Since the keeping of records began, the Bible has easily been our world’s best-selling publication. If it 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. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the total number of Bibles sold now stands at just over 5 billion.1
Inside its cover, the story the Bible tells unfolds through some 66 different books, authored by around 40 different authors who have written almost 1200 chapters. That’s a lot to read if you are new to the Scriptures! To help you get started, then, we have tried to summarise the story of the Bible in just seven paragraphs. Its only a short introduction but we hope it will be helpful.
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 maker1, sustainer2, and provider3. He is all-knowing4, all-powerful5, holy6, just7, loving8 and unchanging9. Most wondrously, the Bible tells us, this God who has made us has fully revealed himself – in Creation, in the history of the people of Israel, and supremely, in the person, life, death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ10.
(1. Gen 1.1, 2. Ps 62:5-6, 3. Phil 4:19, 4. Heb 4:13, 5. Jer 32:17, 6.1 Pet 1:15-16, 7. Isa 30:18, 8. I John 4:8, 9. James 1:17, 10. 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 answer is that we are here because of love. In the book of Genesis, and throughout the Scriptures, we discover 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. His purpose is that we might live forever with Him – and one another – in perfect relationship. As the Shorter Catechism puts it, our chief end is not to live for ourselves but ‘to glorify God and enjoy Him for ever.’¹ In our worship, then, we are not trying to appease an angry God – as so much human-made religion suggests – but rather we come to rejoice and be blessed in the presence of the God who loves us. “This is eternal life,” Jesus said in his great prayer in John 17:3, “that they know you, the only true God.” This is our amazing purpose. But sadly, as the Bible goes to explain, we have a serious problem to overcome if we are ever to find it.
(1. Question One, Shorter Catechism)
Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden”?” Gen 3.1
All relationships require trust and faithfulness. Sadly, as the Bible continues, we discover that our race has proven itself deeply fallen 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 an utter rejection of God’s goodness and Royal command. The poison that flowed in the veins of Adam and Eve after their eating was the stain of sin and rebellion – a stain which once injected into our humanity, has infected all who have come after them.2 In listening to Satan’s lies, dishonouring the One who created us, and choosing the path of selfishness rather than obedience, the Bible tells us that our forefathers destroyed humanity’s relationship with God. As a result, now marred by sin, and separated from God’s Holy presence as a result, not only we, but our whole world, ‘fell’ from our original purpose and path.3 It is a tragic picture, but, as the story goes on, we find God had not finished with us yet…
(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 how God dealt with us after the disaster of Eden. As the record reveals, despite our rebellion, He continued to reveal himself. Through a series of ‘covenants’, or sacred agreements, with great figures such as Noah1, Moses2and David3, and especially with Abraham in Genesis 174, God continued to call people into relationship with Himself. Eventually, he specificially called the people of Israel to be His chosen nation5, to know Him and be a witness for Him to all the peoples of the earth6. God pledged to be their God and they pledged to be His people. It was a wonderful opportunity. Yet, throughout Israel’s history, the rebellion of Eden was repeated again and again7. But ,still, God was not finished with us. Through His Prophets, God 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.8
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8
As we move from the Old Testament books to those in the New Testament, we come to the point in the Bible’s story where the long yearned-for 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 a lamb had always been hugely important. Most significantly, at the time of Moses, it was the blood of a lamb that had enabled God’s judgement upon Egypt to ‘pass over’ the Israelites.4 This deliverance was remembered each year on the day of Atonement, when a ‘Passover’ lamb was sacrificed for the sins of God’s people.5 Now, through the willing death of Jesus, God was about to deal with the problem of sin once and for all.6 Through Jesus’ sacrifice, the true and faultless Lamb of God, the consequence of our falling in Eden would finally be atoned for.7 The faithful life that none of us could never hope to live, Jesus lived for us. The cost of redemption for our sin and rebellion that we could never hope to pay, Jesus paid for us. As the prophet Isaiah foretold,
“ 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. 7. 8.
‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” Luke 22:20
Through Jesus’ death, God has now made a way for us to be forgiven. He has ushered in a whole new Covenant between Him and us. When we turn back to Him, repent of our sin and put our faith in what Jesus has accomplished on the Cross, God forgives us and restores our relationship with Him. This is entirely by His grace and not because of anything we do. How can we know this promise is true? We can know because after his sacrifice was complete, God raised Jesus from the dead, and has now sent His Holy Spirit amongst us. His Spirit cleanses us, makes us alive spiritually and seals us as God’s Sons and Daughters. He also incorporates, and gifts us for service in Jesus’ body here on earth, the church. Because of the Cross, we can now live our lives as Jesus’ disciples guided by God’s Word and empowered by his Holy Spirit. As the Apostle Paul put s it, “The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Gal 2:20
Jesus’ Return – coming soon