01 Introduction & Survey of the Gospels


Wednesday Night Series 2021

To quote Elvis, “It’s now or never…”  I have long wanted to try to do something like this, but really haven’t had the chance.   I’m running a risk here, because this is not a light-weight devotional class.  In other words, I’m not laboring here to try and make you feel good or give you chills.  I want to teach, much like I’ve taught college classes, and my thought is this is going to “thin the crowd” a bit.  I don’t blame you.  It’s hard work, but I think if you hang in you’ll find it rewarding, and it will change the way you see the Gospels.

So I’m going to pray, and if you want to kind of slip out nobody is going to judge you for it.

I will say that this session will be a little different than the rest.  This is a general intro to the Gospels.  Next week and for the rest of our sessions up until Easter, we are going to focus on an Introduction and Survey of the Gospel of John.

Manuscript Evidence

Inspiration and Revelation

1 Timothy 3:16

2 Peter 1:20

Preservation and Transmission

What about the “Other” Gospels?

 The four Gospels we have are not the only Gospels in existence.  We know, for instance, that there was a Gospel of Judas and a Gospel of Thomas, neither of which made it into our canon (list of approved books) of New Testament Gospel accounts.  There were a number of other gospels circulated, especially later in the first century when the Gnostics began writing Gospels that fit their teaching.

There’s a lot of discussion about Councils and church authorities (bishops, overseers, etc) who decided which books were included in the New Testament.  But their decisions were not based on votes and behind closed door discussions.  Those present in the decision making were pastors of churches, representing regions of churches and people who had traveled broadly.  One of the first criteria to be evaluated was, “is this book used widely in the churches?”  The Spirit of God used the people of God and His church to determine which books bore witness to the truth.  After the canon was closed, no other books were included even though other Gospels were being written.

What Are the Gospels?

Gospels are NOT NECESSARILY biographies of Jesus

If they were biographies, we would have a great deal of detail about His life from age 12 to 30, and we have none (though some of the rejected gospels offer thoughts:  one said that when Jesus was an adolescent, people saw Him healing wounded birds).  (Others said when He walked on the sand, He didn’t leave footprints).

But even with FOUR Gospels we have major gaps in the timeline of His time on earth.

If they’re biographies they aren’t thorough ones.

Gospels are WITNESSES to Jesus

Do the Gospels agree?  Not word for word.  But they do not contradict each other.

“The car swerved off the road and hit a tree.”
“A tire went flat and caused the car to swerve off the road and into a tree.”
“One of the front tires blew out and caused the car to swerve….”
“The right front tire blew out and caused the car to wreck.”

Which statement is correct?  All of them.  Four people saw an accident, but from four different angles.  They see the same event, but don’t describe it in the same way.  Yet there is no contradiction.

The New Testament Problem:  Gospels as Apologetic

Each of the Gospels had a different purpose and focus, with a different audience in view.  Some of the Gospels are heavy weighted toward a Jewish audience.  Others clearly aren’t.

For instance, Luke’s Gospel is addressed to a Hellenistic Roman individual named “Theophilus.”  By his name, we know he is a “lover of God,” so he was at least introduced by his parents to God.  But some believe he was the judge who was deciding Paul’s fate, and Luke (who traveled with Paul as a doctor and historian) was offering an educated and detailed defense and explanation of Who Jesus was (in Luke) and how Paul had come to be arrested (in Acts).

Authorship and Dating of the Gospels

The dating of the various books is a matter of great controversy and debate. However, we can generally date them as follows:

  • 1 BC–1 AD The birth of Christ
  • AD 30/33 The death and resurrection of Jesus
  • AD 48–67 The letters of Paul
  • AD 55–75 The Gospel of Mark
  • AD 60s–80s The Gospels of Matthew and Luke
  • Late AD 60s–80s The Gospel of John13
  • AD 60s–90s The General Epistles and Revelation14

Focus of the Gospels

  • Matthew: Jesus as Rightful King
  • Mark: Jesus as Son of Man
  • Luke: Jesus as Son of God
  • John: Jesus as Word of God:  Word made flesh…


GOSPEL OF JOHN—Intro Comments

Begin at the end:  John 20:30-31

What do we need to believe?

“That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God”

That Jesus is the fulfillment of the OT promises

    • Genesis 3–a child born to put things right
    • Psalm 2–all injustice will end
    • Isaiah 55–suffering servant
    • Daniel 7–“one like a son of man”

That Jesus is God

What does it mean to believe?

Not “belief in belief”

Not intellectual assent

“I believe that bridge can hold my weight”

Belief is walking across the bridge

Belief means to trust…to put your full weight down

Why do we need to believe

That you may have life, and life everlasting

    • John 1:4
    • John 3:16
    • John 5:24
    • John 11:25-26
    • John 14:6


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