The New Testament - Part 1Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer | January 17, 2010
Selected highlights from this sermon
The promise of the Old Testament is that the seed of the woman will crush the head of the serpent.
After the close of the Old Testament, there are 400 years of silence from God. Then Jesus Christ bursts onto the scene and there’s an explosion of revelation. God has personally arrived on Earth to fulfill the promise found in Genesis 3:15.
As Pastor Lutzer begins this survey of the New Testament, he’ll remind us why it begins with the genealogy of Christ, and how Christ fulfilled the promises found in the Old Testament, showing that God is a God of integrity. He keeps His promises.
Download the two charts that Pastor Lutzer uses throughout this series:
The Drama of Redemption Timeline | The Drama of Redemption End Times Diagram
We live today, as always, in a world of promises, don’t we? Politicians make promises. We’ve all made promises. Some of them we have kept and undoubtedly there are also some that we have broken. The question before us today is, is God trustworthy? Does He keep His promises? The Bible says that all the promises of God are yes and yes in Jesus Christ. God is a God of integrity.
This is actually a message entitled The Drama of Redemption. It’s the third message in the The Drama of Redemption series. The first two sermons were based on an overview of the Old Testament history so that we all might be able to know where the books fit, and we prepared a chart that you can use so that in your reading you know what books carry along the storyline, and those books that support the storyline.
Today we get to the New Testament, and we’re going to cover 26 of the 27 books of the New Testament, but I need to also say that the 27th book, the book of Revelation, is going to have its own message. That’s the time when you need to bring your Bibles for sure because we are going to take a survey of the 22 chapters of the book of Revelation, and you need to be here for that, but today the New Testament.
Remember the Old Testament promise in Genesis 3:15? God said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed, and it (that is, the seed of the woman) will crush your head.” The question is, “How does this holy seed relate to our redemption?” and the story of the Old Testament is tracing that promise. First of all, we know it’s going to come through Abraham, then through Judah, then through David, and all the way down to Jesus Christ.
As we learned last time, after the time of Malachi, there were 400 silent years. God wasn’t speaking through prophets. Not much seemed to be happening in the world, and undoubtedly the people began to think that God hadn’t kept His promise. Where was the promise of His coming? And then Jesus Christ bursts onto the scene. He’s born in Bethlehem, and there is a huge explosion of revelation. And God, who in many different ways at many different times spoke in times past, now speaks through his Son, and the megaphone of heaven comes to earth, because God has arrived personally in the womb of a woman. What a story.
And now what we discover is that the New Testament is the outworking of God’s promises. Old Testament—God promised. New Testament—fulfillment. When we look at our Bibles we’ll notice that in the New Testament you have Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These are the Gospels, and these Gospels give us the story of Jesus Christ on earth in that little territory that we refer to as Israel. Jesus never went very far from home. Perhaps from north to south He went 100 miles, and from east to west perhaps 30 or 40 miles, and there in this territory is where also the world is going to come to a climactic dramatic end, at least the world as we know it.
Let’s open our Bibles to the book of Matthew, and by the way, this is the only time I’m going to ask you today to open the Bible. I know that I am going to be using many different Scriptures today and I decided to simply quote them to you rather than have you turn to them, so that you can follow along, but don’t let that discourage you from bringing your Bible to church. You need to do that, but this is an unusual message.
You’ll notice the book of Matthew begins with the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham, and many people who read the New Testament say, “Well why is it that it begins with this long boring genealogy?” It’s a critical genealogy. What it is showing is that Jesus is the holy seed. It’s tracing the lineage of Jesus, and David is Jesus Christ’s legal father so that Jesus can meet the requirements of what God promised David. And so it is critical to the Bible’s storyline.
And now what I’d like us to do is to realize that Matthew is a book that was written primarily by a Jew to the Jews, showing the fulfillment of prophecy. Mark is a book written primarily for the Romans, although it’s for everyone, as is Luke, with a stress possibly for the Greeks. And then the Gospel of John is for the entire world, showing that Jesus is the Son of God, and all of those miracles in the four Gospels are designed with one purpose, and that is to show us that Jesus is qualified to be who He claims to be—Messiah, Son of God, and Lord God in the flesh.
