The Structure of the Whole Bible

The Old Testament presents man's needs as threefold: a Priest, a King, and a Prophet. The New Testament presents Jesus Christ as the perfect and final answer to that need.

The need for a Priest is to make God accessible to man, the need for a King is establish order for man and the need for a Prophet is to reveal the depth and truth of God to man. The Old Testament exposes a failure to find the answer to these needs through the efforts of man; it only shows God's principles and promises an answer will come. The New Testament presents Jesus Christ, God come down to man, as Priest, King and Prophet in himself and therefore is everything that man needs.

The Overall Structure of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation

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Please click on the following links to go to each section.

1. Summary

1.1 The Old Testament - The Need

The Old Testament has a repeating pattern of:

  1. Man's Need
  2. The illustration of God's reply
  3. Man's Failure

This pattern is repeated three times in relation to man's need for:

  1. A Priest to mediate between man and God
  2. A King to govern man
  3. A Prophet to teach man

Old Testament Key Verse: Man's Need for sin to be removed:
Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all of my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me.
Psalms 51:9,10

1.2 The New Testament - The Supply

The New Testament presents Jesus Christ as the perfect and final answer to the needs of man. Jesus Christ is presented as:

  1. King
  2. Priest
  3. Prophet
  4. The eternal Divine God himself
  5. The Lord and Head of the Church

The New Testament then continues to work out:

  1. The foundational doctrinal issues of salvation
  2. Christian experience and relationships
  3. The mission of the Church

New Testament Key Verse: God's Sacrificial Rescuer:
He is clothed in a garment sprinkled with blood. His name is called "The Word of God."
Revelation 19:13

1.3 Consummation

The New Testament concludes with Christ establishing his government on earth and then a new heaven and earth.

Note: To see this Bible structure clearly it is necessary for some books to be slightly re-ordered but this is not considered inappropriate since the books are not entirely in chronological order in the Bible.

2. The Pentateuch - The Law through Moses

2.1 The Need for a Priest

Genesis - The Reason: Man

Man was created in the image of God with vast potential. He was to exercise dominion over all creation but with himself under the loving dominion of God. When man rejected God's dominion, instead of finding freedom he found death, exclusion from God, human failure and breakdown of family, society and race.

Man is not abandoned by God and Abraham is called and a promise is given. Faith is not absent, nevertheless failure is persistent. Genesis ends with Abraham's descendants in Egypt, Joseph dead and slavery about to come.

  1. The Nature of Man
    Offspring of God, made in God's image
    Kingdom of God
  2. The Fall of Man
    Rebellion against God
    Exclusion from God
  3. The Rule of Man
    Breakdown of Family
    Breakdown of Society
    Breakdown of Race

Key Verse: Death is the reality and man is unable to prevent it. Embalming is man's attempt:
So Joseph died, being one hundred and ten years old, and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.
Genesis 50:28

Exodus - The Preparation: God

Exodus begins the Divine preparations to deal with the problem of sin which has excluded man from God. A people are liberated from bondage, a nation is created, laws are given based on love, a new religious system created under the guiding hand of a powerful, living God, Jehovah, I AM, and a way is suggested for man to approach God.

  1. A Separated Nation
    Created by God
    Constituted by God
  2. A Religious System
    The Exclusion of Man from God
    A Way of Admission to God
  3. A Guiding God
    Ever Present
    Ever Reigning - a new Theocracy

Key Verse: God reveals himself and prepares the ground for his salvation plan:
God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM," and he said, "You shall tell the children of Israel this: 'I AM has sent me to you.' "
Exodus 3:14

2.2 The Illustration of the Priest

Leviticus - The Functions

God's intention that Israel would be a "kingdom of priests" (Exodus 19:6) failed because the people failed to be what they were called to be. So Aaron and his sons became the priests or mediators and Leviticus gives the regulations concerning worship and the terms under which God may be approached (through offerings); accessed (through holiness from God-given laws) and joined in relationship (through feasts and signs).

  1. Approaching God
    Offerings from the People
    Presented by Priests
  2. Access to God
    A God-governed People
    A Holy Nation
  3. Relationship to God

Key Verse: God establishes the standard for religion: perfect holiness:
Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and tell them, 'You shall be holy; for I, the LORD your God, am holy.'
Leviticus 19:2

2.3 The Failure of Human Priesthood

Numbers - The Weakness: Man

Numbers catalogues the failure of man in the presence of Divine blessing and patience. The book covers forty years: it starts at Kadesh-barnea and it ends at Kadesh-barnea. The people doubted God and found his laws irksome, because they did not know God and they did not understand that every law was a revelation of God's love and for their own good. Following the spies report of land, the people moved on their own, without God, and were disastrously defeated. But God acts persistently, patiently and faithfully to fulfil his purpose.

