Christian Living

Reconcile the Old and New Testaments

Discover How to Embrace the Sections of the Bible

Most Christians know more about the New Testament of the Bible than the Old Testament. With this focus on the New Testament, where does the Old Testament fit in? How can we reconcile the Old and New Testaments of the Bible?

New Testament Only

Most people who read and study God’s word tend to focus on the New Testament. They have some go-to passages that they read often, and they’re usually in the New Testament.

Some go as far as to dismiss the Old Testament. They say it no longer matters, since Jesus fulfilled it (Matthew 5:17).

Once when leading a small group Bible study, I asked everyone to turn to an Old Testament passage. This request appalled one of our younger members.

“We’re Christians,” she said. “The Old Testament no longer applies to us, so we shouldn’t be reading it.”

I don’t recall how I responded, but the Holy Spirit gave me the right words to say. She accepted my reasoning and looked up the passage. At the end of our study, she thanked me for the insight she learned from our Old Testament reading.

Most every book in the Bible’s New Testament quotes or references Old Testament passages. By knowing what the Old Testament contains, we’re better able to comprehend the nuances of the New Testament.

For example, without knowing Old Testament Scripture, the book of Hebrews is a most challenging read.

Though this young woman’s view was extreme, many people share a similar mindset. They focus on the stories about Jesus and his church, while they ignore everything that happened prior to that time. What they need to do is learn how to reconcile the Old and New Testaments.

Equal Weight

The opposite perspective is applying the same importance to both sections of the Bible. The purpose of Scripture is to reveal God to us.

This happens in the Old Testament that reveals Father God and points us to the coming Savior, his Son. The New Testament opens with a focus on Jesus and then talks about his followers and early church.

They don’t need to reconcile the Old and New Testaments because to them both carry equal importance. Yet this isn’t without its own dangers. We need to take care not to build a theology based on Old Testament principles that Jesus fulfilled.

For example, the Old Testament overflows with rules for people to follow and the warning of judgment and punishment when they fall short.

This is to point us to the need for a better way. In doing so, it foreshadows salvation through Jesus by his ultimate sacrifice to pay for our sins, a sacrifice to end all sacrifices.

Therefore, as followers of Jesus, we’re no longer under the law of the Old Testament and the threat of its punishment. Instead, we are saved by grace through faith. We don’t need to work to earn it. We just need to receive it (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Yet too many practitioners of the Christian faith today still try to earn their salvation as the Old Testament proclaims, while not adhering to Jesus’s better way.

Instead of applying equal weight to both testaments of Scripture, they need to reconcile the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.

All Scripture

Yet some people push back against this, citing Paul’s words to his protege Timothy that all scripture comes from God and is useful to us (2 Timothy 3:16). Saying “all scripture” confirms that both the Old and New Testaments are important, right?

Not so fast.

At the time Paul wrote this, we did not have the New Testament of the Bible. Yes, some of the books and letters did exist at that time, but it would be a couple of centuries before they were codified into the cannon that we now call the New Testament.

So when Paul said “all scripture” he referred to the Scripture that existed at that time. This would be what we now call the Old Testament and the Apocrypha.

The Septuagint Bible—the Greek translation of Scripture in use during Jesus’s time and which he quoted from—included the text that we now call the Apocrypha, along with the rest of the Old Testament.

Though these books have remained in some Bibles, Protestants removed them from theirs a couple of centuries ago. Yet the Old Testament and the Apocrypha are what Paul referred to when he said, “all scripture.”

Therefore, to properly reconcile the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, we must also include the Apocrypha in our consideration.


When we reconcile the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, we must balance the truth that Jesus came to fulfill the law and the prophets with Paul’s teaching that all Scripture applies. This includes the Old Testament, the Apocrypha, and the New Testament.

All three of them point us to Jesus. And that’s the goal.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Christian Living

10 More New Testament Practices, Part 2

Examine What the Early Church Did and Apply It

In part one of this post we looked at the first five practices of the early church as detailed in the Bible. They relied on Holy Spirit power, they worshiped God, they spent time in prayer, they fasted, and they lived in community.

Here are the other five characteristics of Jesus’s church as found in Scripture.

6. Breaking Bread

Food is essential to life. Except for when we fast, we eat every day. Most people eat multiple times each day. Though we could eat in solitude, we enjoy food more when in the company of others.

