Why should the book of John be included in the New Testament?

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It is not surprising that each of the Gospels presents a different perspective of Jesus. They are written by four people who spent time with Jesus and were clearly moved by different aspects of His ministry, teaching, and life. (The same is true of any collection of people who witness or experience an event.) A good argument can be made, then, that all four of the Gospels are essential to a complete understanding of those three things about Jesus; however, John is particularly valuable because it presents Jesus as the Messiah, the Savior, in a way the other Gospels do not. 

The book of John opens with these familiar and rather haunting words:

In the beginning was the Word
    and the Word was with God
    and the Word was God.

While all four prepare to tell a story, and while the words "in the beginning" do seem more story-like than the others, this image and this language set the stage for something much more dramatic--and we get that in John's writing.

The only place we learn about Lazarus being raised from the dead is in the book of John. He is also the only writer to recount the story of Jesus turning water into wine. These are (arguably) two of the most powerful "Jesus stories" found in the Bible. The former demonstrates the miracle-working power of the Son of God, and the latter reveals the simple gesture of kindness of Jesus--as He again performs a miracle. Big or small, the miracles of Jesus are documented most powerfully in this book of the Bible. 

This book also contains what have become some of the most quoted and referenced statements spoken by Jesus in the Gospels. Consider the following:

  • John 14:6 -- Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
  • John 14:14 -- When you ask me for anything in my name, I will do it.
  • John 14:15 -- If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
  • John 15:13 -- No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends.

This book, then, is valuable because it contains elements of Jesus's ministry that are not contained elsewhere and thus helps give us a more complete and accurate picture of Jesus during His three years of ministry.

It is also valuable because John writes not in parables or stories, a common element in the other three Gospels, but more in philosophical and theological discussion form than in parable or narrative. The language is often more figurative than literal, again drawing us a different kind of picture about Jesus. The book of John is essential to the New Testament. 

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Why should the book of Luke be included in the New Testament?

The book of Luke is essential to the New Testament for several reasons beyond the fact that we get to "experience" Jesus and his short time on earth through another lens. Luke reveals his purpose in the first four verses of chapter one:

Many people have already applied themselves to the task of compiling an account of the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used what the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed down to us. Now, after having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, I have also decided to write a carefully ordered account for you, most honorable Theophilus. I want you to have confidence in the soundness of the instruction you have received.

First, Luke is the only Gentile (non-Jew) author to write in the New Testament. He is also a doctor (see Colossians 4:14), which means his account will include more medical and health details and language. He is also a learned Greek, which gives a sense of order and structure to his writing which is not as evident in the other three Gospels. His comments (above) suggest that he has been a meticulous reporter, "investigating...carefully" in order to produce a reasoned, thorough account of Jesus's time on earth.  

Luke is also the Gospel writer who gives the most time and attention to the women who played a part in Jesus's life. In Luke's Gospel we hear more about Elizabeth and Mary; we hear more about miracles performed on women; we hear more about women setting good examples; and we hear more about the women who surrounded Jesus in some way at the end of his life. 

Two of the most popular parables Jesus ever told are the story of the prodigal son and the story of the good Samaritan, and they are only found in this book of the Bible. This is not surprising, as Luke generally emphasizes Jesus's humanity and compassion in his account, and these are two good examples of those principles. 

Finally, Luke is generally considered to be the author of both this book and the Book of Acts--kind of like part one and part two of a documentary. Keeping one means keeping both. The book of Luke is essential to the New Testament. 

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Why should the Book of Acts be included in the New Testament?

The Book of Acts is an integral part of the New Testament because, in many ways, it is both a transitional book and an instruction manual.

First, the Book of Acts serves as a transitional book between Jesus' life, ministry, and Resurrection to His followers and the witnesses left behind. In other words, this is the first time we see what living the life Jesus preached looks like without His actual presence. 

The first eleven verses of the book recount Jesus's ascension and then says this, in verses 12-15:

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, which is near Jerusalem—a sabbath day’s journey away. When they entered the city, they went to the upstairs room where they were staying. Peter, John, James, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James, Alphaeus’ son; Simon the zealot; and Judas, James’ son—all were united in their devotion to prayer, along with some women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. During this time, the family of believers was a company of about one hundred twenty persons.

This, then, is how it begins. Jesus ascends, and they begin their journey together, the one hundred and twenty people who will change the world by teaching others what Jesus taught them. The primary players are named and we will hear from or about them again, especially Peter and Paul, as their journey continues.

The Book of Acts is also a book of transition because it moves us from one form of writing, the Gospels (the story of Jesus), to another, the Epistles (letters). This book sets the stage, then, for the followers of Christ to spread the Gospel of Jesus both in person and through letters. It paves the way for the relationship-building that is going to grow the church.

As an instruction manual for the church, the Book of Acts sets forth both the basic tenets of the faith and many of the principles by which followers of Christ should live. The tenets of the faith, in part and as outlined by Paul in this book, include: salvation through the forgiveness of sins, being baptized as the sign of a new creation, and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit (sustaining power). The principle way of living by the church, in part, includes these elements from Acts 2:42-47:

The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. A sense of awe came over everyone. God performed many wonders and signs through the apostles. All the believers were united and shared everything. They would sell pieces of property and possessions and distribute the proceeds to everyone who needed them. Every day, they met together in the temple and ate in their homes. They shared food with gladness and simplicity. They praised God and demonstrated God’s goodness to everyone. The Lord added daily to the community those who were being saved.

Without the Book of Acts, there would be a tragic gap between the Good News of Christ and the existence of the church, which is evident by the fact that the Epistles are sent to already established churches. It is a crucial book of the Bible because it connects what was (Jesus's ministry and teaching) to what will be (pastors and laymen preaching and teaching the Gospel of Christ). 

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