The New Testament
While the message of Matthew';s gospel is for everyone today, it was written especially for the Jewish people of his time, a people who had waited for centuries for the promised Messiah. Matthew, one of the twelve apostles, continually points out that Jesus was the One they had waited for simply because he fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies — more than forty of which Matthew lists in his gospel account.
The shortest of the four Gospels, Mark portrays Jesus as a servant of his Father in heaven, as a preacher, teacher, and healer who took care of the needs of others all the way to his death on a cross. Mark himself is identified as “the son of Mary of Jerusalem” (Acts 12:12) and as “John Mark” (Acts 12:25).
The Gospel of Luke — which, along with the Acts of the Apostles, was written by the physician Luke — focuses on the perfect humanity of Jesus Christ. Luke tells his readers upfront that he wasn';t one of Jesus'; apostles or even an eyewitness to the earthly ministry of Christ. Luke';s gospel was the only one of the four written by a Gentile, and it includes many details left out of the other accounts.
While Luke presents Jesus as the perfect human, or “the Son of Man,” the apostle John presents him as the perfect, sinless Son of God. One of the recurring phrases in the Gospel of John is “I am,” which was spoken by Jesus several times as he identified himself as the Son of God, the Messiah, and the Savior.
Acts of the Apostles
Dr. Luke, apparently an avid historian and researcher, compiled and wrote the account of how the church got its start. In this book we read of how the believers received the Holy Spirit (chapter 2), and many of them — including Peter, John, and the apostle Paul — went out into the world and preached what Jesus Christ had taught.
Paul';s epistle to the Romans is considered his greatest work. The Gospels recount the life of Jesus and present his words and deeds, but the book of Romans explains the significance of his life and of his death and resurrection, namely that these events were accomplished so that all humanity — Jew and Gentile alike — could have fellowship with God.
The city of Corinth was one of the most important in Greece during Paul';s day. As a port city, it was the hub of commerce and trade. But it was also a center of immorality and idolatrous religious practices. It was the influences of these things that Paul addressed as he wrote his letter to a church he had founded earlier.
Since Paul had written his first letter to the Corinthian church, it had been infiltrated by false teachers who had stirred the people against his teachings. Upon hearing about that, Paul sent an associate, Titus, to deal with the problems. Upon the return of Titus, Paul was overjoyed to hear of the Corinthians'; change of heart. This letter is Paul';s expression of thanksgiving to the church for its about-face.
The Galatian church has been influenced to leave the life of faith and follow after teachings based on works of the law and the flesh. Paul was disturbed at this development and wrote this epistle in an attempt to get them to follow a gospel based on faith.
Paul';s epistle to the Ephesians is addressed to a church that doesn';t quite seem to understand what riches they have in Jesus Christ. They are called to higher living, yet they live like paupers only because they don';t understand what they have in him. Chapters 1–3 of this epistle spell out for these Ephesians what they have, which is every spiritual blessing they could ever need.
Paul';s letter to the Philippians is different from his others simply because he isn';t correcting any major problems within the church. Instead, he writes with great warmth and affection to these believers in Philippi, who had helped him out in his hour of need. In writing this letter, Paul spells out the central truth that it is only in Christ that believers can have real unity and joy.
This letter has as its emphasis the works, the person, and the character of Jesus Christ. Paul wanted his readers to understand that Christ should be first and foremost in people';s lives and that their lives should reflect that fact. The first two chapters of this letter give the readers the doctrine of who Jesus is, while the second two spell out what that means in how we live.
Paul';s first letter to the newly founded Thessa-lonian church expresses his words of praise for their faith, hope, love, and perseverance — all in the face of the severe persecution that churches faced in those days. He also encourages them to grow in their faith and in their love for one another and to continue praying, rejoicing, and giving thanks in all things.
Since Paul';s first letter to the Thessalonian church, some false teaching had made its way into the church causing these believers to falter in their faith. In writing 2 Thessalonians, Paul was attempting to rid the church of this false teaching and put them back on the right path of faith.
This is a letter Paul wrote to his young prot ég é Timothy, a pastor at the church in Ephesus who was faced with the challenging tasks of ridding the church of false teaching, making sure public worship was conducted properly, and developing mature leadership. Paul wanted Timothy to understand that his youthfulness could be used as an asset in his ministry and that he had to be on his guard against false teaching and pursue the things a godly man should.
This epistle is one of several Paul wrote from prison, and like the others it is a letter of encouragement. Again, Paul is encouraging Timothy to be on the alert for false or faulty teaching and to cling to the truth — even though there would be those who wanted to hear something other than the truth of Jesus Christ.
Titus, like Timothy, was a young pastor who faced some daunting challenges. In this case, it was setting in order the church in Crete. Paul wants him to understand the importance of making sure that the leadership in the church were the kind of men who would lead by example in the area of spiritual maturity.
Paul';s letter to Philemon, a fellow Christian, is the shortest of his epistles that appear in the Bible. In it, he is pleading the case of Onesimus, a runaway slave who had become a Christian. Paul is pleading with Philemon to take Onesimus back in the spirit of brotherly love and forgiveness.
The first Christians recorded in the Bible were Jewish people who had converted. Many of them struggled with the persecution by their countrymen and from the Roman authorities and were considering leaving Christianity and going back to Judaism. The writer of Hebrews (it';s not certain who that was) wanted to encourage them to continue on, and he did so by showing them the superiority of Christ over any of the religious systems they knew.
While no one can be saved on the basis of their deeds, true faith in Christ will manifest itself in the deeds we do. That is the point the apostle James — it isn';t certain who this is, but it has been generally accepted as the one referred to as “the Lord';s brother” (Galatians 1:19) — was making when he wrote, “faith is dead without good deeds” (Galatians 2:26). Faith takes us through trials, repels temptation, and motivates us to obey the Word of God.
Jesus never told anyone that following him would be easy or that they wouldn';t face opposition. In fact, he promised exactly the opposite. The apostle Peter, who followed Jesus for nearly the entirety of his earthly ministry, wanted the readers of this epistle to understand that following Jesus meant facing trials but that those who persevered through those things would receive the reward.
In his second epistle, Peter warns believers about false teachers who were sure to come into their midst trying to sell false and damaging teaching. He wanted them to understand that they would need to be diligent in examining their personal lives and in pursuing the kind of personal conduct God had called them to.
The apostle John, who had enjoyed close fellowship with Jesus while he was on earth and who still enjoyed close fellowship with him as he was in heaven, wanted his readers to see that God is three things: light, love, and life. And because of those things, those of us who know Jesus Christ are allowed to walk and live in those three things.
The apostle John had already said that loving one another is the equivalent of walking according to God';s commandments. However, John wrote that love must also be discerning. It can';t be naïve, ignorant, or open to anything and anyone. That is because there are a lot of false teachers who do not acknowledge Christ as having come in the flesh.
In this letter, the apostle John encourages Christians to have brotherly fellowship with one another. John expresses his love for a person named Gaius, then assures him of his prayers for his health and proclaims his joy over Gaius';s steady walk with the Lord.
This epistle — which was likely written by Jude, the brother of James — encourages believers to fight and contend for the faith, particularly when people fall away, when false teachers appear, and when the truth of God comes under attack. In the face of such things, Christians should not be caught off guard but should be ready to contend for their faith.
Revelation, written by the apostle John, is the book of finalities — or how things turn out for us. In this book, we see God';s final plan for the redemption of humankind and the judgment of all evil unfold. This is the book of unveiling or disclosure of all things eternal.