The New Testament tells the story of God’s Son, Israel’s promised Messiah who came to save the world from sin and usher in a new covenant between God and humanity which Old Testament prophets had spoken largely about. In twenty seven canonical books, the Grand Story of God’s Son and his Gospel are clearly articulated. In this essay, the writer seeks to formulate his theology of the New Testament. Conclusions about Christ, the Holy Spirit and God’s kingdom are also given.
The New Testament introduces the gospel story of Jesus Christ and God’s love for all humanity. Unlike in the Old Testament, the focus of New Testament theology is on Christ Jesus, the New Covenant and the eternal destiny of Israel and the Church. Jesus comes to fulfill God’s promises to Abraham that God would bless the entire nations of the world through his Seed. That Seed is Christ who is born miraculously by the Virgin Mary in the humble town of Bethlehem in fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies about his nativity. He is the Son of Man and the Son of God. In him, two natures are joined, thus, he is the God-Man. This is quite unique in that the prophets spoke of a future day when God will be with His people, and though Christ being the divine Logos, He incarnated and chose to dwell on earth with humanity (John 1:1-14) and several names and titles ascribed to him all portray his divinity.
During his earthly ministry, He made clear that his purpose was to seek and to save that which is lost. However, he came first to his own Jewish people and God accredited him with signs and wonders which he wrought among them. But the Jews were veiled and failed to recognize him, and they rejected him, betrayed him and condemned him to the death on the cross. After three and a half years of ministering in Israel, Christ died and was buried and rose on the third day according to the Scriptures and ascended to heaven where he is enthroned at God’s right hand.
Before his passion, He had clearly indicated that he would build his church and the gates of Hades would not prevail against it. To ensure the success of his mission, He had handpicked twelve apostles whom He personally trained and prepared to carry forth his mission in his absence. However, The Twelve would remain in Jerusalem until being clothed with power from on high. The Holy Spirit would come and empower them for worldwide witness for Jesus and would help them remember everything Christ taught and commanded them. This occurred on the Day of Pentecost and Peter announced the coming of God’s kingdom and thousands were saved and became part of the church.
The New Testament authors portray Jesus in many ways. He is Savior and God, King of Israel and Messiah, Lord of Lords and King of Kings. Christ came to fulfill the Old Testament Laws, the prophets and every part of Scripture that spoke of his future coming. Being of the tribe of David, Jesus would be Israel’s king and establish the throne of David, howbeit in righteousness. He claimed that He and His Father were one, and the Jews understood it to be so. However, they condemned him for blasphemy. But, New Testament evidence shows us that Christ was indeed the Son of God who became our great high priest and mediator of a new covenant. Thus, he is our advocate and mediator as well as the judge of the whole earth, the dead and the living.
Christ completes God’s revelation. He is the sum total of what God can reveal about himself to humanity. He manifested such attributes of God that no other human could have shown such as omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence. Christ’s mission was to save humanity from sin and through His blood and death on the cross; he enacted a new covenant, bringing to an end the Old Testament laws and all its rudiments. He became the way of salvation for all people and whoever believes in him is saved, but he who rejects him stands condemned and shuts himself out of God’s grace. Christ came with grace and truth and is the author of salvation, having been perfected by suffering.
His amazing incarnation made it possible for him to redeem humanity from sin since he shared in our humanity. However, Christ is far superior to angels and all principalities and powers, for, He pre-existed before any of them and He is the One who brought them into being. He showed his unique power over sin sickness, death and the grave and conquered death, becoming the firstborn to rise from the dead, thereby guaranteeing the future resurrection of the wicked and righteous dead.
The Holy Spirit
The New Testament speaks more of the Holy Spirit than the Old Testament. First, the Holy Spirit is introduced as playing the crucial role at Christ’s incarnation. He is present at Christ’s baptism and He fills and indwells Christ, leading him and empowering him in his earthily ministry. Christ expelled demons by the power of the Holy Spirit, and all healings and miracles are attributed to the Holy Spirit. According to Jesus, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son and has a great teaching and comforting role. Moreover, his ministry is to both the world and the church. He convicts of sin, righteousness and judgment and leads believers into all truth.
