Someone defines the Bible as: Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. With such definition, everyone should be reading and mastering this book as a manual of instructions before transitioning to the other side of life. But a complaint often heard is that many people don’t know where to start and how to efficiently approach this voluminous book. Some people read and do not understand anything. Or some others read and all they see are negative scenarios or a bunch of rules restraining them from enjoying their life according to their own standards. Should we blame them or how can we help them learn how to approach such an important book and benefit from it?
Understanding the composition of the Bible is a good way to start.
The Bible by itself is a mini-library of sixty-six books. It was written intermittently over a period of 1500 years approximately from 1400 BC to 90 AD by different authors under the inspiration of God Himself (Isaiah 34:16; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1: 20-21). Some of those authors never knew each other; nevertheless the theme in this voluminous work remains the same throughout the ages: the plan of God for mankind’s salvation.
This mini-library is made up of two big compartments: the Old Testament and the New Testament. They are referred to as the song of Moses (Old Testament) and the song of the Lamb (New Testament). (Revelation 15:3). Because of the level of understanding they shed on the plan of God, the Old Testament is symbolized by the moon and the New Testament by the sun. (Revelation 12:1). Thirty-nine books make up the Old Testament and twenty-seven, the New Testament for a total of sixty-six books according to the King James Version. We won’t mention the books known as The Apocrypha.
The Old Testament is subdivided in five categories:
- The Pentateuch, which covers the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. This is the Torah or the law of the Lord or the Law of Moses.
- The History books for a total of twelve: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I Samuel, II Samuel, I Kings, II Kings, I Chronicles, II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther.
- The Poetry books: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon.
- The Major Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel and Daniel.
- The Minor Prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.
The New Testament, likewise, is divided in clusters of books as well:
- The gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Those books complete each other as each one describes an aspect of the character of Jesus the Christ. Matthew saw Jesus as a king. Therefore, he started his book with a genealogy that linked Jesus to King David himself. Jesus is also called the Son of David. Mark saw Him as a servant. For that reason no genealogy is reported for Him in the gospel according to Mark. He has been called many times the Son of man. Luke described the human side of Jesus and often portrayed Him praying to the Father for strength, showing compassion for the sick and cast outs and honoring women in His ministry. He is known as the Son of Abraham. (Hebrews 2:16). John saw Him as the Divine one and consequently started his gospel by showing the preexistence of Jesus in heaven by His Father before coming on the earth for His special mission: reconciling mankind to the heavenly Father, bringing more light and abundant life. He is called the Son of God.
- The Acts, started with the inauguration of the Early Church on the Day of Pentecost and the spread of Jesus Christ’s doctrine through the works of the apostles, mainly Peter and Paul. Luke in the book of Acts shows the results of the teaching of Christ and the glory of the Early church.
- The Pauline epistles: Romans, I Corinthians, II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I Thessalonians, II Thessalonians, I Timothy, II Timothy, Titus, Philemon. I Timothy, II Timothy and Titus are known as the Pastoral Epistles as the apostle Paul presented in them special instructions for church leaders under his ministry. Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon are called the Prison Epistles as they were written during Paul’s incarceration at Rome.
- The Epistle to the Hebrews. The author of this book is somewhat unknown and has been the object of many controversies. Some bible scholars attributed it to Apollos, others to Barnabas or maybe Philip. The traditional position considers the apostle Paul as the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. It displays a deep understanding of the Old Testament. It compares the old and the new Covenants.
- The Other Epistles: James, I Peter, II Peter, I John, II John, III John and Jude.
- The Revelation. The author of this book is without doubt the apostle John. He received the content of this book while in exile on the Isle of Patmos. (Revelation 1:9).
With this understanding of the composition of the Bible, one can pick any part he or she wants to explore for an acquaintance with the Word of God. This is such an enjoyable book that has filled my world since my childhood through my teenage years and up to now in my adult life. The epic battle of David and Goliath has marked me forever. The erudition of Daniel and the three Hebrew children during their captivity at Babylon has inspired me. The book of Psalms and its musicality has surely influenced my writings. Proverbs is incomparable with the wisdom of life it provides. True science can be found in the Bible and even a little bit of metaphysics in the book of Ecclesiastes. The accuracy of Dr. Luke’s writings has rightly so guided historians and archeologists in their search for truth and clues on past civilizations. Through the years, reading three chapters a day and four chapters in the weekend has allowed me to journey throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation on a yearly basis. Each time brings a new discovery. Each year brings new understanding and revelation. With the right guidance, the Bible is an amazing book worth exploring over and over and over again.
Why, some will say, do we need to read the Bible?
Excellent question! The answer is to better ourselves and teach us the right way to live as we travel this sod like pilgrims and strangers. Whether we consider the ten commandments of the Old Testament or the two commandments given by Jesus in Matthew 22:37-40 concerning loving the Lord our God and our neighbors as ourselves, the main reason for reading the Bible is to discover how to please God and to deal efficiently with our neighbors. This constitutes our daily cross to bear as pleasing God involves a vertical relationship and living right with our neighbors is the horizontal relationship. When we can accomplish that during our lifetime, we have reached our true goal in life. We become perfect. In order to do so, the Bible is given to us with all the necessary instructions.
There are four ways to use the Word of God to help us reach that ultimate goal:
- Read the word of God. This helps us to know what God loves and what He does not love. And to please Him, we need to learn to love what He loves and not to love what He doesn’t love. (I John2:15-17; Proverbs 6:16-19). Moreover, the Law of God changes us for the better. It brings peace and joy. (Psalms 19:7-8).
- Meditate on the word of God. This is the recipe for a successful life. A clean life. A prosperous life. (Joshua 1:8; Psalms 1:2; Philippians 4:8). Such activity helps us understand the reflections of David in Psalms 19:14: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.”
- Study the word of God. We study to show ourselves approved unto God. (II Timothy 2:15). We study to learn to be quiet and to mind our own business. (I Thessalonians 4:11). We study to be an example so we can do right and inspire others. (I Timothy 4:16).
- Keep the word of God. Keeping the word is applying it in our life. Knowing the word of God is good but applying it in our everyday life is better. And we can apply it in our everyday life when only it reaches a lodging place in our heart and creates a conviction, and purity. Then we will be able to say like David in Psalms 119:11, “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee.”
This is why we read the Bible which is the Word of God. Every time we read we can grow in knowledge, understanding and wisdom. Said the Apostle John, “Blessed is he that readeth and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” (Revelation 1:3).
O Lord Jesus, grant us a love for your word and the strength to keep it and apply it every day in our life. Amen!
Dr. Joel Hilaire
Pastor of Orlando Gospel Assembly