CONTENT OF THE
The word testament is a Latin word, whereby the Greek diatheke is rendered, which the Greek translators use to express the Hebrew word berith, that is, covenant. And thereby is properly understood the covenant itself, which God has made with mankind upon certain conditions to give them everlasting life. This covenant is twofold, the Old and the New. The Old is that which God made with the first man before the fall, in which eternal life was promised upon condition of a thoroughly perfect obedience and keeping of the law. It is therefore called thecovenant of the law, which God again propounded to the Israelites, that from this they might learn to understand (seeing this condition is transgressed by all people, and cannot be fulfilled now by any person) that they must seek their salvation in another covenant, which is called the New and consists in this: that God has ordained His Son for a Mediator, and promises eternal life upon condition that we believe in Him, and is called the Covenant of Grace.
And this also in regard of the several administrations thereof unto mankind is called the Old and New. The Old is the administration of this covenant before the coming of the Mediator, Who is promised to Abraham and his posterity from his seed, and is prefigured by manifold ceremonies described by Moses. The New is the administration of the same covenant, since the Son of God, the Mediator of this covenant, has come in the flesh, and has accomplished the reconciliation of people with God. These two covenants are of one kind as concerning their essence, forasmuch as in both forgiveness of sins, salvation and eternal life are promised upon condition of faith in the Mediator, but are distinguished in respect to the administration of both, which in the new is much clearer, without figures, and extends itself unto all nations. And the old may be suitably termed the testament of promise, and the new, the testament of fulfilment.
Moreover, by the Old and NewTestament are also commonly understood the books in which the establishment and administration are described, in which signification the words: The New Testament are taken here in the title, and are contrasted to the books of the holy prophets, in which the Mediator of this Covenant is promised, and described of what lineage and when He would become Man, what He would do and suffer to reconcile people unto God, and to procure and bring everlasting salvation unto them.
As therefore is foretold and typified in the writings of the Old Testament that the Messiah or Mediator, who would reconcile man unto God, would be the only begotten Son of God, eternal and true God with the Father and the Holy Ghost, Psalm 45:8; 110:1; Isa. 9:5; Jer. 23:6; 33:2; Micah 5:1; Mal. 3:1. And that He in the fullness of time would take upon Him the true human nature of a woman and a virgin, Gen. 3:15; Isa. 7:14, out of the stock of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and David, Gen. 21:12; 22:18; 49:9, 10; 2 Sam. 7:12; Isa. 11:1; Jer. 23:5. That He would be born in the city of Bethlehem, Micah 5:1, at the time when the scepter would be taken away from Judah, Gen. 49:10; Isa. 11:1; Dan. 9:24. That He, being born, would flee into Egypt, Hosea 11:1, be brought up at Nazareth, Isa. 11:1, and that He would have Elijah for His forerunner, who would preach in the wilderness and prepare the way for Him, Isa. 40:3; Mal. 3:1; 4:5. That He would begin to preach the Gospel in Galilee, Isa. 9:1; 9:2. That He would confirm His doctrine by many miracles, Isa. 35:5. That He would make His entrance into Jerusalem, riding upon a she-ass, Psalm 118:25; Zech. 9:9. That He would be betrayed by one of His disciples, Psalm 41:10; 55:14. That He would be sold for thirty pieces of silver, Zech. 11:12. That He would be scourged, mocked and spit upon, Isa. 50:6. That He would be dealt with as a malefactor, Isa. 53:12. That He would suffer for our sins, Isa. 53:3, 4. That He would suffer the extremist agonies in His soul, Psalm 22:2; Isa. 53:11. That He would be crucified, Deut. 21:23; Psalm 22:16. That He would be mocked upon the cross, and made to drink vinegar and gall, Psalm 22:7 and Psalm 69:21. That one would cast lots upon His garments, Psalm 22:18. That His bones would not be broken, Exod. 12:46; Psalm 34:20. That He would die a violent death, Isa. 53:8; Dan. 9:26. That He would be buried by a rich man, Isa. 53:9. That He would see no corruption in the grave, Psalm 16:10, but arise the third day from the dead, Isa. 53:10; Jonah 1:17. That He would ascend into heaven, and sit there at the right hand of God, Psalm 68:18; 110:1. And that from there He would send His Holy Spirit, Joel 2:28. Even so it is described by the holy evangelists and apostles in the writings of the New Testament, that all this was fulfilled in our Lord and Savior JESUS CHRIST.