What I’d like us to see now is how the New Testament actually fulfills the Old Testament. When I was in Bible college there was a line that we had to memorize, and it’s very simple to remember. It is simply this: In the Old Testament the New is concealed (the New is concealed in the Old), and in the New Testament the Old is revealed. The Bible is a remarkable book. Just imagine 40 different authors writing over a period of 1,500 years. Some of the authors were fishermen. Others were kings and prophets and shepherds. There were all kinds of people from a number of different countries and they wrote it over a period of 1,500 years, and yet it all hangs together. It’s a library of 66 books. I want you to love the Bible. Love the laws of God. Love His Word.
Imagine, for example, a cathedral being built. You have some material (perhaps the stones) coming from one part of the country. The windows come from another country. The mortar comes from somewhere else. The beams come from another part, and yet it comes together over a period of time and it fits perfectly. Wouldn’t you say to yourself that back behind it, there must be a divine or a super mind that has actually planned this? Imagine a book on medicine written over a period of over 1,500 years with 40 different authors, each of them contributing, each of them giving a different perspective but all unified. Surely you hold in your hands the book of God.
But now how does the New Testament fulfill the Old Testament? How does Jesus do it? Well, very briefly, first of all, we need to realize that Jesus is the seed of Abraham. In Galatians 3:16 the Apostle Paul says this: He says that in the Old Testament God didn’t say seed plural. God said seed singular. At the end of the day, the fulfillment of the seed is in Jesus. The promise that was made in Genesis 3:15 is fulfilled in Jesus, who crushed the head of the serpent. When Jesus died on the cross, the Bible says “he disarmed all principalities and powers, making a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” I want you to visualize Jesus taking His heel and crushing the head of the serpent into the dirt, and just moving His heel like I’m doing now. I want you to visualize Jesus doing that. And Satan is out on bond briefly, but his doom is sure. It has been established. When you receive Christ as your Savior you receive into your life a winner who proved that He was able to crush the head of the serpent. So Jesus is a winner. He’s the seed of Abraham.
Second, He’s also the King of Israel. Now just imagine this. At Christmastime we go over this so quickly we forget its significance. The angel is coming to Mary, and the angel is saying regarding the child that she will bear, “Behold, he shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father, David.” There you have it. It’s in 2 Samuel 7 where the promise was made to David. “The Lord shall give unto him the throne of his father, David, and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end,” and when Jesus comes to establish His kingdom, fulfilling those promises that kingdom is going to be a bridge to the eternal kingdom, and that’s why He shall reign forever and ever and the Bible says we shall reign with Him forever and ever. Jesus is the promise that God made to David. He is Israel’s king.
So when you receive Christ as Savior, you receive a victor. You receive a king. You also receive a Savior. He’s our Passover. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5, “Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us.” Now you remember the Passover. God says, “I want you to kill a lamb, and take the blood of that lamb and put it on the doorpost, the lintels of your door, because when I see the blood I will pass over you, and the plague of the killing of the firstborn will not happen in your house if I see the blood.” The reason it is called the Passover is because God said, “I will pass over you.”
Now I want you to imagine for a moment a child in a Jewish home, and this child says, “Well, Dad, what good is blood?” And his dad says, “I may not understand it all, but the angel of the Lord said through Moses, ‘When I see the blood I will pass over you and the plague won’t come near you.’”
