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?