  1. Man Ignorant of God
    Of His Wisdom
    Of His Power
  2. Man Doubting God
    The Evil Report of the Land
    The Failed Decision
  3. Aaron and Moses fail
    Aaron's murmuring
    Sin at Meribah
    Death of Aaron
    Exclusion of Moses from Promised Land

Key Verse: Despite many blessings, man fails to believe and love God:
The LORD said to Moses, "How long will this people despise me? and how long will they not believe in me, for all the signs which I have worked amongst them?"
Numbers 14:11

Deuteronomy - The Promise: God

This book relates the final discourses of Moses and ends with his death. Moses first reviews the way they had come and gives a resume of laws; second he warns of the perils of forgetting the laws and pleads with them to love and obey God to receive the covenant promises; thirdly Moses gives his final blessing and benediction but this is tinged with his prediction of yet more failure (31:29) despite the care and patience of a loving God (33:27).

  1. The Purpose to keep God's Statutes
    Review of the way they had come
    Resume of the Laws
  2. The Plea to keep God's Statutes
    Warnings against forgetting
    The Covenant for remembering
  3. The Promise if God's Statutes are kept
    The Song
    The Blessing

Key Verse: Despite man's failure to believe and love God, God is loyal to his people and will find a way for man to be holy:
The LORD has declared today that you are a people for his own possession, as he has promised you, and that you should keep all his commandments.
Deuteronomy 26:18

3. The Historic Books

3.1 The Need for a King

Joshua - God the Only King

The Book of Joshua takes up the story from the death of Moses, covering a period of about twenty-seven years and concerning the nation's entry into the land of God's appointing and God's choosing, ending with the death of Joshua and of Eleazar the priest, Aaron's son. From the start came seven years of war, casting out the occupying nations because of their iniquity and abominations which had defiled the land. Joshua delivers his farewell address in chapters 23 and 24 including the famous injunction "choose today whom you will serve." (24:15)

  1. Moses Dead
  2. Possession of the Land
  3. Death of Joshua

Key Verse: God will be with those who trust him:
Haven't I commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Don't be afraid. Don't be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.
Joshua 1:9

Judges, Ruth - Departures from God

Coming to Judges and Ruth, the nation still has no King: it should have been a theocracy with God as its King but this period is characterised by the appalling corruption of God's provision that "Everyone did that which was right in his own eyes." (17:6). And so there are seven cycles of national sin, punishment by foreign oppression, mourning and calling to the Lord and then deliverance from the Lord who raised up judges like Deborah, Gideon and Samson. In the Book of Ruth we see at first a deteriorated nation and religion and then a Divine deliverance through the faith of a foreigner, a boy was born to be in the Saviour's line.

  1. Religious Failure
  2. Political Failure
  3. Divine Deliverances

Key Verse: Man abandons the I AM God and serves other gods:
They abandoned the LORD, and served Baal and the Ashtaroth.
Judges 2:13

1 Samuel - A King demanded: Like the Nations

1 Samuel covers a period of about a hundred years and is a time of transition from Theocracy to Monarchy. Samuel was the last judge during times of serious religious corruption in the nation. In a direct contravention of Divine purpose that Israel should be God's holy, separated nation, the people ask Samuel for a King "like the other nations." The implication is they have chosen to reject God. Despite Samuel's warnings they chose Saul to be their King. Despite this, God put His Spirit mightily in Saul. Despite this, Saul sins. God rejects Saul and choses a new King, David, chosen not by stature but by heart. The story ends with Saul's jealousy, his consultation with a medium and death in battle.

  1. The Last of the Judges
  2. The King the people asked for: Saul
  3. The King given by God: David

Key Verse: Man rejects I AM as their God-King as and demands a human King:
"Give us a king to judge us." Samuel prayed to the LORD. The LORD said to Samuel, "Listen to the voice of the people in all that they tell you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me as the king over them."
1 Samuel 8:6,7

3.2 The Illustration of the King

2 Samuel, 1 Chronicles - The Ideal King

2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles cover the same period from different standpoints. The timespan is about forty years and covers the heroic period of David's rise and reign as King. David wins the heart of Israel and presides over many military conquests. Even David, "a man after God's own heart", fell into sin with Bathsheba, but after heartfelt repentance and suffering the consequences, he was restored.

