This is a study of the most important book in the world, the Word of God. It is important to apply its truths to our lives. The goal today is to understand the central theme of this Holy Book —God’s redemption of sinful man. In this lesson the aim is to learn, “The Purpose of the Bible.”
The Singular Object of Scripture
In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 24, Jesus has been raised from the dead and is walking on the road to Emmaus with two disciples who don’t recognize him. They are depressed because the one they had hoped to be the Messiah had just been crucified. In verses 25-26 Jesus rebukes them for their weak knowledge of Scripture. He says: “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” This next part in verse 27 is important, so listen carefully: “Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” Later, in verses 44-45, after revealing himself to them, He said, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled. Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” What was the truth about the Scriptures that Jesus shared? It was simply this: All Scripture is all about Me.
In the Gospel of John, 5:39-40 Jesus says the same things to the religious leaders of His day. They are arguing with Him about His claim to be Messiah. Indeed, they had plenty of evidence if they would only accept it. John the Baptist was supportive of Jesus, the word of the Father came from heaven at His baptism, and He performed many miracles, some exceeding even Moses, but they would not believe. He says to them, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life” (John 5:39-40). “All the Scriptures point to Me” is the key verse to the whole Bible. The Bible is all about Jesus.
Four Purposes in Scripture
With Jesus as the central point of Scripture, there are four purposes to the Bible that need to be discussed. The first purpose of Scripture is to present Jesus Christ as the Savior and Redeemer of this world. Thus, The Old Testament says, “Jesus is coming” and The New Testament says, “Jesus came.”
The second purpose of the Bible is to present the history of the Redeemer and the salvation that came through Him. Thus, there is something to learn from the time and space given to specific parts of the story. For instance, there are 89 chapters in the four Gospels. Of these, four chapters cover the birth and the first thirty years of Jesus, leaving 85 chapters to cover the last three years of Jesus’ life. 27 chapters cover the last week of Jesus’s life. One might ask, “What aspect of Jesus’ life is more important to the Gospel writers? The first 30 or the last three? How important did they think Jesus’ last week was when He died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead? The Bible makes much of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Indeed, half of the Gospel of John is dedicated to discussing Jesus’ last week of ministry. Two of the Gospels do not even mention the birth of Jesus or His first thirty years. The Gospels are not written as biographies, but are written to preach something. They preach that Jesus came for that last week when he died for our sins and rose again to prove He was who he said He was—Incarnate God.
Just so, there are 1,189 chapters in the entire Bible. Eleven of these cover the history of the universe, the history of the earth, the history of people, the history of language, the history of evil. In Genesis 12, you meet a man named Abraham. Genesis twelve all the way through to Revelation twenty-two, 1,178 chapters, the subject is Abraham and his descendants, especially that one descendant through whom all the nations of the earth are blessed, the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The Bible is primarily interested in one thing and it gets to that one thing before it gets to its twelfth chapter. The Bible is interested in salvation; it is interested in demonstrating how salvation came, how the Savior came; so it gets to Abraham quickly. From Abraham to Christ, that is what the Bible is all about.
The New Testament has 260 chapters; the Old Testament has 929 chapters. Yet there are many people who say, “I am not interested in the Old Testament; that is the old Bible; just give me the New Testament.” The Old Testament is the pure Word of God and in these 929 chapters God says a great deal to his children.
The third purpose of the Bible, according to the Apostle Paul, is so that the servant of God might be completely equipped for every good work that God wants him to do. So, in one sense, the Bible was not written to the unbeliever but to the believer. Whether you are a man or a woman, God has a work that He wants you to do that will glorify Him; to equip you to do this work, God has given you 66 inspired little books that are filled with the truth that He wants you to know and reflect in life.
The fourth purpose for Scripture can be found emphasized in the Gospel of John, which is addressed to the unbeliever. In 20:31, John says, “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” In this way, the Gospel of John is the only book of the sixty-six books of the Bible that is addressed to the unbeliever.
The last purpose can be summarized this way: God only has one message to an unbeliever, according to the Bible, and that message is, “Repent and believe the Gospel.” After an unbeliever repents and believes the Gospel, God has sixty-six books filled with truth for that believer.
So, there are four purposes of the Bible: to present the person of Jesus Christ; to present the history of Jesus Christ and history leading to Him; that the unbeliever might believe in Jesus Christ; and that the believer might be completely equipped for every good work that God wants him or her to do.
The History of the Bible
Turning now to the history of the Bible, are you able to answer some of these questions:
- Who were the people who wrote the books of the Bible?
- When and where did they write them?
- In what language did they write them?
- Is there a record of the original documents?
- Who preserved these books for us?
- Who made the selection of these books and put them in this collection of holy books?
- Who authorized men to make these selections and when were these selections made?
- Who organized the Bible like it is today?
If you tell people that you surveyed the Bible and are a serious student of God’s Word, they will expect you to know how to answer these questions.
So, who did write the Bible? God wrote this book. What does that mean? The section on the word “inspiration” answers that. Through the miracle of inspiration, God moved men to write these books. So really, God wrote these books.
