What is the message of the New Testament? Is it possible to take the entire New Testament and summarize its basic message? If you will continue to read, you will see that we can do just that. I believe you are going to enjoy this study immensely. It is the message of the New Testament, in which I will summarize all twenty-seven books. You will find that the message of the New Testament revolves around Jesus Christ.
The message of the New Testament in twenty-seven stanzas, Matthew through Revelation, is a marvelous, logical, sensible, understandable, thrilling message. There are four parts of the New Testament. First of all, the life of Christ, in four dimensions - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Then the life of Christ goes into how to become a Christian in the one book of Acts - the book of conversions in the New Testament; how men became Christ "ians" - Christians, the ones who belong to Jesus, those who were a part of him and, as a result, would follow him. And then we have in the third stanza of the message of the New Testament, how to live the Christian life.
We see the life of Christ, how to become a Christian and how to live as a Christian. Romans through Jude, twenty-one epistles, tell us of Christian living. Finally, the book of Revelation tells of the hope of the Christian.
How could you find a more systematic book than one that tells of the life of Christ, how to become a Christian, how to live as a Christian and how to die as a Christian? In fact, Revelation 14:13 says, ". . . Blessed are the dead [happy are those] who die in the Lord, . . . that they may rest from their labors and their works follow with them." The message of the New Testament essentially is Christ.
Matthew was written to the Hebrews and stressed the kingdom of Christ. They thought it would be an earthly reign, but His is a spiritual rule in the hearts and lives of men and women. And in Matthew 28:18, our Lord said just before he went back to heaven, ". . . All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and in earth."
The book of Mark stresses Christ - the majesty of Christ, the powerful Christ - written to the Romans, the military mind of the day. Forty-two times in sixteen chapters, the word "straightway" is found. The immediacy, the urgency of the life of Christ written to those who wanted things "to the point." Mark sums up the book concerning Jesus, "He hath done all things well" (Mark 7:37).
The book of Luke is probably the lesser known of the four accounts of His life. These are not four gospels; they are four accounts of the one gospel. They tell the good news, the glad tidings of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Son of God. We see God's power to save (Romans 1:16). And in the book of Luke we read that Jesus increased in wisdom, and stature, and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52). The Greeks were interested in the ideal man, but Jesus adds a fourth dimension to their three dimensional concept. He also was ideal spiritually.
And the book of John, written to all mankind in twenty-one scintillating chapters, has as its key thought John 14:6 and summarizes the first four books. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life; no man comes unto the Father but by Me." And at the end of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, this statement of John 20:30,31, ". . . but these are written, that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God; and that believing you might have life through His name." So, we have four vantage points, four different views, four different emphases concerning Christ. He is the King. He does all things well. He is perfect, physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually and He is the only way to the Father. Spiritual life is in Him and apart from Him we wander hopeless, useless, aimlessly in a wicked world; but you put Christ in the heart of human history and it makes sense. And a Christ-centered life is a heaven bound life because it is a Bible-based life. When we speak of New Testament Christianity, we speak mainly of Christ, the author of it.
Now we come to the book of Acts. Twenty eight chapters with two major points. We read in Acts 4:12, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (he is the only way). "They . . . went everywhere preaching the word" (Acts 8:4). The book of Acts can be divided by Acts 1:8. Jesus said, ". . . you shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." And that is what the book of Acts is all about. They started in Jerusalem with the gospel: "And daily in the temple and from house to house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ" (Acts 5:42). ". . . they went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ unto them. And there was great joy in that city" (Acts 8:5, 8). And so we read of the spread of the gospel of Christ in the Roman Empire. The truth was emblazoned across the Caesar-held territory and the gospel of the Son of God overwhelmed the wickedness of men.
The one reason the Roman Empire crumbled into the dust at the end of the first century was due to the dynamics of Christianity. They were dealt a staggering blow by the tremendous, awesome strength of the gospel of the Son of God.
In the book of Acts, we read of how people became Christians and of the establishment of the church. The church of the New Testament was begun on the day of Pentecost about fifty days after the death of our Lord and on this occasion, that which the prophets had foretold, the kingdom of God was set up. "The Holy Spirit was poured out upon all flesh" (Joel 2:28). "The law of the Lord went forth from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:1-4; Micah 4:1-3). Christianity had its awesome, spectacular beginning. Nations from all parts of the Roman empire gathered there and they returned to spread the gospel. Strangers from Rome and some from the Island of Crete were there. Read Acts 2:10 and following. What a tremendous, propitious occasion for Christianity to have its start.
