In the writings of the New Testament, we see the fulfillment of the promises of God in the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This month I will concentrate on the importance of reading through the New Testament and focusing on the amazing details of our God becoming fully man. The New Testament books can be divided into basic categories comprised of the four Gospels, a single book of history (the book of Acts), the Epistles (Romans-Jude), and the Book of Revelation. The Epistles can be subdivided into the Pauline epistles (those written by Paul), and the general epistles (James through Jude).
I want to explain something about each of these types of books. The Gospels begin the New Testament because their focus is on the life, ministry, and saving acts of Jesus of Nazareth as Messiah and Savior. These books speak with one voice concerning the message of Jesus coming into the world as the divine Son of God to save us from sin and death. Among the Gospels there is more commonality in the structures of Matthew, Mark, and Luke than the Gospel of John. But each Gospel writer in his own unique style tells us of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Two of the Gospels, Matthew and Luke, record the events of our Lord’s miraculous conception in His mother Mary and His birth. Each Gospel includes the teachings, miracles, and ministry of our Lord. All the Gospel writers also cover in detail the last week of Christ’s life including such details as His triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, His Last Supper, His trial, death, and resurrection.
The Book of Acts presents the spread of the Gospel after Christ’s Ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Jesus told His apostles in Acts 1:8, “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 Book of Acts reports on the activities of the apostles and the early Church fulfilling this command from the Lord.
The Epistles of the New Testament are letters written by Paul and other writers. Some of these letters are addressed to specific churches in the Mediterranean world such as the churches in Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, and Philippi. Three of Paul’s letters (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) are addressed to individuals who were leaders in the early church. The rest of the Epistles in the New Testament not written by Paul were not known to be written to a specific church but instead were to be circulated to all the churches in that region. The Epistles impart an important contribution to the writings of the New Testament as they address certain issues churches were facing which had not been addressed in detail in either the Gospels or the book of Acts. The Epistles cover such topics as the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the offices of presbyter and deacon and their qualifications. There are also aspects of Christian living which are recounted in greater detail than in the Gospels including the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24), the care of the widows and the poor (2 Thessalonians 3; 1 Timothy 5), and other aspects of Christian living (Galatians 6; Ephesians 4-6; Philippians 4; Colossians 3; 1 Thessalonians 4).
The Book of Revelation is unique as a type of literature within the New Testament in that it focuses on the end times and the coming of the Lord. While the Lord Jesus does make predictions in the Gospels about both the sufferings of the early Church and the sufferings of the Church before His 2nd coming in Matthew 24; Mark 13; and Luke 21, in the Book of Revelation, there is a greater emphasis on the things to come, especially in Revelation chapters 4-20. Some of the predictions of persecution were fulfilled within the lifetime of those in the 1st Century. Other events predicted happened after the time of the New Testament including during our own day and some have yet to be fulfilled in the last generation before the Lord’s 2nd coming.
Each distinct type of literature within the Bible makes a specific contribution through the guidance of the Holy Spirit to foreshadow, fulfill, and apply the Gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. May God grant us a deep desire to read, meditate on, and apply God’s word to our lives.