  1. Qualifications
  2. Reign
  3. Failure

Key Verse: The King that the people chose needs to be replaced by a better King of Gods chosing:
But now your kingdom will not continue. The LORD has sought for himself a man after his own heart, and the LORD has appointed him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept that which the LORD commanded you.
1 Samuel 13:14

Key Verse: The King that God chose is exalted:
David perceived that the LORD had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for his people Israel's sake.
2 Samuel 5:12

3.3 The Failure of Human Kingship

1 Kings, 2 Chronicles - A King - Like the Nations

1 Kings covers the passing of David and continues to the reign of his son Solomon, the division into Judah and Israel, subsequent Kings of both kingdoms and ends with Elijah and the death of Ahab. Solomon stands out as a man endowed with wisdom from God. God also gave him great riches and honour. Solomon presided over the building of the Temple but "loved many foreign women" and his heart was turned from God. For this reason God divided the kingdom and raised up adversaries. The glory had been replaced with shame. Subsequent Kings also failed and most continued the breakdown and religious corruption of the nation into degeneracy.

  1. Solomon
    His Glory
    His Shame
  2. Disruption
  3. Israel and Judah
    Ahab and Asa

2 Kings, 2 Chronicles - Disaster Without God

2 Kings records the second half of the Kings and the end of the Monarchy. Beyond this, first Israel and then Judah are in captivity. This was also the period of the great prophets through which God spoke to the Kings and nation. The first part is a succession of Kings in both kingdoms mostly presiding over misgovernment and an increase in idolatry and the very abominations which had been strictly forbidden in the nations early history. Hezekiah stands out as a reformer, destroying false worship and re-instituting the Passover. It is recorded he even destroyed Moses brazen serpent because it was being worshipped. Manasseh who followed led the nation back into idolatry. And so Hosea records "I have given you a king in my anger, and have taken him away in my wrath." (13:11).

  1. Israel to Captivity
  2. Hezekiah (Isaiah)
  3. Judah to Captivity

Key Verse: Most subsequent Kings abandon God's laws:
They abandoned all the commandments of the LORD their God, and made molten images for themselves, even two calves, and made an Asherah, and worshipped all the army of the sky, and served Baal.
2 Kings 17:16

Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther - God - The Only King

The time covered by these books may be around 100 to 110 years but they are not entirely chronological and there are missing periods. Since the end of 2 Kings, the whole nation was in captivity and about 70 years have elapsed. Ezra details the return of a remnant. Nehemiah concerns the re-building of Jerusalem and the re-establishment of the covenant. Esther concerns events during this period but in Persia. The nation that God created for his own purpose has passed through a period of discipline in slavery and now the time has come for them to go back and God is overruling pagan Kings Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes to achieve his plans. We can conclude a King for Israel was not found!

  1. Zerubbabel
  2. Ezra
  3. Nehemiah

Key Verse: Despite man's failure God remains faithful:
Cyrus king of Persia says, 'The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he has commanded me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.'
Ezra 1:2

4. The Didactic (Teaching) Books

4.1 The Need for a Prophet

Joel, Jonah, Obadiah - God's Activities

The word prophet does not simply mean one who foretells, but more so, one who reveals by inspiration. In Joel, Jonah and Obadiah we have the revelation of the activity of God. The recurring phase in Joel is "day of the Lord" not referring only to a specific day but that God acts according to his purposes every day: in Joel's day, in the future (New Testament times) and ultimately (a day beyond the period of grace). Jonah is a picture of God's compassion, grace and success in-spite of human anger, jealousy and failure. Obadiah reveals Edom's pleasure at Israel's calamity and pronounces that God would act in judgement for Edom and restoration for Jehovah's kingdom.

  1. The Fact
    The Day of the Lord
  2. Compassion
  3. Anger

Key Verse: God is God. A Judge but also a Refuge:
The LORD will roar from Zion, and thunder from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth will shake; but the LORD will be a refuge to his people, and a stronghold to the children of Israel.
Joel 3:16

Amos, Hosea - God's Attitudes

Amos' outlook was international insisting that God governs all the nations, denouncing corruption and declaring consequences - patiently but ultimately - judgment leading to the accomplishment of the Divine purpose. Hosea learned of the suffering God experiences in the infidelity of His people through his own experience of infidelity in love. The supreme sin is disloyalty to the love of God and it is all here in Hosea. But the great revelation of Hosea is the grace of God: "How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboiim? My heart is turned within me, my compassion is aroused." (11:8).