Maybe the firstborn son in one of those homes was evil. Maybe he was a disobedient child. It didn’t matter. The promise was, “When I see the blood I will pass over you.” Of course, if he was evil and if he had committed crimes, those would have to be dealt with most assuredly, but at the end of the day, it wasn’t the greatness of his sin. It was the power of the blood that delivered him, just like some of you. If I could talk to you one on one and you’d be honest, some of you would admit you have committed crimes. You’ve done some pretty terrible things, but when you receive Christ as Savior that blood is, as it were, applied to you, and God says, “When I see the blood I will pass over you, and the plague will not come upon you.” You may die in an earthquake, but the wrath of God will no longer be upon you. You are exempt from that, and that’s why we urge you to receive Christ as Savior, because when you do, you benefit from his death and the blood that was shed. And later on, Jesus said so beautifully at the Passover feast with his disciples, “This cup now is the New Covenant in my blood. This drink in remembrance of me. I am your Passover.” And so we no longer celebrate Passover. Rather we celebrate Communion—the New Covenant—because Jesus did away with the need for the Passover because “his blood can make the foulest clean, his blood availed for me.” He turns out to be the Passover. So when you receive Him as Savior, you do indeed receive somebody qualified to save you.
Let me say He’s also the Temple. Jesus one day was standing next to the great Temple of Herod that we talked about last time, and by the way, if you weren’t here the last time, you should get the CD so that you see the continuity of these messages. And Jesus said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up,” and the Jews said, “This temple has been 46 years in building, and you are going to raise it up in three days?” And then John adds, “But he spoke of the temple of his body.” Jesus is the Temple.
In fact, in John 1:14 it says, “The word became flesh and tabernacled among us.” It dwelt with us. What was the—the temple of the Old Testament? What was it all about? It was the meeting place between God and man because God always wants to meet with His people, and God said, “I want to take you through this ritual so that you understand the seriousness of sin, and you will have a high priest who will represent you to me. The priest has to make sacrifice for his own sins first, but he’ll represent you to me and I’ll represent what I have to say through him to you.” Jesus abolished all that because Jesus is high priest.
Now the high priest in the Old Testament offered bulls and goats on the altar. Jesus turns out to be not just the priest but also the offering. He offers himself. He is the lamb and He is the priest, and so He did away with the temple.
We here at Moody Church do not have an altar. Now maybe you were brought up in a church that had an altar and they talked about the altar. Well occasionally we have a communion table up here and we have stairs that lead to the lower platform, but you’ll never hear me say, “Come to the altar.” Why? We don’t have one. Jesus did away with the need for an altar. We do no longer offer sacrifices. His sacrifice, the Bible says, sanctifies us eternally. By one offering, He’s perfected all those who are sanctified. He is our high priest. Don’t you love Him when you think of what He’s done on our behalf? (applause)
Jesus also is the end of the Law. Paul says, “Jesus is the end of the Law to all those who believe.” You know, you read the Old Testament Law. That’s why I suggested that when you read the book of Leviticus and some of these passages in the Old Testament I give you permission to speed-read them. I’ve received some feedback from that, but it’s all been good. People say, “This time I’m going to get beyond Leviticus when I read through the Bible.” We don’t understand all those laws. Now they are rich in meaning if we stop and study them, but you’ll never get through your Bible if you are going to stop and study everywhere. What you should do is designate and say, “I want to investigate this,” and then you study those more carefully in a different time, but all these rituals, all these laws? There was the moral law. There was the ceremonial law. There was the civil law. Jesus is the end. He fulfills it all, and says, “I release you from the obligation of fulfilling the Law.” Now the reason is because the people could never fulfill the Law. They would say, “All that the Lord has said we will do,” and then moments later they were rebelling against God and breaking their covenant. They couldn’t keep it, and you can’t keep it. The Law, though, was a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. It showed us the great need that we have, and Jesus said, “Now, you are no longer going to be under that law.” Now there is the law of Christ. We’re not lawless. If you go from America to Canada, shall we say (to choose a country arbitrarily), you’ll be under Canadian law. Now many of these laws will be the same—laws against murder, laws against theft—but you are under a new dispensation, a new set of laws, and we as Christians are. Why? Because there was no way that we could keep the Law, and God said, “If I am going to save you, I have to take the Law and set it aside because you can’t keep it. I’m going to keep it for you.” The Bible says, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on the tree,” because the Law had curses. Jesus said, “I will become a curse for you so that you can be free and you no longer are under obligation to be saved by works which could never save you anyway.” Paul says Christ is the end of the Law by faith in Christ in Romans 10.
