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KickStart vocational skills training and Bible study programme

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03. Understanding the New Testament
 
NEW TESTAMENT THEMES

The Gospels
Many great thinkers, reformers and activists have made an impact on the world. What makes Jesus different? The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are four different accounts of Jesus' life. They answer this question from different points of view.

Matthew is interested in demonstrating to the Jewish readers that Jesus is the Messiah that they have been expecting. He couldn't have made his own life line up with the prophetic expectations of the Messiah if he was not for real (eg. being born in Bethlehem, living in Nazareth, a descendant of David, crucified on the Passover without having his legs broken, with crown of thorns on his head, rising from the tomb on the 3rd day and so on).

Mark gives a concise and punchy account of Jesus ministry, his parables and miracles and is almost writing for those with short attention spans. Mark tackles the confusion around the fact that Jesus did not come on this occasion as the King of Kings to wrap up the age but rather as the suffering Servant who would give His life as a ransom for many. He will come again as King of Kings to judge all things and establish His Kingdom forever.

Luke provides a methodical, academic account of Jesus, his lineage, growing up as a boy, working as a carpenter, starting the ministry for which He came and how Jesus interacted with the religious and political leaders of the day. He writes with gentile (or non-Jewish) readers in mind.

John, writing much later than the other Gospel writers, looks back at Jesus' words and actions and gives their real significance with the insight that he has. He emphasises that Jesus really was God in the flesh. For example he provides 7 accounts of how Jesus declared himself to be God by using 'I Am' statements such as '...before Abraham was, I Am' (John 8:58 & compare to Exodus 3:13-14).

The Church
When you get a group of people together who know that God is righteous, that they themselves are far from righteous and that Jesus paid the sacrificial price for their sin so that they could be 'made' righteous, then you have a church. They want to worship the God who saves them, live out a life which shows gratitude and then participate in His Kingdom into eternity. Mixing a diverse range of people will of course lead to problems and disagreements but none that outweigh the gift of being eternally adopted by the God Most High.

Some believe that the church must establish God's Kingdom on earth for Him. This is not what Jesus taught. It is clear that He will do this when He comes again. The church then presents the truth and demonstrates the things of God for all to see until He returns. Historically, where the church has been used as a tool to serve the political agendas of those in power, it has only continued as long as there was sufficient ignorance in a population group to allow such abuse.

The church declares the things of God, is active in society to counter injustice and provides the community within which the believer can fulfil their own calling and grow in their faith.

The Epistles
An epistle is just a fancy word for a communication or letter. The early church encountered all sorts of problems, most of which are also common to us in the modern church. Elders in the early church like Paul, Peter, James and John wrote letters to the churches and to individuals to address issues of sin and compromise, maturity and growth in the Lord. The letters are affirmed through the early church as inspired by God, useful for teaching, encouragement and rebuke as with the old Testament Scriptures.

What are some of the major heresies that emerged in the early church and how do the epistles address them?

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