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Jan 31

Key Themes of The Bible: How Many Have Been Preached in Your Church?

Below is an excellent summary of the key points in the New Testament per book as outlined in the ESV Study Bible.

How many of these messages do you hear preached in your church, and taught in your community/study/cell/discipleship groups?  I’d argue that all of it is relevant, applicational, and helpful for living life in the pursuit of God.

In fact, the best sermons your church may ever hear would be for someone to stand up on Sunday morning and simply read an epistle of the Bible. Now wouldn’t that would be something…a sermon 100% inspired by God. No error. No misapplication or misinterpretation.  A message straight from heaven.

Let’s teach the entire narrative of the Bible.  That’s why God gave it to us.

Matthew

  •  Portrait of Jesus.  Jesus is the true Messiah, Immanuel, Son of God, King of Israel, and Lord of the church.
  • The bridge between Old and New Testaments.  Jesus fulfills the hopes and promises of the OT through his messianicgenealogy, fulfillment of OT prophecies and fulfillment of the OT law.  These bridging qualities may have been one reason Matthew was chosen to begin the NT canon.  Anothe rpossible reason is that many in the early church thought that Matthew was the first Gospel written, and another is that it was personally written by an apostle, in contrast to Mark and Luke.
  • Salvation-historical “particularism” and “universalism”.  Matthew’s Gospel traces God’s continuing work of salvation within Israel (“particularism”) and extends this saving work to all the peoples of the earth (“universalism”), through he person and work of Christ.
  • The new community of faith.  The early church included both Jewish and Gentile Christians.  Matthew’s Gospel would have encouraged them to transcend ethnic and cultural barriers to find unity in service to Jesus the Messiah as members of his universal church.
  • The church is built and maintained by Jesus’ continuing presence.  God’s saving work in the present age is carried out chiefly by and through the church, which Jesus continues to build and inhabit.  Anyone who responds to Jesus’ call- whether Jew or Gentile, male or female, rich or poor, slave or free- is brought into the fellowship of his church to enjoy him and participate in the community of his kingdom.
  • A “great commission” for evangelism and mission.  Jesus’ command to “make disciples of all nations” is found only in Matthew and has motivated countless believers to reach out to the lost with the good news of the gospel.  As Jesus made disciples in his earthly ministry, he commissions his church to follow his example.
  • Jesus’ five discourses recorded in Matthew can be viewed as a manual on discipleship.  The presentation of five of Jesus’ major discourses, addressed at least in part to his disciples, forms of the most comprehensive collection of Jesus’ instructional ministry found anywhere in Scripture. They paint a holistic picture of life lived in obedience to Christ, and the church has used them to instruct disciples through the ages.

Mark

  • Jesus seeks to correct messianic expectations and misunderstandings.
  • Jesus is man.
  • Jesus is the Son of God.
  • Jesus is the Son of Man with all power and authority.
  • Jesus as the Son of Man must suffer.
  • Jesus is Lord.
  • Jesus calls his followers to imitate him in humble service, self-denial, and suffering.
  • Jesus teaches on the kingdom of God, and implies that God continues to call a people to himself.

Luke

  • God’s sovereign rule over history. The promises God made through the prophets are already being fulfilled.
  • The arrival and actual presence of the kingdom of God. Nevertheless, the consummation of the kingdom is still a future event, a blessed hope for which the church prays.
  • The coming and indwelling of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus and his followers. The Spirit is present in the Gospel of Luke, from the births of John the Baptist and Jesus to the end. The Spirit is present at Jesus’ dedication in the temple, his baptism, temptation, early ministry, and first sermon. The Holy Spirit is central to the message of John the Baptist, and Jesus at his ascension promises the Spirit’s future coming in power.
  • The great reversal taking place in the world, in which the first are becoming last and the last are becoming first, the proud are being brought low and the humble are being exalted. Luke places great emphasis on God’s love for the poor, tax collectors, outcasts, sinners, women, Samaritans, and Gentiles. In keeping with this concern, many of the episodes that appear only in Luke’s Gospel feature the welcome of an outcast (the Christmas shepherds, the Prodigal Son, the persistent widow, Zacchaeus, etc.).
  • Believers are to live a life of prayer and practice good stewardship with their possessions. In Luke’s narrative, prayer occurs at every major point in Jesus’ life: at his baptism; at his selection of the Twelve; at Peter’s confession; at Jesus’ transfiguration; in his teaching the Lord’s Prayer; before Peter’s denial; etc.
  • The danger of riches is constantly emphasized in Luke, for the love of riches chokes out the seed of the gospel and keeps it from becoming fruitful. This danger is so great that Jesus often warns his readers not to set their hearts upon riches and to give generously to the poor. The woes pronounced upon haughty rich people stand in sharp contrast to the blessings pronounced upon the humble poor.