Now, how do the Gospels end? Well they end by Jesus saying, “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel,” and that’s why we have missionaries in Haiti and missionaries in India, and missionaries around the world. And when we get to the book of Acts, what we discover is that the Apostle Paul is dramatically converted, and the book of Acts is basically the story of how the Gospel gets from Jerusalem to what we call Asia Minor (It is called Turkey today) and then beyond to Greece and eventually to Rome, and that’s the story of the book of Acts.
And this man, Paul, who was especially designated by God and called by God, wrote letters, and he wrote letters to different churches. He wrote a total of 13 of the books of the New Testament, and most of them were to churches, but then there some letters to individuals such as Timothy, Titus and Philemon. He wrote these letters as well.
Now we don’t know who wrote the book of Hebrews, but what we do know is that it belongs in the Canon. That’s an interesting story that we have to omit, but the book of Hebrews is just a fulfillment and an explanation of the book of Leviticus in light of all that Jesus has done.
And then you have some other writers such as James and Peter, and John writes three letters, and then John has that marvelous Revelation from God that is a mystery to people, and much of it is a mystery to all of us, but there’s a special blessing to those who read it. What I want to do in my next message is to open up the book for you in such a way that you say, “I’m going to read it and read it and read it because it says, ‘Blessed are those who hear it and who obey the words of this prophecy,’” and what a prophecy it is.
Well, that’s a quick overview of the 26 books of the New Testament. Don’t you think I did pretty well in about 20 minutes? (applause) The questions are: where does this leave us, and what is the bottom line?
First of all, I want us to think about the integrity of God and the question of whether or not God keeps His promises. God’s integrity was seen by the coming of Jesus in the New Testament and by the events of the Old Testament, but I can imagine that during those 400 silent years (in addition to the 1,800 years before that—since the time of Abraham) the people began to wonder. You know, where was His promise? I mean, He promised a Messiah, He promised a seed. Nothing was going on year after year, generation after generation, and century after century. Where was God? And the people were asking that question. But then suddenly an answer came—the newborn baby in Bethlehem. God kept His promise.
Let us not be confused because God takes so long sometimes in keeping His promise. You know, there are many kinds of trees. I’m told that the almond tree buds very quickly and bears its fruit, but the mulberry tree sometimes bears fruit over a period of 75 to 100 years. Some of God’s promises are instant. God says He’s going to do something and He does it right away. And then there are promises of God that linger on, and we wonder whether we can believe Him. That’s why Abraham, the Bible says, died not having seen the promises. We die with unfulfilled promises. There’s no doubt about it, but we die in hope and we die in faith, and someday Abraham will still see those promises fulfilled in ways that he could never have dreamed.
Now the same kind of skepticism that existed back then no doubt exists today, and that’s why in the book of 2 Peter we have these words of Peter writing to a skeptical audience, and this is what he said. “You should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles (now catch this), knowing this, first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires, and they will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep all things are continuing as they were from the beginning.’” And so today you have scoffers who say, “Year after year and month after month you talk about the return of Jesus and that Jesus is coming back to earth but where is he?”
When I was growing up they used to have prophecy conferences, and you felt for sure that before the meeting was over Jesus was going to come, but He still isn’t here. I don’t think it’s going to be hundreds of years. I think it’s going to be a lot less than that, but we don’t really know when Jesus is coming. The events of the world are coming together in such a way that it’s startling, but at the same time, let’s not think that we know. But there will be scoffers who will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? He promised to come but where is he?” And then someday the heavens will open and Jesus will show up according to God’s timetable and not ours.