Sharing a meal is also a cornerstone of community. This isn’t a monthly potluck or an after-church fellowship hour. It’s a time of celebration of life around the table.

The New Testament sometimes uses the concept of breaking bread.

The phrases breaking bread, break bread, and broke bread only appear in the New Testament. Should we understand this idea of breaking bread as a euphemism for communion or simply for any time people share a meal?

Yes. It’s both.

We should remember that sliced bread didn’t exist two thousand years ago. Though they could have cut bread with a knife, it’s more likely they used their hands—the most convenient tool available to them—to divide a loaf and distribute it to everyone at the meal.

At the world’s first ever communion service, Jesus takes bread and breaks it into pieces so he can pass it out to his disciples.

This takes place during the Passover meal (Matthew 26:26, Mark 14:22, and Luke 22:19). Paul references this concept (1 Corinthians 10:16). And we see it used twice for communion in the book of Acts (Acts 2:42, 46).

Yet the idea of breaking bread also refers to an ordinary meal. After Jesus travels down the road to Emmaus with two of his followers, they sit down to eat. Jesus takes the bread, thanks God for it, breaks it into pieces, and passes it out to them (Luke 24:30).

Breaking bread, that is, sharing a meal, also occurs after Eutychus falls to his death and Paul raises him from the dead. In celebration they share a meal (Acts 20:7, 11).

Another time occurs when Paul is at sea during a terrible storm. The crew and passengers have given up all hope. Paul encourages all the people on board by telling them that though they will lose the ship and cargo, everyone will live.

He takes bread, thanks God for it, breaks it, and gives it to everyone to eat, all 276 people (Acts 27:35). Most of the people who eat this bread aren’t followers of Jesus. To them this breaking of bread is a simple meal and not a religious rite.

At the first Lord’s Supper, Jesus says the bread represents his body, which would soon be broken as part of his crucifixion.

At every meal afterward, Jesus’s followers would see this breaking of bread, and it would automatically remind them of Jesus’s body broken for them in the ultimate sacrifice.

Without speaking a word, the breaking of bread at each meal reminds Jesus’s followers of him.

In this, they see breaking bread as both sacrament and supper. In this sense, communion is a meal, and a meal is communion. May we embrace this understanding just like the early church.

7. Care for Their Own

The early church shares what they have with one another, and no one has any needs (Acts 2:44–46 and Acts 4:33–35). Notice the focus is on meeting needs, not fulfilling wants. It’s critical to distinguish between the two.

Needs refer to what we require to survive, the basics of life: food, clothes, and shelter. Wants are those items that go beyond basic survival requirements. It’s essential we help people with their needs, but supplying the things they want is optional.

God has a heart for widows and orphans. He commands we care for them in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 14:28–29, Psalm 68:5, and Jeremiah 49:11). These instructions carry forward to Jesus’s church (James 1:27).

Paul adds clarification about caring for widows in his letter to Timothy.

Paul writes that a widow’s children and grandchildren should put their faith in action by caring for her. And those who have no family members to support them, addressing their needs falls to Jesus’s church (1 Timothy 5:3–4).

A third example is Jesus’s followers in one area taking up a collection to help believers in another. This isn’t a command, nor is it a request by those in need.

It’s a voluntary action by those who feel led by the Holy Spirit to help other believers who struggle (Acts 24:17, Romans 15:26, 1 Corinthians 16:1–4, and 2 Corinthians 8).

Interestingly, this is the only time the New Testament talks about taking a collection or receiving an offering of financial gifts. It’s to help those in need, not finance a local church.

8. Value One Another

Throughout the New Testament we see instructions of how we should treat one another. Let’s call these the “one another” directives. We are to:

The charge to love one another is the most common of these one-another comments, mentioned ten times. Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John all tell us to love one another. Jesus says that loving one another is his new command to us (John 13:34-35).

Another time Jesus says that the greatest commandment of the Old Testament law is to fully love God, and the second most important one is to love others as much as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:35-40).

In a world that has multiple meanings for the word and a distorted understanding of how it functions, what does real love look like? How do we fully love one another? The Bible explains that too. Paul says that love:

  • is patient
  • is kind
  • does not envy
  • does not boast
  • is not proud
  • is not dishonorable of others
  • is not self-seeking
  • is not easily angered
  • keeps no record of wrongs
  • does not delight in evil
  • rejoices with the truth
  • always protects
  • always trusts
  • always hopes
  • always perseveres

From God’s perspective on the topic, love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). We can then understand love as an overarching principle, a foundation for all others. Afterall, Paul does say that love stands above all else (1 Corinthians 13:13).

