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What was the authors' purpose for writing the New Testament gospels and epistles? And were they reliable sources?

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We will subdivide today's study in 3 subdivisions:

a. Purpose of writing the gospels

b. Purpose of writing the epistles

c. Reliability of the New Testament writers

a. Purpose of writing the gospels

i. Luke's purpose:

Luke 1:1-4 "Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught."

Based on the account of eyewitnesses and a careful investigation, Luke's goal to write his gospel was to provide an accurate account of what happened in Jesus' time. He had written this gospel to someone named Theophilus, and his writings were shared with others.

Ii. John's purpose:

John 20:31 "But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."

John's purpose of writing this gospel was to convince others that Jesus was the Christ and was the Son of God. To convince others to believe, John had to be accurate in reporting historical facts to his contemporary audience, otherwise he would have been dismissed as an outright liar, as many had witnessed for themselves what had happened in the days of Jesus.

Iii. Matthew's and Marc's purpose:

No purpose is given, although their style of writing is quite close to Luke's. It seems quite reasonable that their purpose would have been close to Luke's.

Iv. Conclusion:

"Consider the way the gospels are written - in a sober and responsible fashion, with accurate incidental details, with obvious care and exactitude. You don't find the outlandish flourishes and blatant mythologizing that you see in a lot of other ancient writings.

What does all that add up to?…It seems quite apparent that the goal of the gospel writers was to attempt to record what had actually occurred." (Craig L. Blomberg, PH.D. as quoted by Strobel, Lee. The Case for Christ. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1998, p. 40.)

B. Purpose of writing the epistles

Let us discover from some of the writers themselves what were some of their reasons of writing the epistles.

I. The apostle Paul

2 Cor 1:13-14 "For we do not write you anything you cannot read or understand. And I hope that, as you have understood us in part, you will come to understand fully that you can boast of us just as we will boast of you in the day of the Lord Jesus."

Hebrews 5:11-14, "Of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need mild and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who ate of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil".

2 Cor 13:9-10 "We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is for your perfection. This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority-the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down."

Phil 3:1 "Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you."

Paul's goals in writing his epistles are clearly displayed here (Please remember that these were written to believers living in the first century, but were preserved for our own edification as well. It is for this reason that I use the pronoun "we".) :

a. to prepare Christians for the coming of our Lord

b. to teach the basic tenets of our faith

c. to share some solid food which will help us have a more intimate relationship with Jesus

d. to reprimand us from when we err

e. to safeguard us from certain dangers

ii. The apostle John

1 John 1:3-4 "We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete."

1 John 2:1 "My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin."

1 John 2:12-14 I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, dear children, because you have known the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one."

1 John 5:13 "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life."

John's purpose in writing his epistle is multifaceted as well:

a. that we can have fellowship with one another and with God

b. to complete our joy

c. to keep us from sinning

d. because our sins have been forgiven

e. because we know Jesus personally

f. because we have overcome the evil one

g. because the Word of God lives in us

h. to know that we have eternal life

It is clear that the apostle John was writing to Christians. He was confirming some basic beliefs and warning us to stay away from certain dangers.

iii. Jude

Jude 3 "Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints."

Jude's purpose to write his epistle was to defend the tenets of our faith.

We can see from all of this that all the writers of the epistles found in the New Testament defended the faith and warned us of certain dangers. They provided solid food as well as milk for the edification of all the saints. They were caring individuals, led by God's Spirit, to share and defend the Good News that has been proclaimed since the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

C. Reliability of the New Testament writers.

All the books of the New Testament are based on primary sources. The authors are writing as eyewitnesses or from firsthand information and their audience was aware of the facts as well, even though not all were believers. Here are some claims found in the New Testament books:

Luke 1:1-4 "Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught."

2 Peter 1:16-17 "We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty."

1 John 1:3-4 "We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ."

Acts 2:22 "Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know."

John 19:35 "The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe."

Luke 3:1 "In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar-when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene."

Acts 26:24-27 "At this point Festus interrupted Paul's defense. "You are out of your mind, Paul!" He shouted. "Your great learning is driving you insane." "I am not insane, most excellent Festus," Paul replied. "What I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner."

The writers of the New Testament constantly refer to first-hand testimonies. They constantly testified that they "were eyewitnesses". Most of their readers would have also known the facts as well, as the authors often said, "as you yourselves know". But some of their readers were opposed to their teachings. The disciples had to be accurate in their descriptions, as any discrepancies would have discredited their beliefs. For example, their claim that Jesus had been resurrected would have been refuted if their critics could have provided the body of Jesus. But none were able to do so, as Jesus' tomb (although guarded by Roman soldiers) was indeed empty! (see Matthew 28:11-15).

