NTQ – Basic New Testament Questions
© Jeff Stacey | Last updated: 10 August 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?
Deeply held assumptions about life ( “beliefs”) are powerful influences on any person’s thoughts, attitudes and behaviour [see CA5]. So getting them as “right” as possible is desirable.
Some “Christian” beliefs have at times been misunderstood or distorted, then applied quite negatively. So people have feared or avoided anything “Christian”.
But to get “Christian” beliefs right is possible and not complicated Deuteronomy 30:11,14-15,16. 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. He gives them inner peace, and wisdom and guidance in life.
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.
NTQ2 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.
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 (this is massively more than for any other ancient documents!).
The Bible has been translated into most of the world’s languages. The quotations used here come mostly from two recent English versions.
Many experts (including non-“Christians”) agree that the Bible is actually based on real historical people and events. However, it 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. It also has many predictions (“prophecies”) about the future, especially the coming of the “Messiah” (Jesus Christ).
The second section is the “New Testament” (NT), containing 27 books. It has four eyewitness-based accounts of the life, teachings and influences of Jesus Christ. Then follows a narrative of the early geographical spread of Christianity, together with letters written to various scattered groups of Christians (“churches”) until about 90 years AD (after the birth of Jesus Christ).
Two central questions emerge from all this.
NTQ3 Who was Jesus Christ?
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! Philippians 2:5-6,7,8, Romans 9:5b, John 1:17-18. 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.
NTQ4 What is a “Christian”?
This question can only be accurately answered by a diligent study of what the Bible says about it.
“Christian” was initially a scornful nickname branded onto committed followers or “disciples” of Jesus Christ and His teachings 1Peter 4:14,16.
But nowadays there are many definitions of a “Christian” and how these are practiced. Some do not closely line up with the Bible’s teachings. They distort, add to or leave out what the Bible says. Other versions emphasise less vital biblical items, rather than God’s great gift [see NTA5,6]. Still others mainly rely on observing various long-standing traditions, rules and rituals, some being quite non-biblical. There are even some that don’t refer to the Bible at all.
So what are the Bible’s answers for what a “Christian” is? A long story – best to start with getting the “big picture”.
NTQ5 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 in history this has reached. 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 and 5A3]. 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, so spoiling His creation.
NTQ6 Surely this all raises some unanswerable questions about God and people?!
- 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?
- 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?
- If all people are imperfect, how could God ever make Himself known through them in any positive ways?
- Why did God let it all come to this? It all looks out of control, hopeless, impossible! So all people have huge, terrible problems about God. But how can God overcome these without compromising Himself?
- Is there any way people can be OK with God?
NTQ7 Is the meaning of “Christian” God’s answer to all these profound questions and problems?
The New Testament addresses these issues by showing who Jesus Christ was and the significance of this. It then answers four basic questions about being His follower, as a “Christian”:
1. Who was Jesus Christ, and what is a “Christian”?
2. How to become a “Christian”?
3. How to live as a “Christian”?
4. What if not a “Christian”?
The following notes summarise the Bible’s answers to these four questions.