Bible Basics

Lesson 6: New Testament Organization (Part 1)

Lessons in this series: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Overview Lesson Index

Lesson Workbook (PDF) Click here


1. For students to comprehend the organization and content of the New Testament books up to and including Colossians
2. For students to to recite those books in the order in which they appear
3. For student to enjoy learning the Truth about the Bible


Word of God

Scripture Memorization

The books of the New Testament in order from Matthew up to and including Colossians

OPENING PRAYER (5 to 10 minutes)

GROUP BUILDING (5 minutes)

Have the students pair off, and practice reciting the books of the Old Testament together starting with Genesis. To form pairs, count the total number of students, and divide by two. (For example if you have 18 students, the number is 9.) Have everyone count to that number, and then start over and count to that number again. Remind everyone to remember their number. Everyone should find the other person with the same number to pair up with. 

GETTING STARTED (10 minutes)

(To begin today’s study, have the students take the short pop quiz found in their workbooks. The questions and answers are repeated below. Encourage everyone to try their best to complete the quiz from memory and not by using their Bible, or looking beyond the quiz in their workbooks.) 

Workbook Activity

Pop Quiz

1. How many Major Prophets are there? (5)
2. Who are they? (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, & Daniel) 
3. How many Minor Prophets are there? (12)
4. Who are they? (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, & Malachi)


Last week we talked about prophets, and we often mentioned that they spoke of the Messiah who was to come. This week, we'll dig into the New Testament to learn about our Messiah, Jesus.

• Who remembers the basic difference between the Old and New Testament? (The Old Testament talks about things before Christ, the New Testament talks about things during and after Christ.)

DIGGING IN (30 minutes)

The New Testament is organized pretty simply. Today we’re going to try and get through a little over half of the New Testament. This will take us through four Gospels, one book of history, and seven of Paul’s letters. Next week, we’ll cover the rest. In your workbooks, you will find space to record facts and comments about each of the books we will cover today. Let's get started learning about Jesus! Turn to the New Testament.

• Whose Gospel comes first? (Matthew's.)
• Does anyone know why Matthew's Gospel comes first? (Because of the way his Gospel links the Old and New Testaments.)

The truth is, Matthew writes to a Jewish audience. Each of the Gospels was written with a different audience in mind. Another way of putting that is that each of the Gospels' authors had a different purpose in writing what he did. Sometimes, that resulted in recording the same events in exactly the same way. Other times, they gave more or less detail, depending on who they were trying to reach.

The Jewish community was Matthew's audience. He himself was Jewish, The way he wrote his Gospel was unique in that his main purpose was to prove to Jews that Jesus was the Messiah who had been promised in the Old Testament.

 Unique Facts about Matthew

• He quotes the Old Testament 53 times
• He references the Old Testament an additional 76 times
• He uses Old Testament language, such as “Son of David”
• He includes a family tree of Jesus, something the Jewish community would have valued
• He uses Jewish lingo 
• He wrote his Gospel about 30-35 years after Jesus was resurrected, around 65 AD. By this time, he was a leader in the early church. In fact, he is the only Gospel writer to mention the church by name

(If time permits, share some popular passages that everyone should recognize. For example: The Christmas Story Matthew 1:1-25, The Beatitudes Matthew 5:3-10, or The Great Commission Matthew 28:16-20)

• Whose Gospel comes next? (Mark.)

One of the things we can’t help but notice about Mark is how busy Jesus seems. In the Greek, the word used over and over is “euthus,” which means “immediately.” Mark leaves out a birth narrative, launching directly into the work of Christ.

• Why do you think Mark did that? (Just a question to get them thinking, no real right or wrong answers here)

(If time permits, read a few popular passages, such as: The Paralytic is Healed, Mark 2:1-12.)

 Unique Facts about Mark

• It is the shortest Gospel, at only 16 chapters.
• Like Luke, it is a Gospel written by a non-disciple
• It is written with a Gentile (or non-Jewish), audience in  mind
• He emphasizes what Jesus did, not what He taught
• It is probably the earliest Gospel written, approximately 55AD. In fact some people speculate that Matthew and Luke used the Gospel according to Mark as one of their sources during their research


The next gospel is Luke. Luke is the only Gentile author of a book of the Bible. That means that he was not Jewish. But he came to faith in Christ, and we know that he traveled with the Apostle Paul.

Luke was a physician, a Greek, and a devout historian. He researched and considered his writing before doing so. His style is extremely reliable. This is important, as he wrote over half the New Testament with his Gospel and the book of Acts, as we’ll learn later.

His Gospel is written to gentiles in general. It is directly addressed to “Theophilus,” which means “love of God.” This could be an individual or a general term describing a group of people.

Because we know he wrote Acts, and because we know he wrote his Gospel before he wrote Acts, we can date his Gosple writing to approximately 60 AD.

One of the themes Luke dwells on is the influence of the Holy Spirit. This is prominent in both his Gospel (note Luke’s birth, baptism, ministry, and resurrection accounts) and the book of Acts (the Day of Pentecost, the death of Ananias and Sapphira, others). Also unique in Luke is that he pays more attention to Jesus’ early life. This is as close to a complete biography of Jesus as we get in the Gospels.

(As time permits, cover a few popular passages: The Good Samaritan Luke 10:25-37, The Lost Sheep, Coin, & Son, Luke 15 or The Story of Zacchaeus, Luke 19:1-10.)

• What is the last of the four Gospels? (John)
• What strikes you as different about the John's Gospel?