As a church, however, we’re doing a poor job of following these one-another instructions. If each person individually did their part to apply these commands in their every-day interactions, our church would be a much different place. And the world in which we live would be better off.

If each person did their part to apply these biblical instructions on how to treat one another, our church—and our world—would be a much better place.

9. Help Others

We’ve talked about how we should care for our own and value one another. These examples direct our attention inward, telling us to care for those in Jesus’s church and instructing how we should act with each other.

This doesn’t imply, however, that we should dismiss those outside of our faith community. We should also reach out to them and seek to help them too.

As we provide for them what they need, we have an opportunity to tell them the good news about Jesus (Acts 5:42, Acts 13:32, and 1 Thessalonians 3:6). This aligns with what Jesus commands (Matthew 28:19–20).

In addition to helping widows and orphans, we’re also to show hospitality to strangers (Hebrews 13:2 and 3 John 1:5). Quite simply, a stranger someone who we don’t know.

This may involve giving them money, but it could also involve helping them receive justice (2 Corinthians 7:11).

Another consideration is to offer them Jesus’s healing power. Though healing people in Jesus’s name was common in the early church, for many that ability has slipped from their practices today.

The Bible tells about people bringing their infirmed friends and placing them on the street where they expect Peter to travel. They hope Peter’s shadow might fall on the sick as he passes by.

Though the Bible doesn’t confirm that people received healing this way, why would they go to this trouble if Peter’s shadow hadn’t healed others in the past (Acts 5:15)?

Later in the book of Acts, we read about God doing astonishing miracles through Paul.

This supernatural power is so extraordinary that even handkerchiefs and aprons that Paul touches contain God’s healing power. They bring these garments to people who need healing.

The people who receive them are cured and evil spirits are cast out, even though Paul isn’t physically present (Acts 19:11–12). Is God still in the business of healing people like this?

Some Christians today claim that supernatural healing power died with the apostles, but there’s little biblical support for this position. Jesus said his followers would do all that he did—including healing people—and more.

We will do even greater things than he did once he reunited with his Father and they sent us the Holy Spirit (John 14:16, 26 and Acts 1:4–5).

We see that after people receive supernatural healing an opportunity arises to tell them about Jesus (Acts 3:1–10, Acts 8:6–8, and Acts 9:32–35).

10. Flexible and Informal Leadership

In the New Testament we don’t see much indication of a formal leadership structure. Yes, people do serve in leadership roles, but it’s not hierarchical or formally instituted. And the various church’s never vote on who should lead them. Nor do they hire a minister. So why do we?

After Jesus returns to heaven, the disciples assume a leadership role. This is natural because they know Jesus better than any of the newer converts and are in the best position to teach them (Acts 2:42).

Decision-making in the early church is not democratic. One time they cast lots to pick a leader (Acts 1:26). Another time the people recommend the first deacons. Then the apostles accept who they suggest and pray for them (Acts 6:5–6).

In Acts we see Paul and Barnabas visiting the various churches to appoint leaders. They make their selections through prayer and fasting (Acts 14:23). Paul tells Titus to do the same thing on the island of Crete (Titus 1:5).

But mostly we see people taking initiative, doing what’s needed to advance Jesus’s church, as led by the Holy Spirit. For example, consider Apollos acting on his own accord to tell others about Jesus (Acts 18:24–25).

No one authorizes Apollos to be a missionary. He doesn’t need permission. He just acts.

Then Priscilla and Aquila take it upon themselves to expand Apollos’s understanding of Jesus (Acts 18:26). And no one appoints Priscilla and Aquila to further Apollos’s knowledge of Jesus. They see a need, and they meet it

The early church has a lot of lay leadership and functions in an almost egalitarian manner. In this, they rely on the Holy Spirit to guide them (Acts 15:28).

All 10 Early Church Practices

These ten practices of the early church serve as an example to guide our priorities today. In addition to having a new perspective on buildings, priests, and tithing, Jesus’s church models ten additional practices:

  1. They rely on Holy Spirit power and direction.
  2. They worship God.
  3. They pray.
  4. They fast.
  5. They pursue community.
  6. They break bread and eat together.
  7. They care for their own.
  8. They value one another.
  9. They help others.
  10. They a flexible and informal leadership.

