Before you read a book – or a collection of books like the New Testament – you ought to have a sense of what you’re reading. If you’re reading a novel, you should know that. If you’re reading a historical biography, you should know that. In the case of the New Testament, I’m afraid many of us don’t understand what we’re reading when we read it. So here’s a little information that might be helpful.
Jesus is King
First, we need to understand that Jesus is King. He is the long-awaited descendent of David who was prophesied of throughout the Old Testament. This King or “Anointed One” is referred to as “the Messiah” or “the Christ.” And Jesus was much more than just the royal descendent of David, He was also God in human flesh (John 1:14).
Jesus spent several years proving, through His teachings and His miraculous signs, that He was “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). During this time, He gathered to Himself several men – known as His apostles – to whom He gave special instructions. He told them a special gift would be given specifically to them. This gift would be the very Spirit of God, who would guide them “into all truth” (John 16:13).
After Jesus was crucified, buried, and rose from the dead, He declared His kingship in no uncertain terms, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me” (Matthew 28:18). He then told His apostles – after they received the guiding Holy Spirit – to go and tell the whole world about Him and teach people to follow Him.
The Apostles Were His Ambassadors
When the Holy Spirit came on the apostles, He filled them with the knowledge of the King’s will. They served as the King’s official ambassadors (an ambassador is someone who speaks on behalf of his King). They went all over the world, teaching the things the King revealed to them through His Holy Spirit.
Paul, the last apostle – or ambassador – to be appointed, said this about the apostles’ mission, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
The people who heard and believed the apostles’ royal decree, became followers of the King. They “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42), understanding that the teachings of the apostles were the teachings of the King himself.
The New Testament is the King’s Official Decree
The New Testament is the official written record of the King’s teachings, given through His ambassadors and their close associates. The first four books of the New Testament – known as the gospel accounts – tell the story of the King’s life, sacrificial death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of God in heaven.
The next book, the book of Acts, tells of how the King’s ambassadors were given the Holy Spirit and went throughout the world imploring people to be reconciled to God through Jesus the King. The book of Acts tells how the ambassadors (apostles) gathered the new followers of the King into local bodies in towns and communities around the world. These local bodies were known as churches or congregations. They met together regularly to encourage each other, support one another, and worship together. Each local group understood they were just a small part of a much larger kingdom of followers all over the world.
The rest of the New Testament is comprised of messages written to individuals and congregations, giving further instructions about how to live lives that are pleasing to the King. The book of 1 Corinthians, for instance, is a letter written from the King’s ambassador Paul to the congregation in the city of Corinth.
We Are Carrying on the Mission of the King
Today, we carry on the apostles’ mission and ministry. We are not ambassadors in the sense that they were, but we have the King’s story and the King’s message preserved in the pages of the New Testament. As followers of the King have done since the very beginning, we devote ourselves to the apostles’ teachings and implore the world to do the same. There is no other way to know about the King and His will for mankind than through the written words of the New Testament.
Jesus is King and one day He will return. He is a merciful and forgiving King. He died that all mankind might have the opportunity to be forgiven. But when He returns, He will return in judgement (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10). He will punish anyone who has not submitted Himself to the Kingship of Jesus Christ.
I encourage you to read the New Testament as the official record of the King’s story and the King’s will. Read it, knowing that the King invites you into His eternal kingdom, if you will submit and surrender yourself to Him.
I love you and God loves you,