Helping You Understand the Bible
The following material was taken from the introduction to The Book, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois, September, 1984, which uses The Living Bible, copyright 1971 by Tyndale. Even though it was written for The Living Bible, which is a paraphrase, the same meanings and themes given apply to any version of the Bible being studied. We recommend The Living Bible for those who need the Bible in modern language for clearer understanding. It is also good to use it as a companion when studying a true translation like the King James Version. (There are also translations that can be purchased which are in modern English.) For word studies in the Greek and Hebrew, a translation, not a paraphrase version, must be used.
All Scripture references on this page are from The Living Bible.
From the beginning to end the Bible's message is God. Before there was a world, before there were any distant galaxies, before there was anything as we know it, there was God. The Bible begins by telling how the eternal God created the world and everything in it. His special creation was people. He gave them a beautiful place to live, authority over all the other creatures, almost complete freedom to do what they wanted. He supplied everything they needed and, best of all, he was their friend. He talked with them, and they with him.
That glorious beginning, however, was marred by mankind's disobedience, a pathetic human attempt to take a course not designed by God, that brought terrible loss to the earth, its creatures, and man himself. To make matters worse, mankind was unable to reverse the course he began; there was no way he could recoup the losses. Even so, God did not abandon his disobedient creatures; he set out to reclaim fallen people, mush as a shepherd sets out to restore lost sheep to the fold.
So a pattern of God's activity began, a pattern seen throughout the Old Testament. God, being just, must punish sin (rebellion against him) but, being also loving, he himself provided the way of escape. In time, God chose Abraham as the father of his people Israel. To those people he gave the Law, an integral part of the divine plan to bring human beings back to God. The Law showed Israel (and the whole world) that, because of the broken relationship between God and man, it was impossible for people to please God or to meet his requirements.
The Old Testament provides many references to a special individual who would provide salvation for his people. Moses spoke of a "prophet" like himself who would be "an Israelite, a man to whom you must listen like himself who would be "an Israelite, a man to whom you must listen and whom you must obey" (Deuteronomy 18:15). King David was promised that one of his sons would sit on an eternal throne. Because of that promise, God's deliverer was called the "Messiah," which in Hebrew means "the anointed one" (one of David's titles).
The special individual, the Messiah, was not to be merely a man, however, for man could not mend the broken relationship on his own. "But I can't help myself," Paul said: "...It is sin inside me that is stronger than I am that makes me do these evil things" (Romans 7:17). The Messiah was to be "Immanuel," which in Hebrew means "God with us" (Isaiah was to be "Immanuel," which in Hebrew means "God with us" (Isaiah 7:14; 8:8). The Old Testament pointed to a Messiah who would be both God and man, and those prophecies were fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.
Jesus was born a descendant of King David (Luke 2:4) in David's city, Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). He was conceived by a virgin (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:18; Luke 1:35). He lived a totally blameless life (Hebrew 4:15, 7:26). Yes Jesus, the Son of God, was arrested like a common criminal, tried on a trumped-up-charge, and executed though he had done nothing wrong (Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 18 and 19). Dead, he was buried in a tomb. On the third day God raised him from the dead, and with that act the acceptable sacrifice for our sin was completed (Matthew 28:5-7; Romans 4:23-25); the relationship between God and man, broken by Adam and Eve, was restored.
When Jesus paid the penalty for our sin, he also removed all guilt produced by that sin. Further, he lives today and speaks continually to God on our behalf. "Jesus lives forever and continues to be a Priest, so that no one else is needed. He is able to save completely all who come to God through him" (Hebrews 7:24, 25). To receive the salvation, "tell others with your own mouth that Jesus Christ is your Lord, and believe in your own heart that God has raised him from the dead." Then, "You will be saved. For it is by believing in his heart that a man becomes right with God; and with his mouth he tells others of his faith, confirming his salvation." (Romans 10:9, 10)
Salvation means that the new life, promised in the Bible to those who trust Jesus, will be yours. As you read The Book (or the Bible in any translation) you will find what God wants you to have--alive that is pleasing to him and fulfilling for yourself. "My purpose is to give life in all its fullness." (John 10:10)
Suggestions For Reading the Bible
Eventually you will want to read every word... however, it need not be read straight through from page one. Since it is a library of books, you can begin almost anywhere. If the Bible is fairly new to you, start your reading in the New Testament with the book of Mark. It is a short, fast-moving biography of Jesus Christ. It was written by a young man who was probably an eyewitness of many things Jesus did, and who knew Christ's disciples and could draw on their memories. This book will give you a dramatic introduction to the events that changed the world and can change your life.
