Books of the New Testament Summaries: Gospels and Acts

The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John)

The New Testament begins with four books, called the gospels. The gospels tell the story of Jesus’ life. They do not contain everything that Jesus did or said for John said that the world could not contain everything that could be written about Jesus (John 20:30-31; 21:25). They do tell us enough to teach us about Jesus, develop our faith, and learn how to live.

The book of Matthew, written by the apostle of the same name, seems to be written primarily to the Jewish people—God’s people of the Old Testament. He listed the names in the family of Jesus that showed he was related to King David, as the prophets said he would be 2 Samuel 7 (see Acts 2:29-30). He also shows how Jesus was the one that the Old Testament prophets said would deliver people from their sins and be a king over His kingdom (This promised king is called the Messiah).

It seems that wrote to people who were not Jewish. Since the gospel would be preached to the Jews and the other nations (the Gentiles), they needed to know about Jesus. Mark was not an apostle but a preacher who worked closely with Paul and Barnabas. The gospel of Mark contains only 25 verses that are not also found in Matthew and Luke. Though some believe that Matthew and Luke copied from Mark, we must remember that the Holy Spirit was responsible for all of the gospels, 2 Peter 1:21.

The book of Luke is actually a letter written to a man named Theophilus (sounds like the-ahh-phil-us). Luke sent another letter, the book of Acts, to tell Theophilus what happened after Jesus went back to heaven. Luke was the doctor who traveled with Paul on His preaching journeys.

The book of Luke is the only gospel that claims to tell the events of Jesus’ life in the order that they happened. The other gospels sometimes put stories that were alike together. Luke wrote his gospel from the stories of those who knew Jesus (Luke 1:1-4).

The book of John, was written by the apostle to prove that Jesus is the Son of God, John 20:30-31. John’s gospel does not contain any parables and often tell things that the other gospels do not. Throughout his book, John reminded his readers that God proved, through miracles, the Old Testament prophesies, and God’s voice from heaven, that Jesus is the Son of God.

Facts about the Gospels

  • Only Matthew and John were apostles.
  • Mark and Luke traveled with Paul on different preaching journeys
  • John’s gospel does not have any parables
  • Luke wrote Luke and Acts as letters to teach a man about Jesus and the church
  • A large part of Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell about the last week of Jesus’ life

The Book of Acts

The book of Acts was letter written by Luke to someone names Theophilus (pronounced the-off-fill-us). The gospel of Luke was also written to this man.

The gospel of Luke told the story of Jesus’ life and His death for our sins. The book of Acts begins with Jesus going back to heaven and the apostles going into the world to teach the gospel. The book of Acts is a history of the early church.
Though it is called the Acts of the Apostles, the book only tells about the work of the apostles Peter and Paul as well as Phillip who was not an apostle.

The first seven chapters describe the beginning of the church (Acts 2) and its growth in Jerusalem. Acts 8 describes the work of the preacher Phillip and his work in Samaria, not far from Jerusalem.

  • Acts 9 begins with Saul’s persecution of the church. When the Christians were persecuted, they left Jerusalem and went to faraway cities and preached the gospel. While persecuting the church, Jesus appeared to Saul. Soon Saul, whose name was changed to Paul, preached the gospel of Jesus throughout the world.
  • Acts 10 and 11 describes the first time that the gospel was preached to people who were not Jews. This meant that the gospel was the message of salvation for all people, not just the Jews.
  • Acts 12 describes King Herod’s attempt to quiet Peter. However, an angel let Peter out of prison. Later, Herod died because he accepted worship as if he were God.
  • Acts 13-14 describes Paul’s first preaching journey to spread the gospel into foreign cities.
  • Acts 15 describes a disagreement in which the Jewish Christians thought that non-Jewish Christians should keep the Old Law. The apostles, with the authority of God, decided that Christians did not have to keep the Old Law.
  • Acts 16-18:22 describes Paul’s second preaching trip to foreign cities; Acts 18:23-21:16 describes Paul’s third preaching journey. The rest of Acts describes Paul’s trouble with the Jews and a trip to Rome for judgment.

Facts About Acts

  • The second of two letters Luke wrote to Theophilus
  • Tells about the work of Peter, Paul, and the non-apostle Phillip
  • Describes the beginning of the church in Jerusalem in Acts 2
  • Describes the spread of the gospel throughout the world to Jews and Gentiles

Author: Rhodes Davis

My passion is analyzing information, exploring ideas, lifelong learning and sharing knowledge with others. I have a wide range of interests and am not easily bored so I approach unfamiliar and diverse subjects with great zeal. I am a business nerd, fascinated by what can be accomplished through innovative companies and people who want to change the world. My faith is very important and I enjoy opportunities to share my observations and study insights through teaching and writing. I follow the simple teachings of Jesus and try to reflect His glory in my life. I work with young people on applying the teachings of Jesus to their unique challenges and opportunities. "Curiosity keeps taking us down new paths." - Walt Disney

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