How can you apply these in your church today?

Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Peter DeHaan News

Read the Bible This Year

Daily Scripture Reading Guides Available Now from ABibleADay

Every year I intentionally explore the Bible, reading a few chapters each day. Some years I focus on the New Testament and other years, the Old Testament, but usually I read the entire Bible in a year.

Will you join me this year?

To guide us, the Bible reading guides are now available. Get your Bible reading plan today.

Chronological Bible Reading Guide

New last year was a chronological Bible reading plan. This year it’s tweaked and improved, based on feedback from the inaugural offering.

Though a comprehensive chronological reading of the Bible requires a lot of details that won’t fit on a concise handout, it is possible to make an approximate chronological reading guide by putting the books of the Bible in order.

Following this Bible reading plan only takes 12 to 15 minutes a day. And each Tuesday, I’ll blog about a passage from that day’s reading.

Download your own chronological Bible reading guide.

Other Reading Options

If reading the entire Bible in a year seems too big of a task, scale back to a more manageable goal. I have a series of other Bible reading plans to guide you. Pick the one that works for you:

Form a habit to read the Bible. Download your Bible reading plan today and be ready to start reading this January.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Christian Living

We Need a Balanced Bible Perspective

How We Read Scripture Influences Our View of God and Our Relationship with Him

In a prior post I said that not all Scripture is the same. I placed the books of the Bible into eight groups. This formed a hierarchy of importance, starting with the Gospels. Though this is a most helpful guide in studying God’s Word, a more basic view is considering how to regard the Old and New Testaments. We do this to provide a balanced bible perspective of Scripture.

Focus on the New Testament

Some people place their sole attention on the New Testament of the Bible, while ignoring the Old. They correctly state that Jesus came to fulfill the laws and writings of the prophets (Matthew 5:17). They reason, therefore, that Jesus’s fulfillment renders Old Testament Scripture as irrelevant.

Because of this, they only read and study the 26 books of the New Testament, while snubbing their nose at the Old Testament’s 39. In doing so they miss out on so much that could deepen their understanding of God and their relationship to him.

It’s like watching a sequel to a movie, while ignoring the first one. Though the sequel might be good as a standalone production, we can appreciate it so much more if we watch the first movie.

Esteeming the Old Testament

The opposite view of dismissing Old Testament Scripture is to treat it as equal to the New Testament text, sometimes even errantly elevating the Old over the New. For their justification, these people cite Paul’s letter to Timothy that affirms the usefulness of all Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16).

This, of course, ignores the fact that the New Testament didn’t exist when Paul wrote to Timothy. This means that Paul’s use of all Scripture refers to the Old Testament.

The error of treating both sections of the Bible as equal results in people forming a theology that’s colored with an Old Testament perspective—approaching God from a legalistic, rule-following outlook. In doing so they diminish Jesus’s way of salvation by grace through faith.

A Balanced Bible Perspective

These are both extreme viewpoints.

Just as we shouldn’t ignore the Old Testament and its rich, faith-forming writing, we also shouldn’t put it on an equal standing with the New Testament. The solution is to concentrate on the New Testament text and let the Old Testament inform and illuminate what we read.

The result is a balanced perspective of Scripture.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Bible Insights

Six Eras in the Bible

Though God Doesn’t Change, but the Way He Relates to Us Has

We divide the Bible in two sections, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament focuses on the relationship of Father God to his people and looks forward to the coming Savior. The New Testament centers on Jesus and the work of his followers. Each testament has its own focus, and we must not lose sight of it.

To further enhance my understanding of Scripture, I look at the Bible in three parts, each one focusing on one aspect of the Trinity. God the Father is central throughout the Old Testament. God the Savior—Jesus—is central in the Gospels.

God the Spirit takes center stage in the rest of the New Testament, Acts through Revelation. Jesus, of course, stands as the foundational part of the godhead that saves us and draws us into right relationship with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

We can break this down even more, however, to better guide us as we study Scripture and apply it to our daily lives.

In this regard, it helps to consider six eras in the Bible. God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He never changes (Malachi 3:6 and Hebrews 13:8).

Yet the way he relates to his people does change throughout Scripture. We will do well to keep this in mind as we read and study the Bible, taking care to not take one passage from the past and misapply it to our situation today.