Then follow the growth of Christianity by reading the book of Acts. This picks up where Mark ends and continues the dynamic story of the first Christians and how they spread the Good News of Jesus Christ all over the world.
Next, read the book of Romans. This is one of the many letters written by Paul. It was sent to a group of early Christians in Rome. Paul clearly tells how selfish, arrogant, sinful human beings can find acceptance with God. Then read some of the shorter books in the New Testament before turning to the Old Testament.
In the Old Testament, read the people-stories in the book of Genesis. Then continue with some of the other books named after the main character--Joshua, Ruth, Ezra, Job, Hosea, and others. Be sure to read complete stories, rather than stopping at the end of a chapter. For instance, the story of Gideon covers Judges 6-8. The story of Jonah covers the whole book, but is only four chapters long and can easily be read at one time.
Then turn to the Psalms and read enough of them to get a sense of what it means to worship God and pour out your inner feelings to him. Save the longer prophetic books and the books relating the law and history of God's people until last. You may want to set up a pattern of daily reading that includes several Psalms along with a section from either the Old or New Testament.
The Bible Talks About Life
Let him have all your worries and cares, for he is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you. 1 Peter 5:7
"I am leaving you with a gift--peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn't fragile like the peace the world gives. So don't be troubled or afraid." John 14:27
Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs and don't forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6, 7
If you are angry, don't sin by nursing your grudge. Don't let the sun go down with you still angry--get over it quickly; for when you are angry you give a mighty foothold to the devil. Ephesians 4:26, 27
Dear brothers, don't ever forget that it is best to listen much, speak little, and not become angry; for anger doesn't make us good, as God demands that we must be. James 1:19, 20
I waited patiently for God to help me; then he listened and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out from the bog and the mire, and set my feet on a hard, firm path and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, of praises to our God. Psalm 40:1-3
Yes, the Lord hears the good man when he calls to him for help, and saves him out of all his troubles. . . . The good man does not escape all troubles--he has them too. But the Lord helps him in each and every one. Psalm 34:17, 19
"Let not your heart be troubled. You are trusting God, now trust in me. There are many homes up there where my Father lives, and I am going to prepare them for your coming. When everything is ready, then I will come and get you, so that you can always be with me where I am." John 14:1-3
Be strong! Be courageous! Do not be afraid of them! For the Lord your God will be with you. He will neither fail you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6
Jesus told her, "I am the one who raises the dead and gives them life again. Anyone who believes in me, even though he died like anyone else, shall live again. He is given eternal life for believing in me and shall never perish. Do you believe this, Martha?" John 11:25, 26
For we know that when this tent we live in now is taken down--when we die and leave these bodies--we will have wonderful new bodies in heaven, homes that will be ours forevermore, made for us by God himself, and not by human hands. How weary we grow of our present bodies. . . . We want to slip into our new bodies so that these dying bodies will, as it were, be swallowed up by everlasting life. This is what God has prepared for us and, as a guarantee, he has given us his Holy Spirit. 2 Corinthians 5:1, 2, 4, 5.
Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will give us later. Romans 8:18.
