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Which book of the New Testament do you wish you understood better?

Posted by on Apr 14, 2011 in scripture | 56 comments

Which book of the New Testament do you wish you understood better?

Often, when our church meets together, we study through a book of Scripture together. We study through both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Last winter, we completed a study through the book of Genesis. We’re about to begin a study of the book of Acts.

Occasionally, some of our friends will host Bible studies in their homes. Sometimes those groups will also study through a book of Scripture together. One such group recently finished studying Revelation and are about to begin the Gospel of John.

I think there is great benefit in studying through an entire book of the Bible together. Of course, there is benefit in studying topics together as well. But, this post is about books of the New Testament.

If you were to look through all the book of the New Testament (yes, let’s keep this to the New Testament for now), which one do you wish you understood better? Why?


56 Comments

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  1. 4-14-2011

    Romans. Why? Romans 6-8 chapters out of sequence (or, possibly, I don’t understand this section AT-ALL).

  2. 4-14-2011

    Hebrews.

  3. 4-14-2011

    Revelation, because who understands that book at all?!?

  4. 4-14-2011

    Revelation.

    I taught through this book over a period of a year and a half from a dispensational perspective. About halfway through I began to wonder if this was the right approach to the book, but it is all I was ever taught. Studying it for myself opened up new questions for me.

    I have studied the various views but have not had enough time to really consider where I land. So I’d like to really understand Revelation better.

  5. 4-14-2011

    I’m with Dan, I want to understand Revelation more. Why? Because it is the revelation of Jesus Christ, the apex and culmination of all of scripture, and the key to understanding the purpose of creation. If anywhere Christ is revealed in his fullness as God-man it is in that book.

  6. 4-14-2011

    hebrews

  7. 4-14-2011

    Art,

    That interesting. Why do you think Romans 6-8 are out of sequence?

    Allen and Tommy,

    What interests you about Hebrews? (I’ve always been fascinated by that book also!)

    Dan, Scott, and Bobby,

    Somebody had to bring up Revelation, didn’t they? What do you think John is trying to tell his readers in that book?

    -Alan

  8. 4-14-2011

    Alan,

    I think the Revelation is first and foremost what it says it is: A Revelation of Jesus Christ. It is a book about Jesus!

    The future, end times, anti-Christ, bowls, scrolls, etc. are obviously important, but any interpretation that does not keep Jesus front and center and in the spot light seems to miss the point.

    One more note, it seems (at least to me), that this is a book more about encouraging Christians in the victorious Christ than it is about predicting the future.

    These are a few of thoughts in answer to your question.

    – Scott

  9. 4-14-2011

    It seems that John is just writing what he is told to write, but I would say maybe that it was intended to bring hope to those who are waiting on Christ’s return.

    “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.” Rev 1:3

  10. 4-14-2011

    Hebrews, mostly because I need to understand the OT better.

  11. 4-14-2011

    All great choices….

    I have just started working through the book of Luke. I have been wanting to do this for several reasons: partly because of Luke’s apologetic approach (1:1-4)….but especially because it is focused on who Jesus is, what he expects of those who follow him, what the gospel is all about, and what he has done through his death and resurrection.

    I am using Darrel Bock’s commentary–which is probably the best commentary I have ever used: deeply spiritual and focused on the meaning of the text…but still thoroughly scholarly…and yet unflinchingly committed to the integrity of Scripture.

  12. 4-14-2011

    Does not matter to me, they are all there to reveal His Son to us.

  13. 4-14-2011

    Scott,

    You said, “One more note, it seems (at least to me), that this is a book more about encouraging Christians in the victorious Christ than it is about predicting the future.” I agree. If this is John’s purpose, how do you think it should affect how we read and teach Revelation?

    Dan,

    I also think “hope” is a big theme in Revelation. How do you think that theme should affect how we read or teach Revelation?

    Arthur,

    How do you think Hebrews helps us understand the OT? (I agree, by the way.)

    Brad,

    I haven’t used that commentary. What do you do when you find a point of disagreement between you and Bock?