Therefore the content of the books of the New Testament is, that in it is principally described the person and office of our Savior JESUS CHRIST. Concerning His Person, He is very God and a true and righteous Man in unity of Person. His divine nature is witnessed everywhere, when there are ascribed to Him the Names of God, such as are: JEHOVAH, the only begotten Son of God, the Prince of Life, Lord over all, Judge of the quick and the dead, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. Likewise divine attributes, such as are: infiniteness, eternity, omniscience and omnipotence. Divine works, such as are: the creation and preservation of all creatures, the election to everlasting life, the institution of the public worship and of the Sacraments, the gift of the Holy Ghost, regeneration, deliverance from the power of the devil, awakening from the dead, the judgment of the entire world, and sitting at the right hand of God, to which serves likewise the description of the manifold miracles which He wrought by His own power. And finally divine honor and worship also, namely, that we must believe in Him, pray unto Him, and be baptized in His Name. His human nature is described, when it is declared that He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, came of the stock of David, that He was born of the Virgin Mary, that He has a human soul, and a true human body, with all the natural properties of both, namely, that He did hunger and thirst, eat, sleep, that He was weary, wept, was troubled, felt pain, was angry and grieved.
His office, for which He was sent by the Father into the world, according to His surname CHRIST, that is, Anointed, is described to be threefold, namely, His Prophetical, Priestly and Kingly Office. His Prophetical office He executed, by Himself as well as by His disciples, especially twelve, whom He chose to be apostles. He preached the Gospel Himself, teaching that He was the true Messiah, and Savior, and that those who will obtain salvation, must believe in Him, and turn unto God. For which end He also expounded the law, and purged it from the false interpretations of the scribes and pharisees. He sent His apostles, after His ascension, into all the world, who preached unto all people the Gospel and conversion to God, both by word of mouth and a lively voice, and by their writings and epistles, which make a great part of the writings of the New Testament. He executed His Priestly Office, when here upon earth, He suffered for us both in body and soul the punishment that we had deserved by our sins, and being slain and put to death upon the cross. He offered up Himself to God His Father a sacrifice of reconciliation for us: and now that He is entered into the Holy of Holies, that is, into heaven, and being set down on the right hand of the Father, there He makes intercession for us. His Kingly Office He executed partly here on earth, when He delivered us from the violence of our enemies by His death, and defends and preserves us against it. He gave an sample thereof, by the casting out unclean spirits, by driving out the temple the buyers and sellers, and by His royal entrance into Jerusalem; partly, He executes it now above in heaven, governing His Church by His Word and Spirit, and defending them against the force and violence of their enemies, and punishing His and their enemies, and making them become the footstool of His feet. And He shall execute the same to the full, when He, coming to judgment, shall perfectly glorify His Church, and cast His enemies and all ungodly ones into everlasting death. This is the sum of what is written down and contained in the writings of the New Testament.
These writings of the New Testament may suitably be divided into two kinds of books. For, in some of them are set down certain acts or histories, and in others are handled certain articles of the Christian religion. Although in the historical books some points of doctrine are here and there also explained, and in the others likewise some histories are related, yet, notwithstanding, they are so distinguished in respect of that which is principally handled in them.
The historical books of the New Testament treat either of things which have already happened, or of things yet to occur. The things which have already taken place are described to be of two kinds: namely, such as occurred, either concerning the Lord JESUS CHRIST Himself, laid down in the four Gospels by the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, or such as were done by the holy apostles, described by Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles. The things that were yet to come to pass are described by John in his Revelation, in which is foretold and described the state of the Church of CHRIST after His ascension, unto the end of the world. The books which handle points of doctrine are the Epistles of the holy Apostles, of the apostle Paul as well as of some others. The apostle Paul has upon several occasions written fourteen epistles, some unto some special churches, namely, to the Romans one, to the Corinthians two, to the Galatians one, to the Ephesians one, to the Philippians one, to the Colossians one, to the Thessalonians two. Some are to particular persons, yet so as that the contents concern the entire Church, namely, to Timothy two, to Titus one, and to Philemon one. To which is to be added the epistle to the Hebrews, which is doubted of by some, though without reason, whether it was written by the apostle Paul. Certain other apostles have likewise written some epistles to the congregations, as James one, Peter two, John three and Jude one. These are the writings of the New Testament, all of which are written to this: … “that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”