DAY 1 – GOD’S STORY CONTINUES
The New Testament is the second of the two major divisions in the Bible. It makes up the final one-quarter of the Scriptures. It continues the story that begins in the First Testament of how God has been working to bring humanity back into relationship with himself and to renew the creation. The books of the New Testament tell specifically how this story reached its culmination as God came to earth in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Through his teaching, Jesus revealed the deepest meaning of the laws and institutions God gave to the people of Israel. Through his actions, he demonstrated what human life and community were meant to be, as he brought healing and restoration everywhere he went. And through his death and resurrection, Jesus introduced the forgiveness and life of the age to come into the present age.
The New Testament also records how the followers of Jesus formed a new kind of community and invited people from all over the world to join them in it. Together they worked out how to live as citizens under the reign of God, the advance force of the age to come, that Jesus proclaimed and inaugurated on earth. Finally, the New Testament looks ahead to the day when Jesus will return to renew all of creation and establish God’s justice and peace definitively throughout the world.
The New Testament tells this story not directly and in a single sequence, but indirectly, through the words of 26 different books that were written for a variety of specific occasions between the middle and end of the first century. These books are of greatly varying length and are written in several different literary genres. Twenty of them are letters; some of these are as short as a single page. On the other hand, a book of history that contains two volumes, Luke–Acts, makes up fully one quarter of the New Testament. There are also books from literary traditions developed in the First Testament: James is a wisdom book like Proverbs, and Revelation is an apocalypse like the second half of Daniel.
The New Testament also contains what are traditionally known as the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke (the first half of Luke–Acts), and John. It’s misleading, however, to think of “gospel” as a literary genre or kind of writing. The word actually refers to the content of these books. Gospel means “good news.” In the New Testament, this is a technical term referring to the basic content of the message about Jesus that his followers shared far and wide. Thus The Gospel According to Matthew (the traditional title of that book) means the good news as told by Matthew. This title is now typically shortened to The Gospel of Matthew, but this should not be taken to mean that the book is one of four examples of a gospel genre in the New Testament. The term gospel can still be used meaningfully to describe these books. But while the story of Jesus’ life does serve as the framework and foundation for Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, these books actually all differ significantly from one another in their literary character as the stories behind them will show.
PRAYER: Thank You, Lord for Your Word. As I read it, please teach, rebuke, correct, and train me in righteousness.