    Swanny,

    That’s cheating. You have to pick one. :)

    -Alan

  14. 4-14-2011

    I’d say Luke-Acts

  15. 4-14-2011

    Alan,

    Rom 7 sounds like struggling; Rom 6 sounds like the answer; Rom 8 sounds like the person who went from Rom 7 to Rom 6.

    I’m guessing that I have some important misunderstandings, and not that the Holy Spirit got ahead of Himself when he put Rom 6 before Rom 7…

    But I do love the exclamations (and the exasperations) throughout Romans–it is a passionate book.

    BTW, my favorite is II Cor (because Paul is so intimate and open, like The wizard in Oz behind the curtain).

  16. 4-14-2011

    Alan,

    You asked, “If this is John’s purpose (encouraging Christians in the victorious Christ), how do you think it should affect how we read and teach Revelation?”

    Well, that’s a good question, which is why I suppose I’d like to understand this book better! :-)

    Honestly, I’m not really sure. I suppose I’d focus less on the “blood and gore parts” and more on the “worthy is the Lamb” parts. I’m not sure if that makes sense, but Revelation as taught by some today is portrayed as this terribly frightening book. However, I don’t think the original recepients of John’s apocalyptic vision would have seen it as such. For them I believe it would have strengthened their confidence in Christ and provided them with comfort and peace in the midst of persecution. Rather than frighten them it would have given them hope. Shouldn’t it do the same for us?

  17. 4-14-2011

    I have to say Revelation as well. I don’t think it’s all literal or all figurative, I think that some stuff is both and that just intrigues me. I don’t know ( or quiet frankly care) about all the labels that get associated with Rev. so I have no idea what I am ( ask Bobby he might know. But what I think is neat, is that I really believe that we are living through some of the things talked about in Rev. How cool (and scary) is that????

  18. 4-14-2011

    I’d imagine that a good way to understand the OT better is to read the OT :) Hebrews isn’t really too confusing if you read through Torah a few times. The author of the letter is confronting a church who is coming dangerously close to slipping into unbelief, and wants to spur them on to continue studying Scripture and applying their lives to it. Foundational for this confrontation is an OT theology about the Son of God (note: the author doesn’t talk about Jesus being the Son of God until well into the second chapter). In a sense, the author doesn’t think the church understands what the Scriptures (OT) say about the Son of God properly…and if they did, they would not be slipping into laziness and unbelief. Sure, there are a couple of tough spots (e.g. Heb 6), but as a whole, the letter assumes you’ve read your OT. Until you do, you won’t understand it.

    I’d imagine Revelation would also become less intimidating as well if as a church we taught through the Major Prophets more often (not just Isaiah!). John wasn’t caught up into a vision out of context, and the whole book is teeming with imagery from the prophetic literature. I don’t think we’ll ever understand it until we’ve become intimately familiar with Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and the Twelve.

    For me, I haven’t studied Revelation in a while, would like to read through it again. Two texts I want to really understand better are Galatians and Ephesians. Especially the parts where Paul writes about Israel and the Gentiles.

  19. 4-14-2011

    I think it also should shift our teaching from “this is a blueprint for the end times” to “this is our hope in Christ.”

  20. 4-14-2011

    Geoff,

    I’ve always found it interesting that Luke wrote Luke-Acts as a two part book. But the church never collected it like that (at least, not in any extant manuscripts).

    Why do you want to understand Luke-Acts better?

    Art,

    Yeah, when I don’t understand something, I usually blame myself instead of the Holy Spirit too. ;)

    You bring up some good points though… now I want to go read that again.

    Scott,

    Exactly! I’ve noticed that in all of the apocalyptic literature in the NT. The point seems to be the same: trust God (Christ).

    Jessica,

    You mean that you don’t find the different scholarly conjectures satisfying? I don’t either.

    Andy,

    You’re only allowed to choose one book. :)

    I’ve always found with books like Galatians and Ephesians that it helps to read the whole book in one sitting several times. Have you found that to be true also?

    Dan,

    Wait… so you’re saying that John did not intend for us to make charts and graphs with tanks and helicopters?

    -Alan

  21. 4-14-2011

    OK OK… You make me choose…

    I have always struggled with Jude, because it references 2 books that are not in the canon.