John

  • Jesus is God.
  • Jesus existed before the creation of the world.
  • Jesus has supernatural knowledge.
  • Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God.
  • Jesus is the “I am.”
  • Jesus, the sent Son, reflects the sender.
  • Jesus is the fulfillment of Jewish festivals and institutions (including the temple).
  • Jesus is the giver of eternal life.
  • The signs of Jesus show that he is the Messiah (cf. also Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God, above).
  • The witnesses to Jesus testify that he is the Messiah.
  • Father, Son, and Spirit are united in their work of revelation and redemption.
  • Jesus’ death is the basis of salvation.
  • God is sovereign in salvation.
  • Salvation is obtained through believing in Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God.
  • Believers can experience the benefits of salvation already in the here and now, during this present evil age.
  • Believers are called to continue Jesus’ mission (cf. also Jesus as the sent Son, above).

Acts

  • The witness is worldwide—Judea, Samaria, the “end of the earth.”
  • The witness is inclusive of all kinds of people: Jews, Gentiles, Samaritans, the physically handicapped, pagan mountain people, a prominent merchant woman, a jailer and his family, Greek philosophers, governors, and kings.
  • The witness is guided by the providence of God, who preserves his witnesses for their testimony through all sorts of threats: murderous plots, angry mobs, storms at sea, and constant trials before the authorities, to name only a few.
  • On the other hand, faithful witnesses must be prepared to suffer, even to die for their testimony to Christ.
  • The power behind the witness is the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is granted to all believers, both male and female, whom he empowers for witness. The Spirit guides witnesses in moments of special inspiration and is behind every advance in the Christian mission.
  • In the early days, the witness was often accompanied by “signs and wonders,” the “wonders” being the miracles worked by the apostles, which served as “signs” pointing to the truth of the gospel. Miracles usually opened a door for witness.
  • Effective witness demands the unity of the church.
  • A key component of the witness is the resurrection of Jesus. For the Jews the resurrection demonstrated that Jesus was the promised Messiah. For the Gentiles it pointed to his role as judge and established their need to repent.
  • Acceptance of the message borne by the witnesses depends both on human response and on the divine sovereignty behind the response.
  • The OT Scriptures point to the death and resurrection of Christ, and the prophecies that point to Christ and to his followers must be fulfilled (1:16). (The numerous OT citations in the sermons of Acts illustrate this point.)
  • The witness to the gospel calls for a response. Most speeches in Acts end with some sort of invitation. Representative of this is Paul’s exchange with Agrippa II.
  • The response called for is repentance of one’s sins in the name of Christ, which brings forgiveness of sins.
  • Witnesses must always maintain integrity before the world. In Acts this is illustrated by the many remarks from the authorities about the Christians giving no evidence of any wrongdoing.
  • Christian witnesses continue the ministry that Christ “began” (1:1). This is illustrated throughout Acts with the many implicit parallels between the experiences of the apostles and those of Christ: his miracles, the forebodings of his journey to Jerusalem, the cry of the angry Jewish mob for his death, and his trial before the governor and the king.
  • Faithful witness brings great results. Acts is all about the victory of the Christian gospel. The witness brings results among both Jews and Gentiles. The book ends on this note, with Paul bearing his faithful witness to “all” who came to him in Rome.

Romans

  • All people are sinners, therefore all, without exception, need to be saved from their sin.
  • The Mosaic law, though good and holy, cannot counteract the power of sin.
  • Through the righteousness of God, sin is judged and salvation is provided.
  • With the coming of Jesus Christ, the former age of redemptive history has passed away and the new age of redemptive history has begun.
  • The atoning death of Jesus Christ is central to God’s plan of salvation.
  • Justification is by faith alone.
  • There is a certain hope of future glory for those who are in Christ Jesus.
  • Those who have died with Christ and who enjoy the work of the Holy Spirit are enabled to live a new life.
  • God is sovereign in salvation; He works all things according to his plan.
  • God fulfills His saving promises to both Jews and Gentiles.
  • The grace of the gospel calls Christians to personal holiness, mutual service, good citizenship, and wholehearted neighbor-love in Christ.

