New Testament Emphasis

Sunday, 27 October 2013
Sermon Notes:

                Jesus’ Christ’s New Testament - Teaching and Emphasis
                     What is the core teaching of the New Testament?
                                What emphasis does it have if any?

 Jesus Christ taught us that believing in Him gives us eternal life (John 3:16); it is this faith that unites all Christians, based on the confession that He is “The Son of the Living God, or to put it simply: Jesus Christ is God – part of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit (see Matthew 16:16-18)

This teaching is central to everything and must come first. Indeed, when the crowds asked Him: “What must we do to do the works of God?” He replied: “
The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” So before looking into His other teaching we must have active belief in Him as our foundation.

Having said this, can we summarise His teaching? Is there any emphasis to it?

Core teaching:
The doctrine of the New Testament that Jesus Christ has given to us will never change from now until he returns at the end of the age. When asked “
Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” he answered: “The most important one is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mk 12:28-31). This holds a vital lesson: we cannot say we have the correct doctrine if we don’t really have love for God in our heats. We may appear to worship, sing and pray well but if our hearts aren’t in it, it means nothing. We can also pretend to love others but if it’s always done as a duty and not from the heart then as 1 Corinthians 13 says, it means nothing.

All other teaching is meaningless without this foundation. It should keep us seeking Him; it’s only by abiding in Him that we can do anything useful that will last (John 15).

We can tell that we love God and have passed from death to life if we love the brothers and sisters in the church (1 John 3; Mat 25). This is the simplest test given to us in the scriptures. So if I inwardly find that I want to spend time identifying myself with God’s people and developing my unity with them and my love and service to them, it’s a clear indicator that I love God and am born again.

Changes and differences in emphasis:
While the doctrine of the New Testament never changes the emphasis will often change, as it did in the Acts of the Apostles: there were times of great revival as on the Day of Pentecost or the day the Holy Spirit blew like a mighty wind on the Gentiles for the first time.

Afterwards there were also times of great consolidation as in Antioch where we find that the dispersed church put down deep roots which culminated in the sending out of Paul and Barnabas on the great adventure of planting churches around the known world. Or there is the great doctrinal tome that Paul sent to the Romans or the anonymous epistle to the Hebrews to digest.


The church is dynamic and can't be boxed in by the traditions of pharisaical people who dot the doctrinal i’s and cross the t’s but don't lift a finger to help the poor, the lame, the blind and the crippled spirits around them, not even inviting them to a meal as the Lord Himself commanded us to (Luke 14).


Within the Saviour's New Testament we find great flexibility of movement from the huge cosmopolitan community of the first church in Jerusalem to the tightly knit house groups of the dispersion that followed the persecution after the stoning of Stephen.

In the body of Christ each individual will also have a different emphasis in terms of their ministry – some eyes, some ears, some feet or hands. The direction of the body is the same, receiving its instructions from the head, but the task each individual is given to do can be very different (1 Cor 12).


Today we are faced with the eminent return of Jesus Christ with a sharp sickle to harvest all mankind, storing the wheat in heavenly barns and casting out the tares to be burned. More than ever we need to be firmly grounded on the rock of Jesus Christ and His sound doctrine whilst always having brand new wineskins, flexible enough to hold the new wine that will be poured out in the last days. The church needs to become completely one; the Gospel needs to be preached to all mankind and then the end will come.


Let's go back to that command to invite the poor, lame, blind and crippled to a meal. How many people around you are suffering from lack of friendship, seldom receiving a visit from anyone let alone being invited out for a meal? Why not start with that? Think of one person now and spend time developing your friendship with them. Meditate on Luke 14 and put it into practice.


Brotherly love, which is the fuel that fires the spirit and also produces genuine worship, needs to increase more and more (1 Thes 4:9). This in turn is developed by a passion for unity: the same passion that the Lord had when he prayed: "that they may also be one with us, that the world might believe." We need a new vision that drives us to see all believers around us as one body, not just those of our own congregation. The early church was one. The church down the ages has divided off into denominations. The goal is that we become totally one, not tossed around by every wind of doctrine but bound together by clear New Testament doctrine and a bond of love that will last. 


We need to be filled with the spirit in order to break through the barriers that divide us. This also means that we need to spend time together with the believers around us, eating, praying and reaching out together, until we arrive at a place where the love we have for each other becomes like a stream that powerfully flows out each day to every neighbour.


The writer has experienced first-hand the destructive power of disunity. Our family of churches began in about 1965. In about 1995, giving the reason that the church needed to “be more culturally relevant” and “follow the anointing” a few of them split away. There was no doctrinal reason given or cited from the New Testament. Any gain from this move was totally annulled as non-believers saw the disunity and took it as a reason not to believe. Relatives in the same family were either side of the divide, and so whenever they met together there was friction. However as there were many faithful and wise believers on both sides, this friction was kept to a minimum, but the pain and destruction has lasted a long time.

Another cause of disunity is the over emphasis on side issues such as the role of women in the church, attitude to praying for Israel, divorce and remarriage, style of meeting, etc. While there are many important truths relating to these issues we must be united together by the central truths of belief in Jesus Christ and love for God and one another and not allow the Enemy an excuse to thrust in the sword of division.


Nothing is more destructive than disunity, and any gain made by preaching the Gospel and seeing people saved without also paying careful attention to unity will be like adding bricks to a house only to see the wind and waves destroy it in a second or like playing a football game without a goalie. The household of God needs to be built on a rock – Jesus Christ and His New Testament, with the deep foundations of seeking Him together and thorough reading of His Word.


 In the introduction we quoted Jesus’ reply to “What must we do to do the works of God?” He said: “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” Our daily task as Christians is to love God in our priestly ministry of praise, worship and prayer and to befriend those around us. Our two main goals are our unity with other believers and to be a witness to those around us, telling them about Jesus and their need to believe in Him. Our unity will grow as we read and believe in Jesus’ New Testament; the world will believe when they see this unity (John 17) and as we share the liberating message of faith in Him.

The Church of the Lord is like a large ocean liner. Whilst the point of the journey is to get somewhere, priority should always be the safety of the passengers, and a large ship is steered slowly by a small rudder. The destination is to “present every man perfect” to “preach the Gospel to every living creature” and to see the body of Christ become “mature, not tossed around by the waves and every wind of doctrine”. Any adjustment in direction needed along the route to this goal needs to be made slowly. Sudden changes will rock the boat and could cause passengers to be lost overboard or at worst the whole ship to capsize.

We are heading towards the glorious Promised Land where the Lion and the Lamb will lie down together. Let’s make sure we are moving forward and daily seek the Lord, spend time ministering to Him together and so grow towards the ultimate and glorious goal, bringing Him much glory.

Songs: We are His family; For I’m building a people of power; We are one body, walking in love.


New Testament Emphasis

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