The church of which we are members must go back to Acts 2, to Jerusalem, to the first century. If it were started later than that, any other place than there, by anyone but the apostles, it is not the New Testament church. If you have some earthly headquarters, with a creed book written by man or a church established by some great reformer or renaissance leader, that is not the church that you read about in the Bible. Acts 20:28 says, ". . . to feed the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood." And Ephesians 5:25-27 says, "even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself up for it; ... that he might present the church to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or blemish or any such thing."
If you would like to read the greatest single account of conversion of an individual in all the history of the world, read Acts 8:26-39. Here is where Philip, an evangelist, preaches to the secretary of the treasury of the country of Ethiopia, and based upon Isaiah 53, he began at that scripture and preached unto him Jesus. "As they went on their way, they came to a certain water and the man said, 'Here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized?' And Philip said, 'If you believe with all your heart, you may.' He confessed, 'I believethat Jesus Christ is the Son of God'" (Acts 8:37). ". . . and they went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him" (Acts 8:38). "And when they were come up out of the water ... he went on his way rejoicing" (Acts 8:39).
Philip, the preacher, went to Caesarea to preach Christ some more so others could rejoice when they were baptized unto Christ unto the remission of past sins. And so we have the life of Christ - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - how to become a Christian and the establishment of the church - the book of Acts (Acts 2 and following) - and also we have the historical background for many of the epistles (letters) which follow.
Before you read Galatians, read Acts 13:14, where the gospel on the first evangelistic tour came to the regions of Galatia. Philippians has its background in Acts 16; Thessalonians in Acts 17; Corinthians in Acts 18; the book of Ephesians in I Timothy and Revelation 2. The background of the gospel came to that city, Ephesus, where there was one of the seven wonders of that ancient world, a beautiful marble temple, erected to the deification of the goddess Diana, in Acts 19. And so we have the background for most of the New Testament books which follow Acts.
Now we come to the larger section of the outline of the New Testament books. twenty-one epistles, Romans throughout Jude, tell us how to live the Christian life. Notice how every single one of these books is Christ centered. Romans 1:16 speaks of the good news or the glad tidings of the gospel of Christ; that is God's dynamite, God's power to save.
The dynamics of Christianity is not human philosophy. It's not social prestige or business acumen. The thrust of Christianity is "the glorious gospel of Christ ' (Romans 2:16; I Timothy 1:11). "And we were allowed of God to be put in trust with that gospel" (I Thessalonians 2:4). And it is that we are commissioned and commanded and urged to preach (I Corinthians 9:16). We have too much other preaching - than the one kind God ordained, commands and insists upon - gospel preaching, Bible preaching, preaching that exalts Christ, the heart of the gospel.
And then we come to the thrust of the book of I Corinthians: "For other foundations can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (I Corinthians 3:11). If we build upon any other foundation, it isn't solid; it will not endure the stress and storm of life. We must build our hopes on Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, the resplendent Redeemer, the magnificent Maker and bow in submission to His blessed will and say, "Lord, what will you have me to do" (Acts 9:6)? And when Saul asked that question, he was told what he must do: "Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16). So Paul, (who wrote half of the New Testament) inspired of the Holy Spirit, wrote that the gospel of Christ is God's power to save and there is no other foundation but Him.
In II Corinthians 2:14, we read this continuing saga. We are always led in triumph in Christ, not in Moses, David, Abraham, Joshua or Solomon or Simon Peter or John the Immerser. We are always led in triumph in Christ, and thus He will help us wear the victor's wreath, if we obey Him. "He is the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him."' (Hebrews 5:9).
And on the last page of the Bible, one more time we are reminded, "Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to, the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city" (Revelation 22:14). Jesus said, "Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say" (Luke 6:46)? "You are my friends," Jesus said, "if you do whatsoever I command you" (John 15:14). That's the way to always be led in triumph in Christ, regardless of what the world may say or do. ". . . we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us . . ." (Romans 8:35-39).
