Friday, June 20, 2008

Where do I start with the Bible?

One of the most important books you can ever read is the bible, and we need to make sure that God is glorified in the reading of this great book. Now, if you are a new Christian, I would not recommend a cover to cover first reading. You can do that a little later, but there are some handy tips that I could have used when I started.

Firstly, the bible wasn't written to you. It was written for you. That means when God says "I have a plan for you to prosper" in Jeremiah, He isn't talking to you. You must be aware of the grammatical historical context of what you are reading, and most bibles do help out with that. They have a small paragraph at the beginning describing the context of the book. Remember you must learn that so you can read it right. You cannot take a verse to mean what the original receivers would not have seen in the text.

With that out of the way, I would suggest you start with the gospels. Why? They tell of the hero of the story: Jesus Christ. All creation was made that He may be glorified. The old testament is about a 3000 year wait for the hero. So we start at the centre and work our way out.

But which gospel? That depends on who you are. They are historical biographies of Christ. You must understand that each gospel has a point, a meaning, that it is trying to get across. So depending on your situation, I would recommend a different gospel. Also, since the gospels have a point, that explains why they are not in linear order. Biographies were written like that in the days gone by.

So which gospel is for you? Lets go through them:
  1. Matthew:
    Written to the Jews to say that Christ is the King. The genealogies point to King David, of whom it was predicted that Christ would be an heir. [LINK] Read this book thinking "Christ is royalty" and you'll be pleasantly surprised. I would recommend this book to Jews who are seeking the Messiah. It is a lovely book to read with the old testament in mind.
  2. Mark:
    Written to the Romans, showing that Christ was the perfect servant. [LINK] The submission of Christ to the needs of others is a good concept to have when reading this book. It must be contrasted with John's gospel, but is an excellent starting place to see Christ's love and compassion for others. I would recommend it to those who professed Christianity but have recently turned to do it properly. It is also good for those who struggle with humility. I know I'm really humble, more humble than anyone I know...
  3. Luke:
    Written to the Greeks to show that Christ is the perfect man. It emphasises Christ's perfection and sinlessness, revealing Him to be the perfect sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. [LINK] Since it is written to Gentiles, this is the most common starting point. If you are from western society, I recommend you start here, especially if you don't know where to start.
  4. John:
    John. Wow. This book was written to the world (everyone) to reveal that Jesus is God. [LINK] If you are agnostic or aware of some 'god,' then John's gospel is for you. It reveals Jesus as the only true God, and starts right at the beginning, before there was a beginning. I would recommend it to people who believe in a god, but are not sure about Christ, also to those who love Christ, and want a lot of good theology. It reveals God's sovereignty, power and majesty.

But the best advice I can give: ask God for understanding. I read this book for years and thought I had it down. I didn't. Ask God to change your heart, give you eyes to see and ears to hear. God will hear the prayer of a humbled person. Do not read this book because you can't fall asleep, read it and be interested.

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