What is the Bible?
The Bible is evidence that the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present God wants mankind to know Him. It is a collection of writings that Christians consider to be the inspired and authoritative word of God. While it is one unified book, it is comprised of sixty-six smaller books. These smaller books were written by men of various historical time periods, backgrounds, personalities, and cultures, but were all guided by the Holy Spirit.
The purpose of the Bible is to bring readers to receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is forgiveness of sin, a relationship with God, and eternal life.
How is the Bible organized?
The Bible does not read like a novel or textbook, nor is it organized in chronological order. It is instead divided into two halves, the Old Testament and the New Testament. These two Testaments are then separated into genres.
The Old Testament is comprised of four genres: Law, Historical, Wisdom, and Prophetical. The Law books cover Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Historical books cover Joshua to Esther. The Wisdom books cover from Job to Song of Solomon. The Prophetical books are comprised of Major and Minor Prophets. The Major Prophets cover Isaiah to Daniel. The Minor Prophets cover Hosea to Malachi.
Here is a chart that might be helpful:
The New Testament is comprised of three genres: Gospel and Acts, The Pauline Letters, and General Letters and Revelation. The Gospel and Acts cover Matthew to Acts. The Pauline Letters cover Romans to Philemon. The General Letters and Revelation cover Hebrews to Revelation.
Here is a chart that might be helpful:
Who wrote the Bible—humans or God?
In short, both. God used humans to write the Bible. The authors were conscious, cognizant human beings that the Lord supernaturally guided and inspired. This assured that every word written would be what God wanted and be without error. The words in the Bible are simultaneously the words of a human author and the words that God wanted to use to reveal who He is.
Which is the best English Bible translation?
There are numerous English Bible translations available. To simplify things, there are two ends of the spectrum when it comes to English Bible translations. There is a “paraphrase” side and a “formal” side. The Message translation is an example of a translation on the paraphrase side. The ESV and NKJV translations fall on the formal side. The NIV translation lands in the middle of the two.
What is the overarching message of the Bible?
The story of the Bible can be summarized into four words: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. God created a perfect world (creation) that mankind destroyed with sinful rebellion (fall). The only way to redeem the world is through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (redemption), and now we await His return to restore all back to perfection (restoration). The message of the Bible reveals our need for Jesus, the promise of Jesus, the work of Jesus, and the return of Jesus. The Old Testament is an arrow that points to the coming of Jesus and the New Testament is an arrow that points back to Him. Therefore, Jesus is the central, protagonistic figure of the Bible and the purpose of redemption and restoration is the overarching message.
Do all the commands of the Bible apply today?
Some commands of the Bible apply today and some do not. The commands found in the Old Testament Law (Genesis through Deuteronomy) have now been completed and fulfilled in Christ, and do not apply to us today. They are referred to as the Old Covenant. The commands found in the New Testament do apply to us today, and are referred to as the New Covenant.
What are some general principles for interpreting the Bible?
Here are some general principles for interpreting the Bible:
Pray about what you read.
Consider how what you’re reading points to Jesus.
Use Scripture to interpret Scripture (in other words, use more clear passages to help you with less clear passages).
Meditate on what you’re reading.
Approach what you’re reading with faith and obedience.
Keep in mind what genre you’re reading.
Be aware of the historical or cultural background of what you’re reading.
Look at what you’re reading in context.
Read the Bible with people.
Can a text have more than one meaning?
For every verse, there is one meaning, but there could be various implications. The verse may be speaking of one subject, but could be applied in many ways to your life. A good example is Proverbs 11:1: “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight.” The author of Proverbs is speaking specifically about weights, scales, and balances in business. But to the modern reader, this verse tells us to be honest and truthful in the workplace. The verse means one thing specifically, but can be applied in our lives in many ways.
What’s in it for me?
The Bible is alive and as powerful as ever. It is the key to hearing God, knowing God, and understanding truth. It is our peek into the character of God, it is our guide through life, and it is the ultimate authority on every subject. It’s not an ancient religious book destined for a museum or another bookshelf novel fated to collect dust. It’s the living words of our Creator, and is a precious gift that we should not take for granted. If we want to hear the voice of God, all we need to do is open our Bible. He’s personally speaking to us.
Where do I start?
If you are interested in making steps in your time in the Word, a good starting point would be the book of Luke. You can start with a few verses a day, and build from there. It’s also great to keep a journal to write down your thoughts. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you revelation as you read, and He will.
There is also a popular method called S.O.A.P. that might be helpful. It is an acronym that stands for Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer. You write down what you read, what you observed in the verses, how it applies to your life, and then you finish by saying a prayer. S.O.A.P. is a great way to take what you hear from God and allow it to work on you.
Here is an example:
Scripture: Luke 8:22-25 / Jesus Calms a Storm
Observation: Jesus gets on a boat with His disciples and tells them they are going to the other side. As they sailed, Jesus fell asleep. While He was asleep, a bad storm arose and the boat was filling with water. The disciples woke Jesus and asked Him for help. He then spoke and told the storm to stop and it did. He asked them why they had little faith, and they marveled at His ability to control even the wind and waves.
Application: In my life, Jesus has control over the things I do not. Therefore, I can trust Him with my life and the things that are out of my control. In my circumstances, He has the final say and can bring peace when I need it the most.
Prayer: Lord, I pray for you to calm the storms in my life today. I pray for your peace and comfort, and I pray that my faith in you would increase. Help me to trust in you whatever comes my way. In Jesus’ name, amen.