The bible reveals God to us. That’s its purpose. Its only mission: to illustrate God in a way we can understand. The Bible is a collection of sacred texts that were written by men under the inspiration of God. The very first Bibles had 80 books in them, but over the years these books were pared down to 66 books we use today. The excluded books were ultimately judged less reliable and less provably authentic. In Theology class, they teach you that the Bible is the orderly and progressive self-revelation of a divine God. What that means is, the Bible is, literally, the Word of God and God inhabits that Word (John 1:1). To read the Bible is to commune with that Word. To commune with that Word is to fellowship with God. Got that?
The Bible tells us The Story of Jesus. From Genesis, the very first book, to Revelation, the very last book, everything in the Bible fits together, like divine Lego bricks, to tell a larger story: the story of Jesus. Jesus represents mankind’s reconciliation with a divine God, and the Bible has but one purpose: to bring us closer to God.
There’s a lot of ways to tackle this book. But if you are new to it, the worst way to do this is to try and comb through Genesis to Revelation without being familiar with the book and how it is designed to speak to you.
The Bible is a reference book, not a novel. It is arranged by sections: Law, Prophecy, The Writings, The Gospels, and Letters, which we call Epistles. These books form the basis of how we express our faith in God (what we call “doctrine”).
In terms of what we do on Sunday mornings and how we should be living our lives, you should read at least two chapters a night. Start with the Gospel of Mark. Mark is what we call a Synoptic Gospel, a reliable text that summarizes the story of Jesus. Mark was likely written as a missionary book, what we call a tract, for new converts to Christianity. It is simple and easy to understand, fast paced and straightforward. And, at 16 chapters, you’ll get through it in a week.
Then jump over to Philippians. The church at Philippi was one of Paul’s favorites, and he wrote this simple and straightforward letter to them while he was in prison. Philippians encourages the new believers to know we can do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13), and places the responsibility for our salvation squarely on us (2:12).
Then try the Epistle of James. James was Jesus’ biological brother, a leader in the Jerusalem church. His epistle deals almost exclusively with Christian conduct, mainly with how we use our tongue and how we should treat one another. James deals with issues of genuine faith as opposed to a practiced religion, and this book is vital to understanding what church and Christianity is supposed to be about.
After James, swing back to Acts. Acts is like The Gospels Part II. The Disciple Luke, a historian with a great attention to detail, picks up the story of Jesus from where it leaves off in the Gospels, and tells the story of the early Church.
As for which version to read: please don’t let yourself get caught up in arguments over which version of The Bible is legit. Just find yourself a version you can read. A version that you WILL read. It’s a good idea to read an official translation as opposed to a paraphrase. A paraphrase is a version based on the King James and translated into modern language. A reliable translation is a version derived from the original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts.
However you do it, just dive in. The Bible is a rich and vibrant record that speaks directly to your heart and brings you closer to God. The more you pick it up, the closer you get to God. Skip a TV show (or even half a TV show) and give yourself two chapters a day. You’ll be amazed at the difference it will make.
WHY FAITH MATTERS
HOW TO KNOW YOU ARE BORN AGAIN
WHAT IT IS, WHAT IT’S NOT, HOW IT WORKS
WHAT IT IS, WHO’S GOING THERE