One Perfect Life: The Complete Story of the Lord Jesus
Over the course of my ministry, I have spent decades studying, preaching, and writing commentaries on the four gospels. The Holy Spirit-inspired quartet is the pinnacle of Scripture because in it the Lord Jesus Christ is most perfectly revealed and God most clearly manifest. Nothing comes close to the rich reward of understanding the truth and glory of His matchless life.
The Holy Spirit gave us four gospels and, specifically, three of them are synoptic (from a Greek word meaning to share a common point of view) so that the truth concerning our Lord and Savior might be established on the basis of two or three witnesses (cf. Deut. 19:15; Matt. 18:16; 2 Cor. 13:1). Because each writer emphasized different themes from His life, the four historical testimonies provide a powerful and profound composite picture of the Son of God and Son of Man.
- Matthew wrote primarily to a Jewish audience, presenting Jesus of Nazareth as Israel’s long awaited Messiah and rightful King. His genealogy, unlike Luke’s focuses on Jesus’ royal descent from Israel’s greatest King, David. Interspersed throughout Matthew are OT quotes presenting various aspects of Jesus’ life and ministry as the fulfillment of OT messianic prophecy. Matthew alone uses the phrase “kingdom of heaven,” avoiding the parallel phrase “kingdom of God” because of the unbiblical connotations it had in first-century Jewish thought. Matthew wrote his gospel, then, to strengthen the faith of Jewish Christians, and it provides a useful apologetic tool for Jewish evangelism.
- Mark targeted a Gentile audience, especially a Roman one. Mark is the gospel of action; the frequent use of “immediately” and “then” keeps his narrative moving rapidly along. Jesus appears in Mark as the Servant (cf. Mark 10:45) who came to suffer for the sins of many. Mark’s fast-paced approach would especially appeal to the practical, action-oriented Romans.
- Luke addressed a broader Gentile audience. As an educated Greek, Luke wrote using the most sophisticated literary Greek of any NT writer. He was a careful researcher (Luke 1:1–4) and an accurate historian. Luke portrays Jesus as the Son of Man (a title appearing 26 times), the answer to the needs and hopes of the human race, who came to seek and save lost sinners (Luke 9:56; 19:10).
- John, the last gospel written, emphasizes the deity of Jesus Christ (e.g., 5:18; 8:58; 10:30–33; 14:9). John wrote to strengthen the faith of believers and to appeal to unbelievers to come to faith in Christ.
Taken together, the 4 gospels weave a complete portrait of the God-Man, Jesus of Nazareth. In Him were blended perfect humanity and deity, making Him the only sacrifice for the sins of the world, and the worthy Lord of those who believe. (The MacArthur Study Bible Introduction to the Gospels)
These four are in perfect harmony with each other because the infallible Holy Spirit is the one divine author who inspired and guided the four writers into all truth (John 16:13). Each is an inerrant record that can be harmonized with the others down to the smallest details.
The end result is the best news the world has ever been given, about the most significant life in all history, Jesus Christ.
The objective is to bring into full view the One who is Immanuel, God with us, the Eternal Word made flesh, the preexistent, coexistent, self-existent Son of God who became the Son of Man to die and rise again for our salvation.
For believers, the full vision of the Lord Jesus is the supreme means by which we are sanctified—as we are enraptured by His glory and conformed into His image. As Paul explained to the Corinthians, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18).
For unbelievers, the full vision of the Lord Jesus is the supreme means by which they are saved. John said this about His gospel and the three that came before: “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31). May God use it to that end.
An excerpt from One Perfect Life: The Complete Story of the Lord Jesus by John MacArthur.
John MacArthur is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, president of The Master’s College and Seminary, and featured teacher with the Grace to You media ministry. In more than four decades of ministry, John has written dozens of bestselling books, including The MacArthur Study Bible, The Gospel According to Jesus, and Slave. He and his wife, Patricia, have four married children and fifteen grandchildren.