It is the order in which things occurred. It is basic to studying and understanding the New Testament. When we turn to the New Testament in the Bible, we meet the Gospel of Matthew and assume that it was written first. In reality, Paul wrote first, the letters to the Thessalonians and ended from prison with Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and two letters to Timothy. He became a Christian while on the road to Damascus. He was introduced to Ananias, a disciple of Jesus. Next, he sought out his cousin Barnabas in Jerusalem, who introduced Paul to Peter and the leaders (Ac: 9). He spent some 14 years in isolation searching the Old Testament so he could defend Jesus as the Messiah (Gal.1: 11-2:5). At that time, the written Gospels were still in the making. Paul motivated his companion Luke, a physician, to write the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. His disagreement with John Mark may have triggered the writing of the Gospel of Mark (Ac.13: 13). Scholars regard Mark as having been groomed by Peter (Ac.12: 12). It is believed that Jesus had his last meal in his mother’s home and that he also knew the Lord.
Mark appears to have written the first Gospel. He did not agree with Paul on Christ’s immediate return (Mk.13) and with Peter and Paul on handing out punishment (Ac.5: 1-11; 13:9). Jesus had come to save and not to hurt (Mk.10: 45). Matthew and Luke used almost all of Mark’s material, plus a source identified as “Q”. Then there is a source “M” only present in Matthew and one “L” only found in Luke. Matthew agreed with Mark, but in more detail. Luke agreed on a later return of Christ and on His gentile nature; but he favored Peter and Paul in Acts on the work of the Holy Spirit (Ac.2: 1-13). He was also first to regard the kingdom of Jesus as a moral issue (Lk.17: 21). Luke, agreeing with Paul, regarded the speaking in tongues as a Spirit manifestation (I Cor.14; Ac.10: 44). Only, it created more problems than answers. It became a means to separate the saints from the sinners. Fortunately for posterity, the late fourth Gospel of John resolved the problems.
John Zebedee was exiled to the Island of Patmos where he spent his life in isolation (Rev.1: 9). The news that reached him indicated that issues interfered with the purpose for which Christ had come into the world. John considered his mission to show why people should believe in Jesus (Jn.20: 31) and that the Holy Spirit’s primary function was to reinforce that message (Jn.14: 15-27; 16: 5-16). It was prior to Acts 2: 1-4 that Jesus had breathed the Holy Spirit on the disciples before they were commissioned as agents of reconciliation (Jn.20: 21-23). John no longer hesitated to proclaim Jesus as the Son of God, that leaders must experience a new birth, the kingdom was not of this world (Rome had ended the existence of Judah) and Jesus was preparing a place for His followers in God’s world. Without the Gospel of John, posterity would have continued dabbling in unrelated problems. And those that disregard or take the Gospel out of its sequence, skate on thin ice.
Historical sequence is essential to our understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit. In fact it is necessary to see the relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. John’s Epistles and the Book of Revelation may have preceded the Fourth and final Gospel. In the light of all the other New Testament writings, John’s Gospel stands out as a summation of the essentials we need to make it into the kingdom of heaven. And this summation was issued from the Father, the Son and the Counselor (Jn.14: 23-26).