Biblical Favorites: New Testament
Thus far, we have discussed favorite YA books and favorite fictional series. A week ago we looked at my personal favorite books of the Old Testament. Today, I’ll discuss my favorite books from the New Testament. Again, it’s very difficult to pick only a few to discuss; as with the Old, each of the New Testament books that I have read have been enlightening, and I’ve enjoyed reading all of them. For today, I will be discussing Luke and Acts, Romans, and Ephesians. Each of my descriptions of these books will be a bit shorter than in my previous blogs, but I hope you enjoy them nonetheless. Let’s take a look!
Luke and Acts
I group these two books together because they were written by the same author and meant to be taken as one ongoing narrative. Both written by the Physician Luke, these books serve as a sort of “part 1” and “part 2” in the formation of the Christian faith. The Gospel of Luke narrates Jesus Christ’s time on this earth, from the conception of his cousin John the Baptist to his ascension into Heaven after his resurrection. The Acts of the Apostles (as the name implies) tells the story of Christ’s continued work through his Apostles (particularly Peter and Paul) after Christ returns to Heaven.
Both Luke and Acts are carefully written, as their author wrote them with a very journalistic approach. Luke, though probably not present firsthand for any of the events transcribed in these books, spent a long time carefully researching and talking with people who had interacted with Jesus. From a non-religious standpoint, this gives him perhaps even more credibility than the other Gospels, since Luke wrote the books impartially.
For me personally, I find both books very enjoyable to read particularly because Luke writes the books in an engaging fashion. Minor characters in the books will often pop up again and again, and I’ve always enjoyed figuring out the life stories of these figures as they influence the early Church throughout their lives. The minor and major characters alike in both books wrestle with very real and relatable problems, and the Apostles are wonderful examples of humans that both fail and succeed as they try to follow Christ’s calling. It is reassuring to see how the Apostles have human shortcomings as all of us do, and inspiring to see the work that they were capable of – and to know that that same potential is in each of us. Figures such as Peter, Stephen, Paul, Barnabas, and Timothy shine as these relatable yet inspiring role models.
Finally, I would highly recommend reading Luke and Acts regardless of your stance on Christianity. If you are a Christian, chances are you’ve already read at least excerpts from these books, but reading them one more time certainly won’t hurt. Every time I reread a book, I take something new from it, and the same definitely applies to these two books. And if you’re not a Christian, reading these books will give you an understanding of the foundations of Christianity and its historical roots. For these reasons I cannot recommend these two books highly enough.
The book of Romans, written by Paul while incarcerated in Rome, is one of the last letters that Paul wrote. While the entire epistle of Romans is filled with thought-provoking theology, today I’ll focus on two of my favorite verses in the entire Bible, both found in Romans:
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves; never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” (Romans 12:10-12)
I love this passage because I think it represents what Christian love should look like. Honor one another above yourselves, commit wholeheartedly to everything you do, and above all exalt the Lord in your daily lives. Even without reading the rest of the Bible, this verse provides a starting point for what a Christian life should look like. Because of its simple profundity and its truth, I have appreciated this verse and tried to live it out since as far back as middle school.
“For I am convinced that neither life nor death, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
I discovered this verse in high school, and it has become perhaps my personal favorite verse in the entire Bible. Again, if all I had to go by was this verse and I didn’t have access to the rest of the Bible, I would have a simple understanding of God’s truth from this verse alone. Because of God’s love for us in Christ Jesus, we are not separated from God and cannot be separated from God no matter what earth or Hell or anything in between tries to throw at us. If nothing else in this life, we are secure in God’s love for us. This verse is an inspiring comfort, but it’s also a call to action: God loves us, so what are we going to do about it? (The answer, I think, is the other passage: be devoted to one another in brotherly love…)
In conclusion, Romans is one of my favorite New Testament books because it is full of deep theological truths put in simple and accessible words. The passages I focused on today are just two from sixteen chapters of wonderfully insightful theology. As with all the other books discussed thus far, I highly recommend giving Romans a read.
Finally, the book of Ephesians has been one of my favorites for about three years. Also written by Paul as a letter to the church in Ephesus, this book preaches on unity within the Church.
“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:1-6)
Again, one of my favorite verses in the Bible. Because this passage reminds us that Christians are Christians, regardless of denomination. Who cares if we don’t practice our faith in exactly the same way? I don’t think God cares, so why should we? God is concerned with our hearts. And if our hearts are in the right place – trying to honor God – then everything else is secondary. Maybe we don’t all practice our faiths in exactly the same way, but that’s why God created different people with different experiences. “Perhaps God created different kinds of people because he wants to be worshipped in many different ways.” (Thomas More, Utopia)
And this belief is what Paul tries to communicate in the epistle of Ephesians. When you boil Christian belief down to its core, we all hold the same basic beliefs: Jesus died and rose to save us, and we need to try to love our God with all our heart and neighbors as ourselves. Everything else falls into place after this, yet so often through history there have been wars fought over differences within the Church.
This book is a great read for Christians from any faith background because it is a wonderful reminder from Paul as to what unity within the Church should look like: one body. One Lord, one faith. One God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Well, there are my personal favorite books from the New Testament! What are your opinions on them? What are your favorite Biblical books? Comment below and let me know!