It’s not possible to reduce any book of the New Testament to a single verse. But if it were, here’s what they might be and why:
Matthew 1:1 The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. (All verses KJV)
Matthew, more than any other gospel, focuses on Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies regarding the messiah to come. This verse alludes to Jesus as the Seed of Abraham which will bless the world, and to Jesus as a Davidic king, two key Old Testament prophecies which, to Jews, would be influential in seeing Jesus as the messiah.
Mark 12:30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
Mark, as one of the gospels, deals with the life and message of Jesus Christ. This verse is the greatest commandment according to Jesus. Christians interpreted Jesus’ teachings differently than the ritualistic and sacrificial system of Judaism and taught that what God really wants is complete devotion, not works. Out of this devotion comes works, but the devotion is central to Christianity.
Luke 4:18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
The Gospel of Luke, written by a gentile, shows the good news of Jesus is for all regardless of birth or background. As Jesus explains in quoting the book of Isaiah, through Jesus, the gospel is sent even to social outcasts. The gospel of Jesus Christ then sets people free from the pain of living in a sinful world by giving them hope of a world to come.
John 1:29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
The Gospel of John, more than any other gospel, focuses on Jesus as the son of God who also, in another sense, is the Paschal or Passover lamb. John uniquely includes such details as the crucifixion taking place at the same time as when the Passover lamb would have been sacrificed for the sins of Israel. In analogy, Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
Acts 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
The book of Acts is the beginning of Christianity’s evangelism. Pentecost, which is summarized in this verse, explains this beginning with the Holy Spirit indwelling and empowering Christians to evangelize to many other nations and tongues. Christianity then quickly spread around the Mediterranean.
Romans 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
The central message of the Epistle to the Romans is that salvation is by faith. As this verse and the surrounding passage makes clear, salvation is not dependent upon race or works or anything except believing in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 3:16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
The First Epistle to the Corinthians is a long rebuke of ungodly living. Paul rebukes the church and encourages holy living. Paul argues in this verse that, since God himself in the form of the Holy Spirit lives within each Christian, the church should be unified just as God is one. From this ethics of unity, Paul commands and encourages Christians to collectively build up the church through actions fitting for the community of God including, notably, having only moral sexual relations.
2 Corinthians 12:9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians is a defense of Paul, who, although not visibly blessed by God in his life, is still a legitimate apostle of Christ. As explained in this verse, Christ does not use only the strong to proclaim his gospel, but by using the weak it is clear that it is the power of Christ that is making his name great and not the power of men. Glory in the spread of the gospel goes not to men but to God. Thus, those who suffer for Christ’s name ought to feel comforted and rejoice in their weaknesses because through them Christ is shown to be all the stronger.
Galatians 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
Galatians explains that Jewish law just points out that sin exists but is powerless to solve it. Thus, under the law, all would still be forever enslaved to sin. Christ, however, has set us free from the law and the bondage of sin and has given us the freedom to live righteously and according to the fruits of the Spirit of God.
Ephesians 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour.
Ephesians is an explanation of the gospel of Jesus Christ: that apart from Christ all are dead in sin, but Christ, because he so loved us, died in our place for the punishment for our sins. From this gospel comes the commandment to love because Christ loved us.
Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.
Philippians is a book of encouragement. The problems of this life should be met with joy because God provides for us. Instead of being anxious, Christians ought to find contentment and should trust in the provision of God.
Colossians 2:20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,
Colossians is Paul’s response to a heresy infecting he church at Colossae. The heresy claimed faith in the death and resurrection of Christ for us is not enough for salvation, but other, probably Jewish, practices and rituals must still be followed. As Paul explains here, if we have died with Christ from the world, as the gospel asserts, then such ritualism makes no sense. Christ is the only actor in salvation and our deeds are not.
