The Bible is a fascinating book. By most estimates it is far and away the bestselling book of all time and its cultural impact cannot be overstated. It was authored by thirty-plus individuals from a variety of occupations and social backgrounds over a period of more than a thousand years. Within its pages we find historical narratives, legal documents, poetry, prophetic writings, proverbs, parables, pastoral letters, and more.   

But the Bible is so much more than the sum of its parts — it is the very word of God. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says that "all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

It is tempting to approach the Bible for what we can get out of it — inspiration, spiritual guidance, intellectual stimulation, and so on. But to seek only these things is to miss the point. The author Eugene Peterson writes that "it is possible to read the Bible from a number of different angles and for various purposes without dealing with God as God has revealed himself, without setting ourselves under the authority of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit who is alive and present in everything we are and do. To put it bluntly, not everyone who gets interested in the Bible and even gets excited about the Bible wants to get involved with God."

The primary purpose of the Bible is to reveal to us who God is and what His will is for mankind. Despite the fact that it was written in three different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and ancient Greek) by numerous authors living in different time periods, the message of the Bible is remarkably consistent throughout. In a nutshell it tells the story of how mankind was created to be in communion, or relationship, with the Creator; how sin entered the world and corrupted the bond between creation and creator; how God established a covenant with the Israelites whereby they would continue to enjoy His presence if they lived by a complex and wide-ranging set of laws; and how His son, Jesus Christ, eventually came to fulfil the law and secure complete and permanent salvation for all mankind by offering himself as a ransom for us, dying in our place and rising again three days later. (See this video from The Bible Project for a more detailed summary: The Story of the Bible.)

The Bible is more than a collection of inspirational quotes, philosophical discourses, and moral platitudes. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that "the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." When we recognise the Bible for what it is — the word of God — and when we study and meditate on it carefully, it has the power to radically transform our lives.

If you would like to know more about the Bible and how to read it, I would encourage you to listen to Pastor Ryan's sermon series "The Bible and Life". Audio recordings are available on YouTube and SoundCloud.