All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16–17 (ESV)
A New Series
This article marks the beginning of a series of articles featuring each book of the Bible and how it helps or motivates Christians to live for God through Christ. Paul makes clear in this passage that there is no throwaway text in all of Scripture. There is no useless or pointless Scripture. Some texts' value is more obvious at first glance, while others require more work to draw out their value.
It is not always easy to see a text's value at first glance. For instance, as I write this, my reading this morning covered the final census in the book of Numbers, along with the prescriptions for the required offerings on the high feast days in Israel (chs. 26-29). It is not immediately apparent how these now obsolete instructions inform our lives today. Yet we commit a serious error if we deny a passage's value simply because its worth does not immediately present itself to us.
What is the Bible? The Bible is, most simply put, God's word. The Bible contains the revelation by God of God and of what he wants people today to know about his dealings with the world.
The Bible is the Gospel
One way of looking at the Bible is to think of it as the gospel in long form. Many people like to make the gospel as succinct as possible, and I have no quarrel with that. Scripture does the same in famous passages like John 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.
Nevertheless, I find it helpful to think of the Bible as the authoritative and complete recounting of the gospel. We can take an outline of the Bible, even various types of outlines of the Bible, as an outline of the gospel. I have recurred to this multiple times in conversations with people to whom I was sharing the gospel.
The Bible begins at the beginning with Genesis. There we learn about the creation of the world by an almighty God who is Spirit. Genesis tells us about the origins of all things, including the bad as well as the good. God makes man and woman and places them in the garden to work and keep them. He provides one restriction, which they promptly transgress. God ejects them from the garden with curses. But he also includes a vague promise about one who would come later from Adam and Eve and crush the head of the tempting serpent.
The rest of human history is off to the races from this point in the story, just three chapters in. We quickly learn about the degeneration of mankind into evil of all kinds. God eventually destroys the world with a flood and starts over with Noah and his family. Their descendants band together instead of spreading, so God confuses their languages and forces the issue. By the end of Genesis 11, we see the creation more or less as we recognize it today: marred, corrupt, and riddled with death.
God calls Abram in Genesis 12, and by the end of Genesis, the people of Israel are beginning to grow. God calls Israel out of Egyptian slavery in Exodus and gives them a law they must follow for God to dwell among them. The rest of the Old Testament can be read in light of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, both of which spell out how God will bless his people for their obedience to the covenant and how he will curse them for disobedience.
Most of the rest of the Old Testament features the disobedience of Israel. It begins with the judges and then consolidates during the time of the kings. All the while, God is sending prophets to teach and warn his people. There are some outstanding figures, such as David, who wrote many psalms. There is also his son Solomon, who represents the zenith of Israelite power and wisdom, only to fall into polygamy of the highest order. The kingdom splits in two after his reign. The northern kingdom of Israel is routed by Assyria, who repopulates the land with a mixed ethnic group so that the northern people are now considered impure by the southern. The southern kingdom, meanwhile, is defeated and destroyed by Babylon but returns and rebuilds 70 years later.
By the time we arrive at the New Testament, it is clear that the promised Messiah will have to be someone different from everything else we have seen. Enter Jesus. He breaks into the scene in the Gospels and demonstrates what total submission to the Father looks like. Jesus teaches, heals, and exorcises his way into the religious leaders' bad books. Eventually, they find a way to kill him with a sham trial and trumped-up evidence. Jesus dies, and everything seems lost. But it isn't.
Jesus rose from the dead three days later, and history has never been the same. The New Testament makes clear that Jesus had to die as a human sacrifice for human sin. And everyone who believes in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins can have peace with God. It is possible to get back to the Garden of Eden! God has made a way for his people to enjoy the paradise of his presence again. And Christ is the key.
The church begins shortly after Christ ascends to Heaven, promising to return. The Holy Spirit comes down in flaming tongues, and the church spreads like, well, wildfire. Churches are planted, letters are written, and the New Testament is formed. It concludes with the apostle John's writing of Revelation, which describes the end of history and the final fulfillment of God's promises in Christ Jesus.
Many Books, One Story
The Bible, from beginning to end, points to a God who is holy while showing us that we are not. But as clearly as the Bible shows the problem, it shows the solution equally clearly. Our only hope in this life and the next is to trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins so that we might have peace with God.
And that, in a way, is the question on which the Bible hinges. How can man have peace with God again? Jesus Christ is the answer. He is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6).
As each Bible book makes its contribution, we will take each one in turn. As we do, my prayer is that a systematic review of each book and how it relates to living for God through Christ will smooth out rough edges in our understanding. I also pray that it will expand our appreciation for the whole revelation of God rather than certain highlights that stuck out to us at one point in the past.