Since the keeping of records began, the Bible has easily been our world’s best-selling publication. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, its total sales now stand at just over 5 billion.1 That’s an amazing number. If the Bible were still included in the various ‘best-selling’ lists we see reported today, it would hold first place each and every week, each and every year. Inside its cover, the even more amazing story the Bible tells unfolds through 66 different books, written by over 40 authors during a period of around 1500 years. Between them, their writing consists of almost 1200 chapters. That’s a lot to read if you are just getting started! As a little introduction, then, we have tried to summarise the story of the Bible in just seven paragraphs…
1.as of Feb 2019
The opening ten words of the Bible point us to perhaps its most important truth:
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen 1:1)
Amidst our modern culture in which we are so often focussed on ourselves, the Scriptures begin, and resound, with a simple declaration. Our world has a Creator and it is He who is truly at its centre. He is our maker, sustainer, and provider1. He is eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful, holy, just, loving and unchanging2. Best of all, the Bible tells us, this God who has made us has revealed himself – in Creation, in the history of the people of Israel, and now, fully, in the person, life, death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ3.
(1. See Gen 1.1, Ps 62:5-6, and Phil 4:19; 2. See Heb 4:13, Jer 32:17, 1 Pet 1:15-16, Isa 30:18, I John 4:8, and James 1:17; 3. See Heb 1:1-3)
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” 1 John 3.1
Beyond our first cause, the vital question of our lives is ‘Why are we here?” The Bible’s wonderful answer is, “Because of love.” In the accounts of Genesis, and throughout the Scriptures, we read that the God of the universe, who lives in the perfect communion of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, has created us so that we can know and be known by Him. So many of us have been led to believe that Christianity, like so many other religions, is about trying to appease an angry God. It is not true. Through Jesus, we are invited to a life of worship, not to mollify a capricious deity, but to enjoy and be blessed in the presence of the Creator of creation who cares for us. As Jesus Himself said, “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son”1 We are made in His image and to know Him is the ultimate reason we are here.2
1. See John 3:16-17, 2. Genesis 1:26-28, John 17:3
Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden”?” Gen 3.1
All relationships depend upon trust and faithfulness. Sadly, as the Bible continues, we discover that our race has proven itself deeply deficient in both. The tree in the famous Garden of Eden1 was not dangerous because it was poisonous. It was dangerous because to eat from it meant a deliberate rejection of God’s goodness and royal command. The poison that flowed in the veins of Adam and Eve in consequence to their eating was that of sin and rebellion – a stain which once injected into our humanity, has spread to, and infected, all of us.2 In listening to Satan’s lies, humanity choose to dishonour the One who made us. In following the path of selfishness rather than obedience, the Bible tells us that our forefathers destroyed our relationship with God. As a result, we are all now marred by sin and separated from God’s Holy presence. We, and our whole world, have ‘fallen’ from our original purpose and path.3
1. Gen 1:15-17, 2. Rom 3:23, 3. Rom 5:12, Isa 59:1-2
“ I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you.” Gen 17.7
The majority of the Old Testament charts God’s dealings with us after the disaster of Eden. As it reveals, despite our rebellion, God did not cast us away. Through a series of ‘covenants’, or sacred agreements, with great figures such as Noah, Moses and David1, and especially with Abraham2, God continued to call people into relationship with Himself. Eventually, he called the whole people of Israel to be His chosen nation3, to know Him and be a witness for Him to all the peoples of the earth4. God pledged to be their God and they pledged to be His people. This was a wonderful calling. Yet, throughout Israel’s history, the rebellion of Eden was repeated again and again5. But, still, God did not abandon us. Through His Prophets, He promised that one day a Messiah would come who would truly set His people free from their sin, undo the cycle of Eden’s corruption, and usher in a new and better Covenant that would be great news for all people.6
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.
As we move from the Old Testament to the four Gospels at the beginning of the New Testament, we come to the point in the Bible’s story where the long awaited Messiah finally appears.1 When John the Baptist saw Jesus at the beginning of his public ministry, he said to those around him, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’2 It can seem a strange metaphor to us, but, throughout Israel’s history, the sacrifice of an unblemished lamb had always been hugely important. Most significantly, at the time of Moses, it was the blood of such a lamb that had enabled God’s judgement upon Egypt to ‘pass over’ the Israelites.3 Every year, thereafter, on the day of Atonement, a ‘Passover’ lamb had been sacrificed in Israel for the sins of God’s people.4 Now, through the death of Jesus, God was about to deal with the problem of sin once and for all.5 Through the sacrifice of the true and faultless Lamb of God, the consequence of our falling in Eden would finally be atoned for.6 His faithful life, that none of us could ever hope to live, made Him a worthy offering. His selfless death on our behalf, redeemed us from our sin and rebellion – a debt we could never have hoped to pay. As the prophet Isaiah foretold many centuries before Jesus’ coming:,
“ He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Isa 53:5-6
- 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.
‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” Luke 22:20
In the book of Acts, and the other New Testament books that follow, we now read of the coming of the Holy Spirit and the early beginnings of the Church.1 As the New Testament writers joyously explain, through Jesus’ death God has made a way for us to return to Him by ushering in the promised New Covenant. When we hear the Gospel and turn back to Him, when we repent of our sin and put our faith in what Jesus has accomplished on the Cross, God freely and wonderfully forgives us. Entirely by his grace, He restores our relationship with Him and cleanses us from our sin. 2 And how can we know that this is true? We can know because after his sacrifice was complete, God validated all that Jesus taught by raising Him from the dead and seating Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms3. Now, when we return to God in faith, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit who makes us alive spiritually, seals us as God’s Sons and Daughters, and leads us in our lives as Jesus’ disciples. As well as incorporating us into Jesus’ body here on earth, the church, the Spirit reminds us of Jesus’ words and blesses us with spiritual gifts with which to serve one another and our wider communities.4 From this point forward, as the Apostle Paul puts it, the life we now live in the body, we live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave himself for us.5
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Galatians 2:20
Lastly, as we read the Scriptures, we find that this hope we have in Jesus is not just for this life. In his teaching, in the letters of the New Testament and, most famously, in the book of Revelation, the Bible assures us that God’s plans for us are far beyond our three score years and ten. The final promise of Jesus is that one day we will have a resurrection just like His. God will raise us, too, from the dead as He brings his final judgement upon the earth and as He completes His restoration of Creation by remaking the heavens and the earth. In this resurrection we will have new spiritual bodies, we will be gathered together with all those who have longed for and loved Jesus in their lives, and we will live once again in God’s presence in a world remade and cleansed from all of Eden’s tarnish. The Apostle John describes his vision of this wonderful day like this:
“Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth, .. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ Rev 21:1-4
It will be a wonderful conclusion to the truly incredible story recorded in the pages of the Bible. And this story.. is our story.