The New Testament cannot be properly understood without the unfolding story of the Old Testament. St. Augustine once wisely said that "The New is in the Old contained, the Old is in the New explained." The key to understanding the NT is to understand the themes set up in the OT, and that's what we did in the previous session. This is also the context that we need to understand.
What then, is the point of the NT (and also the OT)? All of Scripture is the story of Jesus Christ. Or, as Doug Wilson summarises, the main story of the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation is "kill the dragon, get the girl".
With these in mind, let us look at the New Testament, all 27 books that can be divided into 4 main groups:
- Acts of Apostles
- Apocalyptic literature
The gospels seek to answer the question of who Jesus is.
- Christ’s history and Incarnation.
- Life, teaching and ministry (e.g. Sermon on the Mount, Olivet Discourse (Matt 22-24, written on the Mt of Olives), 7 'I Am’ statements in John).
- Passion, crucifixion and death Resurrection
In the Acts of Apostles, we are meant to see how Jesus affects others, and what the church is.
- Pentecost, where the Holy Spirit came upon disciples in a special way and marked the start of the church age.
- Church offices: Elder and deacon
- Missionary journeys (Peter to Jews, Paul to Gentiles.)
The subsequent epistles or letters were all written to churches, except Titus, Philemon, Timothy. It helps us to see what it means for us and others.
- These letters dealt dealt with doctrine (what you need to know) and duty (what you need to do as a result of what you know).
- False teaching and persecution are the obstacles to each respectively.
- The main authors are Paul, Peter, John, James
- The book of Hebrews also belongs under this category.
Finally the apocalyptic literature deals with what has happened, is happening and will happen.
- Eternity past
- Church age
- War of the “wheat and weeds” (Matt 13:24-30)
- Consummation, and the new heavens and new earth
So what now? Romans 15:4-13 remind us that "For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." Bible overview sessions like these are meant to help us find ourselves in the larger story, and to see what God's plans and purposes are, not only for our lives, but for the entire world!
The Bible we hold in our hands is not just a book. It is certainly not our book. It is God's Word, His gracious words to us to instruct and encourage us, so that we can endure, and so that we might have hope. We should spend our whole lives seeking to understand these precious words of the One we love, and the One who loves us so!
At the end of this series, how would you summarise the story of the OT, the NT and the Bible? What is your role in the unfolding story? Is God saying anything to you today?