1 Corinthians

  • Since the church is the dwelling place of God’s Spirit, the people who make up the church should work for unity by building each other up.
  • Christians should build up the church in four practical ways:
  1. they should be sensitive to those of fragile faith.
  2. they should win unbelievers through culturally sensitive evangelism
  3. they should conduct worship services in such a way that unbelievers present might come to faith.
  4. their corporate worship should use spiritual gifts not for personal display, or evaluating who has a better gift, but to build up the church.
  • Sexual relations form a union between man and woman as profound as the union of the believer with Christ, and so sexual activity should be confined to marriage.
  • Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are important, but both are subordinate to personal trust in the gospel and to living in the way that God commands.
  • The bodily resurrection of Jesus (and of his followers) from the dead is a critical component of Christian faith and practice.

2 Corinthians

  •  The cross of Christ, embodied in the suffering of this apostle, unmasks the erroneous teaching of “false apostles” and “servants of Satan.”
  •  In fulfillment of Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Ezekiel 36:26-27, Paul is a servant of the new covenant, (2 Corinthians 3:6), whose ministry and message of the cross mediates the Spirit of the living God and God’s righteousness to believers.
  •  Endurance amid adversity and Christlike behavior, both made possible by the grace of God modeled by Paul himself, are the greatest display of God’s presence, power, and glory in this fallen world.
  • The presence and power of the Spirit transforms believers into the image of God seen in Christ, which is the dawning of the new creation characterized by the righteousness of God.  Believers therefore embody the new creation of the new covenant by living for the sake of others.  This is made possible by the reconciliation with God brought about by the cross.
  • Repentance expresses itself in holiness, which is defined as a purity-producing love for God and his church and is unity- creating love for one’s neighbor.
  • Christ, as Savior, is also the universal Judge, who will one day pass judgment on all people according to their deeds.  In anticipation of this day, the Spirit transforms those in whom he dwells as a guarantee of the “eternal weight of glory” to come for believers at the resurrection.

Galatians

  •  In his sin-bearing death, Christ is a substitute for all Christians, whom he brings into a new realm of freedom and life.
  •  This gospel of Christ is for humanity, but there is no sense in which it has its origin in humanity: it comes only from God. Paul is himself an illustration of this: his conversion to Christ and his apostleship were not through human consultation but through the direct revelation of Christ.
  •  The gospel is appropriated not by works of law but by faith, which is the route to justification.
  •  To require circumcision and other Mosiaic ceremonies such as dietary laws and Jewish holidays as a supplement of faith is to fall back from the realm of grace, faith, and freedom, and to come under the whole law and its curse, since comprehensive observance of the law is impossible.
  •  Old Testament Scripture itself testifies to the truth of justification by faith, both in the life of Abraham and in the prophecy of Habakkuk.
  •  The Christian life has its source in the believer having died with Christ to sin, and thereby having renounced the flesh.
  •  The Spirit is the source of power and guidance in the Christian life, and the work of the Spirit produces love and faith.
  •  The Christian life consists not in pleasing people but in pleasing Christ our master and being willing to suffer persecution for the sake of his cross.

Ephesians

  • All people are by nature spiritually dead, transgressors of God’s law, and under the rule of Satan.
  • God predestined his elect to redemption and holiness in Christ according to the free counsel of his will.
  • God’s rich mercy in Christ has saved sinners; this free gift is by grace through faith alone.
  • Christ’s earthly work of redemption was part of his cosmic reconciliation and exaltation in this age and the next.
  • Christ’s reconciliation entails uniting all people, whether Jew or Gentile, into his one body, the church, as a new creation.
  • Christ’s people are renewed to new lives of holiness in thought, word and deed and must reject their old, sinful lifestyles.
  • Holiness of life entails submission to proper authorities, and loving and considerate care for those in submission.
  • Christ has given powerful gifts to his church to bring about her unity, maturity, and defense against the onslaughts of the devil and his allies.

