The New Testament and the Contemporary Life

Exegesis, 2020

7 Pages, Grade: 95


I. The problem
1.1. Does the New Testament text have limited or specific application?
1.2. What is there within the text that suggests it has universal application?
1.3. How may one distinguish between specific and universal application?

II. A proposed solution
2.1. The meaning and means to salvation


I. The problem

The problem facing the modern student of the New Testament is that of application. One of the most difficult questions is how to understand the original intention of the New Testament for current human history when the material is two thousand years old. Most often students wonder whether all people are accountable to the teachings of the gospel, the New Testament in general. However, the New Testament possesses several evidences that some passages have specific application because their original audience and intended purposes are known. In this piece of work, we will highlight some ideas.

1.1. Does the New Testament text have limited or specific application?

Given that one can easily identify the original audience and the purpose of writing some passages of the New Testament, one may argue that these contents have specific applications. For example, the discussions found in 1 Corinthians 11: 5-7, about covering or not covering heads, is not holding to any contemporary Christians but only Corinthians. Similarly, one can see that the letter to Philemon was intended to Philemon, Archipus, Appia and the Church meeting at Philemon’s house. We also read in Acts 21:10-11:

After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.

This prophecy given by Agabus is intended only for the apostle Paul and neither is it applicable to all Jews nor to any contemporary Christians. Another example is from Revelation 14: 1-4, where we see 144,000 saints who had been redeemed from the earth. This number only reflects Jews and no Gentile should claim to be one of them.

While this does not negate the idea of ​​universal application, the above evidence shows that New Testament scriptures have specific or limited applications that people should carefully consider. The text’s universal application by any race, any time will be discussed in the next question below.

1.2. What is there within the text that suggests it has universal application?

We have seen that the text of the New Testament was often intended for a known audience and written for a specific purpose. However, the scriptures contain different principles which have universal applications by all humans at all times. That is, the text is capable of dealing with any similar situation that humanity may face at any time.

For example, John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”. This applies to both the original audience and the secondary audience. We all know that this has been God’s plan to reconcile Him with humankind, from the beginning of time. It was even part of God's promise to humanity in the Edenic covenant after the fall of Adam. Another complementary verse is that of Romans 3:23 which highlight this Fall: “….for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”. This verse has also a universal application. We read a promise applicable to all believers from all nations, in John 14:12 “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” There is another principle, in Galatians 6:7, which shows that a man reaps what he sows. This is not only applicable to its original audience, but also the secondary ones.

All of the above examples show that the scriptures do have universal applications. However, one now may face the question to identify which Bible passage has a specific or universal application. We will try to address it in the next question.

1.3. How may one distinguish between specific and universal application?

As a guideline, the reader should try to understand the original audience, the intention of the author, and the universal implications of the message for the secondary audience in order to distinguish between universal or specific applications.

For example, we read in Acts 12:23 “Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.” This passage speaks of Herod's arrogance, but informs the secondary audience that God will punish all arrogant people, of any race, at all times. Another example can be from Acts 2: 4 describing the event of Pentecost, whereby the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues. This passage refers to the disciples who were present in Jerusalem, praying and waiting as Jesus had commanded them. In no case can this passage reflect to other people at a given place or time. However, it has a contemporary principle application that all believers filled with the Holy Spirit can speak in tongue, as the Holy Spirit gives him or her. Likewise, we can use 1 Tim 2: 9 to infer that all women should dress decently as in the days of Paul. The similar example that we have seen recently, in the universal application of the gospel, is John 14:12, which was originally intended for the disciples of Jesus at that, time, but applicable to the contemporary public.

After going through these steps, one can conclude on the challenge, by a new student, about the application of the New Testament. However, it has been clarified that one can easily identify the original audience and the purpose of the writing, which can speak of the specific or universal application. The key is to understand the original intent of the scriptures.

II. A proposed solution

2.1. The meaning and means to salvation

The meaning and means of salvation are clarified by the scriptures, but contemporary Christian leaders tend to preach something different, sometimes due to lack of proper training or purposely based on their pursuit of other benefits.

For example, the concept of Christianity has changed in many churches in Rwanda, where some people resort to pursuing theological education and to establishing Church ministry as instruments for economic profit. There has also been a question of Christians who, after significant financial and behavioral conflicts, left their churches [sometime after disciplinary sanctions] to establish new churches. Many of these ministers have been criticized for having no theology or secular education, nor do they have real ministerial orientation. Similarly, many Christians would move from a church to church looking for leadership positions or financial benefits. These contemporary practices of the churches are symptomatic of the commercialization and the commodification of religion. Therefore, not all Christian leaders have an appropriate package for their Christians, hence the misinterpretation of many Bible verses, unwittingly or intentionally wanting the Bible to speak for them.

A concrete example is when preachers pronounce John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”; but preach heretical teachings as if the son of God they are referring to is not the one spoken in the Bible. The correct understanding of the Son of God reflected in the protest Bible would lead to a correct understanding of salvation and means to it, otherwise any further assertion about the meaning and means of salvation would be a miserable pipe dream. It is indeed important that the reader him/herself moves towards the correct meaning of salvation in the next passage.

The correct understanding of salvation must reflect man's deliverance from sin and its consequences through the power of the cross of Jesus Christ. One of the consequences of sin is death, but Hebrew 2:14-15 teaches: “Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” Therefore, death has no power on those who are saved by the cross of Jesus. While death uses many tools such as disease or accidents to destroy people's lives, salvation frees us from the presence, power, or penalty of sin. It is clear in Acts 4:12 that Salvation is not found in anyone else, for there is no other name under heaven given to humanity by which we are to be saved. This is achieved by believing in Jesus Christ and being born again, then our body, soul, and spirit are continually saved from the power of sin and we are kept blameless until Jesus comes back for His church (1 Thessalonians 4:23). This continuous salvation demands us to keep obeying the scripture: “ Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).


Excerpt out of 7 pages


The New Testament and the Contemporary Life
Nations University
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ISBN (eBook)
testament, contemporary, life
Quote paper
Dr. Sixbert Sangwa (Author), 2020, The New Testament and the Contemporary Life, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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