The Holy Gospels: A Starters Guide
The word gospel literally means Good News.
In the New Testament, when the apostles write about the gospel, they often add ‘of Jesus Christ’.
In other words, the story of Jesus is good news, not bad news. This is important to keep in mind when ministering to others and also reading the Bible: the story of Jesus Christ is good news, not bad news.
Jesus came to save us from our sins (John 3:17).
The four Gospels are collectively the story of Jesus’ rescue mission. Below is a basic guide to help you get started reading this good news.
1 – The purpose of the Gospels
The purpose of the Gospels is to lay out how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies about the coming Messiah in the Old Testament. It is the central event of all creation. After Adam and Eve allowed sin to enter the world, Jesus came to Earth to set us free from that condemnation. The Gospels show how that happens.
2 – There Are Four Gospels
There are four Gospels in the Bible: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Some other gospels have claimed to be discovered over the years, but the only accounts that have been proven to be true and accurate by respected biblical scholars are these four Gospels.
3 – Three of the Gospels are Synoptic
Matthew, Mark, and Luke are often called the Synoptic Gospels because they are similar in content and structure. John is different in that it reveals a lot more of what was going on spiritually when Jesus walked the Earth, specifically his deity.
4 – The Gospels Were Written for Different Reasons
Matthew was written to show that Jesus is the Messiah. Mark depicts Jesus as the Suffering Servant. Luke was written to show that Jesus is the Savior of all people, while John showed how Jesus is the Son of God. All of these focuses collectively give us a deeper understanding of who Jesus is, thus making them all important inclusions in the Bible.
5 – The Gospels Were Written at Different Times
The Gospels were written at different times. Matthew was written before the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, but Mark was written during the persecution of Christians. Luke was penned after the destruction of the temple, and John was written after the other gospels. However, despite these differences, all four gospels were written within the first century after Jesus’ birth.
6 – The Gospels Contain Different Material
Matthew has more material about Jesus’ childhood than the other Gospels. Mark has the most material about Jesus’ miracles. Luke has a lot of material about Jesus’ teachings, but John has more material about Jesus’ identity than the other gospels. Again, these differences collectively deepen our understanding of Jesus Christ.
7 – How to read the Gospels as a new believer
Many theologians recommend that a new Christian begin reading the Gospel of John. John’s writing flows well, is easy to understand, and helps you, as a new believer, understand who this Saviour is who has touched your heart.
8 – Gaining a full perspective of Jesus’ life
If you want to follow the order of Jesus’ life, it is best to read the first few chapters of Matthew and Luke together, since they tell of the birth and childhood of Jesus. After Luke 2, in which Jesus appears as a twelve-year-old boy, there is a long gap until he is about 30 years old. All four Gospels tell of his public ministry from 30 to 33 years, death, and resurrection (highlighting the core necessity of these events to his intentions for coming to Earth).
9 – The reach of Jesus’ ministry
Jesus only preached to the Jewish people. This is not because the Gospel was not meant for Gentiles. By contrast, Jesus actually did, on occasion, minister to Gentiles. The reason why he, in a public sense, only preached to Jews, is because God’s plan was to first bring the Good News to the traditional people of God, and then expand this invitation to all people of the world (as Jesus instructs his believers to do in the Great Commission).
10 – Where the story goes from there
Luke having great attention to detail, continued the story after Jesus’ resurrection in the Book of Acts, which follows the Book of John in the Bible. This book shows how the early church took Jesus’ instructions to them and spread the Gospel to the Gentiles.
One hiker can look at a mountain and see the forest. Another hiker can look at the same mountain on the other side and see the waterfall. A third hiker can see the dry, sandy part of the same mountain. Together, their different perspectives help us picture a 3D image of the mountain. In the same way, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John give us different perspectives of the same amazing Saviour. Together, their combined accounts help us have a well-rounded understanding of Jesus.
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