There are two terms that need established when learning about God writing these books. The first is the term “revelation.” Revelation is a general term that covers all the ways that God reveals truth to man. God reveals truth to man through nature. He also reveals truth personally through the Holy Spirit. The second term is “inspiration.” Inspiration refers to what theologians call “special revelation.” The Bible is the special revelation of God. Over a period of about sixteen hundred years God moved men to write these books. It has a beginning. It has an end. In about AD 90 when John wrote Revelation, and when he put a period to that revelation, he said that if anybody adds anything to this book, God will add to him the plagues in this book and he warned us not to take anything away from this book. (Rev. 22:18-19) Now, some have said that John was just referring to the content in Revelation itself when he wrote that but other have suggested that John’s warnings apply to the entire Bible. Either way, no one should remove or add anything to the Scriptures. It was a special miracle. That is why they call it a special revelation.
This raises the question, “Does God still reveal anything personally?” Yes, He does.
Personal vs. Special Revelation
This then raises another question, “Which is more important, personal revelation or special revelation?” Special revelation always has authority over personal revelation. If someone comes to a pastor and says, “I am going to leave my wife. She is impossible. I am going to leave her.” The Pastor can ask him, “Has she been unfaithful?” He says, “No, no, I just do not like her; I do not want to be married anymore God told me to leave her.” Then the pastor full of authority can say, “God did not tell you any such thing, because in the special revelation of Scripture, God does not permit you to leave her. God says cleave to her. Real personal revelation will never contradict special revelation.”
You have to be cautious about saying “God told me.” Many times when you say, “God told me,” He did not tell you. You do not want to credit God with personal opinions and desires.
The important thing about considering the words “revelation” and “inspiration” is that many in the world put exclusive emphasis on words like rationalism, reason, logic, humanism. They are saying, “I do not need a revelation. I have a mind.” When you become a Christian, you do not become irrational, illogical, unreasonable or inhuman, but according to the Scriptures, revelation is the main criteria by which right from wrong can be determined.
Who Wrote the Bible?
Now the question of “who?” Who were the people that wrote the Bible? God inspired men to write these books. These men were kings, fishermen, shepherds, generals, political leaders. One was a physician. One was a tax collector. All kinds of men were inspired by God to write His messages. The poet, Dryden, wisely asked, “Whence but from heaven could men unskilled in arts, in several ages born, in several parts, weave such agreeing truths, or how or why should all conspire to cheat us with a lie, unasked their pains, ungrateful their advice, starving their gain, and martyrdom their prize?”
Who Collected and Canonized these books?
It helps to research how this miracle took place. If you do, you will discover that the Old Testament books were selected by men like Ezra the Great Scribe. By about A.D. 100 at the Council of Jamnia the Old Testament books were completely settled, even though they had been officially
This is a poem that rhymes in English and may not rhyme in your language. However, the author is providing a very beautiful message concerning the powerful testimony of Scripture, considering all the different people that wrote, the different times and places, there is a united and coherent message throughout. It seems very unlikely that the Bible was manmade. There is too much that would have gone wrong along the way. Consider either including this in the lesson or adding something which sheds light on the meaning of this poem. recognized as sacred Scriptures and collected three or four hundred years before that. The New Testament books had been collected, selected and arranged by A.D. 692 at the Council of Trullan, though already settled at the Council of Rome in A.D. 382, and clearly enumerated almost a century before that. In the case of the Old Testament, selection focused on the author’s reputation as a prophet or a scribe. In the case of the New Testament, three questions were asked. Was this book written by an apostle or the close associate of an apostle? Did the book manifest spiritual content that equipped the believer for life and ministry? Finally, do all these books unanimously agree about this spiritual content? Many people ask about the Apocrypha which was placed in the canon of Scripture by the Roman Catholic Church in A.D. 1546 during the Reformation period. Those books were not chosen during the original selection of Scriptures.
Original Languages of the Bible
Another thing to consider is the language in which the Bible was written. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and Aramaic and the New Testament was written in Greek. Because the Bible was not written in your mother tongue, Bible scholars often study these original languages so that all can understand the Scriptures more accurately.
Now think about how long ago these books were written. The New Testament is almost 2000 years old, and the oldest books of the Old Testament are 3,500 to 4,000 years old. These books had to be copied and preserved. Since paper just does not last that long, none of the original manuscripts exist but there are trust worthy copies available. In order to get the Bible in [your language], it had to be translated by those who were committed to sharing God’s Word.
Hopefully this lesson has opened up the Scripture to you so you will understand it better and it will transform your life. Remember to carefully study these questions and the answers are quite important. These sorts of questions will help one to better understand the origin of the Scriptures. Knowledge will give us a confidence that the Word of God is true and reliable and relevant for us today.
Thank you for being a faithful student in this introductory study of the Bible. Continue to invite your family and friends to join in as we study God’s Word. The value of this study of scripture is eternal as it will help you learn and apply the eternal and spiritual truths of God’s Word.