  22. 4-14-2011

    I think John wrote what he saw because he wanted us to see it as well. A heavenly vision of all things summed up in Christ.

  23. 4-14-2011

    Swanny,

    Jude is very interesting. I had the opportunity to teach a class on Jude for a community college NT class last fall. What do you think about Jude’s use of noncanonical books?

    Bobby,

    Why do you think he wanted us to see it?

    -Alan

  24. 4-15-2011

    You know, I remember back in college when I read through all of Paul’s letters one day. I think what struck me the most was how similar the message of the whole collection was, with each letter coming at the gospel from a slightly different angle. Sadly, I can’t remember the details of that very much. Inspiration to do that again? I’d like to.
    AW

  25. 4-15-2011

    Andy,

    I’ve never tried to read through all of Paul’s letters in one day. I’ll have to try that sometime. Did you include Hebrews in that reading marathon? :)

    -Alan

  26. 4-15-2011

    Alan

    “How do you think Hebrews helps us understand the OT? (I agree, by the way.)”

    The OT in and of itself is not that confusing but when you read it in light of Hebrews, it sheds so much light on what is going on. Why was there this tabernacle/temple, what is the reason behind these priests and sacrifices, how does the nation of Israel prefigure the Church? I think a lot of Christians, esp. newer Christians, read the OT first because it comes in their Bible first and have a really hard time understanding it because they aren’t viewing it backwards from a Christ-centred perspective. I would go so far as to say that not reading the OT this way leads to a lot of traditions that have more in common with the Old Testament than the New.

  27. 4-15-2011

    Arthur,

    The Book of Hebrews does seem to present a hermeneutic for understanding the OT.

    -Alan

  28. 4-16-2011

    @Art Mealer: I have a post that is about the “correct” order of Romans http://antwrites.com/2011/04/14/the-correct-order-of-the-epistle-to-the-romans/

    @Alan: Collosians is one of my favorite books of the NT,(James too) but I still want to understand Ephesians much more. I thought I knew it, but reading T. Austin Sparks has definitely challenged me.

  29. 4-16-2011

    How encouraging to see others who reject the Millenial Madness and popular news headline eschatology, one of the greatest discoveries for me was an eschatology in keeping with the new and better covenant in Christ’s blood and an interpretation of the Revelation/unveiling of the LORD Jesus Christ that makes it an extremely encouraging, comforting and applicable book for those who are in Christ. I’m actually going through a personal study of Revelation. Would be awesome to go through a study of the unveiling of Christ with a diverse online community, we could all learn from what Christ has shown each of us through our individual studies. No, I’m not volunteering to facilitate that, but I sure would like to participate. :) Lol.

  30. 4-16-2011

    Ant,

    Thanks for the comment. We definitely enjoyed studying Colossians together.

    Hutch,

    I’m still confused. Where do the helicopters and tanks come in?

    -Alan

  31. 4-16-2011

    No helicopters and tanks just a Beast a False Prophet and a Whore and how they wage war against the Woman and her offspring.

    I think a major interpretive clue is given in the introduction of the book, it was given to reveal not to conceal and those who read it, hear it and heed the message in it will be blessed. If the content of the revelation was entirely outside of the experience of the original readers and hearers then the promised blessing for heeding the message would be pointless. I am confident that the original hearers could understand it and that we can also understand and heed the message.

  32. 4-16-2011

    Probably would be better to say a beast, false prophet and a whore and how the dragon uses them to wage war against us as Christ’s Church. But as stated the message gives us great comfort in what we face here as we see Christ revealed/unveiled.

  33. 4-16-2011

    Hutch,

    You said, “But as stated the message gives us great comfort in what we face here as we see Christ revealed/unveiled.” Yes! Comfort, encouragement, hope, promise…

    -Alan

  34. 4-16-2011

    Revelations. It is the future to come and I get so lost reading it…

  35. 4-18-2011

    Alan,

    I really do not know what I think? I have never really dove in on why Jude would reference the book of Enoch.

    Anything interesting that you found in preparation for the class you led?