Then we come to the book of Galatians. Many people believe Galatians 2:20 is the most beautiful and eloquent verse Paul ever wrote. When you understand he wrote half of the New Testament, that's quite a startling statement. Galatians 2:20 sums up the gist of his love for the Lord: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me."
In Ephesians 3:21, we read of Christ and the church. And that's the thesis and emphasis of this rich six chapter book. "Unto God be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen."
Was it not Jesus who said in the coast of Caesarea Philippi, over 1900 years ago, "Upon this rock I will build My church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18)? Peter had just confessed Him as the Son of God, which indeed He was, and upon that bedrock foundation of truth, He built His church and we should honor and pay homage to that and not some denominational structure, something started by a man or a woman many, many years after He shed His blood to purchase His church (Acts 20:28).
Then we come to Philippians, which many believe is the richest, most enthralling of all Bible books. "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice" (Philippians 4:4). "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5). Let Christ be the purpose of your life (Philippians 1:21), the pattern of your life (Philippians 2:5), the prize of your life (Philippians 3:14), and that which empowers your life (Philippians 4:13).
We now come to Colossians. For some reason, it is lesser known of the epistles, but consists of four sterling chapters that exalt Jesus Christ. And in Colossians 1:27, we read, ". . . which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." In Colossians 2:10 we see, "You are complete in Christ." Colossians 3:16 says, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly." If you are coming to realize that the New Testament is Christ-centered, you are exactly right. The message of the New Testament is Christ, and if you get very far away from Him, you are a long way from home, in the spiritual arena.
Now we come to I and II Thessalonians, two of the earliest epistles, chronologically, that Paul ever wrote. There are three major teachings in I and 11 Thessalonians:
Nothing hurts the cause of Christ more than a member of the church who is lazy and indolent and will not do what he ought to do. In fact, we need to so labor that we'll be able to help others. That is a part of Christianity, to reach out to those in benevolence that need our help.
Then I Timothy 4:16 says, "Take heed to yourself and to your teaching. Continue in these things; for in doing this thou shalt save both thyself and them that hear thee." I Timothy 3:15 tells us the church of our Lord is the bulwark of truth. And all the way through this book, Christ is exalted. In I Timothy 1:15 Paul wrote, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief." You cannot read the New Testament honestly, personally, openly, and get any other impression but that Christ is in the heart and soul of all of it. And we all stand on level ground at the foot of the cross and He motivates each of us to do His will.
In II Timothy 2:19, we read of the responsibility of Christians. It's not enough to be baptized into Christ, we must get up from that and go forward in serving Christ. "Therefore, let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity." Christians have a responsibility to be unworldly. Jesus said, ". . . you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world . . ." (John 15:19).
It is in the book of Titus that we come for what many Bible scholars say is the one verse that summarizes everything that Paul ever wrote. That would be quite a verse! And Titus 2:12 is such a passage. ". . . we are to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world." Why? Because Christ Jesus came to give us "hope of eternal life" (Titus 1:2). And it is by His mercy and grace that we are cleansed from sin, though in the past, we were once disobedient, unruly, ungodly, lascivious, licentious (Titus 3:3-7). Now because of Him and the Christ-centered, Christ-patterned life, we rise above the petty nature of the worldly way and live in an ardent, devoted, sincere godly way, for without holiness, no man shall see the Lord (Hebrews 12).
Now we come to one of the five one-chapter books in the Bible. One, Obadiah, is in the Old Testament, and four - Philemon, II John, III John, and Jude are in the New Testament.
Continuing the saga, the thought, the emphasis of Christ, the book of Philemon tells of a runaway slave named Onesimus. Philemon was a brother in Christ who was a master of slaves. There were 60 million slaves in the Roman Empire at the time of this book, and yet here is a case in which Christians are told whether they are masters or slaves, to give of the best they have so that Christianity will not be hindered. Philemon, an owner of slaves whom Paul had previously converted to Christ, is enjoined to receive this runaway slave, Onesimus, back. Paul sends Onesimus back to him as a Christian, a beloved brother in the Lord. He sends him back with this epistle, saying, entreat him in such a way to strengthen him; he is a babe in Christ. Do not weaken him but make him stronger, because of your faithfulness in the Lord. And he said, "Philemon, if he owes you anything, put it to my account. Howbeit, you owe me your own self also." And Paul said, "I am getting out of prison and when I do, I'll come to see you, and you prepare a lodging for me." He said, "Philemon, I could have enjoined upon you what I am telling you, as an apostle of Christ, but I would rather you do it of your own free will." He said, "You know what, I believe you will even do more than I have asked." Christ is at the heart and core of Paul's and Onesimus's and Philemon's life and as a result, even the difficult arrangement of slavery in the Roman Empire can be meshed together with Christianity when each serves as they should.