Consider these six eras in the Bible.

1. Paradise

God creates the world in which we live and places people in it. Adam and Eve live in the Garden of Eden. They walk with God in the cool of the evening. But they break the one rule he gave them. They eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

So that they don’t also eat from the tree of life, and live forever in their sin, God forces them out of this idyllic paradise.

This takes place in Genesis 1–3 and moves us into the second of six eras in the Bible.

2. No Law

Though most people think of the Old Testament’s focus as being on God’s law, this doesn’t occur yet, not until the third era. The second era is what happens after Adam and Eve leave the garden and prior to God giving the Law to Moses.

During this time, God continues to speak to his people (Adam, Cain, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and others). Throughout this time, God is patient. He does not hold people accountable for their sins. This is because there are no laws to let the people know that they are doing wrong (Romans 5:13).

During this era, God wipes out the depravity of the people he created by killing most all of them through a flood. Only Noah and his family survive. It’s creation 2.0, a restart of humanity, a do over. Then God calls Abraham and later Moses.

God tells his people he wants them to become a nation of priests (Exodus 19:6), but the people are afraid of God and don’t want him to talk to them. They request that Moses stand in for them. This ends the second of six eras in the Bible, covering Genesis 3 through Exodus 18.

3. The Law

Then God gives the people his laws and shares his expectations. This begins the third era, which covers the rest of the Old Testament of the Bible, Exodus 19 through Malachi.

This era has three phases, but they all fall under Old Testament law. In the first phase God rules as their sovereign Lord, and judges lead the people from time to time. The people, however, go through cycles of following God—usually under various judges—and turn away from him after each judge dies.

For the second phase under the law, the people ask for a king, which effectively rejects God as their king. He starts with Saul. David then replaces Saul, and God establishes David’s line forever, from whom the Messiah will come.

In this phase, kings rule instead of God. Most do so badly, and the people rebel against their Lord. Most of the prophets do their work during this era.

For the third phase under the era of the law, God’s people are conquered and deported. They have no ruler, and they have no nation.

Though some eventually return to the promised land, they subsist without leadership, except for some of the latter prophets. The people wait for the coming Savior to rescue them. This is the third of the six eras in the Bible.

4. Jesus

Jesus comes to earth, calls people to follow him, and dies as the ultimate sacrifice for sin to end all sacrifices. But he overcomes death, proving his power to serve as the once-and-for-all sacrifice.

This is the fourth of six eras in the Bible and is the pivotal point around which all Scripture—and all humanity—revolves. The four biographies of Jesus cover this: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

5. The Church

After giving his followers final instructions, resurrected Jesus returns to heaven. The Holy Spirit arrives to guide the church and remind them of Jesus. Acts through to Revelation 3 cover this fifth era of the Bible.

We currently live in this era today, which is why the New Testament is critical to guide our actions as Jesus’s church. And the Old Testament supports this because it looks forward to this era.

Yet to conclude the six eras in the Bible, there is one era remaining, a time we anticipate for our future.

6. A New Heaven and New Earth

Starting in Revelation 4 we read of John’s vision of the future. Though the details confuse most and trip up many, the main point is that there will be an epic spiritual battle between good and evil. God wins. Satan is defeated.

After this we will see a new heaven and a new earth. This is paradise restored. Everyone who follows Jesus will spend eternity with him there.

This is the sixth era of the Bible and the one we anticipate as Jesus’s disciples.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Christian Living

Should You Pay Your Minister?

Pastor Compensation

For the most part, the church of today is an institution. Institutions require structure and leadership; self-perpetuation is essential—regardless of cost. For an institution to work, it needs paid staff.

That’s why local pastors receive a salary: to keep the institution of church functioning and viable. To pay your minister follows the Old Testament model of church.

But we don’t live in the Old Testament or under its covenant. We live in the New Testament and under its covenant—at least in theory.

In the New Testament, we (that is, those who follow Jesus) are his church. Each one of us is a priest (that is, a minister) to care for one another. We should not have to pay someone to do what we’re already supposed to be doing.

Further, our bodies are God’s temple. We don’t need to go to a building to go to church; we take church with us. In short, the institution of church is over—at least in theory. Without a physical building or an institution to maintain, there is no need to pay someone to run the whole mess.

However, there seems to be one exception to this idea of no compensation. In his letter to the people in Corinth, Paul builds a case to pay preachers. But he’s not talking about the folks who run local churches. He’s talking about those who go around telling others about Jesus.

