The Bible tells one grand story that includes a beginning and an end, major and minor characters, a clear plot with many subplots, and various backgrounds. Like watching a movie, we truly understand the Bible when we know the story from its opening to its closing scene. The main character is, of course, God. The story begins with God creating people in a garden and ends with him redeeming people in a holy city. Throughout we see God at work to create a people for himself. At the beginning, end and during everything in-between, God is always present and revealing himself and his ways to people.
Within this one story about God and his ways, the Bible tells many individual stories about people and events. God is committed to people knowing the truth about who he is and what he does. He reveals himself to people like Adam and Abraham, Moses and David, Peter and Paul, so that his fame may be proclaimed to more and more people.
As we come to understand this great story it is important that we learn how to make it our own story. The Bible was not written down for the purpose of information as much as for proclamation, not so we could only know about God but so that we could know him personally. As we read and understand the Bible’s story about God creating a people for himself, we can respond to the God who continues to reveal himself to people like us. We can say, “Yes, God, I too want to one of your people and part of your story.”
As you prepare to embark on this reading plan, keep in mind:
Through the death and resurrection of the Son, God was in the process of re-creating a new humanity and forming a new people for himself. This people would be comprised of Jews and Gentiles, men and women, and people from all of Babel’s scattered language groups. The blessing of Abraham had arrived; through Jesus the blessing would come to all nations. Before he ascended to be return to the Father Jesus gave his disciples a promise and a command. He promised to shortly send the Holy Spirit who would continue the work he had begun in and through them. In turn, he commanded them to go in the power of this same Spirit, to witness about his life, death and resurrection to all nations. The disciples received the promise and obeyed the command, and they went everywhere proclaiming Christ and establishing churches, made up of Christ’s followers and committed to being salt and light in a depraved society.
Besides Peter and Paul, New Testament letters were written by John, James, Jude and the anonymous author of Hebrews. All these letters encouraged the fledgling church to remain faithful to Christ in the midst of opposition. The final book of the Bible, the Revelation of John, describes how Christ will ultimately defeat every enemy of God and his people.
Paul planted churches in many cities, and his 13 New Testament letters are preserved to teach followers of Christ about God’s rich grace provided in Christ, and how we should respond as a new community of saints.
The first years of the church in Jerusalem were marked by persecution, miracles, growth and organization. This first section of Acts is marked with the death of Stephen, the church’s first martyr.
The three other Gospel writers – Mark, Luke and John – painted pictures of Jesus life, describing how he came to proclaim God’s kingdom and then lay foundations through his death and resurrection.
Haggai exhorted the returned exiles to rebuild the temple, and encouraged the leaders that God was with them even though they felt small and insignificant. The prophets Zechariah and Malachi also proclaimed God’s word to Israel after the exile.