Fear not, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10
He does not fear bad news, nor live in dread of what may happen. For he is settled in his mind that Jehovah will take care of him. That is why he is not afraid, but can calmly face his foes. Psalm 112:7, 8
You are my hiding place from every storm of life; you even keep me from getting into trouble! You surround me with songs of victory. Psalm 32:7
You need to keep on patiently doing God's will if you want him to do for you all that he has promised. Hebrews 10:36
He will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in him, whose thoughts turn often to the Lord! Trust in the Lord God always, for in the Lord Jehovah is your everlasting strength. Isaiah 26:3, 4
But if we confess our sins to him, he can be depended on to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. (And it is perfectly proper for God to do this for us because Christ died to wash away our sins.) 1 John 1:9
I've blotted out your sins; they are gone like morning mist at noon! Oh, return to me; for I have paid the price to set you free. Isaiah 44:22
Come, let's talk this over! says the Lord; no matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can take it out and make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you white as wool. Isaiah 1:18
So overflowing is his kindness towards us that he took away all sins through the blood of his Son, by whom we are saved. Ephesians 1:7
And I will be merciful to them in their wrongdoings, and I will remember their sins n more. Hebrews 8:12
Rest in the Lord; wait patiently for him to act. Don't be envious of evil men who prosper. Psalm 37:7
Now as for you, dear brothers who are waiting for the Lord's return, be patient, like a farmer who waits until the autumn for his precious harvest to ripen. Yes, be patient. And take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near. James 5:7, 8
What can we ever say to such wonderful things as these? If God is on our side, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son for us but gave him up for us all, won't he also surely give us everything else? Romans 8:31, 32
I am holding you by your right hand--I, the Lord your God--and I say to you, Don't be afraid; I am here to help you. Isaiah 41:13
That is why we can say without any doubt or fear, "The Lord is my Helper and I am not afraid of anything that mere man can do to me." Hebrews 13:6
"Happy are those who are persecuted because they are good, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. When you are reviled and persecuted and lid about because you are my followers--wonderful! Be happy about it! Be very glad! for a tremendous reward awaits you up in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted too. . . . But I say: Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way you will be acting as true sons of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust too." Matthew 5:10-12, 44, 45
Ad by all means don't brag about being wise and good if you are bitter and jealous and selfish; that is the worst sort of lie. For jealousy and selfishness are not God's kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, inspired by the devil. For wherever there is jealousy or selfish ambition, there will be disorder and every other kind of evil. James 3:14-16
So do not be dismayed when evil men grow rich and build their lovely homes. For when they die they carry nothing with them! Their honors will not follow them. Psalm. 49:16, 17
I will lie down in peace and sleep, for though I am alone. O Lord, you will keep me safe. Psalm 4:8
For the mountains may depart and the hills disappear, but my kindness shall not leave you. My promise of peace for you will never be broken, says the Lord who has mercy upon you. Isaiah 54:10
"No," I will not abandon you or leave you as orphans in the storm--I will come to you." John 14:18
So God made man like his Maker. Like God did God make man; man and maid did he make them. Genesis 1:27
"The second is: 'You must love others as much as yourself.' No other commandments are greater than these." Mark 12:31
As God's messenger I give each of you God's warning: Be honest in your estimate of yourselves, measuring your value by how much faith God has given you. Just as there are many parts to our bodies, so it is with Christ's body. We are all parts of it, and it takes every one of us to make it complete, for we each have different work to do. So we belong to each other, and each needs all the others. Romans 12:3-5
"Father, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take away this cup from me. Yet I want your will, not mine." Mark 14:36
These troubles and sufferings of ours are, after all, quite small and won't last very long. Yet this short time of distress will result in God's richest blessing upon us forever and ever! . . . . I was given a physical condition which has been a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to hurt and bother me, and prick my pride. Three different times I begged God to make me well again. Each time he said, "No. But I am with you; that is all you need. My power shows up best in weak people." Now I am glad to boast about how weak I am; I am glad to be a living demonstration of Christ's power. Since I know it is all for Christ's good, I am quite happy about "the thorn." and about insults and hardships, persecutions and difficulties; for when I am weak, then I am strong--the less I have, the more I depend on him. 2 Corinthians 4:17; 12:7-10
Is anyone sick? He should call for the elders of the church and they should pray over him and pour a little oil upon him, calling on the Lord to heal him. And their prayer, if offered in faith, will heal him, for the Lord will make him well; and if his sickness was caused by some sin, the Lord will forgive him. James 5:14, 15
He nurses them when they are sick, and soothes their pains and worries. Psalm 41:3
Suffering and Death
And now, dear brothers, I want you to know what happens to a Christian when he dies so that when it happens, you will be full of sorrow, as those are who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and then came back to life again, we can also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him all the Christians who have died. 1 Thessalonians 4:13, 14
The Lord is close to those whose hearts are breaking. Psalm 34:18a
