The Bible is the essential book of Christianity. According to our faith, God speaks to us in the Bible, telling us who we are, what our place is in the world of God and what God expects of us.
The Old and the New Testament, the two parts of the Bible, are closely connected, and they have both been given to us by God through people. The Bible forms a whole: it begins with the Creation of man, followed by his Fall and how God prepared a way back to Him by giving his Son to us. The Bible starts with Creation and ends with it − there will be a Last Judgment, the world we know will disappear, God will create a new world where He will take all those who believe in Christ.
The Bible, all of it, is written by people, but at the same time, we believe all of it is God’s Word. God has given us His Word in a form that is fragile in many ways − He could have written His message in words of fire or sent his angels here to tell it. But it was in a very fragile form that He came to us also when the little baby child was placed in the manger in Bethlehem. This seems to be the way God works. While it is not good enough for the wise and the rich, it is a treasure for the weak and the poor.
“Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.
(Psalm 119:105, ESV)
I thank you God, that You have spoken to us. Let me listen and understand.
The wonderful first words of the Gospel according to John tell us the very message of the Bible: God has created this world through Christ. It was overtaken by a darkness through which not a single person can find God in his own strength any longer. You cannot draw Him, you cannot hear His voice, cannot ask Him for advice. The situation was changed when Christ was born in this world: “A light shines in the darkness.”
According to the faith of our church, Christ is the light of the world and the only way to God. This light comes to us in the Bible, the Word of God. God does not talk to us directly, but his Holy Spirit speaks in His Word, which is living and powerful.
We still cannot draw Him, we still cannot hear His voice or ask Him for advice. But we have the light of the word of God, and this light leads us home, to brightness.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
(John 1:14 ESV)
Dear God, shine your light on me and my steps. Help me get to know Your Son, Jesus.
There are several holy books in the world. The Bible is one of them. Why should I believe the Bible and none of the others, for example those that are far older than the Bible?
Now we are approaching a subject which evades sensible deduction and argumentation. Christians cannot use sense to prove to those in doubt that the Bible alone is the Word of God unlike all the other books that claim this title. We have not compared all the old book collections and, after much consideration, chosen one of them, like when buying a new phone. Old Lutheran teachers expressed this in sharp words. It is a characteristic of the Bible that it convinces its reader that it is, indeed, the Word of God. In this way, the authority of the Bible does not lean on the decisions made by the Church, on sensible arguments or latest research. It leans on nothing but the greatness and strength of God.
This is exactly why a reader of the Bible can still be convinced that God is speaking to him or her. Another reader might not share this experience. According to our faith, this shows that the light of God does not reach everyone’s heart.
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
(1 Corinthians 1:20-21 ESV)
God, You have given me the senses and ability to think. Let me use them wisely for the benefit of myself and others.
Yes. But it is a big mistake to measure this by using human indicators.
For centuries, Christians have agreed on the fact that the Bible is the truth and the Word of God. Disagreements were only about interpretations of it. About a century and a half ago, historical and scientific research began to challenge the truths of the Bible, and Christians responded in different ways. Some tried to prove that the Bible is the Word of God by rejecting the new information they though was in contrast with the Bible. Many Christians still do this. This kind of thinking leads us to adopt the following way of thinking: In order to be the Word of God, the Bible needs to be in accordance with our reason and our understanding of science. Trying to do this, takes a lot of our energy from doing more important things.
The truth and godliness of the Bible is not based on human thinking or science. The truth of the Bible is based on the fact that God has declared Himself and His Will to us in written form. It is a question of faith, which in itself is a gift from God.
For some reason, people on the market square of Thessalonica recognized the call of God in the speech of Apostoles. Paul understands this as work of God:
And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.
(1 Thessalonians 2:13 ESV)
God, you are not mute and your words are not vain. Do not be silent with me either, but let me hear Your Voice.
The best way to start reading the Bible is to read one of the gospels from start to finish. The choice can be tough, because all of the gospels have their own wonderful characteristics. Will you choose the undecorated beauty of Mark − its rough lines make for its attractiveness. Or will you opt for the Gospel of John and enter the warm and beautifully-coloured world it paints? Whatever your choice, start with the Gospels, read all of them and then carry on with the New Testament in sequence. One book at a time, from start to finish, every day according to your own energy.
When you have read the New Testament two times, for example, you can move on to the Old Testament. The two first books of Moses are easily accessible to you, but after those you will start wondering about laws that were not given to us non-Jews. When it comes to prophets, the crucial issue is to learn when and in what kind of situation the books were written. For this, you may need a bit more help. But it will be worth the trouble − the Old Testament, too, is filled with treasures to be found!
Every word of God proves true;
he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
(Proverbs 30:5, ESV)
Dear God, how can I understand if nobody explains? Please, help me to start!
The Bible is interpreted in several ways, but not all interpretations bring credit to their originator. It is easier to achieve a better result when a couple of basic principles are held in mind.
Our Bible was born under a period of hundreds of years. When interpreting it, it is wise to ask how the first readers or hearers of this book understood it. Indeed, what were the thoughts of those who heard the words of Jeremiah, when one of many prophets foresaw the destruction of Jerusalem after it had abandoned God’s will? And after this destruction, what did people think when they heard the words of Isaiah, the wonderful promises of the 40th chapter? How did the first hearers of Revelations interpret the forceful prophecies? Answering these questions asks for the will to learn, to read bigger entities and ask for advice. But it is worth it.
Historical understanding builds many bridges to our own everyday life. A Christian reads the Bible as a whole, with Christ as focus, and little by little, understanding grows. It is in this process that a book collection that was born in the course of centuries becomes what it really is − a love letter to You, sent by the Almighty God.
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
(2 Corinthians 5:18-21, ESV)
Dear God, thank You for teachers who teach your Will. Please, let me find them!