Today, we might call these people evangelists or missionaries. Based on Paul’s teaching it’s right to pay them.

Yet once Paul builds his case to appropriately pay missionaries, he points to an even better way: for missionaries to earn their own money and not require outside support. Paul often covers his expenses and those who travel with him by working his trade; he is a tentmaker.

Springing from this is the idea of a tentmaker-minister, someone who pays their own way as they care for others.

So if you are part of an institution and want it to perpetuate, then buy a building, hire staff, and pay your minister their due.

However, if you want to pursue a different path, as seen in the New Testament, take the church with you wherever you go and help others wherever you can, paying your own way as you do.

[1 Corinthians 9:7-18]

Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Christian Living

Reading the Bible: Not All Scripture is the Same

Consider Each Book’s Genre and Purpose When Reading the Bible

Paul writes to his protégé Timothy that all Scripture comes from God. We can use it to teach, rebuke, correct, and train us in right living (2 Timothy 3:16). That is, everything in Scripture is useful. We must keep this in mind when reading the Bible. This includes some of our less-favorite books, such as Leviticus.

Despite this, we will do well to recognize that not every verse carries the same weight as others. That doesn’t mean that some verses are not useful, just that other verses are more useful. When reading and studying Scripture, we should consider this biblical hierarchy.

Reading the New Testament of the Bible

The New Testament focuses on the new covenant that we have through Jesus. We should direct our attention to the books of the New Testament, though not at the exclusion of the Old Testament.

Here is a breakdown of the New Testament books:


The four biographies of Jesus—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—tell us what Jesus said and what he did. He serves as our teacher, clarifying our view of the Father and guiding us into right living (righteousness) that honors and worships God.

Jesus is the way, the truth, and life. He provides the pathway to Papa (John 14:6). After Jesus, everything else is secondary.

For this reason, the good news of Jesus’s life rises as the most important books of the Bible. We will do well to focus on them.


All the Gospels, and especially Luke, prepare us for what happens next. This unfolds in the book of Acts. Acts chronicles the events of the early church. It tells us what Jesus’s first followers did. Their actions and their attitudes can guide us in what we do today in our churches—and in our life—as we serve and worship God.

After Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, Acts stands as a critical book of the Bible when it comes to understanding our faith and putting it into action. These first five books of the New Testament are its historical documents, and we can learn much from them.

Letters to All the Church

Third in importance in the Bible are the letters that Jesus’s followers wrote to the universal church. Unlike letters to specific groups or individuals, these letters rise above them because they have a general-purpose that we can rightly apply to us today and that pertain to all situations.

These are 1 and 2 Peter, James, Jude, and 1 John. We’ll also include Hebrews in this list, even though its audience was implicitly Hebrew people and not all Christians.

Because these books, unfortunately, appear towards the end of the New Testament, many people don’t know as much about them, read them as often, or study them as deeply as they could—or should.

We need to change that. We must elevate the importance of these books because there teaching is universal and provides us with much value—if only we will tap into it.

Letters to Specific Churches

Following these general letters written to Jesus’s church, we consider those messages written to specific churches or individuals. Why do we make this distinction? It’s because the content of these letters is intended for a specific audience and may not readily apply to everyone else.

They’re content may answer questions asked by the recipients or address struggles by the recipients that come to the authors’ attention.

If the passages in these letters are answers to questions, we don’t know what the questions are. Therefore, it’s hard for us to know how to understand the response. And if passages address issues relevant to the recipient, we need to exercise care before applying them to us today.

Of greater value, however, is if we see the same theme, command, or advice repeated in multiple letters. Then we can rightly receive those as a general passage that is more relevant to us today.

One such example, albeit perplexing, is Paul’s recurring command to greet one another with a holy kiss (Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, and 1 Thessalonians 5:26).

Placing too high of an emphasis on these letters that have a specific purpose can cause confusion. We must take care and not place undue emphasis on these letters with a specific audience to inform our doctrine.


The final book in the New Testament is Revelation. Its content applies to all Christians, but we must take care to properly understand its meaning, without overreaching.

It’s a vision from God, and just like the prophetic books in the Old Testament with their many future-focused pronouncements, we must discern how to rightly interpret the passages in Revelation.