But I am telling you this strange and wonderful secret: we shall not all die, but we shall all be given new bodies! It will all happen in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For there will suddenly be a trumpet blast from the sky and all the Christians who have died will suddenly become alive, with new bodies that will never, never die; and then we who are still alive shall suddenly have new bodies too. For our earthly bodies, the ones we have now that can die, must be transformed into heavenly bodies that cannot perish but will live forever. When this happens, then at last this Scripture will come true-- "Death is swallowed up in victory." O death, where then your victory? Where then your sting? 1 Corinthians 15:51-55
But remember this--the wrong desires that come into your life aren't anything new and different. Many others have faced exactly the same problems before you. And no temptation is irresistible. You can trust God to keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can't stand up against it, for he has promised this and will do what he says. He will show you how to escape temptation's power so that you can bear up patiently against it. I Corinthians 10:13
Happy is the man who doesn't give in and do wrong when he is tempted, for afterwards he will get as his reward the crown of life that God has promised those who love him. And remember, when someone wants to do wrong it is never God who is tempting him, for God never wants to do wrong and never tempts anyone else to do it. . . . So give yourselves humbly to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. James 1:12, 13,; 4-7
For since he himself has now been trough suffering and temptation, he knows what it is like when we suffer and are tempted, and he is wonderfully able to help us. Hebrews 2:18
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles: they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
"Come to me and I will you rest--all of you who work so hard beneath a heavy yoke. Wear my yoke--for it fits perfectly--and let me teach you; for I am gentle and humble, and you shall find rest for your souls; for I give you only light burdens." Matthew 11:28-30
He will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in him, whose thoughts turn often to the Lord! Trust in the Lord God always, for in the Lord Jehovah is your everlasting strength. Isaiah 26:3-4
Let him hall all your worries and cares, for he is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you. 1 Peter 5:7
Then turning to his disciples he said, "Don't worry about whether you have enough food to eat or clothes to wear. For life consists of far more than food and clothes. And besides, what's the use of worrying? What good does it do? Will it add a single day to your life: of course not! And if worry can't even do such little things as that, what's the use of worrying over bigger things? Look at the lilies! They don't toil and spin, and yet Solomon in all his glory was not robed as well as they are. And if God provides clothing for the flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, don't you suppose that he will provide clothing for you, you doubters?" Luke 12:22-28
The Book Talks About Relationships
Be with wise men and become wise. Be with evil men and become evil. Proverbs 13:20
Don't be selfish; don't live to make a god impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don't just think about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and in what they are doing. Philippians 2:3,4.
Do what is right; then if men speak against you, calling you evil names, they will become ashamed of themselves for falsely accusing you when you have only done what is good. Remember, if God wants you to suffer, it is better to suffer for doing good than for doing wrong! Christ also suffered. He died once for the sins of all us guilty sinners, although he himself was innocent of any sin at any time, that he might bring us safely home to God. 1 Peter 3:16-18
After you have suffered a little while, our God, who is full of kindness through Christ, will give you his eternal glory. He personally will come and pick you up, and set you firmly in place, and make you stronger than ever. To him be all power over all things forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:10, 11
"I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Live within my love. When you obey me you are living in my love, just as I obey my Father and live in his love. I have told you this so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your cup of joy will overflow! I demand that you love each other as much as I love you. And here is how to measure it--the greatest love is shown when a person lays down his life for his friends; and you are my friends if you obey me. I no longer call you slaves, for a master doesn't confide in his slaves; now you are my friends, proved by the fact that I have told you everything the Father told me. You didn't choose me! I chose you! I appointed you to go and produce lovely fruit always, so that no matter what you ask for from the Father, using my name, he will give it to you." John 15:9-16.
"For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16.
God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into this wicked world to bring to us eternal life through his death. In this act we see what real love is: it is not our love for God, but his love for us when he sent his Son to satisfy God's anger against our sins. . . . We know how much God loves us because we have felt his love and because we believe him when he tells us that he loves us dearly. God is love, and anyone who lives in love is living with God and God is living in him. And as we live with Christ, our love grows more perfect and complete; so we will not be ashamed and embarrassed at the day of judgment, but can face him with confidence and joy, because he loves us and we love him too . . . . If anyone says, "I love God," but keeps on hating his brother he is a liar; for if he doesn't love his brother who is right there in front of him, how can he love God whom he has never seen? And God himself has said that one must love not only God, but his brother too. 1 John 4:9-21
Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice; but rejoices whenever truth wins out. If you love someone you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him. . . . There are three things that remain--faith, hope, and love--and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, 13
To be continued soon...