Philippians

  • Christians need to keep making progress in their lives.
  • A proper spiritual outlook is critical for progress in the faith.
  • Christ is the supreme example of loving and faithful service to God, and mature Christians can also serve as role models in this regard.
  • Suffering will come, but through faith it can be met with joy.
  • Prayer is crucial for maintaining a joyful Christian life.
  • The gospel is not individualistic: Christians are to share in rich fellowship with one another, and to be united together in service to promote the gospel.
  • The old covenant and observance of the law cannot provide the necessary right standing with God.  Believers can be saved only through faith in Jesus Christ.
  • Jesus is fully God and fully man.  Because of his suffering on the cross, he is not exalted as Lord and Christ.

Colossians

  • Jesus Christ is preeminent over all creation, Lord over all human rulers and cosmic powers.
  • God has worked through Christ to secure redemption and reconciliation for all who put their faith in him.
  • Believers are in Christ and thus participate in a relationship of solidarity with Christ in his death on the cross, his resurrection from the dead, his new life, and his fullness.
  • Christ has defeated the powers of darkness on the cross, and Christians share in his power and authority over that realm.
  • Jesus is the fulfillment of Jewish expectation, and Christians now share in the heritage of the old covenant people of God through their union with him.
  • Believers are called to grow in maturity in Christ by getting rid of sinful practices and cultivating Christian virtues.

1 Thessalonians

  • The wrath of God comes on those who reject the gospel.
  • Jesus’ death and resurrection are the basis for the Christian’s hope.
  • Christians are destined not for wrath but for salvation at Jesus’ coming.
  • Christians who die will participate fully in the second coming.
  • Those who respond to the gospel have been elected by God in prehistory and called by God, and they continue to be called by God throughout their earthly lives.
  • Christians should live lives of comprehensive holiness.
  • Christians must never shirk their responsibility to work.
  • The authenticity of the gospel is confirmed by the integrity of its preachers.
  • Joy, especially in suffering, is a mark of the Christian.
  • Christians experience the realities of the prophesied new covenant.
  • Faith, hope and love are essential and universal traits of the Christian.

2 Thessalonians

  • God’s righteous judgment will be fully manifest when Jesus returns. At that time unbelievers will be condemned and believers will be saved.
  • Christians will share Christ’s glory.
  • The lawless one’s revelation and humanity’s final rebellion are prerequisites for Jesus’ second coming.
  • The lawless one will deceive all those who have rejected the gospel, guaranteeing their condemnation when Jesus returns.
  • Christians must not exploit the charity of fellow Christians.

1 Timothy

  • The gospel produces holiness in the lives of believers, and there is no legitimate separation between belief and behavior.  Thus, those who profess faith but do not demonstrate any progress in godliness should question their spiritual state.
  • Worldwide evangelization is essential and is rooted in God’s own evangelistic desire.
  • One key evidence of reception of the gospel is proper behavior in corporate worship (evangelistic, prayer, unity, modesty and submission)
  • Church leaders should be people whose lives are shaped by the gospel.
  • Appropriate honor is a key element in how Christians should relate to one another in the church.
  • The created order is good and is to be appreciated, though not worshiped.
  • It is important to labor for the purity and preservation of the gospel.

2 Timothy

  • Suffering is a standard part of Christian experience.
  • The Christian response to suffering is faithful perseverance by God’s power.
  • The gospel is the ground for the Christian’s endurance.
  • The Scriptures have power to save and preserve.
  • True believers will persevere; failure to persevere proves one is not converted.
  • False teaching is deadly and must be dealt with firmly.

Titus

  • The gospel by its nature produces godliness in the lives of believers.  There is no legitimate separation between belief and behavior.
  • One’s deeds will either prove or disprove one’s claim to know God.
  • It is vitally important to have godly men serving as elders/pastors.
  • True Christian living will commend the gospel to others.
  • Good works have an important place in the lives of believers.
  • It is important to deal clearly and firmly with doctrinal and moral error in the church.
  • The gospel is the basis for Christian beliefs.

Philemon

  • At the heart of this letter is the theme of reconciliation. Onesimus is reconciled to God, and now he is in the process of being reconciled to a fellow believer.
  • The basis for Paul’s appeal to Philemon is the supreme Christian virtue of love (not Roman social convention), Paul commends Philemon for the love he has shown not only to him but also to all the believers in that area.

