A SUMMARY OF THE REMAINING BOOKS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
The Eight Supplementary Books
As we have seen, the thirteen books from Romans to Philemon are the definition of the Body of Christ. In this definition, there is the aspect of teaching and the aspect of instruction, the side of life and the side of practice. It seems that these books are complete. Why then is there the need to have another group of eight Epistles: Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter, John’s three Epistles, and Jude? The first group of thirteen Epistles were all written by one apostle, Paul, giving us a full definition of the Body of the universal man, the church, on the two sides of life and practice. The latter group, however, was written by a composition of writers, including Paul, James, Peter, John, and Jude. These books are not, strictly speaking, directly related to the definition of the church. Rather, they are supplementary in nature.
Christ and Judaism in Hebrews
The first book of this group is Hebrews, which shows us the difference between Christ and Judaism. There is the need of this book to help Christians, especially the Jewish Christians, know the position of the Old Testament and Judaism. This supplementary book makes it very clear that the things in the Old Testament and Judaism are types and shadows. The body, the reality, is Christ Himself. When the reality comes, there is no need to hold on to the shadows, the types; we should put them away. The Old Testament is simply a type of Christ, and since Christ, the reality, has come, the type must be put away. This is the purpose of the book of Hebrews.
Faith and Works in James
The book of James is also a supplement, showing us the relationship between faith and works. It adjusts the wrong concept concerning faith, telling us that the proper, living faith must be followed and proved by works and it should produce works. This balance and adjustment in our understanding of faith is very important in the Christian life.
The Government of God in 1 and 2 Peter
Without the proper help, we may read 1 and 2 Peter for a long time without knowing what they are about. The subject of these books is important yet mysterious and hard to perceive. The concepts of suffering, the cross, and judgment are found in these two books, but this is not the central thought. Rather, these two books reveal the mysterious, divine government of God. Many of the sufferings we experience are due to God’s government, and judgment is also related to God’s government. Because God governs, He judges. In the first thirteen Epistles, Paul does not deal with this point very much, so there is the need for 1 and 2 Peter as a supplement. We can see the government of God in every chapter of these books.
Many of our circumstances come from God’s government. According to God’s government, we must abide by certain rules. If we do not keep these rules, we will suffer. We can compare this to the government in the United States. If we do not obey the laws and regulations of the federal and state governments, we will have trouble. When we drive a car, we have to drive according to the traffic regulations. To get a traffic ticket after neglecting a stop sign is a matter of government. In the same way, as the children of God we need to keep the rules and the regulations of the divine government.
Many sufferings come because of the divine government. Many times we suffer because we are wrong; we are violating the regulations and laws of God’s government. In the universe today there is such a thing as the government of God. Whether or not people respect it, the government of God is still here. We all must learn this. The entire contents of these two books prove to us that even today, before the manifestation of the kingdom, during this age of rebellion on the earth among mankind, and even among Christians, God still has His government.
The most significant verse in 1 Peter is found in 4:17, which says, “For it is time for the judgment to begin from the house of God; and if first from us, what will be the end of those who disobey the gospel of God?” This refers to the government of God. The supplement of 1 and 2 Peter tells us that we, the people of God, must realize that there is a divine government in the universe. We should not be ignorant or foolish; we must respect God’s government today.
(General Sketch of the New Testament in the Light of Christ and the Church, A - Part 2: Romans through Philemon, Chapter 15, by Witness Lee)