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"New Testament Survey"

Introduction through Mark


Steve Bader sarted a new session on the New Testament Scriptures in adult Sunday School class. He began with a historical introduction and went through the book of Mark. This article provides a brief summary of the content. I recommend you either download the audio in it's entirety from sermons page or order the CD's.

Historical Context

Since the word "testament" comes from the Greek word for "covenant" one could refer to the biblical division as the old and new covenant. Both covenants point to Christ. The old pointed to the promise and and the new records the fulfillment of those promises.

The New Testament canon we have today was worked out quite early by the church. The canonization process was more of an official recognition of what the church had long received.

God providentially prepared the world for the New Testament to thrive. Greece took center stage, conquering the known world under the leadership of Alexander the Great. He wanted to Hellenize the known world (i.e., make every part of the world Greek both in language and culture). This movement helped establish a universal language through which the apostles could evangelize the known world. This is a remarkable example of divine concurrence. Alexander did this for his own glory, but God used the world conqueror's objectives to advance his kingdom several hundred years later. Two of Alexander's generals would gain dominance and divide his kingdom after he died. These two kingdoms were separated geographically by Judea and the Jews were often caught in the middle of their battles. Many Jews were displaced during this time. As a result, many synagogues were founded throughout the known world. This provided a foothold for the earliest Christian missionaries to spread the Gospel. The Hellenization of the world necessitated the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. This afforded a universal translation of the scripture utilized by the early church to evangelize the nations.

The leadership of the Jews during the intertestamental era developed into the factions of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Augustus Caesar brought about the "Pax Romana" (Roman peace) permitting early Christian missionaries to travel throughout the known world without the dangers of war. God providentially used these events for the fulfillment of His purpose.


The Gospels are not simply four repeated biographies of Jesus. They are one story written from four different perspectives; a four-fold portrait of the Savior. Matthew was placed first because the testimony of church history suggests it was the first to be written (originally in Aramaic). Matthew provides a natural bridge between the testaments for it is written from a Jewish perspective.

His first vision declared the fact that there was peace among other nations while Israel suffered. However, one day God would turn the tables and bring judgment on those nations and peace to His people.

The second vision was concerned with the nations who scattered Israel. God would raise up other nations to destroy them.

This Gospel stresses the fact that Christ came to fulfill the law, not destroy it. The portrait of Jesus in this Gospel is deeply rooted in the Old Testament. Jesus is the son of Abraham, the son of David. Matthew emphasizes how Christ fulfills the Old Testament prophecies. Jerusalem, the center of Judean world, would also be the region that would most oppose Christ. Matthew presents an ultimatum to Israel from God: Believe in Christ or be eternally rejected. He reminds the Jews that Abraham would be the father, not just of Israel, but of many nations.

The fourth vision proclaimed that even though Israel was unworthy, the Lord would remove their sin from them, silencing the accuser, Satan. The sins of God's people would be remedied with through Christ, the branch.

The triggering event for Christ's ministry in Matthew was his baptism by John the Baptist. Matthew then introduces a series of five discourses, making a comparison with Moses. As Jesus performed miracles, the Pharisees attributed those signs and wonders to the devil. Yet Christ proclaimed the words of God, which Satan could not do.

After the His clear rejection by the religious leaders, Jesus began preaching in parables. The Jewish leaders would not understand but Jesus would explain these parables to His own. This is a picture of election.

Christ later began foretelling his own death. When Peter objected, Christ rebuked him. The disciples themselves must be prepared to follow him to death or they would lose their own lives.

As Jesus entered Jerusalem he was greeted with praise. But after he cleansed the temple the leadership confronted him demanding that he declare by what authority he was taking such action. Christ's answer pointed to his deity. After Jesus was arrested, tried and crucified, Matthew turns to the glory of the Resurrection.

Because of the hostility and rejection of the Jews, the new people of God would inherit the Kingdom. Matthew closes with the great commission to make disciples of all nations.


John Mark, the author of this Gospel, was a disciple of the Apostle Peter. It is written from Peter's perspective. Words such as immediately reflect Peter's impetuous and confident personality. Mark often emphasizes Peter's humbling interactions with Christ and leaves out the stories where Christ praises Peter.

The book's aim is to indicate that God anointed Jesus. He went about doing good works, and was successful in ministry because the Father was with him. There is no nativity in the book because the account emphasizes the works of Jesus. Like Matthew, Mark shows the increasing hostility of the Jews against Christ as a result of these good works and his message. Like Matthew, Mark explains that Jesus spoke in parables so only Christ's disciples would understand.

Christ's ministry is presented with a military flavor. Jesus conquers the forces of darkness. Christ's throne was not a political but spiritual. Christ announces that he must suffer so that God's plan would be fulfilled.

In Mark, Christ foretells the falling of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Those controlling the temple were opposed to Jesus. They had made a den of thieves. The religious leaders did not recognize that the temple and its sacrifices pointed to Christ and His death.

In Mark, the lowly recognize who Jesus is while the spiritual elite remain blind. The major point in Mark is that conflict is inevitable when you live righteously among a sinful nation.

- Jordan McGehee

You can listen to this series here.