Studying the Bible
It is important to understand the Bible within its proper context. The Bible is a long, interwoven story covering a period of over 2500 years. It contains historical accounts, poetry, wisdom literature, prophecy by visions, and parables (earthly stories with a spiritual message).
The Bible was not written with the intent of providing “proof passages” to be pulled out and shot like bullets during a debate. Instead, it was written as a collection of books to tell a cohesive story which contains profound depth and truth. As the inspired Word of God, it is worthy of life-long study and meditation.
Tips For Studying The Bible
When studying a passage of Scripture, remember to do the following:
- Take note of the book in which it is found. What is its genre and main purpose? What is its place in history?
- Look at the verses before and after the passage in order to keep the truth of the passage in sync with the words around it.
- Always ask, “What is the passage saying?” before you ask, “Does this answer my question or please my reasoning?”.
- Look for other passages in the Bible which speak to the same subject in order to help in understanding the truth of your original passage. (Let Scripture interpret Scripture.)
Resources For Studying The Bible
Many good books are available through Northwestern Publishing House’s online catalog.
- A good study Bible — We recommend the Concordia Self-Study Bible Self-Study Bible. It provides historical and literary context, references to related passages, and some explanation and analysis.
- A good set of commentaries on the books of the Bible — We recommend the People’s Bible series and authors Paul Kretzmann, R.C.H. Lenski, and Matthew Henry.
- A set of Bible encyclopedia
- A good Bible dictionary
- An exhaustive concordance of the Bible. We recommend authors James Strong and Robert Young.
- A pastor or vicar — Please feel welcome to consult our pastors or vicar. During their college and seminary training, they receive extensive training in the original Hebrew and Greek biblical texts. Take advantage of their knowledge and experience. Get an introduction to our staff.
Authors of the Bible
We believe the Bible to be the error-less, inspired Word of God. The men who wrote the books did so by divine inspiration. That is, God moved the men who wrote the Bible, putting into their minds the very thoughts and words which they wrote. We believe this for the following reasons:
- Christ testified that it is so.
- Biblical prophecy has been fulfilled.
- The Bible proves its divine power in our hearts.
Moses and the prophets wrote the Old Testament in Hebrew. The apostles and evangelists (missionaries) wrote the New Testament in Greek.
Related Bible Passages
- All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. 2 Timothy 3:16
- [Jesus said]… this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled. Matthew 26:56
- [Jesus said]… for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.Matthew 10:20
- You must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:20-21
- For the word of God is living 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. Hebrews 4:12
Sections of the Bible
The Old Testament covers the period of time before Christ (approximately 2500 to 430 ). The New Testament covers the life of Christ and the early church (approximately 6 to 95). Each testament is divided into books. Each book typically has a single author. Each book has been divided into chapters and verses. Therefore, John 3:16 refers to the book of John, chapter 3, verse 16.
Summary of The Bible
Creation and the Fall into Sin
The story begins with creation. God created a perfect world. Humankind was the crown of that creation; a close intimate relationship existed between God and his people. That close relationship was ruined when people choose to rebel against God’s authority. Sinfulness spread quickly throughout all creation. Its effect was devastating. But God promised to repair the fallen state of humankind.
The Nation of Israel
At this point, the global perspective of the Bible shifts to focus on a single man and his descendants. Through Abraham and the nation of Israel, God promised to fulfill his plan of salvation. Initially, Abraham’s descendants grew into a nation as a slave-race in Egypt. But God personally led them out of Egypt and established them in the land of Canaan (modern-day Palestine). Throughout this period, the Israelites often rebelled against God’s authority. God responded with patience, mercy, and sometimes punishment, yet he always remained true to his promises.
The Life of Jesus Christ
God’s plan for salvation reaches a climax 1500 years after the Israelites were established in Canaan, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. This son of a Jewish carpenter conducted a walking ministry in which he taught how the promises of God would be fulfilled. He spoke with authority and performed miracles. He pointed to himself as the promised Messiah, the Christ, a sacrificial lamb whose death would atone for the sins of all humanity. After a brief three-year ministry, he was executed on a cross by Jewish leaders and the Roman authorities.
Jesus’ Resurrection & Spread of the Gospel
On the third day after his death, God raised Jesus to life, a testament to his identity as the Messiah. Jesus appeared to many of his disciples in the next forty days. Before ascending into heaven, he gave them the mission of spreading the news of God’s salvation, which they have done in both written and spoken word. The teachings of Jesus, as recorded by his disciples, comprise the New Testament portion of the Bible. (The books of Moses and the prophets make up the Old Testament.) In summary, the message is this: whoever places their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior will share in his victory over sin and death. Whoever rejects Christ, rejects the forgiveness of God.
Basic Bible Truths
- The earth and the universe were created by God.
Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
- The crown of God’s creation was humankind. A close and loving relationship existed between God and people.
Genesis 5:1 When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them.
- By humankind’s disobedience, the relationship between God and people was ruined. All people became inherently sinful, and sin tainted every part of God’s creation.
Romans 5:12 Sin entered the world through one man and death through sin and in this way death came to all men because all sinned.
- God’s sense of justice required punishment for sin, while his love for people required a means of salvation.
Exodus 34:6 The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished.
- God’s plan for the salvation of people was to send a substitute to take their punishment. Essentially, God himself bore the punishment for human sinfulness in the person of Jesus Christ. Fully human and fully God, Jesus lived a perfect righteous life and suffered an innocent death to redeem (buy back) humanity.
2 Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
- People are incapable of earning salvation for themselves. Works and good deeds cannot cover their debt of sin.
Ephesians 2:18 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not of yourselves – it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.
- All who believe in Christ as their Savior receive the forgiveness he has earned for them. Those who reject Christ reject God’s forgiveness.
John 3:16 God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.