NTQ – Basic New Testament Questions
© Jeff Stacey | Last updated: 16 June 2020
In the most recent (2016) Australian Census, about half the population ticked the “Christian” box. Why? What did they mean? People give different answers, even church-goers.
Life can be very enjoyable and so much fun! Yet it goes up and down and we all try to cope. Everyone has their own story. Might being a “Christian” make a difference?
Religious and/or other core beliefs are foundational to who and what any person is. They are powerful influences on their thoughts, attitudes and behaviour, for better or worse. So getting them as right as possible is really important.
Some “Christian” beliefs have been misunderstood and at times applied quite negatively. Because of this, some people have feared or avoided anything “Christian”.
But to get “Christian” beliefs right is possible and not complicated Deuteronomy 30:11,14-16. When well understood and applied, they transform anyone’s inner life. This enables a person to respond with strength to the issues they face. Most of all, God becomes real to them and He gives them His inner peace.
The word “Christian” originally came from the Bible Acts 11:26b.
What follows is my best attempt to briefly describe and explain from the Bible what “Christian” means, and its significance.
Why the Bible?
The Bible is the primary source for “Christians”, because they believe what it says about itself, as their “Scriptures” 2Timothy 3:16 NLT.
The Bible is a collection of 66 separate ‘books’, written by at least 40 authors over about 1500 years. There are still more than 5000 ancient, quite accurate copies of parts or all of the original manuscripts. It has been translated into most of the world’s languages. The quotations here come from several recent English versions.
Many experts (including non-“Christians”) agree that the Bible is based on historical people and events. However, the Bible is a record of history as seen from God’s point of view. It’s “His story”!
The Bible is in two sections. The first section is the “Old Testament” (OT), containing 39 books and is about 75% of the whole Bible. It is a record of God’s involvement in the history of the world since its creation by Him, from about 4000 to 400 years BC (before Jesus Christ was born). It mostly focusses on the Israelite peoples, as the nation chosen by God to make Himself known.
The second section is the “New Testament” (NT), containing 27 books. It has several eyewitness accounts of the life, teachings and influences of Jesus Christ. Then follows an account of the early expansion of Christianity, together with letters written to various scattered groups of Christians (“churches”) until about 90 years AD (after His birth).
Who was Jesus Christ and what is a “Christian”?
The central issue of the NT is who Jesus Christ really was, and the consequences of that. It plainly states that He was not just a man, but God Himself – as a man! Luke 9:18-20NLT. This being true, He was and always will be the most significant person in all history. He is the origin of the word “Christian” and the basis of its meaning.
But there are many definitions of a “Christian”. Some of these do not closely line up with the Bible’s teachings. They distort, add to or leave out what the Bible says. Other versions of “Christian” mainly rely on observing various long-standing traditions, rules and rituals, some being non-biblical. Still others emphasise less vital biblical items, rather than God’s great gift as outlined in NT1 below. There are even some that don’t refer to the Bible at all.
These two vital questions can only be accurately answered by a diligent study of what the Bible says about them. This starts with getting the “big picture”.
What does the Bible say about God and people?
The Bible sets out what God is like, His intentions for the world and its people, and what stage this has reached in history. Briefly, it goes like this:
# There is only one God. He is absolutely perfect. He created the universe, including planet Earth and its people. He keeps it all going for his purposes.
# God’s primary purpose in all of His creation is to express His own glorious nature – to show what He is really like [see 1A3]. He especially intends to make Himself known to people, and even through them as they respond to Him.
# In the beginning, God’s creation was all perfect Genesis 1:31a. Yet He allowed the first person freedom to choose how he would respond to God – although with a command and a dire warning Genesis 2:16-17.
# Later that man and his wife chose to disobey this command Genesis 3:6. Ever since, no-one has fully “followed the maker’s instructions”. So God sees all people as imperfect, not doing what He intended and spoiling his creation.
Does all this raise some difficult questions about God, and unanswerable problems for people?
(a) Because God is perfect, how could He ever have anything to do with imperfect people without polluting His own perfection? Is this a permanent barrier between people and God?
(b) Since God also has total knowledge and power, how could people ignore Him and get away with it? Won’t He just have to reject them all? Is that unavoidable?
(c ) If all people are imperfect, how could God ever make Himself known through them in any positive ways?
(d) Why did God let it all come to this? It all looks out of control, hopeless, impossible! All people have huge, terrible problems about God. But how could God overcome these without compromising Himself?
(e) Is there any way people can be OK with God?
Is Jesus Christ God’s answer to all these profound issues and problems?
The New Testament explains and answers these problems, by addressing four basic questions about being a “Christian”:
1. What is a “Christian”?
2. How to become a “Christian”?
3. How to live as a “Christian”?
4. What if not a “Christian”?
These answers are summarised in the following articles.