    Swanny

  36. 4-18-2011

    Swanny,

    No, I don’t have the answers. It was helpful for me to examine how Jude used each of the two quotes. It think it’s similar to the way that Paul used some secular poets.

    -Alan

  37. 4-19-2011

    My guess is that Jude knew a reference from Enoch would help his audience grab the point he was trying to make because the audience would have likely been familiar with Enoch at that time.

  38. 4-19-2011

    Swanny,

    I think you’re right. Enoch was talking about judgment of false teachers, which was Jude’s topic at that point. It’s a good bridge for Jude’s readers.

    -Alan

  39. 4-19-2011

    I saw your highlight of Scott’s comment in another post about learning about Revelation. I was taught the dispinsational view as well and didn’t realize until a few years ago that there was really any other view than that stuff literally happening.

    Best book I’ve found on a better understanding is Richard Bauckham’s The Theology of Revelation. It is excellent.

    http://www.amazon.com/Theology-Book-Revelation-New-Testament/dp/0521356911/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1303229751&sr=8-1

    I hope this helps!

  40. 6-1-2011

    Its not so much a particular book I would like to understand more. I would like to explore how Old Testament types have their fulfillment in the books of the New Testament.

  41. 6-1-2011

    Hi Brian,

    If you can pick up a copy of (Note on) The Pentateuch by C. H. Mackintosh you’ll get a good start in that direction.

  42. 6-1-2011

    Revelation. Because (1) it is the one I feel I understand least (2) Jesus offers specific blessings for reading it and living it and (3-14) we have a house full of young disciples to whom those blessings would be multiplied.

  43. 6-2-2011

    Brian,

    Hebrews would be a good place to start then.

    Art,

    I’m not familiar with that book.

    John,

    I think most people who responded to this question responded with Revelation.

    -Alan

  44. 10-31-2011

    I’m thinking Revelation. Only because I’m not sure where everything falls, how it goes chronologically, and just what the symbolism is in it. I hear Roman is suppose to be the Whore of Babylon, but I also hear that THE ANTI-CHRIST and everything dealing with the end times will take place in the Middle East. I’d like to be able to know more and not have to try and decipher it all.

  45. 12-20-2011

    John then his epistles … they are so foundational & so important

  46. 3-16-2012

    Hebrews. Something tells me that Hebrews is the key that links the OT & NT. And it is so beautifully written.

  47. 6-6-2012

    I see someone mentioned the same as I was planning (great minds!)….Jude

    It’s short enough to be covered over several weeks. Deep enough for careful exploration. Controversial enough for conversation. And is, IMHO, the doorway to studying Revelation with use of non-canonical sources and OT allusions.

    I just did a lesson over it and could have easily pulled out several weeks of material. :)

  48. 8-16-2012

    Here’s a passage, not necessarily a book, I have difficulty deciphering. Perhaps someone can shed some light on it.

    James 1:5 – 12 (My question regards verses 9 – 11, but I prefer to read Scripture inclusively, so I copy/pasted verses before and after for context.)
    —————————–
    5But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

    9But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; 10and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. 11For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.

    12Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
    ——————————-

    What do vs. 9 – 11 mean? I am apparently clueless.

  49. 9-19-2012

    Acts and Hebrews for somewhat the same reasons — to understand the early church and its OT roots better. Revelation obviously because, like someone said, who does understand it completely. But I think my first choice would be Romans because I think it’s the foundational explanation of our faith. I get with my pal Andy every Sunday morning and we’re going chapter by chapter through the NT. He’s a newer believer and wants to go book by book in order. When we finished Acts, therefore he wanted to go right into Romans. I was a little intimidated because it’s pretty heavy stuff, but I’m finding that as I help answer Andy’s questions, I am getting a deeper understanding of what Paul is saying. As usual, I learn more when I have to explain it.

  50. 12-13-2012

    I want to know Jesus better and so what comes to mind is one of the gospels. It seems to me that “The Sermon on the Mount” is Jesus’ best description of the Kingdom of God. So, I think I would want to understand Matthew better to understand Jesus and His kingdom better.

  51. 12-13-2012

    Bruce,

    I always enjoy studying the Gospels… Matthew and John especially for some reason. But, then, I’ve also come to know Jesus better through studying any of the books of Scripture.