  1. Government
    All the Nations
    Specifically His Own
  2. Grace

Key Verse: God is a God of compassion and mercy:
How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboiim? My heart is turned within me, my compassion is aroused.
Hosea 11:8

Isaiah, Micah - God's Authority

Both Isaiah and Micah emphasise the fact of the authority and sovereignty of God. Isaiah shows how throughout human history, the work of God would be done, ultimately to establish peace through "the servant of the Lord", through travail to triumph. Micah's message is to the cities and rulers exposing corrupt authority and pronouncing disaster wherever recognition was lost that all authority was delegated from the Throne of God. Both prophets saw one coming who would receive all authority.

  1. The Throne
  2. The Rule
    False Shepherds
    The True King

Key Verse: A Saviour is revealed with clarity:
My righteous servant will justify many by the knowledge of himself; and he will bear their iniquities.
Isaiah 53:11

4.2 The Illustration of the Prophet

Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes - Wisdom (Philosophy)

If we ask what wisdom is; these books tell us the answer is God. So for man, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. These three books take in the whole range of human life; Job reveals human need and the emptiness of human wisdom and the answer given is God; Proverbs is the revelation of the true way of wisdom; Ecclesiastes is almost the opposite, revealing the way of folly when wisdom is forgotten. The conclusion of all three books is that to enthrone God in our hearts is to discover the secret of life. And if we do not, we can go no further than "vanity is everything."

  1. Unveilings
    Of Human Need
    Of the Way of Wisdom
    Of the Way of Folly

Psalms, Song of Solomon - Worship

The Book of Psalms is really five collections of songs for worship. There are Psalms to address every emotion that finds expression in the human soul and to do so in the presence of God. All manner of variety is covered from disappointments, disillusionments, pain and sin to joy, supreme worship, wonder, grace, thanksgiving and praise. The Song of Solomon is a song celebrating the highest and holiest emotions of human love of man to woman. In the understanding of Hebrew and church fathers it becomes a sacramental song representing the love of God for His people. "Whoever offers the sacrifice of thanksgiving glorifies me, and prepares his way so that I will show God's salvation to him." (Psalms 50:23).

  1. Expressions
    Of All Experiences
    Of Perfect Fellowship

Key Verses: A Saviour-God is to be praised indeed:
LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens!
Psalms 8:1

Key Verses: A Saviour-God is to be praised indeed:
Whoever offers the sacrifice of thanksgiving glorifies me, and prepares his way so that I will show God's salvation to him.
Psalms 50:23

Key Verses: A Saviour-God is to be praised indeed:
Teach me your way, LORD. I will walk in your truth. Make my heart undivided to fear your name.
Psalms 86:11

Key Verses: A Saviour-God is to be praised indeed:
Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burdens, even the God who is our salvation. God is to us a God of deliverance. To the LORD, the Lord, belongs escape from death.
Psalms 68:19,20

Key Verses: A Saviour-God is to be praised indeed:
Before the mountains were born, before you had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.
Psalms 90:2

Key Verses: A Saviour-God is to be praised indeed:
Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the saints. Let Israel rejoice in him who made them. Let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.
Psalms 149:1,2

Key Verses: A Saviour-God is to be praised indeed:
For the LORD gives wisdom. Out of his mouth comes knowledge and understanding.
Proverbs 2:6

4.3 The Failure of man to listen

Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah - God's Activities

As with Joel, Jonah, Obadiah these next three Books address God's Activities. Nahum is a prediction of the fall of the Assyrian power and the overthrow of Nineveh. Judah was being threatened by Assyria and so it was a message of comfort to Judah. Nevertheless the book is a picture of the vengeance of God in His anger. This was about 100 years after Jonah, Nineveh was spared destruction at that time by her repentance. Now she has turned away from repentance and given in to utter cruelty and diabolical oppression. And God was angry. Habakkuk reveals the discipline of God, His method of dealing with His own. God did chastise through the Chaldeans but that was not the end. Zephaniah relates the contrast between the severity and yet goodness in God's actions. The sovereignty and the goodness of God are the twin aspects of his nature and He will make the wrath and sin of man serve His purposes.

  1. Judgment
  2. Method
  3. Nature

Key Verses: A Saviour-God is to be honoured and obeyed:
The LORD has commanded: "No more descendants will bear your name. Out of the house of your gods, I will cut off the engraved image and the molten image. I will make your grave, for you are vile." Nahum 1:14

Jeremiah, Lamentations, Daniel, Ezekiel - God's Attitudes

The great message of the priest, Jeremiah, is his persistent declaration of God's inevitable judgment which must fall upon people for their sins. He speaks of the nation as a degenerate vine which needs to be destroyed. He laments, with God, the doom of Jerusalem. Despite the wailing messages of sorrow there are also words of hope, of restoration and renewal. We learn that sin wounds the heart of God, but God, not sin will have the victory. The background to Daniel and Ezekiel is Judah captive in Babylon. The message of Daniel is first to emphasise to pagan kingdoms that although God may not appear to be in government of the nations, he emphatically is, and secondly that He will continue to be in government, until the end of time when His Throne will be totally and dramatically recognized. Ezekiel, also a priest like Jeremiah, perhaps had the most profound conception of God of any of the prophets communicated through visions. He saw God acting in judgment because of sin but also in restoration because of righteousness.

