NEW TESTAMENT IS ‘OFFER’ UNTIL ACCEPTED
‘Testament’ is a legal word which means covenant, pact, contract or deal. In plain language, the Old Testament is God’s old deal with mankind. The New Testament is his new deal. As with any deal, there’s no value or benefit to a person unless he accepts it. A deal is consummated only upon offer and acceptance.
Therefore, to the person who understands and accepts God’s offer, the New Testament is God’s testament which states specifically what God has promised to do for him.
But to the person who has not accepted God’s offer, the New Testament is not a testament (yet) but is an offer which, if and when accepted, will become a testament (see Topics 56 and 57).
The New Testament is a collection of 27 individual books (see Topic 29), organized as follows:
- Life of Jesus Christ (first four books)
- History of the early church (fifth book)
- Instructions to Christians (21 books)
- Glimpse into the future (last book)
Each book has a part in spelling out God’s offer, and each book provides explanations of the new life available to anyone who accepts the offer. When read together, these 27 books give an exciting picture of God’s grand plan for us.
The plan is not so complex that it takes 27 books (about 350 pages in total) to explain it. On the contrary, the plan is very simple and can be stated briefly (see Topics 53-62). Much of the New Testament is repetitive – the same principles seen from different perspectives – and this serves to make the key points very clear to us.
HOW WE GOT THE NEW TESTAMENT
The central theme (the offer) of the New Testament is commonly called the ‘gospel’ (Greek word meaning ‘good news.’). The gospel, stated in its simplest terms, is that by personal faith in Jesus Christ we can have:
- Complete forgiveness of sin
- God (Holy Spirit) living in and through us
- Eternity in heaven
All of this is offered to us by God, in love, as a free gift. The only condition (an easy one!) is that each person must personally accept the gift. A person’s relationship with God no longer depends upon ‘measuring up’ to the law and making sacrifices for sin as was required by the Old Testament.
God brought this good news to mankind in a very unique way. Approximately 2,000 years ago, he came to earth in the body of a man – Jesus Christ – to announce this new stage of his grand plan (see Topic 32) and to make the once-and-for-all sacrifice for our sins (see Topics 54 and 55). This seems like a long time ago from our perspective, but it’s quite recent from God’s perspective.
Jesus didn’t write any book himself. He spoke and modeled the message for three years in many towns and villages to audiences large and small; particularly to twelve disciples.
At first the message spread entirely by word of mouth, but as time passed and the message was carried to distant areas, there was a practical need for written materials.
No one set out to produce a ‘new’ testament to replace the ‘old’ one. The New Testament developed as apostles (those who were close eye-witnesses of Jesus’ life and teaching), under authority and inspiration of the Holy Spirit (see Topic 19), put in writing exactly what Jesus said and did.
BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
- ANNOUNCEMENT – An angel tells Mary and her fiance (Joseph) that she will be mother of the Messiah.
BIRTH OF JESUS – Jesus enters the world by being born in Bethlehem (near Jerusalem) to Mary, a virgin. Thus, Jesus is literally the God-man (divine father, human mother). His arrival was without fanfare, to an ordinary family under humble circumstances. The Bible says very little about him between birth and age 30 when he began his public ministry.
- JOHN THE BAPTIST – John the Baptist preaches that everyone should repent and be baptized to get ready for the coming of the long-awaited Messiah (Savior). Jesus comes to John, who baptizes him and proclaims him Savior of the world.
- PUBLIC MINISTRY OF JESUS – For three years, Jesus was an itinerant teacher. He spoke to huge enthusiastic crowds, but as he moved from town to town. Mostly he spoke to small groups and particularly to 12 disciples who traveled with him. He never traveled more than 50 miles from Nazareth, his home town. He also performed miracles – particularly healing sick people – to demonstrate his divinity. He told people everything necessary to know about spiritual life.
- DEATH OF JESUS – The religious leaders in Jerusalem were furious because Jesus claimed to be God and because people were believing him. They brought him to the Roman governor, who hastily sentenced him to death, in order to prevent a riot. He was beaten and nailed to a cross, where he died in public humiliation. In this way, Jesus gave his life as the once-for-all sacrifice for the sins of the world; eliminating the need for further sacrifices.
- RESURRECTION OF JESUS – His dead body was placed in a sealed tomb guarded by Roman soldiers because authorities feared his disciples might steal the body to prove his statement that he would rise again. Three days later, he miraculously came to life in a supernatural body and left the tomb.
- ASCENSION OF JESUS – He spent the next forty days teaching his disciples. During that time he was seen by more than 500 people. Concluding his teaching, he rose into the clouds and disappeared from sight. Two angels immediately appeared to the disciples and said that he will return from heaven in the same way they saw him leave.
- HOLY SPIRIT – Seven weeks later, the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit; the inner power of God that Jesus had promised. God’s physical presence was replaced with a spiritual presence not limited by time and space. The disciples excitedly told everyone what had happened. Thousands became believers.
- FIRST CHURCH – The disciples established the first church – a loving, caring and growing Christian community meeting in homes in Jerusalem – but they were severely persecuted by religious leaders of the Temple, causing many of them to disperse to other areas. Thus, spreading the gospel even further.
- PAUL’S MISSIONARY TRIPS – Paul, a powerful antagonist who led the persecution, became converted through a personal encounter with Christ. He became a very influential missionary and established churches throughout a wide area along the Mediterranean Sea; including the imperial city of Rome.
- INSTRUCTIONS TO CHURCHES – As new churches were established, Paul and others visited them and wrote letters to explain how this new life is to be lived.
- THE FUTURE – God gave the Apostle John a symbolic vision of the major spiritual events and sequences which will occur in future stages of his grand plan.
Essentially all of these events occurred in the country we know today as Israel, primarily in the 75 miles between Jerusalem and the Sea of Galilee.
See Topic 33 for summary of the Old Testament.