The Bible for Grown-Ups

Day 5 of 5 • This day’s reading

Devotional

PRAYER:

Take a moment and pray that God will help you to understand how the story of the Bible intersects with your own story.

READING:

For the World

Now it’s time to turn our attention to the apostle Paul. Saul of Tarsus was an extraordinary Pharisee and expert in the Law and the Prophets, but he was also a Roman citizen, and that’s why he had a Roman name—Paul. He stepped into history as one persecuting God’s church, but God chose him to take the message of Jesus to the entire known Gentile world and the Roman Empire. Paul wrote much of the New Testament and his letters changed and shaped Western civilization.

There are three things the apostle Paul did to cause him to be a primary character in the story of the Bible. 

First, he wrote several letters to the churches he had planted around the Mediterranean Basin, and 13 of these letters survived antiquity. Keep in mind that when he was writing those letters, he was not writing the Bible.

Second, as an expert in the law, he explains the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament and, most importantly, he authenticates the most important event in the Bible. The most important event in the Bible is the reason we have the Bible—the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He makes it plain that Gentiles, modern Christians, even Jewish Christians, are part of a new covenant.

Third, if the Christian community had created and fabricated the life, message, and resurrection of Jesus, how did the apostle Paul know about it so close to the resurrection time? Because belief in the resurrection was immediate, not eventual. When he was in Jerusalem, he was told all the details. Paul also met James, the brother of Jesus, who didn’t believe in him at first but watched him being crucified and saw him alive after he was dead. James became his follower and the leader of the church in Jerusalem. The apostle Paul often says, “For what I received I passed on to you…” (1 Corinthians 15:3).

While the Gospels were being written and the apostle Paul was writing, others were writing as well. James, Jesus’s brother, actually wrote an epistle that survived antiquity and was included in the New Testament. The apostle Peter, a fisherman recognized as illiterate according to the book of Acts, dictated at least two letters, probably more, to someone who could write in Greek. The apostle John also wrote several letters; three survived and we call them First, Second, and Third John. And other documents were written, collected, and protected during that same time.

In the fourth century, Constantine lifted the ban on all religions, including Christianity, and for the first time in history, scholars could begin to work openly on these incredible manuscripts. Also, the same empire responsible for crucifying Jesus funded the collection and the copying of these documents around the late fourth century… a copy of the Jewish Scriptures and a copy of the Christian Scriptures were combined and eventually called the Bible.

Here is something to remember: The Bible did not create Christianity. The Christian faith resulted from an event that launched or created a movement that produced texts that were collected and protected through the years because they were considered very valuable. They were eventually bound together into a book. If there had been no resurrection, there would be no Bible. 

So, the story of the Bible reminds us that the most crucial question is: Are you at peace with the God who sent his Son into this world to die to pay for your sins so you could have what Jesus promised… eternal life, and a relationship with your heavenly Father? Because that’s where the story of the Bible intersects with your story, and that is the story of the Bible.

REFLECTION:

Throughout the story of the Bible we see what seemed impossible become possible. The Roman Empire that once tortured and murdered Jesus began helping to produce and distribute the scriptures. Paul, who spent his life working against followers of Jesus, becomes the most successful missionary who’s ever lived. Our God can do the impossible. How would your life be different if you could focus on that truth every day?  

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