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Survey of the New Testament

I.  Introduction:

 At the close of each of the Gospels we are left with a question: what now?  Specifically with the Great Commission in Matthew we might be wondering: how exactly will that commission be carried out?  Questions like ‘how will the mission begin’ and ‘who will be included’ are answered in the book of Acts and Romans (and the rest of the New Testament).  We see in these books the first followers of Jesus Christ carrying out His call to take the gospel to all the nations.  Of course, at this point we could also be asking this question: where do we fit in to all of this?  As we look at the book of Acts and Romans tonight we want to consider these questions.  Let’s begin with the book of Acts.

II.  Acts:

 A.  Author: As we said last week, the author of the Gospel of Luke also wrote the book of Acts since both are addressed to Theophilus (Luke 1:3, Acts 1:1).  Thus, we hold that Luke, the physician and companion of Paul, wrote the book of Acts.

 B.  Time and Setting: Luke covers about 30 years of history in the book of Acts.  He is recounting for Theophilus the story of the Apostles and the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem to Rome.  The whole book is summarized in 1:8.  Look at that verse with me.  The book of Acts is a retelling of how the gospel spread from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth (see outline below).  Thus, Luke is giving us an accurate account of the lives of some of the Apostles (primarily Peter, 1-12, and Paul, 13-28,) and the struggles and success of the early Church.

 C.  Outline:
  1. 1-5 Jerusalem
  2. 6-9 Judea and Samaria
  3. 10-28 The Ends of the Earth

 D.  Themes: One of the major themes in the book of Acts is God’s mission for the Church to make faithful disciples in all the world.  As we have said above, the message of Jesus Christ spread from a relatively small group in Jerusalem to the utter ends of the earth (Rome and beyond) in the book of Acts.  We see very clearly that this mission is carried out by the Church being faithful to preach the gospel of Christ to any and all, trusting that disciples will be made through the sovereign power of the Spirit.  We also see that this mission will lead to suffering and persecution and difficulty.  Yet, God is faithful to the Bride of Christ.  As He persevered Her in the book of Acts, so He continues to do so even in our day.  For just a sampling of the carrying out of this mission in the book of Acts, look at 5:27-42.  Just as the Apostles were faithful to God’s mission in their day, may we also be faithful in the time He has given us.

III.  Romans:

 A.  Author: The Apostle Paul identifies himself as the author of this letter in 1:1.

 B.  Time and Setting: The book of Romans is Paul’s letter to the Church at Rome.  It seems that he wrote it later in his life (possibly in a.d. 57).  From the letter we see that Paul had yet to visit Rome (see 1:13).  He is writing to them to encourage them, both Jews and Gentiles, in their belief in the gospel and their practice of the faith.  It is the longest letter of the Apostle Paul and his most complete treatment of the theme of justification through faith in Christ (although his other letters speak to this as well).

 C.  Outline:
  1. 1-8 Our need and Christ’s work of Justification
  2. 9-11 The Sovereignty of God in Election
  3. 12-16 Practical Implications of Faith in Christ

 D.  Themes: The major theme of the letter to the Romans is the gospel of Jesus Christ.  In each of the three sections of our outline above, Paul is teaching us about the gospel.  Look at 3:21-26.  After making our need for justification so clear, Paul writes of the glorious good news that through faith in Christ our Judge has become our Redeemer.  By bearing the wrath of God in our place, Christ has secured our salvation.  Our response to such good news is to repent of our sins and believe in the finished work of Christ.  Thus, we are saved by faith (see chapter 4).  Look at 9:10-18.  These are difficult verses for us to read.  Yet, they teach us of the overwhelming grace and mercy of God in our own salvation.  He did not owe us redemption, but He freely pours out grace on us that we might believe in Christ and be saved.  Finally, look at 12:1-2.  Our salvation is not a one time decision that has no effect on our life.  No, even though we are saved by faith alone, we also know that saving faith never comes alone.  Rather, it is accompanied by lives that are being transformed by the renewal of your mind.  Paul spends the remainder of the letter addressing the practical ways that we are to live out our faith.  In all of this, we see the theme of the gospel running throughout the letter.

IV.  Conclusion:

 In response to the questions that we started with, we see from the book of Acts and Romans that the mission began (and continues) with the power of the Spirit accompanying faithful preaching of the message of Christ.  Likewise, we see that the gospel is to go to the Jews and to the Gentiles, for all have gone astray and all need the justification that only comes through faith in Christ.  As for our place in this continual mission, we are called to be faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Just as Peter and Paul and Stephen and Philip and all the others were faithful to proclaim the good news, so we too need to be faithful in our proclamation of Christ.  May we indeed be faithful servants of the gospel in our generation.  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Sunday, 08 October 2006 )

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