Clouds are a promise. Rain is the fulfillment. Old Testament—clouds! God says, “I’m going to do this. I’m going to send a redeemer. I’m going to send a king. I’m going to crush the head of the serpent.” New Testament—the rain comes! And Jesus comes to this earth and fulfills the promises, but not even He fulfilled all of them yet, but they will be fulfilled.
If you are going through a trial today, I want you to think of the promises of God like stars. The darker the night, the more clearly they can be seen. Hang on to the promises, because they are yes and yes in Jesus. We serve and we worship a God who has integrity.
Second, it is not just the integrity of God. It is the redemption of God. If you get lost in the Old Testament, or if you get lost in Leviticus or Numbers and some of the rituals of the Old Testament that we don’t understand very well, always remember what the dilemma was. As I explained in the first message in the series, in the Old Testament the issue was this: God was devising a way by which He can have fellowship with us without contaminating Himself by sin, and without compromising His holiness. And the rituals were to remind people of their sinfulness, God’s holiness, and the way that He was devising. Today, of course, we don’t have those rituals as I explained. They are fulfilled in Jesus Christ, and how wondrously. In the Old Testament you could be ceremonially clean. You know, you could wash your hands. You could go through the rituals at the laver, but it didn’t change your heart necessarily. In the New Covenant God says, “I will write my law into their hearts,” and the law of God is written into the hearts of all those who believe in Jesus and trust Him, and that’s why when we get saved (as we use the terminology which is very Biblical), God actually changes our desires so that we begin to love Him. We begin to have different priorities because under the New Covenant we receive a new heart. For those who are in Christ, old things are passed away. Behold all things have become new. And the story of the Bible, the storyline, the drama of redemption, is God answering this simple question as I posed it. And then Jesus comes and dies on the cross, and He meets all of God’s requirements. His holy life meets all the requirements of the Law. He lives it perfectly and He says to you and to me, “Now, on the basis of my righteous, if you receive my gift to you, you are acquitted by God,” and you can have fellowship with Him, and He remains entirely holy, and justice is fully satisfied. That is the good news of the Gospel. Why would anyone think about rejecting Jesus? It is unthinkable.
Finally, we have not only the integrity of God and the redemption of God, but also the condescension of God. I’ll even use the word the humiliation of God. A church historian said that Christianity is the only religion to have as its central event the humiliation of God. Islam cannot accept this. To them Allah always has to be victorious. Allah cannot humble himself. Allah cannot become a man, and Allah cannot allow himself to be crucified.
Jesus comes, and against all reason (because you and I would not have done it this way) is able to come out of heaven, to leave His glories to become a baby, to grow up into a man as the Son of God and the second member of the Trinity, to humble Himself, and take all the curses and the accusations that were heaped upon Him, to be humiliated in the eyes of others, and to die on a cross naked along with two criminals. Only Christianity can say that God did that. That is mercy, and that is grace, and that is the unbelievable gift that God offers you today.
You may be watching this by way of our Internet ministry. You may be hearing this on the radio, or of course, you may be part of the large crowd that is here today at The Moody Church. When you receive Christ, you receive the victor, you receive a king, you receive a savior, you receive a priest, and you receive a liberator that liberates you from the Law. Why would you reject Him? You may be seated in the balcony today, but you know that you need a savior. I ask you to reach out and say by faith, “I receive Him as mine.” And you see, that’s why we sing, “Lifted up was he to die, ‘It is finished,’ was his cry. Now in heaven, exalted high, hallelujah, what a savior.” (applause)
And if you will, let us pray.
Father, we stand amazed in the presence of Jesus. We thank You that the promises that you have given were fulfilled with integrity, and those still unfulfilled will be. We ask today that you will help us to cleave to the promises because we live by promises and not by explanations. We ask in the darkness of the night that the stars might shine very brightly as we look at Him and remember what He did on our behalf. May we love Your Word. May we love You. May You work in us to bring about the transformation we need. And for those who have never trusted Christ as Savior, may they do that even where they are seated right now and say, “Jesus, be mine.” I pray in His name, Amen.