    -Alan

  52. 4-2-2013

    I’m actually on vacation for 5 days after the feast of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. I enjoy my time in reading some of Alan’s posts. This particular post attract me to add a comment. I have to admit that I don’t know every corner of the holy scripture but when I read a section or statement I always rely on the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth (what He means; as Donald has indicated in James 1:5-8) to me. I have experienced that the same statement may tell me a new truth if I read it again at another time later. My understanding grows with the maturity of my faith in Christ.

    As everyone knows that Jesus loves to use parables in his teaching because that is the best way for spiritual insight. The parables are mysterious to all people who try to understand with their own wisdom. I have found that Christian world loves to dissect the holy scripture as a professional surgeon, trying to investigate and exploring every segment and its functionalities. Afterwards it will draw an explanation and its assumption about the meaning of the segment.

    Jesus has used the parable of the smallest seed (Matt13:31-32;Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18 19) that grows into a large tree when he talked about the Kingdom of Heaven. Today the Holy Spirit again has brought me back to that parable and allow me to see the holy scripture as follows:

    • The Old Testament is the ground where God has sown His seed (Jesus Christ). The entire OT is about the preparation of the ground.
    • The seed has been sown and has germinated and a tree is growing (Jesus’ Church, His Kingdom of Heaven).
    • The New Testament (Mathew; Mark; Luke; John) is the trunk of the tree where the nutrient is passed from the ground to the branches (from Acts to Jude).
    • The purpose of growing the tree is for the harvest (Revelation). Therefore the Revelation shows us every aspect of the tree including the bugs (beast, whore, anti-Christ) and how the harvest will be done.

    It is important to focus on the production of the fruits because only the good fruits will be collected. Our life must bear good fruits and that is its purpose and the reason of having faith in Jesus Christ.

    When I read the Bible, I always wait for the Lord to reveal His truth. The revelation may come from some other people’s understanding, but that truth will remain in me only when the Holy Spirit confirms.

    Donald has asked a question about James 1:9-11. The clue for understanding this passage is the parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Matt.20:1-16) combines with the parable of the Flowers in the Field (Matt 6:28-30; Luke 12:27-28.).

    The message of God is reminding us about humility and the valueless of fame and pride that many are adorning themselves.

    God, our Creator will take care of us if we have faith in Him and be the faithful and meek workers willing to fulfill His Will with joy. Whatever in this world is of the temporary plan, the eternity and real life is in the spiritual plan. This world is the field for the spirit to grow and produce its fruits for the harvest of the Kingdom of Heaven.

    May the Holy Spirit bestow His grace to everyone. Amen.

  53. 4-3-2013

    Duc,

    Thanks for the comment. I agree that the Spirit helps us understand Scripture. Is there a particular book in the NT that you would like to understand better?

    -Alan

  54. 4-3-2013

    Dear Alan,

    My favourite reading is anything written by John, because I find it has profound inspiration and less descriptive than the other apostles.
    So far I have been using the Bible as a dictionary not as you are using it.

    In the church every Sunday we have 3 readings extracted from:
    1- A section from OT,
    2- A section from the Apostles
    3- A section from the Gospel (Mat,Mar,Luk,Joh)
    I read those three sections and meditate before going to the Sunday service.

    In reality I read those three sections everyday from my daily missal and meditate them.

    I don’t have the habit reading and comparing or linking the scriptures like many other Christian Churches are doing. So I have never read the entire Bible book by book and chapter by chapter as you do.

    I can’t answer your question for that reason. I am not a Bible scholar as you are. My focus is always practicing what I am learning from the holy scripture more than be knowledgeable and understand everything written in the books. When I read a section of a book, I meditate and get the inspiration from it for my journey of faith in daily life (at home or at work, etc).

    To be knowledgeable is a must for someone who is preparing a PHD in theology like you, but for me it is all about having the living Christ in everyday activities.

  55. 4-3-2013

    Duc,

    You said, “My focus is always practicing what I am learning from the holy scripture…” That’s exactly why I read Scripture as well.

    -Alan

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