What a great question! You can download a PDF copy of this here
- The Layout of the Bible
- The Books of the Bible
- So how does this affect us, do we live under the New or the Old Covenant?
- Why was the Bible given to us?
- God is faithful
- In closing
The Bible is a very precious book, it is actually an entire library. A collection of books, written by a variety of people. It was written by kings (David, Solomon), a shepherd (Amos), prophets (Moses, Samuel), fishermen (Peter, John) and others over a 1500 year period. The Holy Spirit inspired people to write down a message. God wanted to share his words with us and He always talked through a person.
We need to remember that the events in the Old Testament happened thousands of years ago. Before there was an alphabet and literacy, people would have to share the message through one person telling others about what had happened. People learned how to make ink & papyrus scrolls and how to write on them with a quill. There was a time before mobile phones, before websites and even before books existed. A time before click pens, when you needed to information well enough to not need a physical copy to check.
The first Bible in book form was printed and bound in 1455 AD. Before that it had to be rewritten on scrolls, over and over to preserve it for future generations. Up until this point it was possible to have parts of the Bible, written in scrolls. Chapters and verse numbers were added later.
The Roman Catholic church did not think that the ordinary man should own their own Bible or be able to read it. Millions have been killed because they tried to translate, read, print or distribute the Bible. The oppression lasted hundreds of years and we are privileged today that there are so many countries where it is not illegal to own your own Bible.
For so many people to have embarked on such a great task – means that they say the value of God’s Word. It is something to be shared and cherished. So much work went into producing Bibles, so that today you can walk into a bookshop and buy one off the shelf. It is really sad to see a Bible in someone’s home that is dusty and never gets read.
2. The Layout of the Bible
It is easier to understand the Bible when you understand it’s layout. The Bible is made up of the Old Testament and New Testament. The word Testament refers to a covenant, but this is not a word that is often used today.
When two parties cut covenant, they would take a knife and make a deep in in their right hands and then they would shake, allowing the blood to mix. The arrangement that they had made would now be unbreakable. Stronger than a promise, this contract was signed in blood.
In the Old Testament God makes a covenant with Abraham. Genesis 17: God gives Abram a new names (Abraham – father of many nations), promises to give him many descendants and to give them the land of Canaan as an inheritance. Abraham needed to agree to having every male child circumcised and they were to serve the Lord God. God chose Abraham to become the father of the Jewish people. God’s specially chosen nation. Through Moses God would give them the Ten Commandments and in Leviticus they are given over 600 laws. These laws would teach them how to live the way that God wanted them to.
We go from 1 law in the Garden of Eden (you may not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil – Genesis 2:16-17), to Ten Commandments (Exodus 20), the 600 laws (Leviticus). Jesus comes and sums everything up in two commandments (Luke 10:27).
Laws were broken, but this does not diminish the importance of the Law. It shows us the righteousness of God. In the Old Testament God allowed the sins of people to be covered by the blood of a sacrifice. It had to be an animal that was 100% healthy and had no defects or infirmities. The best of the best. Why was this necessary? Sin separates people from God, it brings spiritual death and if the situation does not change then comes eternity in Hell (away from God). Blood is shed (the life is in the blood) and forgiveness is given. These offerings needed to be made regularly, because the blood of animals could not cleans the sins of mankind, it could only cover it. God allowed this as a temporary solution for the problem of sin.
Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” CSB
Jesus comes to earth:
John 3:16 “For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” CSB
John the Baptist calls Jesus, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29). Jesus becomes human and He brings a sacrifice that completely takes away the punishment for our sins. Even if you or I died for our sins, our sacrifice would not be sufficient – as we did not live a perfect life without sin. Our sacrifice would be tainted by sin and so unable to cleanse us.
Think about it like this, you are in court and am being accused of sin by the devil. Over and over he tells the court that you deserve the death penalty, and at this point you do. Over and over you experience intense fear because you know that you are not only guilty, but also powerless to change the situation. At this point Jesus interrupts the devil and He tells the judge that He will pay the penalty for your sin. The price so great that you could not pay it yourself. God says that He will accept this payment and you are pronounced “not guilty”. God welcomes you into His family and you become one of His children.
