
In Germany many years ago, a man was working high upon the steeple of a church. Suddenly he lost his footing and fell headlong to the ground beneath. Grazing on the grass was a lamb. The body of the man fell on the lamb, and thus his fall was broken. The lamb perished, but the man was saved. As a token of his gratitude, he carved in one of the stones over the doorway of the church the figure of a lamb. Every true church has that lamb as if it were carved in the stone of its wall. “Behold the Lamb of God.”
The Birth of Jesus Christ
III. The Birth of Jesus Christ
1. Jesus’ Birth
The birth of Jesus is recorded in Luke 2:1–20. It occurred during the reign of Caesar Augustus, who had declared a taxation on all the people in the Roman Empire. Because each person was required to go into his native city to be taxed, Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem. While they were there, Mary gave birth to the Christ child in a stable, and laid Him in a manger. The city was so crowded that there was no room for the family to stay in the inn. An angel proclaimed the birth of the Savior, Christ the Lord, in Bethlehem to shepherds who were watching over their flocks outside the city. When the angels departed, the shepherds followed their instructions and came into Bethlehem. They found Mary and Joseph with the baby in the stable. The shepherds told many people of their angelic visit, glorifying and praising God. Later, wise men came from the east to Jerusalem in an effort to find the One who was born king of the Jews. (See Matthew 2.)
They came first to King Herod in Jerusalem, inquiring where the king was to be born. Herod inquired of the chief priests and scribes, who told him that Christ was to be born in Bethlehem. King Herod sent the wise men to Bethlehem, asking that they return and inform him if they found the child. The wise men departed into their own country another way (Matthew 2:12). The Lord warned Joseph to take Jesus out of the country into Egypt to protect Him from the anger of Herod. Herod became very alarmed upon hearing of a king of the Jews being born, and he killed all the children in the Bethlehem area who were two years old and under. When Herod was dead, the angel of the Lord appeared again to Joseph in a dream and instructed him to return to the land of Israel. Joseph moved his family to Nazareth, in Galilee.
2. Jesus’ Early Life
Jesus lived at home with Mary, Joseph, His brothers, and His sisters until He was about thirty years of age, submitting to parental authority. The only record we have of His activities during the time after the family’s return from Egypt to Nazareth is a visit to Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve. At that time, “they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers” (Luke 2:41–52).
Prophecies Concerning Jesus Christ
IV. Prophecies concerning Jesus Christ
1. Genesis 3:15, the earliest specific prophecy concerning the Messiah, predicted that He would be born of a woman. This prophecy was fulfilled by His birth of Mary (Matthew 1:20).
2. Isaiah 7:14 foretold that the Messiah, Immanuel, would be born of a virgin. It was specifically fulfilled by His birth of the virgin Mary, as recorded in Matthew 1:18–23.
3. Genesis 49:10 revealed that the tribe of Israel through which the Messiah would come was the tribe of Judah. This was precisely the case, as shown by Luke 3:23–33.
4. Micah 5:2 further predicted that the Messiah would be born in the obscure town of Bethlehem, which is where Jesus was born (Matthew 2:1).
5. Even the visit of the wise men was foretold in the Old Testament (Psalm 72:10; Matthew 2:1–11).
6. The cruel hatred of Herod was in the foreknowledge of God (Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:16–18).
7. Isaiah 7:14 predicted that the Messiah would be Immanuel, meaning “God with us.” Matthew 1:23 declares that He was.
8. A forerunner, a messenger, preceded the Messiah, as students of Old Testament prophecy knew (Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 3:1–2).
9. Isaiah 35:5–6 foretold the wonderful ministry of miracles, the healing of the blind, the deaf, the lame, and the mute. This prophecy came to pass in Jesus’ ministry (Matthew 9:35).
10. Zechariah 9:9 foresaw that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem on a donkey. Shortly before His crucifixion, Jesus did just that (Luke 19:35–37).
11. David, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, prophesied the resurrection of the Christ (Psalm 16:10). Peter, preaching the first sermon in the church, quoted this verse and applied it to the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 2:31).
12. David also predicted the ascension of the Christ (Psalm 68:18). Acts 1:9 records this event. The apostle Paul, years later, applied Psalm 68:18 to the ascension of the Lord (Ephesians 4:8–10).
13. The betrayal of the Messiah by one who had been His friend was no surprise, for it was prophetically seen in Psalm 41:9. Judas was this friend (Matthew 26:50; John 13:21).
14. Even the amount of money for which Jesus was betrayed was specifically mentioned in the Old Testament (Zechariah 11:12). It was thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15).
