Some time ago a Christian brother told me of undergoing a spiritual struggle, during which he said God told him not to open his Bible for an entire year. I expressed my concern, as respectfully as I knew how, that he had misidentified the spirit that gave him such an instruction. It is possible to make too much of the Bible, as we discussed in the previous gracEmail, but it is also possible (and perhaps far more common) to make too little of it. That mistake we also wish to avoid.
Jesus Christ himself viewed with the greatest respect the Scriptures which we call the Old Testament (John 10:35). To read the Old Testament with enlightened mind is to discover a preview of Jesus the Messiah — his supernatural birth and merciful life, his substitutionary passion and atoning death, his mighty resurrection and glorious ascension, his present intercession and his coming kingdom (Lk. 24:27, 44-47). Because they point to Jesus, the older Scriptures provide wisdom that leads to salvation through trusting in him (2 Tim. 3:15; Rom. 4). For those who follow Jesus to whom they point, the older Scriptures also remain useful for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteous living (2 Tim. 3:16). The adventures and misadventures of God’s Old Testament people serve as examples and warnings for us who have been given even greater grace (1 Cor. 10:11).
After the Christian community had begun and the world did not end, the apostles and those whom they trained, aided by the Holy Spirit, wrote their own memoirs (Gospels), narrative reflections (Acts), occasional and general letters (Epistles) and prophecies (Revelation) — for the benefit of those then living and for those who would come after them (2 Pet. 1:12-15; John 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:13-15). Over time these writings, which we know as the New Testament Scriptures, grew to share the same esteem which the faith community already gave to the older Scriptures (2 Pet. 3:15-16). That is not surprising, since the New Testament Scriptures are essentially reflections on faith and life in light of Jesus and in light of the Old Testament Scriptures which pointed to him (Rev. 19:10).
As to specific content, the New Testament Scriptures preserve many of the words and deeds of Jesus, to feed faith and provide instruction (Gospels: see Matt. 28:18-20; John 20:30-31). They describe the original evangelization of the Mediterranean world in the power and under the guidance of the Spirit of the Risen Christ (Acts). They unpack the implications of the person and achievements of Jesus Christ for the personal morality, ethics, community life and social interaction in the world of those who trust him as Savior and who seek to follow him as Lord (Epistles). They anticipate his future coming in person, in power and in glory to bring to final fulfillment God’s reign over and redemption of the entire creation. They assure his faithful people of ultimate victory with Christ even though they may now be called upon to die at the hands of earthly powers falsely claiming absolute and universal authority (Revelation).
Little wonder, then, that the New Testament Scriptures quickly passed into general circulation (Col. 4:16) or that their value increased in the eyes of the believing community as the original apostles and eyewitnesses grew older and began to pass away (Lk. 1:1-4; Heb. 2:1-4). Alongside the older Scriptures of the Jews, the writings of the Christian apostles and prophets served both then and since as a primary resource for growth in grace and in knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:1-2, 15-18). May we all hear who have ears to do so, receiving the prophetic and apostolic words with humility and digesting them by faith (Lk. 6:47-49; Heb. 4:1-3; Rev. 1:1-3).