NT Part 8 The Christian Way of Living
As we move to concluding our thoughts on how the ancient book of the Bible applies to life in the 21st Century we come to the rest of the New Testament. The Gospels contain 4 perspectives on the life, teachings, miracles, death, and resurrection, of Jesus. The Book of Acts is the only ‘history’ of the earliest Christians (the first 30-40 years after the resurrection). The rest of the New Testament is a series of letters expressing the meaning of the life and resurrection of Jesus and instructions on how those who follow Jesus ought to live.
Why was this important? In the first few decades following Jesus the number of believers rose incredibly. From the first sermon preached on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) when 3,000 were added to the fledgling group to the end of the 1st century CE there were tens of thousands who became followers of Christ.
For those who had become followers of Christ from the Jewish tradition there was a basic understanding of the moral code they should follow. Jesus had not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). What the Jewish followers need to understand was not law but grace. The writings of the Apostle Paul, a Pharisee of Judaism, helps to lay the foundation for this understand. Also we find in the Book of Hebrews a wonderful statement on how the worship structure of the Old Testament is fulfilled through Jesus Christ.
Even though this Jew to Christian movement was the initial growth of the early church, as the decades unfolded following the resurrection the primary growth amongst the early Christians was from the Roman and Greek world. These new converts did not come from a Jewish background. The paganism into which they had been born did not teach them the moral code of the Judeo-Christian faith. They needed instruction not only on the grace of God which gives eternal life (Ephesians 2:8-9) but also on how to live each days as followers of Jesus.
The letters of the New Testament, Romans through Jude, were written to real human beings who had chosen to become followers of Jesus Christ. The letters were written to address real issues which individuals and groups of believers were facing. Some of the issues addressed were practical:
- Special gifts God gives to each person
- Appropriate relationships and appropriate boundaries
- Behaviors that lead to spiritual and relational problems
- Behaviors that reflect spiritual growth and development
- Role of a Christian in a secular society
- Role of a Christian in relation to a secular/hostile government
- The nature and behaviors of a Christian community
- How to talk to each other
- Money matters and charitable giving
Some of the topics addressed in these letters are theological:
- The holiness and love of God
- The person and work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit
- How does a person receive eternal life
- The interplay between God’s grace and our works
- The problem of evil
- Truth and error in what to believe
- How do we become better spiritually
- The end of all things
Because these and other issues were addressed to real people, and because the issues and questions that real people face have been consistent throughout the ages, I believe it is of great value to read and study the New Testament. If we approach the New Testament in an attitude of prayer asking God to speak to us through this ancient text I believe we will be surprised at the direction we will receive. I have always believed God continually desires to interact with us. The problem is not with God communicating it is with our willingness and skill in listening and responding.
There is one final topic that the New Testament addresses that is very important for us to consider, the end of all things. That will be the next blog.