Whereas Matthew, Mark, and Luke have a lot in common, John departs a bit from the norm. The first three are called the synoptic Gospels, meaning they see things the same way. John is non-synoptic, meaning he comes at the story of Jesus from a slightly different angle. This purpose of John's Gospel is less historic, and more evangelistic.

 Unique Facts about John

• If it weren’t for John, we wouldn’t know that Jesus’ ministry lasted 3 years
• John spends almost half of his Gospel talking about the last week of Jesus’ life
• John was probably the last of the Gospels to be written, perhaps as late as 85 AD
• John was a disciple, but also part of the inner circle and gives us otherwise unknown information
• John contains words from Christ on the cross, as he was the only disciple present at the crucifixion
• Of the 8 miracles he records, 6 are not found in any other Gospel
• The conversation of Jesus with the disciples in the Upper Room before He dies is unique to John
• 90% of John is unique to him and not duplicated by any other author
• John does not record the genealogy, birth, childhood, temptation, transfiguration, parables, ascension, or the Great Commission of Jesus.

(As time permits, cover a few popular passages: For God So Loved, John 3:16, The Woman at the Well, John 4, The Feeding of the 5,000, John 6, The Vine and Branches, John 15.)

Before moving on, let's recite the names of the four Gospels together. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John.

After the four Gospel accounts, the New Testament has one book of history.

• What book is that? (Acts)
• And does anyone remember from our discussion earlier who wrote Acts? (Luke, the author of the Gospel by the same name.)

Luke wrote Acts, and as a traveler with Paul on his missionary journeys, he records the early history of the church after the resurrection of Jesus.

Acts was written by Luke somewhere between 60 and 70 AD. Though it’s often called the Acts of the Apostles, it really only focuses on Peter for a few of the first chapters before settling on the life of Paul. For this reason, some have proposed it being known as the Acts of the Holy Spirit.

Some popular passages are: The Day of Pentecost, chapter 2; Ananias and Sapphira, chapter 5; The Philippian Jailer Converted, chapter 16.

Acts is the only book of New Testament history. With the exception of the book of Revelation, the rest of the books we will cover, both this week and next, fit into the time frame that is recorded in the book of Acts, a span of only about 35-40 years.

The next 13 books we’ll cover are all letters from Paul. We’ll cover 7 of the 13 tonight. In general, the title given to a book is who it was written to. Most of the names are cities. Some are people. It’s usually pretty easy to tell which is which. The first letter from Paul is to the Romans.

Romans is considered one of the most theologically intense books of the Bible. Paul writes it to the church in Rome to set some things straight as well as to announce that he would be visiting. Like many of his letters, though, it may have ended up being passed around, so it has meaning for all of us.

Paul probably wrote Romans in about 57 AD.

(If time permits, reveiw some popular verses in Romans: Romans 1:16, Romans 3:23, Romans 8:28.)

1 & 2 Corinthians
The next two books of the New Testament go together.

• Does anyone know what they are? (1 and 2 Corinthians.)

Again, Paul wrote these two letters to the church at Corinth. His purpose is to help identify some of the problems in the Corinthian church and counsel them towards solutions, and then congratulate them on their progress.

Paul founded the church on an earlier missionary journey; however, he writes to the church on his third journey in 55 AD (1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians).

(If time permits, review some popular passages: The Love Chapter, 1 Corinthians 13.)

• What’s the next book of the New Testament? (Galatians.)

That author of Galatians is again, Paul. By the way, as we walk through these books, you should know that there is no credible evidence that anyone except Paul wrote these letters. This should help you as you formulate beliefs about how true the Bible is.

Galatians was one of the earliest of Paul’s letters, written in about 49 AD. When he says Galatians, he is dealing with a  group of churches, not one in particular. Where Rome was a city (like New York), Galatia was a region (like the Northeast). So Paul is not writing to any single church, but a group.

The theme is the free gift of salvation through Jesus. Jews who were becoming Christians were claiming that Gentiles had to become Jews before they could become Christians, a claim Paul (a Jew himself) refutes in this letter.

(If time permits, cover at least one popular passage, for example The Fruit of the Spirit, Galations 5:22-23.)

The next letter is the letter to the Ephesians.

• Who do you think wrote Ephesians? (If they don’t get this, they’re probably not paying attention. It’s Paul.)

Ephesians was written in about 60 AD to the Ephesians, but may have been meant to be a circular letter. The theme is unity in the body of Christ.

(Popular Passage: The Armor of God, Ephesians 6:10-20.)

• What’s the next book of the New Testament? (Philippians)
• Who wrote it? (Paul)

Unlike some of the other letters Paul wrote to correct churches, the letter to the Philippians is meant to encourage them and thank them. He wrote it from jail in Rome in about 61 AD, just one year after he wrote to the Ephesians. His theme is joy (see Philippians 4:4), which is ironic considering his imprisoned state.

The church in Philippi was the first established in Asia (see Acts 16), and held a dear place in Paul’s heart.

(Popular verse: “I Can Do All Things...” Philippians 4:13)

The last letter we’ll cover this week is Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae, or the letter to the Colossians. It was written in about 60 AD. The purpose was to correct errors in the theology held by some in that city.

(If time permits, cover a popular passage such as, Colossians 1:15-20)

Now, let's recite the names of the first seven letters (Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians)

MAKING IT REAL (10 minutes)

Good job! Believe it or not, we’re a little over halfway through the books of the New Testament. Next week, we’ll cover the second half, from 1 and 2 Thessalonians to Revelation.

Let’s try to recite Matthew through Colossians again without making a mistake.  (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians.)

Next week’s quiz will cover these books.

CLOSING PRAYER (2 minutes)

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