Covered: Luke 1-2, Matthew 1-2, Mark 1, John 1
Not Covered: –
Scripture Memory: Knowing God’s Will – Proverbs 16:9, Proverbs 3:5-7
This week we begin our reading in the New Testament! Woohoo! Can I get an Amen?!
Four hundred years after God spoke to the prophet Malachi, God spoke again. The message was that the prophecy of Malachi 3:1 was soon to be fulfilled. A prophet, John the Baptist, would prepare the way for the Lord Jesus Christ. The long-awaited Messiah was on His way! Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!
The Bible is a unified book, but there are some differences in the Old and New Testaments. So, before we enter in the New Testament, let’s look at some of the ways it is different from the Old Testament. In many ways, they are complementary. The Old Testament contains many prophecies that are fulfilled in the New Testament. The Old Testament provides a history of a people; the New Testament focuses on a Person (Jesus). The Old Testament shows the wrath of God against sin (with a brief view of His grace); the New Testament shows the grace of God toward sinners (with small views of His wrath).
The Old Testament foretells of a Messiah, and the New Testament reveals who the Messiah is. The Old Testament presents us with God’s Law, and the New Testament shows how Jesus fulfilled the Law. In the Old Testament, God’s relationships are mainly with His chosen people, the Jews, and in the New Testament, God’s dealings are mainly with His church. Physical blessings promised under the Old Covenant yield to spiritual blessings in the New Covenant.
In summary, the Old Testament lays the foundation for the coming of the Messiah, who would die on the cross for the sins of the world. The New Testament records the ministry of Jesus and then reminds us of what He did and how we are to respond. However, both the Old and New Testaments reveal the same holy, merciful, and righteous God who condemns sin but desires to save sinners through the sacrifice of His Son. God reveals Himself to us and shows us how we are to come to Him through faith. (Ephesians 2:8)
The New Testament begins with four books, also known as the four gospels. These four books, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, work together to provide a complete testimony of Jesus. Although the Gospels differ slightly in theme, they all tell the same story. All present Jesus as the One who died to save sinners, and all record His resurrection. Some people compare the four gospels to singers in a four-part choir. They each have a distinct part to sing, yet the parts all join in perfect harmony.
Matthew, a tax collector, Mark, an untrained Jewish man who was a friend of Peter and Paul, Luke, a Roman doctor, and John, a Jewish fisherman all come together to write a harmonious account of the life of Jesus.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the “synoptic” gospels because they give a synopsis of most of the same events of the life of Jesus. The book of John fills in the gaps that the others leave out. Each of the gospels is written to a different audience and tell different things about Jesus.
Matthew was written mainly for the Jews and explained how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of a long-awaited Messiah.
Mark was written for the Romans or Gentiles in a very fast-paced, condensed account. It records Jesus’ miraculous deeds and explains Jewish words and customs. It also explains a few of the Old Testament prophecies to help the Gentiles understand better.
Luke was written primarily for the Gentile believers explaining in detail a lot of the Jewish customs. He also presented Jesus as the Son of Man, showing his full humanity and concern for the weak, suffering, and outcast.
The book of John shows Jesus as the Son of God and includes Jesus’ revelations about Himself more than the other Gospels. It also gives the most detailed picture of the events during Jesus’ last days on earth.
Whether the writers of the Gospels presented Jesus as the King, the Servant, the Son of Man or the Son of God, they all had the common goal that people would have faith and believe in Him. The Bible tells us that once we receive Christ by faith, we become God’s children, and He desires to lead us in His way. One of our Bible verses for this week is Proverbs 3:5-6. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.
The Gospels are followed by twenty-three additional books that basically share the same theme – salvation by faith in Christ. We learn in the book of Romans about the righteousness that comes through God, and justification by grace through faith. The book of Hebrews talks about Christ, the author, and perfecter of our faith. First and Second Corinthians and several of the other epistles talk about holy living, both personally and corporately within the church. They tell us about the hope for the future, which should be the natural result of life in Christ. The three epistles of John remind us of the basics of the faith and warn against those who would call them into question. In the final book, Revelation, God reveals His final plan for mankind and the hope of those who have faith in Christ alone. He gives the unfolding of future events involving both Heaven and the whole earth. Revelation assures us that God is Sovereign and in total control. History is moving toward His final purpose. His plan is unfolding according to His schedule. Christ will return and win the final battle against evil and injustice and reign victoriously forever. Satan will not prevail. Sin will be punished. Believers will be rescued and live in the presence of God in a glorious, beautiful place. Only a commitment to Jesus Christ will spare us from God’s coming wrath.
Reading through God’s Word, specifically the New Testament, will be a wonderful reminder as to who we are in Christ, and the sacrifice He made to give us eternal life.
In closing, let me suggest a few things that we might remember about Jesus as we go through our days. Whenever we eat or serve a meal, may we remember that Jesus is the bread of life. Whenever we turn on a light, may we remember that Jesus is the light of the world. Whenever we go in and out of our home, may we remember that Jesus is the one doorway into a relationship with God. Every time we are reminded about a need, remind us that Jesus is our shepherd – the Good Shepherd who laid His life down for us. Whenever we are tempted to fear or even to be overly concerned about temporary things, may our perspective be transformed by remembering that Jesus is the resurrection and the life, and may we freely proclaim the hope of this truth. May the message of our life leave no doubt that Jesus is indeed the way, the truth, and the life. Wherever we go and whatever we do, may we remember that life is worth living because Jesus is the true vine and apart from whom we can do nothing. Above all, may the face of each person we see remind us of His sacrificial love. May it move us to obey Him while serving them. This will be a testimony to the love found only in our Lord Jesus! Amen!
Written by: Julie O’Neal
Photo Credit: Norman Strickland