John 1:12 “But to all who did receive him, he gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in his name,” CSB
3. The Books of the Bible
Old Testament– Originally written in Hebrew, certain parts written in Aramaic
• The Law (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy)
• Historical books (Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I & II Samuel, I & II Kings, I & II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Ester)
• Wisdom Literature (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs)
• Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
New Testament – Originally written in Greek, certain parts written in Aramaic
• 4 Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John)
• Paul’s letters (Romans, I & II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon
• Letters to the Jews (James, I & II Peter, I & II & III John, Jude)
• Prophecy (Revelation)
4. So how does this affect us? Do we live under the Old or the New Covenant?
Thankfully we don’t have to obey the 600 laws of the Old Testament, Jesus does tell us what we should do:
Lukas 10:27 “ He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,” and “your neighbor as yourself.” CSB
These two commandments will help us to live in peace, because if you love someone you won’t steal from them. We would rather be good to them and it also shows our love for God.
I John 4:20 “If anyone says, “I love God,” and yet hates his brother or sister, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother or sister whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” CSB
Jesus also commands his followers to have communion (Matthew 26:26-28). The New Covenant that God has made with us, has been sealed by the blood of Jesus. We are privileged that we do not have to bring offerings to God every time we sin. Jesus had paid the price in full and we must never forget that.
1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” CSB
Jesus also tells us:
Matthew 28: 19-20 “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” CSB
We read the Old Testament and it teaches us a lot, but we do not live under the Old Covenant. Jesus, Paul, Peter and others often quoted the Old Testament. This shows us that they placed great value on it. The Old Testament was a shadow, showing us what would come. When we look at Passover in Egypt, when the Israelites put the blood of a lamb on their door posts, this was a shadow of what Jesus would do with his blood. If you read Psalm 22 then you will see that it tells us about Jesus death. It was written many years before He came to earth. The Old Testament is important.
5. Why was the Bible given to us?
We are taking a closer look at the Bible, which took around 1500 years to complete. What amazes me is how it was rewritten over and over by hand, to preserve it for us. That’s why we need to ask what the Bible is and who it was written for? People would not risk their lives to distribute Bibles in countries where it is banned if they did not believe the message that it shares with us.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” CSB
Romans 15:4 “For whatever was written in the past was written for our instruction, so that we may have hope through endurance and through the encouragement from the Scriptures.” CSB
Isaiah 40:8 “The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God remains forever.” CSB
To understand the Bible, we need to understand what a metaphor is and how it is used. When we read Psalm 119:105 we see that the Bible is a light unto our path. This does not mean that the Bible is a torch that lights up so you can see in the dark. The author means that the Bible helps to guide us, in a world that is dark and confusing. Painting us a picture so that we can understand a concept.
Consider that the words in the Bible make it holy, not the paper and binding materials used to produce it.
John 1:1-5 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it.” CSB
Jesus is the Living Word of God:
Psalm 1:1-2 “How happy is the one who does not walk in the advice of the wicked or stand in the pathway with sinners or sit in the company of mockers! 2 Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night.” CSB
If you read the rest of the chapter you will see the picture of a tree with leaves that never wither. Consider what such a life would look like.
Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.” CSB
The Word of God gives us direction!
Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” CSB
The Bible is not a sword that you can cut things with, however we do know that it is very powerful. When the Bible was written, the most powerful weapon was a double edged sword. They did not have scalpels, the fact that it cuts and divides is likened to a sword.
Ephesians 6:13-18 “For this reason take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. 14 Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, 15 and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. 16 In every situation take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit—which is the word of God. 18 Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.” CSB
Paul paints us a picture of a set of armour that we need to wear, to protect us.
Psalm 18:2 “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock where I seek refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” CSB
God is not a physical rock, that we build on with physical bricks. David is sharing with us what he has experienced. Remember that he had fought a lion and a bear to protect his sheep. God saved him and gave him the victory against Goliath also (I Samuel 17:34-36).
