Why Should I Study the New Testament?
From a dank, dark prison cell, the aged Paul wrote and asked Timothy to bring him a cloak he left at Troas with Carpus, and added, “when thou comest, bring with thee, the books, but especially the parchments” (2 Tim. 4:13). The “books” may have been Old Testament documents. The parchments, his writing materials, were probably letters he had previously received from brethren, or copies of letters he had written by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Some of what we have in the New Testament were, more than likely, included in those parchments Paul especially wanted. Paul “especially” wanted the parchments. So should we.
The New Testament is laid out in a manner that expedites learning the grace of Christ and salvation from sin he makes possible. The biographical section (Matthew through John) presents Jesus in a way that appeals “to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” Sequel to his resurrection, “Acts of the Apostles” reports the carrying out of his last words on earth, Acts is the “Great Commission” in action.
Letters to churches and individuals all reveal Jesus Christ as the supreme example of conduct and thought (Eph. 5:1; 1 Pet. 2:22; Phil. 2:5). The phrase, “even as Christ . . .” is oft repeated (Col. 3:13; Eph. 5:23,25). The church he established receives divine instruction regarding every aspect of her work and worship (1 Cor. 7:17; 14:33). The final section (the Revelation of John) of the New Testament, in stunningly graphic words, gives rise to the expression, “Truth crushed to earth will rise again.”
Of all studies, that which is devoted to getting to know Jesus Christ, is the most essential. He is the interpreter or revealer of God (John 1:18; Matt. 11:27). Only in the New Testament can one come to know God in Christ Jesus. Knowing him in salvation and sanctification is possible only by studying the New Testament.
When Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth” (John 8:32a) he spoke of the future completion of revelation. Truth was not complete then. He promised knowing the truth would bring freedom from Satan, sin, and from the fear of death (Heb. 2:13-14). Jesus recognized only divine revelation as the Truth (John 17:17). Such a promise was never made in the days of Abraham, Moses, inspired poets and prophets. Peter tells us the anxiety that filled the ancients who, “inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you, searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow” (1 Pet. 1:10-11).
On the first Pentecost after Jesus rose from the dead repentance and remission of sins were heard for the fist time in history (Luke 24:47). Pentecost day was “the beginning” (Acts 11:15). The climactic events leading up to Pentecost, for all practical purpose, began when our Lord was baptized by John the baptizer (Acts 1:22; 10:37). The events subsequent to Pentecost fulfill the eternal purpose of God in Christ. By studying the New Testament we are made to stand in awe at the magnificent works of God in Christ.
The entire New Testament is focused on Jesus, of Nazareth, God manifest in the flesh (1 Tim. 3:16). Paul wrote, “That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him” (Eph. 1:10). All that is written in the first four books of the New Testament converge on Jesus (John 20:30-31; Luke 1:1-3). What follows presents one basic theme: Jesus, of Nazareth, is the Messiah, the Great God and our Savior (Titus 2:13). To know Jesus and his salvation one must study the New Testament. That knowledge is so precious that with Paul, we must “count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my (our) Lord. . .” (Phil. 3:8).
Other reasons to study of the wonderful words of the New Testament are:
1. It contains the words of salvation. Paul’s speech in the synagogue at Antioch gives us a clear picture of the exaltation of the New Testament. After the customary reading of the Law, Paul rehearsed a bit of Jewish history. At the very mention of Jesus, he said, “Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation (emphasis added) sent” (Acts 13:26). The word of salvation comes to the world only through the New Testament of Jesus Christ. It is the word of truth, “the gospel of your salvation” (Eph. 1:13).
2. The New Testament is the means to eternal life. Hearing the Master speak, Peter quickly learned that Jesus has “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Again, from Acts 13, the Jews rejected Paul’s words. The next Sabbath, he spoke again. This time he bade them farewell and turned to the Gentiles, who when hearing the word, “were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48, NIV). The way to have eternal life is revealed in this word of salvation.
3. The New Testament has words of true joy and happiness. John, the apostle, wrote, “And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full” (1 John 1:4; See also 1 John 5:11). Many documents have been written on the pursuit of happiness, but it is this wonderful New Testament that gives reality to happiness and peace of with God. Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). He left us his word of peace and happiness in the New Testament for us to study and obey.
4. The New Testament contains all man needs to be right with God (2 Pet. 1:3). All that pertains to life and godliness has been revealed to us. Peter said he would not be negligent to put his readers in remembrance of things they knew and in which they were well established. It was the “present truth” of which he continued reminding them (verse 12). The Old Testament is truth; but it is “past” truth. It furnishes the foundation for New Testament truth.
The New Testament reveals “the faith” (Gal. 3:22-25). Shortly after Pentecost, Jerusalem saw thousands becoming obedient to the gospel, including many Jewish priests, who obeyed “the faith” (Acts 6:7). Saving faith comes by hearing the message of faith. “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17, NIV). The New Testament is “the faith” must be studied consistently to be “in the faith” (2 Cor. 13:5). It is also that which Christians will defend against any attack (Jude 3).
The New Testament is the vast wealth of the knowledge of Jesus, the Christ. Nothing ever written can furnish the story of Jesus Christ like the New Testament. Heed Paul’s mandate: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom . . .” (Col. 3:16).To live with Christ one must feed on his word (Matt.4:4; 1 Pet. 2:1-2). To grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, we must study the one and only document that reveals Jesus to us, the New Testament (2 Pet. 3:18). May the Lord bless you with an intense thirst for righteousness.
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