It is quite clear from this that the books of the New Testament were not written centuries after the fact, but were written during the lifetime of those involved in the events themselves. The writers were eyewitnesses to the events, and they felt impelled to share their testimony with others. How more reliable can you be?

With the exception of John, all of the apostles died a martyr's death. Why? Because they refused to renounce Jesus Christ. Who in this world would be willing to die for a lie? No one. Neither would the apostles, who were men of integrity. They were eyewitnesses of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and they were willing to die for what they had seen. Again, how more reliable can you be?

My friend, have you ever opened God's book, the Bible before? It contains the testimonies of reliable eyewitnesses, whose goals were to share their testimony with you. They were: 1 Peter 1:8 "filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy" and they desired that you experience that joy as well. Are you tired of stress and of the demands of this life? Is there no one who really understands you? Come to Jesus. He is the only One who really understands, and He wants to provide you with real "rest" (see Mat 11:28) and "inner peace". Open His Word and stand in awe of how much He cares for you. Come to Him and accept His call at http://www.answers2prayer.org/saviours_call.html

Rob Chaffart Rob@Answers2Prayer.org

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The purpose is made clearest in this passage: John 20 "30Jesus did many other miracles in the presence of his followers that are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Then, by believing, you may have life through his name."

John the Apostle wanted to make it clear to readers of his Gospel that it were written so we may know Who Jesus is, and come to believe in Him. All four Gospels, while often containing different accounts of Jesus ministry, authenticate His followers' beliefs about Him. This helps prove that the essential beliefs of Christianity were not, as many claim, added to the faith at a later date but affirmed during Christ's life and ministry on earth.

The Book of Acts is also an historical record of the early Church. The epistles that make up the New Testament deal both with problems faced by local congregations and issues that concern the Church at large. Today's congregations facing difficulties can greatly benefit from the wisdom found in these books.

And were they reliable sources?

From the outside sources written around the same time, the books of the New Testament appear to be reliable. There is a book known as the Diadache, or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, written about 60AD which is consistent with the New Testament. It's worth noting that issues such as different accounts in some of the Gospels that are often disputed should not be used to invalidate the Scriptures.

Keeping the proper historical and literary context of the books in mind is essential. There are events recorded in one Gospel that are recorded differently in another, or there may be events in one Gospel not recorded in another. The reason for this is that each of the four Gospels were written for different groups of believers. Example: Matthew was written primarily for converts from Judaism and emphasizes how Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecy about the Messiah. The Scriptures are a record of salvation history, and those who try to look at them with the wrong perspective will probably miss their message altogether.

Your sister in Christ,

AJ

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Since different servants wrote Gospels and Paul wrote most of the letters (except for Revelation, of course) the answer can only be that God wants us to be aware of what was, what is and what is to come (via the Holy Spirit, of course) I trust my response helps.

Greg Parker

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The Gospels were & are written to show us the Way to salvation, which is Jesus Christ. The epistles were written to teach & show us how to walk and live in Jesus Christ the life of victory God had originally intended for mankind. The word of God was written by man inspired by the Holy Ghost which gives validity to the Holy Scriptures.

2Timothy 3:15 states And that from a child thou has known the Holy scriptures "which are able to make thee wise unto salvation" through faith which which is in Christ Jesus. This gives proof that the Gospels along with the prophetic Old testament are meant to lead us to God's plan of redemption for man which He provided in the life, death, and resurection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul "inspired" by the Holy Ghost continues in 2Timothy 3:16-17 goes on to state ALL SCRIPTURE is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works...Again, yes scripture was written by man, but given to man BY INSPIRATION OF GOD. That settles the truth and validity of the Word of God.

Jesus was the Word made flesh.( John 1:14) 1Corinthians 10 states Now all these things happened as examples to the intent that WE should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. Proving again that the Epistles are written for our instruction as we walk in Christ and grow into the fullness of His nature. We have the Gospels that show us the only WAY to salvation and righteousness with God(John 14:6) and the Epistles were written to the early churches to show how they and we can live a Godly life in and through Jesus Christ. This settles it for me. God said it you can count on it.

John Bonventre

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To show us our Saviour and how He desires that we live our lives and draw closer to Him.

Linda Shepherd

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The purpose was a fulfillment of the old Testament. And due to this we receive the forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ. Romans 8:1-9,yes we had reliable source that is Jesus who left us with Holy Spirit.

David Ndiwa

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