The Holy Spirit plays a unique role in the drama of salvation. He makes the salvation necessary and completes. He seals believers in Christ and baptizes them into one body to be united with Christ. He is the spirit of adoption and he makes the process of salvation and regeneration possible. He further plays a crucial role in interceding for the believers before God, helping them in prayers and supplications. He is the spirit that gives life and restrains iniquity from the world. The Holy Spirit empowers believers for world witness, equips them for Christian service by bestowing gifts, graces and certain spiritual abilities befitting that task. He also cause believers to produce spiritual fruit and leads them into Christ likeness, and believers are conformed into the image of Christ. He is the eternal spirit, the guarantee of believers’ salvation. He is not just an impersonal force or power; he is part of the Godhead and at times brings judgment to the sinning members of the church and those who would want to hinder unbelievers to find salvation in Christ. The Holy Spirit is the believer’s companion, friend and helper. He causes the writing of Scripture and superintends the authors so that holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can also be quenched, grieved or vexed.
The Kingdom of God
The kingdom of God plays a crucial role in New Testament theology. Jesus came preaching the good news of the kingdom. Those who accepted his preaching and were baptized found entrance into the kingdom and religious leaders shut themselves out by refusing John’s message as well as Christ’s preaching. In New Testament times, most Jewish thinking entertained a physical kingdom. However, Christ showed that entrance into that kingdom is through spiritual birth and that the kingdom is not of this world. In comparison, life in the spiritual kingdom is far much better than the physical kingdoms of the world. A humble and serving attitude characterizes citizens of the kingdom of God. The pure, the righteous, the lovely and peacemakers make part of that kingdom. Life in the kingdom was taught by Jesus in his sermon on the mount. Pilate and Herod wanted to see God’s kingdom in full display of power but Jesus showed the opposite: the kingdom is from above and Jesus is the King of that kingdom. Paul states that the kingdom of God is righteousness, joy and peace in the Holy Spirit. Thus, the concept of God’s kingdom is spiritual rather than physical, as opposed to prevalent Jewish beliefs at Jesus’ time.
Daniel had prophesied that this kingdom will be established on earth during the reign of the Roman Empire and would last forever. It is reasonable to see that the Church plays an important role in advancing the kingdom reign of God and his Christ. While the church is not the kingdom, it is part of the kingdom and members from the church are kings and priests of the kingdom. Surprisingly, the kingdom is both present and future. The eschatological implications of the kingdom cannot be ignored. In speaking of his resurrection Christ links it with the coming kingdom. He also spoke of his return as a great significant event in the kingdom. The parables on the kingdom (Matthew 13) shows the influence and growth of the kingdom while the Sermon on the Mount stands as the principles that govern kingdom living. In the final analysis, church members are the recipients of the messianic salvation, the people of the Kingdom, the true Israel unlike ancient Israel that rejected Jesus.
Israel and the Church
Outside Christ, Israel is lost despite God’s promises of blessing and salvation. It becomes clear that the promises to Abraham were fulfilled in Christ. Thus, apart from Christ, the Abrahamic covenant falls short. The New Testament clearly distinguishes between physical Israel and spiritual Israel. Even though the number of the Israelites would be as the sand of the seashore, yet a remnant will be saved. This is attributed to their acceptance of rejection of the Messiah. All promises of God are fulfilled in Christ. The church stands as the new Israel of God. However, it is not clear if a replacement theology is embodied in the church as the new Israel, but we see the unification of both Jews and Gentiles in Christ as having been reconciled by the blood of Christ.
Salvation and redemption for all mankind is offered freely to all through the proclamation of the Gospel. Those who believe and are saved become part of the Church and obedient subjects of the kingdom of God. The church faithfully carries its mission to the ends of the earth and the book of Revelation clearly shows that at the final judgment, people from all kinds of nations and ethnic groups will be available. The resurrection of the righteous and unrighteous dad occurs and everyone is judge. It can only be assumed that there are those who have been saved by the preaching of the Gospel and there will also be those individuals who rejected God’s offer of salvation. These will be judged and sent to a Christless eternity for rejecting God’s offer of salvation. The saved will be in eternal bliss with glorified bodies that will never see corruption.
Finally, God brings in a new heaven and a new earth; He dwells among His people and makes all things new. Thus, the intended purpose of creation comes into full view with the close of the New Testament. There is no need for a temple or light of the day or night. His presence will be the glory of the new heaven and earth as those that have been redeemed enjoy God’s glory and privileges in an eschatological kingdom.
New Testament theology is widely varied and addresses a number of unique themes. However, one cannot afford to lose sight on its teachings concerning the person and deity of Christ, the person, work and ministry of the Holy Spirit and the implications of the kingdom of God theme. While distinctions are clearly made between Jews, Christians and unbelievers, the unique story of the New Testament is that, salvation is for all peoples. Jesus did not only come as the Jewish Messiah and Savior for one nation, he came to seek and save all that was lost. He is the Savior of the world and apart from Him, there is no salvation.