We are beginning another journey through the most important book in the world, the New Testament which picks up where the Old Testament leaves off to complete God’s plan of redemption by revealing Jesus Christ as the Messiah promised in the Old Testament as we will see as we continue in our studies of the two testaments. The New Testament focuses on the First and Second coming of Christ and the response which God desires each person to make to the revelation of Himself in the Person of Christ and in which I think Without it, God’s revelation to man would not be complete.
Let’s Consider the Relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament
The reference to the first 39 books of the Bible as the Old Testament and the 27 books of the Bible as the New Testament developed during the 2nd Century AD. The term “Old” Testament focuses primarily on the Mosaic covenant which God made with Israel at Mt. Sinai after the Exodus and before they entered the promised land (Exodus 20-24; Dt.28-30; see also Jeremiah 31:32; Galatians 3:6-26; Hebrews 9:15-22). The Mosaic covenant included the law and all its regulations, rituals and sacrifices. It was the breaking of the old covenant which led to Israel’s fall to Assyria in 722 BC and Judah’s fall to Babylon in 586 BC.
But the Old Testament is more than law and records the history of God’s covenant people in relationship to His plan of redemption, not just of the Jews but also of the Gentiles.
- The promise of spiritual blessings to all nations in the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12:3; Galatians 3:6-17) on which the salvation of all believers rests (Romans 4:1-25)
- The New covenant promised to Israel in Jeremiah 31:31-37 and Ezekiel 36:22-28 the spiritual-salvation blessings, of which benefit all those who believe in God.
The New Testament tells of the coming of the Son of God to save man from sin and completes God’s progressive revelation of Himself to man and provides us with a clear picture of what God is really like (see Hebrews 1:1-3; John 1:14,18; John 14:8-11). In Christ we also see a clear picture of man as God intended man to be.
All of the attributes of God the Father are seen in the New Testament, especially as embodied the person of Christ. Thus, the theology of the New Testament is the same as the Old Testament, simply more complete.
The theology of God’s kingdom on each is especially prominent in the New Testament as is the unfolding of God’s purpose and plan for the world now and in eternity.
Of all the theological themes in the New Testament, none stands out more vividly than that of Salvation, as God in Christ completes His promised redemption. The faithfulness of God to fulfill completely His Old Testament promises related to Messiah in particular and prophecy in general is also a dominant theological motif. Great emphasis is placed on the incarnation of Christ and the significance of His bodily resurrection.
The Message of the New Testament
The coming of Jesus Christ the Messiah as a man to die and to complete God’s plan of redemption on the Cross; His rejection by men; His death and resurrection; His provision for the continued ministry through the church; and the anticipation of His second in great power and glory to Judge sin and rule and reign as King of Kings.
The New Testament was written during the age of miracles. Its words came from God through the Holy Spirit. The Spirit inspired eight men to write the message He revealed. Four of them, Matthew, John, Peter, and Paul, were apostles. The others, Mark, Luke, James and Jude, were evangelists.
While we use the terms Old Testament and New Testament, it is best to think of the Bible as a unified whole containing the full divine, progressive, redemptive revelation of God in two successive stages (Hebrews 1:1-3).
All the Bible is inspired by God. Paul said, “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” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17). The word for “inspiration” is the Greek word “theopneustos.” It means “God breathed.”
The words used by the writers of the New Testament were chosen by the Holy Spirit from their vocabularies. Thus the books written by each one show his style and personality while accurately revealing the message of God. Paul said, “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 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. 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. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Corinthians 2:10-13).
The books of the New Testament were written in the first century. They were widely circulated among the churches as individual books. Paul told the church at Colossae, “Now when this epistle is read among you, see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea” (Colossians 4:16).
At first, the New Testament books may have been written on scrolls. These were rolls of animal skin or papyrus (paper made from reeds). It was impossible to combine them into a book in this form. Later, they were written in the form of books like we have today. This made it possible to collect all the books of the New Testament together into one book. This was done in the fourth century.
The New Testament books were first written in Greek, the language of the common people in the first century. We do not have the original books written by the inspired men. We have copies of them. There are more than five thousand manuscripts of these books. Some were made as early as the second century. No other book of ancient times has as many manuscripts still in existence. There are no manuscripts of any other ancient book that goes back as close to the time of writing.
In addition to the manuscripts, translations of the New Testament were made in the first three centuries. There are also the writings of the “church fathers.” These were Christians who wrote in defense of the faith. Some wrote as early as the first and second centuries. The New Testament can be largely reproduced from their writings.
To understand the New Testament, it is helpful to know the history of the times when it was written. The Old Testament prophet, Daniel, foretold that in the days of the Roman kings, God would set up His kingdom on the earth (Daniel 2:44). When Jesus was born, Rome ruled much of the world including the Jews.
The Roman Empire made it possible for the Gospel to spread rapidly. One could travel easier and safer than ever before. The Romans built great roads to connect all parts of the empire. They put an end to the pirates on the Mediterranean Sea and made travel by ship safer. One did not need a passport to go from one country to another. A Roman citizen could claim Rome’s protection when needed.
The Greek language made possible the rapid spread of the Gospel. Rome conquered the kingdoms which had arisen from the old empire of Alexander the Great. The Greek they spoke soon became the common language of the Roman Empire. It was used in writing, business, and schools. The Old Testament had even been translated into Greek. This translation, the Septuagint, was used by Jesus and His apostles as well as the early Christians.
The scattering of the Jews made possible the rapid spread of the Gospel. Many Jews remained in foreign lands where they had been taken as captives. Others went to various parts of the Roman Empire to conduct business. Wherever ten male Jews were found, they built a synagogue. Here they met on the sabbath to study the Old Testament, pray, sing praises, and give an offering for the poor. Many Gentiles came to believe in God as a result of the teaching in the synagogues. First century preachers found a ready audience for the Gospel in the synagogues.
Paul wrote, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4,5). Conditions in the first century were right for God’s Son to come to the earth!
In Conclusion, knowing the content and structure of the New Testament will enable Christian Church leaders and all Bible students to know Christ more fully and minister to people more effectively and also know that the new Testament does not contradict the Old Testament but completes, confirms and complements the Old Testament.