Most people in the Old Testament, even those living at the time of Jesus, misinterpreted much of the prophetic words contained in Scripture. We run the same risk today when looking at Revelation.

We will do well to read those words figuratively and use them to draw one singular conclusion: In the end times there will be an epic battle between good and evil which will affect everyone on earth. God wins. The enemy loses. The end.

Reading the Old Testament of the Bible

As we read the Old Testament—and we should—we must keep its words in a proper perspective. Jesus came to fulfill the Old Testament law and prophecies (Matthew 5:17). We must, therefore, exercise caution in building a modern-day theology on the Old Testament covenant, which Jesus replaced.

One overreaching conclusion, which some Christians adhere to, is to dismiss the Old Testament. The opposite extreme is to put its words on the same level as the New Testament.

Again, forming doctrine based solely on what we find in the Old Testament puts us on a dangerous footing because we may be espousing a perspective that Jesus fulfilled. The primary value of the Old Testament is to help us understand how Jesus fulfills it in the New Testament.

Here’s a breakdown of the Old Testament books:

Historical Books

The Old Testament opens with a history of God’s people. These books start with Genesis and go through to Esther. Their value is that they help us understand Scripture’s story arc, pointing us to Jesus.

As the saying goes, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” And the Old Testament has a lot of mistakes for us to learn from. Knowing God’s expectations under his old covenant, helps us to better understand and accept his mercy and grace under his new covenant.

Prophetic Books

Closely following the value of the historical books in the Old Testament are the prophetic books. These cover Isaiah through Malachi.

They address the then-current state of God’s people and look toward the future. Some of their prophecies have been fulfilled—primarily through Jesus—and others we still await.

The prophetic books of the Old Testament help us anticipate Jesus’s arrival in the New Testament. And like the historical books, they enable us to see the sins of our forefathers so that we can avoid repeating their mistakes.

Poetic Books

The final group of books in the Bible is the poetic books. They are Job through Song of Songs, with Psalms being the most favorite, beloved by many. These are ideal books for us to read to spark our emotion. They can encourage us when we struggle.

They can lead us into powerful worship of God, our Creator. And they can supply motivational passages to inspire us and draw us to Papa.

The poetic books of the Bible are great when it comes to encouragement, inspiration, and informing our worship. We must remember, however, that this is a genre of poetry. We must exercise care and not use a poetic verse to form a theological statement—unless we can find support for it in another part of Scripture.

Bible Reading Summary

All Scripture is useful to guide us in our faith journey. Based on the various books’ genre, audience, and timeframe, we can better understand how to apply it.

When reading the Bible, may you read and study all of Scripture.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Peter DeHaan News

The Friends and Foes of Jesus

Discover How People in the New Testament React to God’s Good News

Jesus Was Loved. He Was Hated. But He Was Never Ignored

Some people think Jesus was easy-going. Hardly. Everything he did and said sparked passionate reaction. He polarized people. Some adored Jesus to the point of dying for him. But those who feared and hated him ended up killing him.

The Friends and Foes of Jesus, by Peter DeHaan

If You’ve Never Looked Deep into Both Perspectives . . . It’s Time You Did

  • Discover the surprising things those who loved him did—and how you can do the same
  • Dig into those who hated him and avoid their tragic mistakes
  • See yourself in each character—the good and the bad—and face some fascinating choices

Plus, at the end of each example, you’ll find a thought-provoking question that will stir you into action.

Will this book challenge you? Yes. Will it make you uncomfortable (in a positive way)? Absolutely. Will it change your life as you look at the people who surrounded Jesus in a way you’ve never seen them before? Without question.

Let the revelations begin.

Get your copy of The Friends and Foes of Jesus today.

Read about more biblical characters in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Christian Living

Reconsider the Two Parts of the Bible

Where Does the Law of God End and the Love of Jesus Begin in Scripture?

The Bible divides Christian Scripture into two parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament looks at the rules God required to be right with him and anticipates a future when he will send us a Savior.

The New Testament looks at that savior and this new way of approaching God. We commonly view the Bible in these two testaments.

Yet this theological transition doesn’t seem to occur until the death of Jesus and his coming back to life. In doing so he becomes the ultimate Old Testament sacrifice, one to end all sacrifices. He dies and then he lives again, so that when we die, we can also live again.

When looking at things thematically, this seems to more properly mark the turning point between God’s old way and his new way of doing things.