  1. Grace
  2. Government
    His Own
    All Nations
    All Ages

Key Verse: Man's heart is corrupted.
The heart is deceitful above all things and it is exceedingly corrupt. Who can know it?
Jeremiah 17:9

Key Verse: Do not ignore God's word:
O earth, earth, earth, hear the LORD's word!
Jeremiah 22:29

Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi - God's Authority

Haggai and Zechariah brought about the rebuilding of the Temple and its completion when work had stopped for despondency. Haggai told the people to refocus on spiritual life first. Malachi protests against a polluted priesthood, mixed marriages and failure in duty to God through neglected tithes. Malachi does not finish there, and he sees restoration for the faithful: "But to you who fear my name shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in its wings. You will go out, and leap like calves of the stall." The alarming, closing words of Malachi and so of the Old Testament, amount to God saying: I will send a new Prophet but if I don't, I will strike the earth with a new curse.

  1. The Immediate
  2. The Ultimate
    The Coming One
    The Coming Day

Key Verse: God mercifully promises that a new prophet will arise, a successor to Elijah, and he will be heard. Otherwise, there will be a new curse:
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.
Malachi 4:5,6

5. The Biographical Books - Grace through Christ

5.1 Matthew - The Perfect King revealed

The order in the Old Testament is Priest, King, Prophet, but in the New, King is first and Matthew primarily reveals Jesus as the King. The King's standards and requirements are supremely revealed. The word kingdom occurs no less than fifty times. Jesus has come from God to man, to reveal God to man, and to be man's God and King. He has come to show that God cannot look on sin, but has in no way forsaken the sinner. His Kingship is seen through His teachings, His Works and Himself. He exposes falsehood in human morality and religion. He displays His Kingship through His suffering and death. Demonstrating His final authority he "yielded up his spirit." Here is the world's King and His reign will by no means, ever end.

  1. His Coming from God to Man
    Of Man for God
  2. His Campaign: Initial
  3. His Campaign: Final
  4. His Conquest

Key Verse: Jesus is the King with all authority:
Jesus came to them and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth."
Matthew 28:18

5.2 Mark - The High Priest revealed

Mark primarily reveals Jesus as Priest - His redemption and restoring power. In Mark, Jesus is presented as the Servant of the Lord, stripped of His Kingly glory and engaged in active service right from the outset - the service of redemption, of mediation between God and man, taking the place of the suffering servant. In Matthew we see the King, revealing the ideal but condemning failure, in Mark we see more of one who is able to deal with failure and make possible the realization of the ideal. The Priest is seen clearly.

  1. The Outer Court
  2. The Holy Place
  3. The Holy of Holies

Key Verse: Jesus is the High Priest whose place is at God's right hand:
So then the Lord, after he had spoken to them, was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.
Mark 16:19

5.3 Luke - The Last Prophet revealed

Luke primarily reveals Jesus as Prophet - the final and inclusive word of God to man. Luke emphasises the relation of Jesus to the Spirit. Luke tells us that Jesus was prepared by the Spirit, was in the power of the Spirit, made His proclamation in the Spirit and accomplished His mission through the Spirit. The Spirit is always the Divine medium of communication and so Luke presents Jesus as prophet - the message of redemption, the final Prophet revealing holiness, righteousness grace and love.

  1. Preparation by Spirit
  2. Power of the Spirit
  3. Proclamation through the Spirit

Key Verse: Jesus is the ultimate Prophet full of the Holy Spirit and preaching God's message:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. Luke 4:18

5.4 John - The King, Priest and Prophet identified

John reveals Jesus as the Divine Person - in glittering, eternal, omnipresence. Having read the previous three Gospels we well might ask "Who can this Jesus be?" John answers that question. Not that the answer is hidden in Matthew, Mark and Luke, but that it is emphatically declared in John. John gives the Jesus the title Word and tells us that the Word was God. The title Word (Logos) encompasses essential truth, wisdom, speech, being, origin - the mind of God expressed. John supremely portrays the humanity of Jesus and also the Divinity of Jesus - "The Word became flesh, and lived amongst us." So God Himself has become the Man to rescue man.