15. Zechariah 11:13 further predicted that this money would be thrown down in the Temple at Jerusalem, which was, at that time, God’s house. Judas did that very thing (Matthew 27:5).
16. In prophetic language, Zechariah 13:7 pictured the forsaking of Jesus by His disciples. Matthew 26:56 reveals the total, stark fulfillment of this tragic event.
17. According to Psalm 35:11, false witnesses would accuse the Messiah. Matthew 26:59–60 records this occurrence.
18.Isaiah 53, a touching and dramatic foretelling of the crucifixion of the Messiah, stated that He would be silent before His accusers. In keeping with this prediction, Jesus answered nothing to the accusations (Matthew 27:12; I Peter 2:22–23).
19. Isaiah 53 also foretold the bruising and wounding of the Messiah, in verse 5. Matthew 27:26 records the fulfillment.
20. Isaiah 50:6 predicted the smiting of the Messiah, plucking of hair from his cheeks, and spitting in His face. Matthew 27:30 tells of the smiting of Jesus.
21. Psalm 22:7–8 describes the mocking of the Messiah; the actual event is seen in Matthew 27:31.
22. The piercing of the Messiah’s hands and feet was foretold in both Psalm 22:16 and Zechariah 12:10. John 20:25 records the fulfillment.
23. Isaiah 53:12, part of a great predictive passage, said the Messiah would be “numbered with the transgressors.” He was crucified with thieves (Matthew 27:38).
24. Psalm 22 deals specifically with the crucifixion of the Messiah. Verse 18 foretold that His garments would be parted and lots cast for His robe. The actions of the Roman soldiers as Jesus hung on the cross fulfilled this prophecy (John 19:23–24).
25. The first verse of Psalm 22 recorded the Messiah’s forsaken cry many hundreds of years in advance. His actual words at this desperate moment are found in Matthew 27:46.
26. The Roman soldiers, though they broke the bones of the thieves on either side of Jesus, did not break His (John 19:31–36). Psalm 34:20 foresaw this event.
27. Zechariah 12:10 describes the piercing of the Messiah. Not only were His hands and feet pierced, but as noted in John 19:34, He was also pierced in the side.
28. The unusual darkness that covered the land during the crucifixion of Christ (Matthew 27:45) was foretold in Amos 8:9.
29. Isaiah 53:9 revealed the burial of the Messiah in a rich man’s tomb. The record of the event is in Matthew 27:57–60. It has been estimated that the odds against fulfilling just eight of the major prophecies about Jesus are 1 in 1017. It is obvious to all sincere students of God’s Word that these amazing predictions and fulfillments are nothing short of miraculous. Jesus fulfilled many Old Testament prophecies when He was born, lived, died, and rose again on God’s exact time schedule.
The Incarnation - The Mighty God in Christ
V. The Incarnation - The Mighty God in Christ
Who is this Jesus? This is one of the most important questions we could ever answer. Jesus asked His disciples, “Whom say ye that I am?” (Matthew 16:15). Is He a prophet? Yes, and much more than that. A diligent comparison of Old Testament Scriptures with the New reveals that He is God manifest in the flesh (I Timothy 3:16). The pivotal text of the Old Testament is Deuteronomy 6:4–9. Its lesson is basic: there is but one God. A multitude of scriptural passages proclaim this truth. (See chart.) According to John 4:23–24, the one God is a Spirit. He is God with us (Isaiah 7:14). He is the mighty God, the everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:6). He is the One who created us (Genesis 1:1; Malachi 2:10; John 1:3). While Jesus Christ is God, He is also man. The mystery of godliness is that God was manifest in the flesh (I Timothy 3:16). As a man Jesus hungered, slept, was weary, wept, and prayed. As God He fed the five thousand, healed the sick, raised the dead, and answered prayer. Great confusion results if we forget that Jesus is both God and man. He is fully God and fully man. All Scripture points to the grand truth that there is but one God: God is the Creator; Jesus is the Creator. God is the Savior and Redeemer; Jesus is the Savior and Redeemer. God is the Shepherd; Jesus is the Shepherd. God is the King; Jesus is the King. God is the I Am; Jesus is the I Am. God is the First and the Last; Jesus is the First and the Last. God is the Rock; Jesus is the Rock. God is coming; Jesus is coming. We cannot stress too much the importance of the identity of Jesus Christ. The Pharisees asked Him, “Where is thy Father?” Jesus answered, “Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me ye should have known my Father also . . . for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:19–24). Philip, one of the disciples, said to Him, “Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.” Jesus responded, “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake” (John 14:8–11). The Father was in the Son. The Father and the Son are not two separate persons, but God, the Spirit, manifested Himself in flesh (humanity). “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself” (II Corinthians 5:19). Ephesians 4:5–6 reveals the oneness of God: “One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” A story is told about Andrew Bahr, who drove a great herd of reindeer across the Alaskan wilderness. During the long trek, a frenzied helper came to him one winter day crying that they were lost. Andy glared witheringly at the speaker and then at the others around him. At length, smiting his chest, he roared, “You men can see me, can’t you?” They nodded, not understanding what he was driving at. “Well,” he went on, “as long as you can see me, y’ain’t lost.” In the catastrophic confusion surrounding us, we are not lost so long as we can see Jesus Christ, the one true God incarnate. He ever says, “Follow me.”