7. God is faithful
Proverbs 30:5-6 “Every word of God is pure; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. 6 Don’t add to his words, or he will rebuke you, and you will be proved a liar.” CSB
God is faithful and He never lies to us. We must not change what the Bible is telling us or listen to people rather than God’s Word. We can only come to God through the work of Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit. If we add a different mediator or if we decide that we will be good enough for God (in our own strength), then we are rejecting what Jesus did for us. It is very dangerous to add ideas, yours or anyone else’s, to what has been written in the Bible for us.
John 14:6 “Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” CSB
Hebrews 6:19-20 “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. 20 Jesus has entered there on our behalf as a forerunner, because he has become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” CSB
Hebrews 10:19-20 “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus— 20 he has inaugurated[e] for us a new and living way through the curtain (that is, through his flesh)” CSB
Israel had a High Priest and he had a very important job. Once every year he would go into the temple and bring a special offering to God on behalf of the people. It would cover the sins of the people for another year. He would have to go behind the curtain, into the presence of God. This was a dangerous job, if he had sin in his life then he would die when coming into God’s presence. For this reason there were bells fastened to his clothing and a rope fastened to his ankle. He would first bring a sacrifice for his own sin and then go behind the curtain. If the sound from the bells stopped, then they knew to pull him out. Very serious.
Jesus is a better High Priest, He has closed the gap between us and God – by bringing a perfect sacrifice. His own holy blood, by which He paid the price for our sins to be forgiven. Never let anyone tell you that Jesus’ word on the cross was not sufficient or that you need to try to impress God by your own deeds.
God sees our hearts. True worship is to love God and to allow Him to strengthen us through His love to do what we cannot do on our own. God is love and He works through love as well. We need to ask Him to fill us with His love, so that we can share it with others.
I John 4:16-17 “And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. 17 In this, love is made complete with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, because as he is, so also are we in this world.” CSB
God is not asking us to do things in our own strength. If that was the case, why would He have sent Jesus to earth to die for our sins? If you or I could be perfect on our own then the nails would never have been necessary. An important thing to remember is that each of us is still a work in progress:
Philippians 1:6 “I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” CSB
Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” CSB
The word “transformed” here is metamorphosis. Like when a worm becomes a butterfly, it becomes something completely unrecognisable compared to what it was before. God wants to take us on a process of renewal. Man is made up of spirit, soul and body. When we ask Jesus to become the Lord and Saviour, then in that moment our spirit is made alive and whole. However, our soul (mind, will and emotions) take time to be reprogrammed. If you continually give bad input into your soul you can expect bad output also (just like a computer – garbage in, garbage out). God wants to walk with us and to continue to work in us. We must not fight Him on this, but rather invite the Holy Spirit to work in us every day. “Lord help me to want to be more like Jesus”, then becomes “Lord make me more like Jesus.”
8. In Closing
Joshua 1:7-9 “Above all, be strong and very courageous to observe carefully the whole instruction my servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go. 8 This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to meditate on it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do. 9 Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” CSB
When the book of Joshua was written, they only had the first 5 books of the Bible. We need to fill our hearts and minds with God’s Word so that He can renew us to be more like Jesus, affecting the words we say and our actions.
Do you remember that we talked about a tree whose leaves were always green? Pick up your Bible and read Psalm 1 now.
A zinger is a short, power packed one liner:
• The Bible is like a traffic sign, if you care what happens to your life then you will obey it.
• One truth from God’s Word is worth more than all the wisdom of man.
• To know the Bible is one thing, to know the author is another.
• A Bible that you read is worth more than two collecting dust in your bookshelf.
• It does not help to know the Bible and not to practise it.
• The best way for a Christian to grow is to eat the bread of life.
• The Bible is the most helpful when it is opened.
• The Bible is like a compass, it gives us direction.
• I read my Bible to know what people should do and my newspaper to see what they are doing.
• The Bible is the only book where the author is always present when it is being read.
• We need to conform to the Bible, not confirm the Bible to us.
• The devil is not scared of a dust covered Bible.
• Other books inform us – the Bible was given to transform us.
• There are riches in God’s Word waiting to be discovered.