Then we come to the book of Hebrews - the most Christ-centered of all the New Testament epistles. Here is the gem of all revelation, the book of Hebrews tying the Old and New Testaments together, centered on Christ. God now speaks to us through His Son. The opening stanza, Hebrews 1:1,2 says, "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past . . . by whom also He made the worlds." He is the effulgent or brightness or exact impress of His person. And then in Hebrews 2:9, we read, "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste of death for every man." We are to keep our gaze permanently fixed on Christ, the message of Hebrews 12:2. He is the Son over his own house. He is the perfect high priest. For such a high priest is becoming unto us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, made higher than the heavens. He ever lives to make intercession for us. "He is that great shepherd of the sheep, who through the blood of everlasting covenant draws us near to God" (Hebrews 13:20). "And after the power of an endless life, he is the personal guarantee of a better Testament" (Hebrews 7:22).
The book of James is Christ-centered in its practicality. How that every single day, we are to live for Jesus. "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin" (James 4:17).
1 Peter 4:16 gives us a summary of everything we have said and tells us why we are on earth and whom it is we are to glorify. "If any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but glorify God in this name." Never forget I Peter 4:16. "We will suffer in Christ Jesus if we live godly" (II Timothy 3:12), "but if we suffer with Christ, we will reign with Him" (II Timothy 2:11-12).
The three chapters of II Peter end by saying, "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." You see, we are partakers with Christ of the divine nature, we are heirs of like precious faith. All things that pertain to life and godliness have been revealed to us through Christ - all of that in the first chapter of II Peter - and so we are to advance spiritually in Jesus' name, the Christ-centered nature of the new covenant.
Then we come to the book of I John. "We have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world" (I John 4:14). He is the lawyer that heaven appoints to plead our case. I John 2:1 reads, "And he gave himself for our sins and not for our sins only, but for the sins of the whole world." In I John 1:7, we have the marvelous reminder, "But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sins."
In II John, verse 9, another one chapter book, we are told, "Do not go beyond the doctrine of Christ, and do not bid God speed to teachers of error, lest we become partakers of their evil deeds." So the doctrine of Christ, that which Jesus taught, which he demands, we must abide in. Just as the demons have doctrines, I Timothy 4:1-2, Christ has one doctrine and we need to abide in that, the teaching of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
III John says we are not to follow evil men like Diotrephes, who loved to have the preeminence. You know what was wrong with Diotrephes? In Christianity, Christ has all the preeminence, (Colossians 1:18). And anyone who claims to be a Christian and wants preeminence, has forgotten the essence of Christianity, who is Christ exalted, with all authority in heaven and in earth. And so Diotrephes tries to push Christ and His message out, but the apostle John said, "You follow that which is righteous and not that which is evil. Follow Christ."
Next we come to the book of Jude. Such a powerful book, telling of the common salvation. All men stand on level ground at the foot of the cross. "Contend earnestly for the faith" (Jude 3). "Keep yourselves in the love of God" (Jude 21). "Now unto Him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present You faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen" (Jude 24,25).
Finally we come to the book of Revelation. Jesus said, "Be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life" (Revelation 2: 10). ". . . Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.... that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them" (Revelation 14:13). ". . . He is Lord of lords, and King of kings; and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful" (Revelation 17:14). We can overcome the devil through the blood of Christ, his word, and by being willing to die for his cause, (Revelation 12:11). And finally, he invites us to come into the glory of heaven, the garden of God, the tree of life, and there live forevermore in his presence.
The story of the New Testament is the life of Christ, how to become a Christian, how to live as a Christian, how to die in Christ, and I can think of no greater finale, than the last verse of II Corinthians. "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all" (II Corinthians 13:14). We are forever indebted to the clarity, the usefulness, the thrilling nature of the New Testament, which is totally Christ-centered. The message of the Bible is Jesus Christ.