Jesus’s View of This Theological Transition

However, Jesus offers us a different perspective. Since it came from his mouth, this is the one we should embrace, as opposed to the traditional Old and New Testament division or even looking at his death and resurrection as a pivotal theological switch in the Bible.

Instead, Jesus indicates that this transition point starts with the Ministry of John the Baptist.

Jesus says that the Law and the Prophets were taught up until the time of John. Starting with John, this good news of God’s kingdom and telling others about it marks the point where God’s emphasis changes (Luke 16:16).

The good news of Jesus and the kingdom of God doesn’t begin with Jesus’s ministry, but it starts a few years earlier with the ministry of John.

The ministry of John the Baptist marks the Bible’s theological transition point by ushering in God’s long-promised faith reformation, of coming to God in faith instead of pursuing impossible-to-meet rules.

Though Jesus is our ultimate faith solution, John the Baptist points to it.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Christian Living

The Final Words from New Testament Books

What Can We Learn from the Ending Sentence or Thought in Each Book of the Bible?

As a writer I know the two most important things of anything I write are the beginning and the ending. A strong opening draws readers and keeps them interested, while a powerful close gives readers something to take with them.

Though I don’t think biblical writers focused on these two areas, it’s still interesting to look at how they wrapped up their writings. Here’s a list of the last sentence or thought from each of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament.

The Final Words in the Book of Matthew

Matthew ends by quoting Jesus, which many embrace as a personal call to action.

“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’ ” (Matthew 28:18-20, NIV).

The Final Words in the Book of Mark

Mark has two endings, with the second one not found in all manuscripts. But since the first version ends abruptly and leaves us hanging. I’ll share the concluding thought in the second one.

“After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it” (Mark 16:19-20, NIV).

The Final Words in the Book of Luke

Luke ends his biography of Jesus by telling us what his followers did. This contrasts to what Jesus told his followers to do at the end of Matthew.

“When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.

Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God” (Luke 24:50-53, NIV).

The Final Words in the Book of John

As a writer I especially appreciate the end of the book of John, but from a broader perspective it makes me wish more people had written about the life of Jesus. I want to know more.

“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25, NIV).

The Final Words in the Book of Acts

Luke concludes the book of Acts with what may be Paul’s last work here on earth. This should encourage us to finish strong.

“For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance” (Acts 28:30-31, NIV).

The Final Words of the Letters from Paul

Paul ends most of his letters succinctly and often with a bit of encouragement. A reoccurring word in many of his parting lines is grace.

“…to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen (Romans 16:27, NIV).

“My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen” (1 Corinthians 16:24, NIV).

“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14, NIV).

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen” (Galatians 6:18, NIV).

“Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love” (Ephesians 6:24, NIV).

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen” (Philippians 4:23, NIV).

“I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you” (Colossians 4:18, NIV).

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (1 Thessalonians 5:28, NIV).

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all” (2 Thessalonians 3:18, NIV).

“Grace be with you all” (1 Timothy 6:21b, NIV).

“The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you all” (2 Timothy 4:22, NIV).

“Grace be with you all” (Titus 3:15b, NIV).

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit” (Philemon 1:25, NIV).

The Final Words in the Book of Hebrews

Though we don’t know who wrote Hebrews, it’s interesting to see a similarity to Paul’s sign offs.

“Grace be with you all” (Hebrews 13:25, NIV).

The Final Words from James

Noted for his direct, practical writing, James ends his book the same way.

“Remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (James 5:20, NIV).

The Final Words of the Letters of Peter

The ending to Peter’s two letters are much different than Paul’s.

“Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ” (Peter 5:14, NIV).

“So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him” (2 Peter 3:14, NIV).

The Final Words of the Letters from John

There seems to be no similarity in how John concludes his three letters.

“Dear children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21, NIV).

“The children of your sister, who is chosen by God, send their greetings” (2 John 1:13, NIV).

“I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name” (3 John 1:14, NIV).

The Final Words from Jude

Over the years, I’ve heard many church services end by quoting these two verses.

“To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen” (Jude 1:24-25, NIV).

The Final Words in the Book of Revelation

And last, we have the final words of the Bible.

“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen” (Revelation 22:21, NIV).

Final Thoughts

When we read the Bible and get to the end of a book, what do we do? Do we read fast and quickly close our Bible, glad to have finished another book, or do we let the ending sit with us a while as we contemplate its words?

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.