The Bible is not primarily about us. Above all, the Bible is a book about God. God gave us the Bible so we can observe His character, discover His works, hold on to His promises, and embrace His plan of salvation.
This is good news for you. Though the Bible has much to say about who you are, it is primarily about who God is and what He has done to save you despite who you are. This is why the Scriptures provide great hope. For it’s only when you understand who God is and what He has done that you can begin to understand yourself rightly.
When you understand that the Bible is a book about God, then all of Scripture becomes a gold mine for discovering the character and works of God. There are plenty of places in Scripture that don’t seem to have immediate implications for us. And yet, because the Bible is a book about God, these sections can become just as useful as the sections for which practical application is obvious.
THE BIBLE IS ABOUT GOD’S PLAN OF SALVATION IN JESUS
The Pharisees, who were the teachers of the Bible during the time of Jesus, knew that the Bible was about God. They studied the Scriptures diligently, memorized the law, and reordered their lives in obedience to it, hoping to reflect the character of their God.
And yet the Pharisees had a major problem. While they searched the Scriptures for God, they missed Him. Jesus told them,
You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me to have life. — John 5:39–40
- The Pharisees missed the main point of the Bible because they missed Jesus.
It wasn’t just the Pharisees who over- looked Jesus in the Scriptures. Even Jesus’ disciples couldn’t see their own Lord within the pages of the Old Testament. After his resurrection, Jesus walked with them along the road to Emmaus and helped them see the true nature of the Scriptures: “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).
JESUS COVER TO COVER
We, too, miss the main point of the Bible if we fail to see and discover Jesus in all the Scriptures. Yes, the Bible is a book about God. But even more specifically, the Bible is a story about God’s plan of salvation for us in Jesus Christ. As we read God’s Word from Genesis to Revelation, we discover the Son of God, who came to save us from our sins.
Just as Jesus did with His disciples, we will begin our exploration of God’s story with the books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
THE OLD TESTAMENT
The first few chapters of the Bible recount God’s creation of the heavens and earth, plants and trees, living creatures, and man and woman. It doesn’t take long for humanity to sin and fall away from their relationship with God, and the world- sweeping flood shows just how sinful humanity had grown. In this, we see the need for Jesus, the coming offspring who will crush the head of the serpent and do what the flood was unable to do: bring about a new humanity.
Then God calls Abram, who would eventually be renamed “Abraham,” with a promise of land and offspring:
Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. — Genesis 12:1–2
The rest of Genesis tells of Abraham’s family multiplying and making their way to Egypt, where we find in the book of Exodus that they have been enslaved. Echoing His call to Abraham, God calls Moses to bring His people out of Egypt into the promised land. In the midst of the wilderness on the way to the promised land, God gives His people the law, which they were commanded to obey. Through the call of Abraham, the call of Moses, and the giving of the law, we see the foundation for Jesus, who will fulfill God’s promises given to His people and fulfill the law for His people.
After the death of Moses, Joshua leads God’s people into the promised land. While at first the people seem to have changed their ways in the new land, they eventually turn to wickedness and disorder. They demand to have a king like the other nations, and after King Saul abandons his obligations to God, David and his descendants are promised the crown forever. In this, we see the preparation for Jesus, the descendant of David, who will reign forever over God’s people in the new Jerusalem.
Israel continues into turmoil, even while holding on to the promise of the Messiah and the restoration of peace. The songs of Israel recorded in the Psalms and the books of Wisdom capture the longing for Jesus. With powerful imagery and metaphor, the people rejoice in God’s promises and groan in waiting for a coming Savior who will fulfill them.
Out of the chaos and exile of the people, God raises up prophets who expand on and illuminate the promises of a coming Messiah. Isaiah describes Him as a Suffering Servant, and Jeremiah and Ezekiel describe Him as One who will usher in a new covenant and write God’s law on the hearts of God’s people. Through the prophets, we see the expectation of Jesus, who will bear the sins of His people in their place.
THE NEW TESTAMENT
The New Testament begins with a declaration of the fulfillment of God’s promises in the Old Testament:
This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham. — Matthew 1:1
That is, Jesus is the fulfillment of the offspring of Abraham and the reign of David. Throughout the gospel accounts, Jesus shows Himself to be the Son of David, who is the King of Israel; the Suffering Servant, who bears the sins of many; and the Son of God, who defeats death and is seated at the right hand of the Father. In Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we see the coming of Jesus.
Before Jesus ascends to the Father, He gives His disciples a mission:
You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. — Acts 1:8
The book of Acts records the disciples’ obedience to this mission with the power of the Holy Spirit. Though Jesus has ascended to the Father, His work continued through His people as they spread the good news about Him. In Acts, the continuation of Jesus is displayed through His apostles and church as they proclaim and display His gospel.1
As churches are established in every city, the apostles send letters to guide the body of Christ that has spread throughout the world. From Romans to Jude, the commands of Jesus are laid out, as Jesus shows His people how they are to live and worship in response to His gospel.
The canon closes with the book of Revelation, which gives a stunning picture of the consummation in Jesus. God shows us how all of His promises will be fulfilled and how we will enjoy Him and glorify Him with our praises forever.
THE BIBLE IS FOR YOU
The Bible is a story about God’s plan of salvation in Jesus.
It testifies to the need for Jesus, the foundation for Jesus, the preparation for Jesus, the longing for Jesus, the expectation of Jesus, the coming of Jesus, the continuation of Jesus, the commands of Jesus, and the consummation of Jesus. Jesus is the point, from beginning to end.
At the same time, while the Bible is a story about Jesus, the Bible is for you. God gave you this book so you could read it, study it, and, by knowing Him through it, enjoy and glorify Him forever. The story of the Bible is laid out for you, but you must pick it up and read.
1. The idea of the books of Acts as a continuation of Jesus was inspired by J. D. Greear’s Jesus Continued...: Why the Spirit Inside You Is Better Than Jesus Beside You (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014).
Excerpted with permission from A Visual Theology Guide to the Bible by Tim Challies and Josh Byers, copyright Tim Challies and Josh Byers.
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