What is the Bible?
“What is the Bible?” This was the question I asked my daughter one evening as we talked together. She answered variously: “Truth. God’s word. Scripture.” I assured her that each of those was right. But I wanted her to see something different on this occasion. I said, “From beginning to end, Old Testament to New Testament, God is conveying one message throughout all the pages of the Bible. I described to her that everything in the Bible is connected by this one message or theme.
Perhaps you’re like me and enjoy studying scripture up close. It is hard but rewarding work to bring out the author’s intended meaning from a section of text, and then make correct application for today’s believers. Zeroing in on passages provides great depth and helps build our knowledge and faith while also helping us live as God desires.
However, I believe it is important to understand the big picture of the book so many of us hold dear in our hearts. When I am preparing for a trip to the mountains, I sometimes study the USGS 7.5 minute topographic maps. These provide amazing detail at a scale unlike most maps that are available for purchase for backcountry travel. Even though I appreciate the detail of the USGS maps, I always refer to my standard ones to help me maintain the big picture of where I am and what’s around me. Similarly, in Bible study, most often we are focusing on small sections of scripture, but we don’t want to become blind to the big picture. The old saying, “Cannot see the forest for the trees,” captures the point clearly. While it’s important to study trees, we must also keep the whole forest in mind. When we keep the big picture in view, we will better understand smaller sections of text by knowing how a particular narrative or teaching fits into the overall message of the Bible.
So, what is the one message that connects all of scripture? I told my daughter, “One way to understand the Bible as a whole is to think of it as God’s story of redemption.” Certainly, concepts such as love, grace, and mercy are paramount, but as far as what it is that God has been working to accomplish throughout time is the redemption of all people. Paul wrote to the Ephesians and said this about God’s planning, “…even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (1:4). Understand what Paul is saying. Before the foundation of the world, God had chosen us in Christ. Later in Ephesians, Paul uses a phrase, “God’s eternal purpose,” (3:11) when describing all that was realized in Christ Jesus. What these passages and others like it teach is that Christ and His redeeming work was in the mind of God before He said, “Let there be light.”
God’s eternal purpose is to redeem mankind through Christ. It is this message that permeates throughout all the pages of the Bible. The Old Testament points forward to the coming of the Messiah, while the New shows us how we can have relationship with God, in Christ.
How would you answer the question, “What is the Bible?”
Clayton Johnson is the minister and evangelist for the Carbon Valley Church of Christ. You may reach Clayton at email@example.com. Everyone is welcome to come, worship, and grow with us. Peace.