An Analysis of the New Testament
   
 with thanks to Guy Woods

     By Paul Robison

July is a great month for family reunions.  My mother's clan gathered in Eddyville, KY, and Dad's family met in Memphis, TN.  All enjoyed exchanging news and eating the great treats that summer provides. Family reunions usually provide some good memories since some humorous incidents often occur.  Now let's switch gears.  Ever heard the expression: “One can miss the forest for the trees”?  That's sort of like focusing on a jigsaw puzzle's pieces without understanding what the overall picture looks like.  This danger can be applied to New Testament. We often study the individual books, but fail to grasp the overall panorama.  In this sermon, an analysis of the New Testament will be given which will focus on three aspects: its supernatural nature, its divisions (with their characteristics and functions), and its overall purpose.
 
Now let's look at the first aspect—its supernatural nature.  “Let's take a look at what the New Testament claims for itself.  Even [an accused person] is privileged to testify in his own behalf, and the New Testament deserves to be heard in its own defense.  In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, [Paul affirms]: 'All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.'  Note particularly the phrase: 'given by inspiration of God'. This is the translation of one word in Greek that means, literally, 'God breathed'; in other words, the [New Testament claims] to be from God as surely as your breath comes from your body.  In 2 Peter 1:21, Peter tells us that '... holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.' The word 'moved' in this passage is especially significant.  It carries with it the suggestion of being directed, borne along, influenced, [or] impelled by the [Holy Spirit. The New Testament is no man-made document].  Now look at Galatians 1:11-12 where the apostle Paul writes: 'But I make known to you brethren, that the Gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.  For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through revelation of Jesus Christ.' ...  [Note] please the first affirmation: 'The Gospel which was preached by me,' Paul affirms, 'is not according to man.'  That means that Paul's Gospel is not human in its origin.  It did not have its beginning in the fertile imagination of some man or group of men [(there was no conspiracy by the apostles as some claim)]; and so it did not originate from any human source.  [Now note his] next statement please: 'For I neither received it from man.'  That means it did not come to him through human instrumentality.  [Note] the next statement please: 'Nor was I taught it'.  That simply means his teachers were not human.  How then did Paul receive the Gospel?  Listen closely to the next statement which follows: 'but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.'  [That means that Jesus was Paul's teacher concerning the Gospel.  The Gospel is not a man-made message!] ... Now let's consider 1 Corinthians 2:11-13: 'For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him.  Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.'  The meaning is obvious: ... Just as you cannot know what is in my heart until I reveal it to you, in like [manner], we cannot know what is in God's mind until [the Spirit] reveals it.  [Verse 12 then affirms that Paul has Gods' Spirit: 'Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.' Then Paul declares in verse 13:] 'These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual [or as the ASV says: 'combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.']  What did Paul speak?  Not man's wisdom.  That statement positively affirms that the apostles and sacred writers did not depend upon their own wisdom .... Well, how then did Paul and the other writers communicate?  Note Paul's reply carefully in verse 13: 'but which the Holy Spirit teaches combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words' (ASV).  Paul is making clear in this passage that the people in Corinth who oppose his teaching are actually opposing the teaching that the Holy Spirit has inspired! [So we have seen to this point that all Scripture is inspired by God, with the Holy Spirit moving or influencing the writers by combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.  Here is the point:] the New Testament is unique because it claims to be a message inspired by God, revealed by Jesus, and influenced and taught by the Holy Spirit!  Thomas Paine once wrote and attack on the Bible around 1800.  He boasted that after his book had circulated for 50 years, the Bible would be discredited, and it would be exhibited in museums as a curious object of a former superstitious age.  A little over 200 years has passed since Paine published his work; Thomas Paine is forgotten, and his book is scarcely known today.  Yet the New Testament continues to remain a part of the world's best-seller” (Woods)!  When people reject the New Testament, they are rejecting God, who is its Author.  Since the New Testament is God's Word, Christ's teachings, and the Spirit's wisdom, it does have divine authority to direct our lives!  Many people today do not like to accept this truth, but the inspired writings of the New Testament are different from all other human documents!  Jesus once said: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Mark 13:31)!
 