1 Thessalonians 5:23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The First Epistle to the Thessalonians explains that the second coming of Jesus is the basis for living the Christian life. Because Christians have hope in Jesus’ return to judge the world, and that this return will happen without warning, Christians have motivation to live blameless lives now.
2 Thessalonians 1:7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,
Paul’s Second Epistle to the Thessalonians explains that despite difficulties for Christians, Christ will return to comfort them. Paul prophesies elsewhere in the book that there will be a time of general apostasy and the rise of lawlessness in which Christians may suffer. Yet through these sufferings Christians should stand firm in the faith and Jesus will comfort them.
1 Timothy 4:12 Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
Paul’s First Epistle to Timothy explains that the gospel leaves a significant change on the believer. Christians living out their faith live differently than nonbelievers. From this, Paul offers advice to Timothy, a young pastor, to unashamedly be that example to the church in Ephesus.
2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
Paul encourages Timothy to persevere in the proclamation of the gospel despite suffering. Paul here explains that despite his own problems, he has persevered and that his perseverance is completely worth the cost.
Titus 1:1 Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness;
The Book of Titus explains that there is an inseparable link between faith and practice. Here “acknowledging of the truth” which is faith, goes hand in hand with “godliness,” which is good works. From this starting point, Paul explains that in order for one to be a church leader, one ought to not just proclaim faith, but also demonstrate their faith through holy lives.
Philemon 16 Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord?
The Book of Philemon shows that the gospel is powerful to transform lives. Because, through Christ, Christians are reconciled to God, Christians can be reconciled to each other. Here, the slave Onesimus is being sent back to his former master not as a slave but as a reconciled brother in Christ.
Hebrews 8:13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.
The Book of Hebrews explains that Jesus and his new covenant is in every way superior to the old covenant. Jesus is a greater prophet than Moses, a priest and intermediary greater than any type in the highest in the Levitical line, a greater manifestation of God than the tabernacle and for good measure, greater than any angel as well. Humanity faces judgment for sin and so must look for a reconciliatory covenant with God, and only the new covenant requiring faith in Jesus Christ will do.
James 2:17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
The Book of James explains that, while salvation is still through faith alone, saving faith is never alone but is always accompanied by works. Thus James encourages Christians to demonstrate their faith through good works.
1 Peter 1:13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
Peter’s first epistle attempts to comfort Christians in the midst of pain and suffering by pointing them to the return of Christ during which he will make all things right. Christians are called to set their minds to the future and so endure suffering.
2 Peter 3:2 That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour:
Peter’s second epistle explains that the day of the lord is coming as predicted by the prophets, and so Christians ought to live righteously as Christ commanded. The book goes on to explain that God has given us the ability to live according to righteous virtues through his Holy Spirit.
1 John 4:9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
John’s first epistle explains that God loves mankind so much that he did not let them continue forever in their sinful station but sent his Son to suffer in place of the sins of the world so that mankind might live through Christ. This new life in Christ is both the eternal one to come but also the present earthly life in which true Christians ought to and do follow his commands.
2 John 6 And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.
John’s second epistle focuses on love, and how out of the love Christians have for God comes obedience to his commandments.
3 John 11 Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.
The Third Epistle of John is a short book of encouragement for the recipient to continue as they have in the faith. Because, as John explains, the recipient does good for the truth of God he has some assurance of his salvation.
Jude 3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith that was once delivered unto the saints.
The Book of Jude explains that false prophets and heresies are creeping into the church and that Christians must hold fast to the gospel and love of Jesus Christ. Christians ought not to flee from interaction with unbelievers but to compassionately engage them so that some may be saved and the faith may be advanced.
Revelation 22:12 And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
The book of Revelation is the account of the end times. This account exists to encourage Christians that soon enough Christ will be revealed as victorious over all his opponents and will soon judge the world and reward his saints. Revelation motivates Christians to live for the kingdom of God and the glory of Jesus Christ.
How would you sum up each book in a single one of its verses? What would you change about my list?