UNDERSTANDING YOUR NEW TESTAMENT
Many of us pick up our Bibles and read at random a chapter here and there and lay them down. At intervals we repeat the process, and wonder, after years of such practice, why it is we know so little about the Bible. We are prone to assume that the Bible is an unexplainable mystery. In this lesson, we want to give some rules that will help you to understand your New Testament.
We have found that we live today under the New Covenant, as revealed in the New Testament. The old covenant, containing the law of Moses, has been taken out of the way. Truly, it was given by the hand of Jehovah. It contained divine ordinances. It was intended for the Jewish nation to keep, but the old covenant was intended only for the Jewish nation. It was never intended for the Gentiles. In the second place, the old covenant never contained a plan of salvation – not even for the Jew. His sacrifices under the old covenant could not atone for his sins. This covenant which was given to the Jew was but a “schoolmaster to lead us to Christ.” Jesus took it out of the way at the cross.
We live under the New Covenant. In Hebrews 10:10 the writer says, “He taketh away the first (covenant) that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus once for all.”
It is true that God in sundry times and in divers manners, did speak in times past to our fathers through the prophets. It is also true that he has spoken unto us in this age through his Son.
It is right to read the Old Testament. It should be studied in order that we may have the benefit of the experience of the thousands who lived under the old covenant, and who served God under it. But no one among us need go back to the Old Testament to justify a religious practice, or seek divine command. We are under a different covenant entirely.
Our New Testament begins with the book of Matthew. It ends with the book of Revelation. These 27 books are divided into four natural divisions. It is absolutely necessary that we understand these divisions before we can clearly understand what we read in the New Testament. These four divisions are as follows: The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John constitute the first division. The book of Acts is the second division. The letters written to Christians constitute the third division. And the book of Revelation is the fourth division.
Let us study these divisions separately. The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John describe the lifetime of Jesus. Roughly they begin with the birth of Jesus and end with his death, burial and resurrection. These four books are sometimes called the parallel gospels in that they record the same events, and the same period of time, from four different viewpoints. These four books cover the last 33 years of the law of Moses. The law of Moses ended at the cross. Jesus lived his lifetime before the cross. Therefore Jesus lived and died as a Jew under the law of Moses. He himself said, “I came not to destroy the law but to fulfill the law.”
Often in studying the New Testament we make the mistake of making application of these four books to the New Testament Church. These four books describe a period of time prior to the beginning of the New Testament church. The church could not begin until after the death of Christ. It began on the day of Pentecost.
Jesus worshipped on the Sabbath day. He did so because he was subject to the law of Moses, and lived while the law of Moses was in force, and the Sabbath day was the day of worship prescribed in that law. Often we confuse that which should appertain to the old law with that which is attached to the new, because we fail to recognize that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John describe a period of time prior to the cross and prior to the taking out of the way of the Old Testament law.
Now we come to second division of the New Testament – the book of Acts of the Apostles. Jesus had commissioned the apostles to go into all the world and make disciples among every nation. In the book of Acts of the Apostles, we have the description of the action of these apostles as they went out, under the great commission, to make disciples. The book of Acts is a division all by itself. It contains the commands of the Lord, obedience to which provides one with access into the grace of God. The book of Acts is a description of the establishment of the church. It contains the blueprints by which Christians are made. In the second chapter, the eighth chapter, the ninth chapter, the sixteenth chapter, and the eighteenth chapter we have detailed instructions given on how to make a saint out of a sinner. All the commands of Jehovah concerning first principle obedience to the gospel are contained in the book of Acts.
Now, commands are given to be obeyed. Facts are to be believed; commands are to be obeyed. There is no point in giving a command unless obedience is expected. As the first division of your New Testament is designed to produce faith, this second division is designed to produce obedience. Upon the basis of faith produced by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and obedience to the commands given in the book of Acts, one becomes a Christian.
Then, we come to the third division of your New Testament. It is comprised of those letters written to save people, beginning with Romans and concluding with Jude, telling them how to stay saved. In this division, designed especially for Christians, we find instructions on how to live the Christian life. As it is the purpose of the first two divisions to make Christians, it is the purpose of the third to teach Christians how to live. If one would know what is required of him as a Christian let him read the letters written to Christians in which these requirements are laid down. If one would know how to worship God acceptably, let him read the letters to the churches which instruct Christians in what constitutes acceptable worship.
Finally, we have the fourth division of the New Testament. It is the book of Revelation – truly in a class by itself. In this book the aged apostles, John, from the Isle of Patmos, saw the heavens opened and viewed the things that the redeemed shall some day experience when they have gone home to God.
When these four divisions are taken together they constitute a perfect law of liberty. Paul recognized this orderly division when he wrote Timothy: “All scripture is inspired of God and is profitable for teaching (to produce faith), for reproof and correction (to produce obedience), for instruction in righteousness (third division) that the man of God may be perfect (fourth division), thoroughly furnished unto every good work.”
Jesus had the same in mind when he said, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations (to produce faith), baptizing them (second division) into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you (third division): and Lo, I am with you always, even until the end of the world (fourth division)” (Matthew 28:18-20).
Section 1-Fill in the blanks
There are __________ natural divisions of the New Testament.
We live under the __________ covenant.
The Old Covenant ended at the __________.
__________, __________, __________, and __________ compose the first division of your New Testament.
The second division, Acts, contains the __________ of the Lord.
Acts, Chapter 2, records the beginning of the __________.
Instruction in Christian living comes in the __________ division.
The fourth division is the book of __________.
Together, these divisions constitute a perfect __________.
We find detailed examples of conversion in __________.
The eight chapter of Acts records the conversion of the ______ in the first half and of the ______ in the last half of the chapter.
We can expect instructions on how to live the Christian life in the _______ division of the New Testament.
Section 2-Select the Correct Answers
We live under the
Old CovenentTen CommandmentsNew Covenentlaw of John the Baptist
Jesus was subject to
The Law of Mosesthe Law of Christno Lawthe prophets
The thief on the cross lived under:
The law of Christthe law of Mosesno lawthe law of John the Baptist
The book of Acts records:
the birth of Christthe first miraclethe establishment of the churchthe institution of the Lord’s supper (Hint: Read chapter 2).
Section 3-Complete the Scriptures
“Many other signs did Jesus in the presence of his __________ which are not written in this book, but these were written that ______________________________” (John 20:30,31)
“Go ye, therefore, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that _______ and is __________ shall be saved”. (Mark 16:15,16)
“And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue believed, and many of the Corinthians hearing, _______ and were ________” (Acts 18:8).
“All scripture is inspired of God, and is ______ for _______, _______, and _______, for instruction in ________, that the man of God may be _______, thoroughly furnished unto every good work”. (2 Timothy 3:16,17)
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