Now let's look at the next aspect—its divisions with there characteristics and functions.  “Even a casual examination of the New Testament will reveal that it divides itself into four divisions: one is a biographical section; one is a historical section; one is an epistolary section, and one is a prophetic section.  The biographical section is made up of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  The historical section is Acts.  The epistolary section is Romans to Jude [which is 21 letters].  The prophetic section is the book of Revelation.  Why are there four accounts of Jesus' life? … Perhaps [the following] facts will make it clear.  An examination of the book of Matthew will reveal that Matthew wrote principally for Jewish readers. … There are many evidences that lead to this conclusion.  For example, many of the matters set out therein have an Old Testament background.   Many of the conclusions that are drawn in the book are based upon premises found in the Old Testament. … Matthew wrote for a people who accepted the Old Testament as divine [and] who believed its affirmations to be authoritative ...” (Woods).  Matthew quotes the Old Testament around 40 times to show that Jesus' actions were fulfillments of prophesies.  So Matthew wrote for a Jewish audience.  “When you examine the second book, Mark, you are impressed with the realization that here is a book that differs radically in [content and function] from that [seen in] the first.  There is but one quotation [in] Mark … from the Old Testament, and insomuch as the simplest Jewish practices are explained, and since the Aramaic words are translated, this shows that it was written for non-Jewish readers.  [Since] the proper names have Latin endings, this has long led to the conclusion that undoubtedly the book of Mark was written for a Roman audience.  An examination of the original text of Luke has lead to the conclusion on the part of conservative scholars that the book of Luke was written for the Greek speaking peoples.  [So, you see:] Matthew for the Jew, Mark for the Roman, and Luke for the Greek, [the three largest ethnic groups in Jesus' era].  It is rather remarkable that the arrangement that is characteristic of our New Testament now is exactly the same as the [expansion] of the Gospel [in Acts].  For example, the Gospel was first preached on the day of Pentecost, an account of which is found in Acts 2, to the Jews, conformable to the position of the first book of the New Testament, the book of Matthew, which was written primarily for the Jews.  Then secondly, the Gospel was carried to the Romans, in Acts 10, conformable to the position of the second book of the New Testament, the book of Mark, which is written principally for the Romans.  Then, beginning with the eleventh chapter of Acts, the Gospel was carried to the Greek-speaking peoples, conformable to the position of the third book of the New Testament, the book of Luke, written primarily for Greek-speaking peoples.  So Matthew for the Jew, Mark for the Roman, and Luke for the Greek” (Woods).  Well, that explains three of the books, but why a fourth one?  God knows that one witness is not sufficient to make a good case. There must be the testimony of two or three witnesses to establish the truth (1 Timothy 5:19).  So, the first three books provide one witness for a certain ethnic audience, and John's book provides a second witness. John's book also provides a more complete picture of the greatest Person who ever lived on this planet.  “John goes back through the pages of the Old Testament, back before Genesis 1:1, back into the remote reaches of eternity!  For the very first verse of John reads: 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.'  It follows, then, that any consideration of the life of our matchless Savior necessitates a consideration of these four matters [in John]: … 1) Christ in eternity, before creation, 2) Christ in the Old Testament, 3) Christ in the flesh, 4) Christ glorified at God's right hand.  Have you ever wondered why Jesus is called 'the Word' in John 1:1? … Suppose there was an English word so comprehensive in its meaning that it summed up and embraced every possible idea that the human tongue could convey.  When you had said that word, you'd say all there is to say!  Obviously, there is no such English word, nor such a word in any language so comprehensive as to convey even a large number of ideas, much less all of them.  But there IS [such a word] in the divine vocabulary, figuratively speaking, and that word is 'Jesus'!  That is, the person of Jesus is the complete expression of deity to the world.  As it is put in John 1:18: 'Jesus has declared the Father.'  The word 'declared' there means 'has made known or revealed Him.'  Prior to the coming of the Savior into the world, man might plead that God was unknowable: but Jesus has revealed Him; exhibited His characteristics and His attributes to the world. … Jesus is the exact replica of [God] (Hebrews 1:3). … He is the complete expression of deity: 'For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily' (Colossians 2:9). John 20:30 declares: 'And truly Jesus did many others signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book, but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.'  What does this suggest?  The design not only of the book of John, but also of Matthew, Mark, and Luke was to enable us to believe.  Matthew wrote for the Jew, Mark for the Roman, Luke for the Greek, and John filled in the gaps, completed the story, and wrote for us all, thus giving a complete picture of [and a double testimony to] the greatest Life ever lived in history!  In the latter part of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, we find the Great Commission to teach all nations and all peoples about Jesus; those who believe, repent, and are baptized will be saved, and then after the remission of their sins, they must be taught to obey all that Jesus has commanded (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:16; Luke 24:6-7).  These passages, friends, set out the Great Commission in a [visionary] proposition.  The book of Acts is a demonstration of [how] that visionary proposition [became a reality]!  All of us have profited by the study of textbooks, particularly those in mathematics, that give us the statement of problem on one page, and then on the next page, there is a demonstration [of the solution] all worked out.  We all know the tremendous aid to learning that [this method provides].  Well, that is precisely the method which the Holy Spirit follows.  We have that the statement of the problem in the Commission, and we have the [demonstration of the solution] in the book of Acts.  Not just one example, but literally thousands of them in demonstration of what Jesus said do.  Listen carefully, if anyone has any doubt of what Jesus said do, what one needs to do is to look in the book of Acts to see what they did do, because what they did do is what Jesus said to do.  Now when we do what they did, we'll be doing what Jesus said because what He said is what they did!  Hence, there is no excuse for anybody not knowing what Jesus meant in the Great Commission.  The book of Acts is a case history of conversions as well as a history of the spread of the Gospel, a history of the establishment of the church and of the growth of Christianity during the period about which Luke wrote.  Notice now the logical sequence of the New Testament's present arrangement: the books of the Gospel enable people to believe [that's their function], and the book of Acts shows believers what to do to be saved [that's its function].  Observe the next logical sequence, the letters to Christians and to churches, [characterized by instructions and admonitions] dealing with the Christian life.  After people are believers, they are expected to obey [the Gospel]. When they have obeyed [It], they are Christians; hence, the instructions [and admonitions] to Christians from Romans to Jude. … One book, Acts, deals largely with conversion, while many books deal with the Christian life [that's their function].  It takes only a [short time] to learn what to do to be saved, but it takes a lifetime of study to learn how to keep saved! [We see how this conforms perfectly to Jesus' orders to teach converts to obey all that His had commanded.  That' exactly what the letters are doing!] …  Then, lastly, there is the book of Revelation—history written in advance, a picture of the destiny [and the reward] of the Lord's people … This book is admittedly different—[characterized by] highly symbolic and figurative language, which causes great difficulty [in] interpretation. … [However, we would be impoverished without Revelation, and here's why.]  As early as Acts 20, there are indications of an impending apostasy [or turning away from the truth].  Paul warns the elders of Ephesus that there will be wolves who will arise from their own number who will speak perverse things to draw away disciples after them (Acts 20:29).  Paul also warns in 1 Timothy 4:1 that there will be those who depart from the faith and who will speak lies in hypocrisy.  John warns us in 1 John 4:1 that there are many false prophets who have gone out into the world.  All this is a picture of apostasy [or leaving the faith].  Now suppose that the New Testament had ended before Revelation.  The picture would be a grim and discouraging one wouldn't it?  But, with the book of Revelation, we are privileged to see ... the triumph of God's people on the other side of that apostasy!  This last book may be read for encouragement, consolation, and strength in the face of difficulty and trial [this is its function].  Why is it a difficult book?  There are many reasons but a most important one to keep in mind is that this book pictures the overthrow of the civil power. ... Had those [early] disciples been found circulating a document which predicted the overthrow of the government, it would have [put] them in great difficulty [with the Roman authorities].  So our Lord simply communicated it in such obscurity that those of the world who felt little interest would not discern its import, but its message would be very clear for those to whom it was primarily intended and who searched out it meaning” (Woods).
 
