The Bible is one book with one story. Here it is. But first, let me clear up some misconceptions about the Bible.
Some things people think the Bible is about:
Some people think the Bible is merely a book of timeless truth
There are certainly truths in the Bible that one might describe as timeless in that there is wisdom which is true for all people at any time for all time. To limit the Bible, however, simply to these truths is to ignore the way God himself gave it: through history in specific contexts. The fact is, the events in Exodus occur because of what God promised to Abraham in Genesis. But more deeply than that, Matthew and John couldn’t write what they wrote (and understood the events they wrote about) without Isaiah and the Psalms. Paul couldn’t have written without David. John couldn’t’ write what he wrote in Revelation without what Moses wrote in Genesis. It’s not timeless because each portion was written in the context of what God was doing at a particular time and each part is tied to God’s overarching purpose for his people and for all creation.
Some people read the Bible like a precious promises book
We’ve all heard the story of the woman who needed comfort and who opened her Bible at random looking for a promise. She did so and put her finger down on, “Judas went out and hanged himself.” She knew that wasn’t right so she tried it again and her finger fell on the verse that says, “God and do likewise.” She decided to try it once more and she ended up with, “Whatever you do, do quickly.” Obviously that’s not the best and most profitable way to read the Bible.
The Bible does have many “exceeding great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:4) but it is not here primarily to make you feel better when you are having a bad day. The promises are connected to God’s purpose for salvation and redemption. The promises are for those with faith in Jesus Christ alone and serve to strengthen us to endure until God’s purposes are accomplished.
Some people treat the Bible like a personal development manual
The Bible was not written to give you moral lessons and examples to make your life better by making you a better person. The ethical commands given are for those who have already been transformed by Jesus Christ to reflect the life of heaven. Many of them are impossible apart from Gospel transformation and the Spirit’s power.
Some people use the Bible like an answer book or rule book to settle disputes
Sadly, this is how we tend to handle the Bible in Christian circles. Certainly there is right and there is wrong when it comes to what we believe, but there also needs to be some humility. There are some things we shouldn’t budge on, but some things we need to exercise some grace.
A living NT scholar (N. T. Wright) has written, 20% of what I believe is wrong, I just don’t know which 20% it is! That’s the type humility all of us could learn. There are some thing I know and I’m not going to budge on. There are some things I’m pretty sure of but I know that good Christians are going to read the same passages and texts and come away with different conclusions. And there some things I just don’t know so I’ll tell you my opinion based on the relevant texts, but it’s just that: my view. There’s certainly no warrant for hunting down proof-texts simply to win in arguments with other Christians (whether from our tradition or not).
Some people search the Bible as if it’s a manual for politics, ecology, economics, business, schooling, or any other issue dear to your heart.
The Bible has wisdom that may very well speak to these and other issues. But you can’t study the Bible through the lens of this issue or that issue. For example, the Bible speaks to a believer’s responsibility to guard the environment (I’ve written and taught on that before). But it doesn’t give us warrant to make that the sole mission of our ministry or of the church.
If you’re going to use one lens, then do as one recent book’s title describes, “Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens.”
What is the Bible about?
God is the primary actor in all of Scripture. The Scriptures reveal to us that God is the one who moves all of the events of human history, not just religious events, forward to their conclusion. We lose sight of God’s universal sovereignty because the Bible often focuses on individuals, especially individuals who often had little clout in the larger political, social, or economic world. But the book isn’t about them; it is about God. Everything the Bible tells us about these individuals, it tells us to show us how God works in his people. That leads to the next thing the Bible is about:
God’s plan God plan is evident throughout the Bible. We see it most easily in predictive prophecy, where God says something and then later refers to it when fulfilling that prophecy. God predicts that Israel will want a king (Deut 18) and sure enough they later clamor for a King. David becomes the King that God anoints for his people in response to their call for a King and God makes a covenant with him. The prophets predict a line of Kings from David’s seed which will culminate in one great Davidic King. The Evangelists demonstrates in the Gospels how Jesus is the fulfillment of that promise; apostles in Acts preach that Jesus is that King, and Paul speaks of Jesus as King not just over Israel but over the whole cosmos.
We see God’s plan in numerous little things that we might not notice if we don’t pay attention. We see the Tree of Life from Genesis 2 show up again in Revelation 22. The serpent from Genesis 3 is revealed in Revelation 12 to be Satan himself. The promise to Abraham are repeated by God in the rest of the Torah and then picked up by the prophets and then by Jesus and by Paul.
God’s plan to make a people
We also see it in the themes that show up in the Bible especially the plan to make a people. God tells Abraham he’s going to make a great people then refers to that promise when he delivers Israel from Egypt, then tells them he’s going make them his people and he will be their God. Ion Acts, the apostles determine that God is expanding the scope of his people by calling out from the Gentiles a people for his name (Acts 15). In the Revelation, God says that those he has redeemed will be his people ad they will be his God.
God’s plan to make a people through Jesus Christ
Those who form God’s people, his family, are those who are “in Christ.” Christ is the centerpiece, pivot point, and primary mover in establishing God’s kingdom. He is the elder brother, the firstborn from the dead, who ensures that the rest of the children of God have an inheritance by having a part in the resurrection and the eternal enjoyment of God’s blessing.
He is the King who will rule over the nations after destroying God’s enemies with a “rod of iron” (Ps. 2; cf. Rev. 19).
God’s plan to make a people through Jesus Christ by redeeming them
Jesus Christ’s death redeems us by purchasing us as God’s own possession to show love and grace to and to shower on us his blessing. Since God is eternal, he intends to bless us for eternity. But since we are slaves to sin in our natural state, he purchases us from the slave-market of sin to make us his servants, then he treats us, his servants, like first-born sons.
This redemption through paying the price for sin is seen first in God’s killing an animal to cover the shame and nakedness of Adam and Eve, it is seen in the OT sacrificial system, and it culminates in the cross.
God’s plan to make a people through Jesus Christ by redeeming them and all creation
Christ’s death does not just redeem us from death, it will ultimately redeem all creation. This is why the resurrection of our bodies is so important. In Romans 8:23 Paul makes the connection between human sin and the chaos and degradation of creation, pointing out that creation is looking forward to “the redemption of our bodies” because that signals the redemption of all creation. This theme is evident in Colossians when Paul shows us Christ as ruler of the entire cosmos.
God’s plan to make a people through Jesus Christ by redeeming them and all creation so that he can be our God.
1 Cor. 15:28 (cf. Rev. 22:3-5; Rom. 11:36). Harold Mare says this expression (“that God may be all in all”) means that “All this is to be done so that God will be recognized by all as sovereign, and he – the triune God – will be supreme (cf. Rev. 22:3-5).” (EBC 10:286)
This has been God’s plan from the beginning: to commune with us as his people. Adam and Eve had it and let it go. God won’t let even our sinfulness thwart his intention. He is a benevolent God who intends to make a people upon whom he can shower his blessing for all eternity and through Jesus Christ he is doing just that.
And that is what the Bible is really all about. Now go, read it, and see how your God works through Jesus Christ to make you his own and to bless you for all eternity.