  1. The Eternal One
    The Word
  2. The Temporal Fact
  3. The Unveiling
    Life - "I AM"
    Light - I Am Holy
    Love - Full of Compassion

Key Verse: This Jesus is full of life and light:
In him was the light of life, and the life was men. John 1:4

5.5 Acts - The Lord of the Church (The Head and the Body)

What we have in Acts is a new beginning. With the victory over death won, the Lord ascends to mediate between God and man and the Spirit is sent to mediate between the Lord and His people. Finally the Church is seen mediating between the Lord and the world. Acts covers about 33 years, the first generation of the church. It tells how God's supply for human need has been provided, and how it is made available to humanity through the name of Jesus Christ.

  1. The Lord between God and Man
    The Kingdom
    The King
    The Will
    The Prophet
    The Fellowship
    The Priest
  2. The Spirit between the Lord and His Body
    "Jesus is Lord"
    "He shall teach you"
    "Not Orphans"
  3. The Church between the Lord and the World
    The Enthronement
    The Ethic
    The Evangel

Key Verse: Salvation is only to be found in Jesus:
There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven that is given amongst which we must be saved!
Acts 4:12

6. The Epistles

As mentioned in the summary, the subject matter of all the Epistles can generally be divided into three areas (i) foundational doctrine; (ii) Christian experience and relationships and (iii) the mission of the Church. And then, in all these three areas we are given the Divine resource and then told the human responsibilities. Such a balance between resource and responsibility is necessary for the Christian life. Emphasis on one side or the other will result in weakness. In other words, focussing on doctrine without appropriate conduct or focussing on conduct but neglecting doctrine are pitfalls. The categorisation of Books into these areas is somewhat generalised, nevertheless:

  • Romans, Galatians, Thessalonians, Hebrews, 1,2,3 John predominantly address foundational doctrine
  • Philippians, Philemon, 1,2 Peter, James, Jude predominantly address Christian experience
  • 1,2 Corinthians, 1,2 Timothy, Titus, Ephesians, Colossians predominantly address the Church's mission

Also it must be stated that all the Epistles were written to the Church, for the Church. They cannot be correctly understood or put into practice unless the person is born again.

6.1 Fundamental - foundational doctrine

Romans, Galatians, Thessalonians, Hebrews, 1,2,3 John

In Romans we have the supreme declaration of salvation; in Galatians we have the charter of Christianity; in Thessalonians we have the picture of what Christian life should be based upon the doctrines declared; Hebrews tells us to look nowhere other than Christ and 1,2,3 John is a test to know that we are saved - and the test is fellowship with Christ.

So in Romans we find that salvation means justification, sanctification and glorification. In other words, justification brings the sinner into a place as if he had committed no sin; sanctification is the process by which the sinner is brought into harmony with Christ, glorification is the final transformation into His likeness and the renewal of our bodies. In Galatians we find Christians have no yoke of bondage to acts of ritual; but Paul is careful to point out that liberty does not mean licence. The law of liberty in Christ is the law of faith in Christ and submission to his mastership and leadership. Thessalonians teaches us that our life with Christ is a work of faith, outworked in completely turning to God, completely serving God and completely waiting for His Son to come back. Hebrews is the declaration that Jesus is the final word of God to man; we may not understand it all; we may not have grasped the depth of it all but there is nothing else; He is the absolute truth. So Hebrews 12:25 says "See that you don't refuse him who speaks." 1,2,3 John teaches that the life that we have when we believe that Jesus is the Son of God is a life that becomes a life of fellowship with God and His Son. Fellowship with Light, Love and Life.

And our responsibilities in response to this gospel doctrine? Dedication to God; To stand firm; Live so as to please God; Obey Christ; Serve only God.


  1. Salvation by Christ
  2. Liberty in Christ
    The Gospel Charter
    The Life of Faith
  3. Life with Christ
    Work of Faith
    Labour of Love
    Patience of Hope
  4. Authority of Christ
    Final Speech of God
    The Full Truth for man
  5. Fellowship through Christ


  1. Dedication
    Romans 12:1,2
  2. Steadfastness
    Galatians 5:1
  3. Fidelity
    1 Thessalonians 4:1
  4. Obedience
    Hebrews 12:25
  5. Fear
    1 John 5:21

Key Verse: Perfect righteousness comes through faith in Jesus. No man has fully kept the law to the letter and spirit except Jesus:
But now apart from the law, a righteousness of God has been revealed, being testified by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Romans 3:21,22

Key Verse: With perfect righteousness through faith in Jesus comes the responsibility, and abiity, to serve God:
Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service.
Romans 12:1

6.2 Experimental - Christian life

Philippians, Philemon, 1,2 Peter, James, Jude

Despite Roman brutality and a widespread pagan world view, the note of these letters revealing the experience of the Church, is a note of triumph. Despite persecution, suffering, imprisonment and opposition from materialism and mysticism we do not detect any note of complaint, despair or depression.