“We have in our possession the will of God and the message of [joy,] life, and salvation given to us to enable us to learn the way to heaven, [an eternal home for all the righteous]” (Woods).  This is the purpose of the New Testament.  It is our road map to guide us to the celestial city whose residents will abide there forever! “... for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).  “Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but of the world.  And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17).  “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and Last.  Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city” (Revelation 21:12-14)]. “It is our [joy] to believe the New Testament whole-heartedly and to follow it unhesitatingly and let it guide our steps aright until we've reached the end of our earthly pilgrimage here and are ready to cross over to the next world” (Woods).  We may be assured that having conformed to what the New Testament teaches while here in this world, we'll be able to live eternally in the new existence in the New Jerusalem forever, which Jesus Himself has promised.  The greatest family reunion ever is what the New Testament is all about!  That's the glorious big picture that God wants all people to be a part of.  He is bringing His family home, and He wants you, especially you, to be on board!  Recognize Jesus as Lord and Savior, confess and be immersed into His name, follow His commandments, and we can all enter arm in arm through heaven's gates! “We've a home prepared where the saints abide, just over in the glory-land.  And we long to be by our Savior's side, just over in the glory-land.  Just over in the glory-land, we'll join the might angel band and with that mighty host we'll stand, just over in the glory-land” (Acuff).  Won't you start toward that homecoming right now?