Hebrews

  • Jesus is fully God and fully man.
  • Jesus as Son of God reveals God the Father, is the agent of creation, and sustains all creation.
  • Jesus serves as the eternal high priest, who as a man sympathizes with human weaknesses, and yet who offered himself as the perfect sacrifice for sin.
  • Jesus is superior to angels, to Moses and the Mosaic covenant, and to the earthly tabernacle and in priesthood.
  • All humanity faces eternal judgment for sin.
  • Faith is necessary to please God and to participate in his eternal salvation promises.  Faith requires conviction about the unseen realities of God and his promises. Such faith produces perseverance.
  • God’s promises are trustworthy, including his promise of eternal salvation.
  • With the advent of Jesus Christ, the last days have begun, though they await consummation fo his return.

James

  • God is seen as a gracious giver, the unchanging Creator, merciful and compassionate, a Judge, the one and only God, a jealous God, a gracious God and a healing God.
  • Wisdom comes “from above” and enables one both to withstand trials and to bring peace rather than discord.
  • God allows tests and trials (1:2-4) but temptation comes not from God but from self and Satan.  The required response is patient endurance.
  • The primary trial is poverty and oppression from the rich.  The poor are the special focus of God’s care and must be cared for by his people and now shown prejudice or ignored.  The wealthy are condemned from presumptuous pride and for stealing from the poor.
  • Apocalyptic themes are prevalent in terms of both future judgment and reward.
  • The power of the tongue to destroy or to bring peace dominates the middle section.
  • The ethical mandate to go beyond hearing the word to living it out in daily conduct is made explicit earlt on and is implicit throughout the letter.
  • Prayer is the proper response to trials, but it must not be self-seeking.  It is to be central in life not only when afflicted or sick but also when cheerful.  God has great power to heal, both physically and spiritually.
  • Faith, in its relationship to both works and justification, does not contradict but supplements Paul’s teaching. James and Paul are united in teaching that justification comes only by the grace of God through faith but will of necessity result in works.  If there are not resultant works, there was no justification in the first place.

1 Peter

  • Those who suffer as Christians will be exalted.
  • The church of Jesus Christ is the new temple, the new Israel, the new people of God.
  • Believers should set their hope on their end time inheritance.
  • Christ died as a substitute for sinners, and his death is the basis for their new life.
  • Christ’s suffering is an example to his disciples.
  • At his resurrection, Christ triumphed over his enemies.
  • Christians should live righteously in their new homes and in society.
  • New life in Christ is the basis for life of love and holiness

2 Peter

  • God, through his grace in Jesus Christ, has granted to Christians the privilege of partaking of the divine nature.
  • God’s grace results in godliness.
  • The revelations of truth in Christ is sure because it is from god and not from man-made myths.
  • False teachers are bound over for destruction at the hand of God.
  • False teachers are ethically bankrupt.
  • Believers must endure in the face of opposition, knowing that they live in the last days.
  • The Lord is patient with his creation, but will surely return in judgment like a thief in the night.
  • God rescues the righteous.

1 John

  • The one eternal God became incarnate in his Son, Jesus the Christ, who is “the true God and eternal life.”
  • All humans are sinful, but Christians have joyful fellowship with the Father, with the Son, and with each other through repentance and faith in Christ.
  • Christ is our advocate with the Father and the propitiation for our sins.
  • Those who know Christ forsake sin and keep God’s commandments- in particular the love commandment.
  • Denial of Jesus Christ as God’s son in the flesh is denial of God the Father.
  • Faith in Christ results in forgiveness of sins, eternal life, confidence in prayer, protection from the evil one, and understanding and knowing the tru God.

2 John

  • The truth of Jesus Christ is eternal.
  • Christian love and compliance with God’s commandments are inseparable.
  • False teaching about Christ abounds.
  • Purveyors of false teaching have to be identified and left to their own devices, not welcomed and supported by upholders of authentic Christian teaching.

3 John

  • The support of traveling Christian workers is noble and needful.
  • Church discipline can be necessary for healthy ministry.
  • The integrity of faith is proven by actions.

Jude

  • Christians need to defend the doctrines of the faith.
  • False teachers may be identified by their immoral character.
  • God will judge false teachers.
  • Saints must persevere to be saved.
  • As God grants mercy to those who are called, they must show mercy to others.
  • God grants grace that ensures that his own will persevere.

 

 

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