The message of Philippians is joy; the writer is in prison, but singing hymns and looking forward to service in whatever way: he considers himself a "prisoner of the Lord." In 3:1 He tells, no commands, his readers to "rejoice in the Lord." Paul is still a prisoner when he writes to Philemon and what emerges is love, willing obedience because of love for the Lord and those in Christ. Peter's great theme continues that the life of the Christian is a life of triumph. Triumph in conduct, in character and conflict. His readers are Christians, begotten by God, guarded by God to a hope and held by God for ultimate glory - their faith is being tried and he writes to writes to strengthen them. James writes to Christians who were perhaps becoming content with an intellectual faith and shows them that their faith is of no value if it is not triumphant over anger, dissatisfaction and self-control. Jude, whilst intending to write on salvation, was probably directed by the Holy Spirit to a more pressing topic. What was it? There was a danger of giving up on the Lord. Jude urges absolute loyalty. To summarise, we return to Romans 8:37 - the Christian life should be triumphant "we are more than conquerors through him who loved us."

And our responsibilities to live this Christian experience? Rejoice in the Lord; Obey willingly out of love; Be watchful, be steadfast in faith, withstand the enemy; Make your faith live - through works; Act in response to God's love.


  1. Joy Triumphant
    In Christ
    Over Circumstance
    Toward Finality
  2. Love Triumphant
    In the Slave
    In the Master
  3. Life Triumphant
    Established in Christ
    Established Through Processes
    Established against Foes
  4. Faith Triumphant
    In Conflict
    In Conduct
    In Character
  5. Loyalty Triumphant
    To the Lord
    Over His Enemies


  1. Rejoice in the Lord
    Philippians 3:1
  2. Willing Obedience
    Philemon 14
  3. Conflict in Communion
    1 Peter 5:8,9
  4. Demonstration by Works
    James 2:24
  5. Fear in Love
    Jude 21

Key Verse: The Lord who brings salvation is a Lord in whom to rejoice:
Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not tiresome, but for you it is safe.
Philippians 3:1

Key Verse: The test of genuine faith is action:
Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead in itself.
James 2:17

6.3 Vocational - Church life

1,2 Corinthians, 1,2 Timothy, Titus, Ephesians, Colossians

It is helpful to remember that the Church is not an end in itself - it is a means to an end. The Church has a mission on earth but it also has an eternal vocation: to evermore "show forth the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light." We must never lose sight of that most noble calling.

The Church at work, and the Church fitted for work, and the things that hinder the Church in her work are largely apparent in the letter to the Corinthians. Paul's precept is that God is faithful, therefore you be faithful, steadfast, unmovable, energetic for the Lord. Much of the letters address things interfering with this responsibility. Divisions on intellectual, secular and moral matters are covered, and also worldliness. Paul responds with correction: one Spirit, one law of love, one triumph through Christ. Timothy and Titus reveal the nature of Ministry and the responsibilities for truth and teaching, noting that the minister is servant, not of the church as such, but of the Lord for the church. Lastly, Ephesians and Colossians, and these letters give much of Paul's systematic teaching on the vocation, duties or calling, of the church. Ephesians emphasises the eternal calling of the church: the eternal plan of God, teaching "that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus." (2:7). In the light of eternity, Paul urges his readers to "walk worthily of this calling" (4:1). The Colossian church was facing false gnostic teaching degrading the infinite glories of Christ. Paul's correction is to remind them of the eternal supremacy of Christ; the origin, the sustainer, the image of God, the revelation of God.

And our responsibilities to live this Christian experience? Be abounding in the Lord's work because you know it is not in vain; Ministers to be diligent, properly handling the Word of Truth; Walk worthily of the high calling; Seek the things that are above and set our minds on those things.


