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A Brief Summary of the Bible
In this article I will provide you with a brief summary of the whole Bible. My goal would be to encourage you to read the Bible yourself. If you read this article, but never read the Bible, I will have failed.
A summary of the Bible must involve at least a summary of 2 things:
- The Message of the Bible
- The Story of the Bible
These things are distinct. You could summarize the message of the Bible without ever getting into the actual story (or stories). Likewise, you could summarize the story of the Bible without any reference to the message (or meaning). I am going to try to do both.
- First, I am going to briefly summarize the Bible's Message for you in 3 simple points.
- Second, I am then going to briefly review the Story of the Bible.
A BRIEF WORD OF INTRODUCTION:
I read the Bible. I do not consider myself an expert on the Bible. I consider the Bible to be an expert on me. It tells me everything about myself I really need to know. It often tells me more than I want to know. But most importantly, it tells me Who I need to know. That is why I read the Bible.
I have been a Christian for over 20 years. For 20 years I have been regularly reading the Bible. For the past 15 years I have been studying and teaching the Bible. Most of the books in my library are, directly or indirectly, about the Bible.
The Bible is a big book that consists of 66 separate (although unified) smaller books:
- 39 of these books comprise what we call the Old Testament; the books written and concerning events before the birth of Christ (e.g. Genesis, Psalms, Isaiah).
- 27 of these books comprise what we call the New Testament; the books which relate to the life of Christ and the teachings of His followers (e.g. The gospel of John, Romans, Titus).
This article is for absolute beginners. Theologians and experts can stop reading right now. This summary of the Bible is especially written for those who always wanted to read the Bible, but have been intimidated by the size or, having begun, have gotten discouraged and lost in the details. If you keep your eyes fixed on the basic message of the Bible it will help you understand what you are reading. Lay the following 3 points down next to any page in the entire Bible and you will find something on the pages of Scripture to confirm the fundamental assertions I am about to make.
A SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE (THE CENTRAL TEACHING) OF THE BIBLE:
1. The Sinfulness of Man
The Bible teaches that men (mankind) are sinners. As such, the Bible confronts us with a world-view very different from what is taught in most schools and societies. We are led to believe from virtually every source that man is basically good, though he sometimes does bad things. The Bible's perspective is the opposite: Man is basically bad, though he sometimes does good things.
I suspect some readers would disagree with this perspective. I know. I've been there. The problem is with our definition of "sin." We tend to reserve this notion of sin for the really "bad" things like murder and rape and racism. We define sin by starting with whatever is "average" for human responses and behavior. What falls below that average we tend to call sin (or something to that effect). But the Bible defines sin differently. God begins by drawing His line at the very top - perfect and perpetual holiness. What falls below this line is sin. That's us.
Now, the Bible doesn't tell us we are sinful to make us feel bad. When your math teacher tells you your answer is wrong she isn't trying to hurt your feelings, nor is your doctor when they suggest you are unhealthy. God is interested in helping people to be honest about their condition, rather than hiding behind some fig-leaves of self-righteousness.
Examples of how the Bible expresses this basic teaching include:
Genesis 6:5 "Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually"
Ecclesiastes 7:20 "For there is not a just man on earth who does good And does not sin."
Jeremiah 17:9 "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?"
Romans 3:23 "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God"
1 John 1:8 "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us"
Personally I recommend the ESV translation if you are purchasing a Bible
2. The Goodness of God
The second fundamental teaching of the Bible is that God is good. Sometimes this goodness is expressed with the word "holiness." Other times the word is "righteousness." Or again we sometimes read of God's "justice." But the basic attribute of God that is being expressed in all these terms is the goodness of God.
God is good. He is good even when bad things happen to us. He is good even when we cannot understand what He is doing. He is good even though we are regularly surrounded by natural and moral evils in this life. God is good. He is good even when we don't think He is. That is what the Bible says. God is good, all the time.
There is a wonderful story in the Bible about a man named Joseph, the son of Jacob. His brothers hated him. They planned to kill him, but ended up selling him as a slave and Joseph ended up in Egypt, far from his family. While in Egypt he was then put in prison for a crime he didn't commit. Things looked bad. But eventually Joseph was delivered from prison, rose in power, and was able to save the nation of Egypt and his family from famine. When Joseph finally met with his brothers he had this evaluation of all they had done: "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good." God is good. Even in the midst of our own sinful choices and their consequences.
Some verses that affirm the basic goodness of God in the Bible:
Genesis 18:25 "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"
1 Chronicles 16:34 "O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever."
Psalm 145:9 "The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works"
Nahum 1:7 "The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him."
1 John 4:8 "He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love"
3. Jesus Christ: A Good God's Provision for Sinful Man
Finally, a summary of the basic teaching of the Bible would include an emphasis on the provision God has made to redeem sinful people. God's method, simply put, was to allow His Son (Jesus Christ) to die in our place and bear the punishment for all who will believe in Him.
In many ways, the whole message of the Bible can be summarized in these words from the New Testament book of Acts: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." Man is sinful, he needs to be saved. God is good, He provides a Savior. Christ is the way, and so the message of the Bible is to trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior.
Sometimes this message is called "the gospel." That simply means the "good news." We find this message scattered throughout the whole Bible, both in the Old Testament (mostly by means of promises, prophecies and types) and in the New Testament.
Some examples of this message of the Bible can be found in these verses:
John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life"
Acts 16:30,31 " "Sirs, what must I do to be saved? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household."
Romans 1:16 "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes..."
2 Corinthians 5:21 "For He made Him who knew no sin [to be] sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."
1 Timothy 1:15 "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief"
THE STORY OF THE BIBLE
The above 3 points summarize the message of the Bible. But the Bible is not an extended lecture. The Bible is, actually, 1 long story. The individual books fit together into this story. They were written by different human authors, but have been organized and designed by God Himself. The Bible is His Word, His Story.
The basic story of the Bible goes like this:
God created everything, and it was good (Genesis chapter 1-2)
- Adam rebelled against God, ruining himself, mankind and the world (Genesis chapter 3)
- God begins to work through a long history to bring into the world a Savior, Jesus Christ (Genesis chapter 4 all the way through the rest of the Old Testament). This history highlights our sinfulness (and thus our NEED of a Savior) as well as God's goodness and plan to save His people.
- Jesus (God, the Son) is born, lives a perfect life (on behalf of His people - believers) and dies to bear the due punishment of our sins (the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John).
- This good news is preached and taught, churches are established for the organized gathering of God's people in worship and fellowship, and the fundamental teachings of Christianity are more fully explained (Acts through the rest of the New Testament).
That is it. That is the basic story of the Bible. Sure, I've left out a lot of details. I will leave those for you to discover on your own. I hope you will.