The Miracles of Jesus Christ
VI. The Miracles of Jesus Christ
The first recorded event in the adult life of Christ is His baptism by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:13–17). John was reluctant to baptize Christ but submitted when Jesus told him that it was necessary to fulfill all righteousness. As Jesus came up out of the water, John saw the heavens opened and the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting upon Jesus. He also heard a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” This was a sign from God to John that Jesus was the Messiah. (See also John 1:32–34.)
2. Jesus’ Temptation
Following His baptism, the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. Matthew 4:1–11 provides an account of His temptation. After forty days and nights of fasting, the tempter came to Jesus. First, he appealed to the natural hunger that Jesus suffered and tempted Him to use His supernatural powers to turn stones into bread. It is important to note that Satan directed his attack against the deity of Jesus. He said, “If thou be the Son of God . . .” Jesus responded to the enemy with the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17). He began by saying, “It is written.” The devil then took Jesus into the city of Jerusalem to the pinnacle of the Temple and again tempted Him. This time Satan attempted to use the Word of God to justify his temptation. He did not quote the pure Word of God as found in Psalm 91:11–12 but rather his own distorted and misapplied version of it. Again Jesus responded with the pure Word of God. Finally, the devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them. He claimed that he would give them to Jesus if Jesus would fall down and worship him. Jesus quoted the Word of God and commanded the devil to leave. The devil left Jesus for a period of time (Luke 4:13). Angels came and assisted Jesus. Following the temptation, Jesus entered into His ministry, calling disciples unto Himself and fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 61. “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is the scripture fulfilled in your ears” (Luke 4:16–21).
3. The Miraculous Ministry of Jesus
Jesus’ miraculous ministry was in direct fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. He gave sight to the blind (Matthew 9:27–31). He raised the dead (John 11:41–44). At His touch lepers were cleansed (Matthew 8:2–4). The lame walked (John 5:1–9). The deaf heard, and the mute spoke (Mark 7:35–37).
In the meantime, John the Baptist had been placed in prison for his condemnation of Herod’s sin. John told Herod that it was unlawful for him to have his brother’s wife (Matthew 14:3–4). While in prison, John heard of Christ’s ministry and sent two of his disciples to ask, “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3). Jesus answered: “Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me” (Matthew 11:4–6).
4. The Heart of Jesus’ Ministry
Some of the Jewish people were confused because they expected their Messiah to be born in a palace of a noble family and to free them from Roman oppression. They misunderstood the prophecies of the prophets. Jesus came to minister to all people, not just the rich. He came to establish a kingdom that was not of this world (John 18:36). His message was not one of revolution but repentance (Mark 1:15). When questioned by John’s followers concerning whether or not He really was the Messiah, Jesus offered as proof His ministry to the blind, the lame, the lepers, the deaf, the dead, and the poor. Clearly, He did not come for the purpose of aligning Himself with the so-called dignitaries of this world but to teach and reach people at their point of greatest need. Hebrews 4:15–16 says, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Jesus never refused anyone. He never turned any away. His invitation is universal: “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified)” (John 7:37–39). Once a little band of Christians was forced to meet in secret to worship their Lord. A spy betrayed them to the secret police. An officer and several men surprised them one night at their time in prayer.
Looking about him in anger and contempt, the officer ordered one of his men to count all who were present and to take down their names. When he had done so he reported to the officer that there were thirty men and women. An old man stepped forward and said, “Officer, there is one whom you have missed. There is one more here.” The officer looked at him in scorn and said, “What do you mean? We have counted them carefully. There are just thirty here.” “No,” the old man insisted, “there is another here whom you have missed.” “Very well,” said the officer, “we will count them again.” Again he counted them and again the count was thirty. “There,” he said, “it is just as I told you; there are only thirty. Thirty of you miserable Christians. Thirty and no more!” “Yes,” said the old man, “but there is one more here, one whom you missed—and that one is our Lord Jesus Christ!”