  1. Temporal - Church
    Unifying Spirit
    Unfailing Law
    Ultimate Triumph
  2. Temporal - Ministry
    The Minister Himself
    The Minister and the Church
    The Minister and the Truth
  3. Eternal - Church
    The Heavenly Calling
    The Earthly Conduct
  4. Eternal - Christ
    His Personal Glory
    His Instrument


  1. Temporal - Church At Work
    1 Corinthians 15:58
  2. Temporal - Ministry At Work
    2 Timothy 2:15
  3. Eternal - Church The Worthy Conduct
    Ephesians 4:1
  4. Eternal - Christ The Worthy Conceptions
    Colossians 3:1,2

Key Verse: Let there be no division in Christ's Church:
God is faithful, through whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Now I beg you, brothers, through the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions amongst you.
1 Corinthians 1:9,10

Key Verse: Let there be faithfulness and service in Christ's Church:
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the Lord's work, because you know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
1 Corinthians 15:58

Key Verse: Because the vocation of Christ's Church goes beyond this life:
That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus; for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.
Ephesians 2:7,8

Key Verse: Because we belong to Christ:
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before that we would walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10

Key Verse: As members of Christ's Church, rejoice, pray, resist sin:
Always rejoice. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus towards you. Abstain from every form of evil.
1 Thessalonians 5:16,17,18,22

7. Revelation - The Consummation

We began by saying that the Old Testament reveals man's greatest needs. These needs have been exposed because of the fall. The Bible always sees man as a spiritual being so his needs are fundamentally spiritual: Priesthood to relate to God; Kingship to be directed by God; Prophethood to learn God's wisdom. We have seen how in the New Testament we have the revelation of the Divine supply of these needs. And the revelation was Jesus Christ. But after that, we have another revelation, a book about the unveiling of Jesus Christ. Why is that? Until this final book, Christ has largely appeared to us as "veiled in flesh." The Book of Revelation lifts that veil.

The Book of Revelation falls broadly into four parts:

  • Christ Himself
  • Christ amid His Church
  • Christ and the Kingdoms of the World
  • Christ and His Kingdom

7.1 Christ Himself

Revelation 1:1-18

The writer John, who remember, knew Jesus well and knew Jesus called Himself the Son of Man, describes seeing "One like unto the Son of Man". It was Jesus, but now He is the Lord Almighty, the First and the Last, the Living One, the One holding the keys of Death and Hades.

The Lord Himself 1-1:18

  1. Inclusive
    The Faithful Witness - Prophet
    The First-born of the Dead - Priest
    The Ruler of the Kings - King
  2. Particular
    Priest - "Unto Him..."
    Prophet - "A Great Voice..."
    King - "The Son of Man..."

Key Verse: Jesus, awesome and eternal:
When I saw him, I fell at his feet like a dead man. He laid his right hand on me, saying, "Don't be afraid. I am the first and the last, and the Living one."
Revelation 1:17,18

7.2 Christ amid His Church

Revelation 1:19-3:22

Next we have Christ in His Church and seven letters follow. These letters are all worthy of the utmost attention. These may appear in a historical sequence and note that the last letter is to a church which is lukewarm.

The Lord and His Church 1:19-3:22

  1. Inclusive
    The Seven Stars
    The Seven Lampstands
  2. Particular
    The Letters
    "I know"
    "I will"
    "He that hath an ear"

Key Verse: Jesus, always ready to save:
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with me.
Revelation 3:20

7.3 Christ and the Kingdoms of the World

Revelation 4:1-20:6

Chapters 4 and 5 take us to the throne room in heaven. Revelation 6-19 present a picture of Christ in judgement over the Kingdoms of the world. This is yet to come. Then there is an interlude (the thousand years) when evil is suppressed.

The Lord and the Kingdoms of the World 4:1-20:6

  1. The Central Facts (4,5)
    The Throne
    Four and Twenty
  2. The Conflict (6-16)
  3. The Victory Won (17-20:6)
    The Fall of Babylon
    The Induction of the King
    The Reign

Key Verse: Jesus, victorious over his enemies and evil:
Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, and she has become a habitation of demons, a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird!
Revelation 18:2

7.4 Christ and His Kingdom

Revelation 20:7-22:21

First there is an uprising of evil, battle lines are drawn between Satan and his and between Christ. There is no real conflict, Satan is arrested. Then there is the final courtroom scene where books are examined before the great white throne. (This is not the judgement which Christians go through; their judgement is before the "judgment seat of Christ" to "try works and service by fire".) These books contain records but they are not the Lamb's book of Life. Anyone not named in the book of life, is cast into the lake of fire. Lastly we have a vision of ultimate glory: a new heaven and new earth where there is no sin, no pain, no failure, no night, no curse. This is the final answer to the Lord's prayer "Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. Let your Kingdom come. Let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven".

We have come from perfection, to ruin, to perfection.

The Lord and His Kingdom 20:7-22:21

  1. The Last of Evil (20:7-20:15)
    The Loosing of Satan
    The Great Assize
    The Books
  2. The Ultimate Glory (21,22)
    The New Heavens and Earth
    The Test - Inclusion / Exclusion
    The City

Key Verse: Jesus, renewing everything:
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; neither will there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more. The first things have passed away.
Revelation 21:4