Bible 101 Part 1
Study the Bible
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
February 23, 2003
More than 90% of us has a copy of it. The average household has 3. It’s
the all-time bestseller. There are so many copies sold each year that
an exact number is impossible to calculate. There are at least 20
millions copies sold, and that doesn’t even include the tens of
thousands that are distributed freely each year. About two-thirds of
the population believes the Bible holds the answers to the basic
questions of life. It seems that the Bible is important in our society.
Fewer than half of us can name the first book of the Bible (Genesis).
Only a third of us know that Jesus is the one who delivered the Sermon
on the Mount. In fact, many people think it was Billy Graham.
A quarter of us don’t know why we celebrate Easter.
80% of people think that the Bible includes the statement; “God helps
those who help themselves.” It doesn’t. It actually comes from an old
myth about Hercules.
We’ve all seen people at sporting events holding up a sign saying,
“John 3:16”, but 65% of us don’t know that John 3:16 teaches that
whoever believes in Jesus can have eternal life.
Only 52% of us can name at least 5 of the Ten Commandments.
10% of people believe that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife.
We claim to value what the Bible says, but culturally we don’t.
You’re probably familiar with Gallup Polls. They’re conducted by George
Gallup and his organization. In fact, that’s where some of those
statistics I just told you comes from. Listen to what George Gallup
"We revere the Bible, but we don't read it."
~ George W. Gallup
What I want to propose to you this morning is that we need to revere
the Bible AND read it. It should have a central place in our lives. We
need to read it, study it, meditate on it, memorize it, and allow it to
transform our lives.
So let’s start with something very basic: How the Bible’s put together.
How is the Bible put together?
The Bible is separated into two testaments, also called covenants.
You’ve got the Old Testament, which contains writings before the birth
of Jesus, and the New Testament, which contains writings about the life
of Jesus and the formation of the early church.
If you flip through your Bible you’ll see how the Bible is really one
book comprised of several smaller books. Some are written as historical
documents, some are written as letters, some are written as poetry,
some are written as prophecies. There are sixty-six books in all, 39 in
the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. Next week we’re going to
go a bit further with this and talk about the content of each book in
the Old Testament, and then the week after that we’ll look at the New
Each book is further broken down by chapter and verse. This was not
part of the original writing but was added later to help us find our
way around the Bible. So instead of saying something like, “turn about
a seventh of the way into the book of John) we can say, turn to John
3:16. That means, turn to the third chapter in the book of John and
then locate the 16th verse.
Okay. So we’ve got this big book of 66 smaller books written over a
span of about 1500 years, the oldest of which were originally written
over 3000 years ago. And they’re all nicely bound together into what we
call our Bible. Big deal. I mean, why should we even care? Why should
we study the Bible?
Why should I Study the Bible?
I read a cute story yesterday about a six-year old girl in Boulder,
Colorado. Her church held a Presentation Day when she was given her own
Bible. Later on after the service people were hanging around having
some coffee (much like we do here) and people were congratulating her.
A man who attended the church asked if he could take a look at her
brand new Bible. And she said, “Okay, but don’t open it.”
“Don’t open it? Why shouldn’t I open it?”
“You’ll let God out.”
That’s actually what we want to do. We want to open the Bible and let
2 Timothy 3:15-17 (NLT)
You have been taught the holy Scriptures
from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the
salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is
inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us
realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches
us to do what is right. It is God's way of preparing us in every way,
fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.
How many of you have email? How many of you at least have a mailbox?
And how many of you read the emails or letters you receive from your
The Bible is God’s email to you. And you discover things He wants to
tell you by reading it. God speaks to us through His Word.
It’s not rocket science. It’s about as simple as it gets. God speaks to
you through His Word. That’s one reason you should study the Bible.
I want you to take ten seconds and do something for me. For just ten
seconds I want you to sit there and think of anything other than a pink
elephant. Okay? Think about whatever you want to think about, but don’t
think about pink elephants. And I’m going to time you for ten seconds.
Don’t think about pink elephants. Go.
Okay, time’s up. How’d you do? Anyone not think of pink elephants even
once? Kind of a stupid little exercise, but the point is this: What
goes in is what you think about. You heard me say “pink elephant” and
you couldn’t help but think about a pink elephant.
And there is nothing better for you to think about than the Word of God
because it has the power to transform your life. It helps you connect
to the creator of the universe and discover true meaning in life. As
you read the Word of God, as you study the Word of God, as you meditate
on the Word of God, it will infiltrate your thinking more and more, and
you will be left with a better understanding of who God is, a stronger
relationship with Him, better relationships with friends and family, a
better self-esteem, more direction and purpose in life, a clearer sense
of right and wrong, and more. It will improve every area of your life,
guaranteed. That’s the next reason:
John W. De Gruchy is a minister from South Africa, and he tells a story
about a time when he was travelling through Heathrow Airport in London.
Let me read it for you:
“My hand luggage emitted the ominous sound which alerts police to the
presence of a hidden weapon. Having been taken aside by a police
office, my luggage was searched, and eventually the officer confronted
me with the offending article. It was a Bible with a metal zipper. My
immediate reaction was to protest: “that’s only a Bible,” to which the
officer with some theological insight replied: “Maybe, but the Bible
can be a very dangerous book!”
(from Leonard Sweet’s AquaChurch, p.63)
You discover God’s likes and dislikes, you discover how you can live a
life that pleases Him, you can discover how He has arranged for you to
enter into a relationship with Him, you can discover how that
relationship can grow and how you can become more like Him.
Okay. So that’s why we should study it. So if we’re going to do it, how
should we do it? How do I study the Bible?
How do I Study the Bible?
Let me give you some tips.
If you go down to the Canadian Bible Society on University Avenue
you’ll find what seems to be an endless supply of versions of the Bible
that you can either buy right there or have ordered in. In fact, there
are so many options that it’s hard to keep track. But that’s a good
thing. The reason there are so many versions is so that people can find
one that they can understand, that’s written in their own language, and
that might have some added features that help them make better use of
The original manuscripts for the Bible were written in Hebrew, Aramaic
and Greek over a period of about 1500 years from the time of Moses to
the time of Jesus and his disciples. Of course, if we were still
reading the Hebrew or Aramaic or Greek versions we’d have a couple
problems. First of all, I couldn’t read them. Secondly, you couldn’t
understand them. But thankfully, we don’t have to deal with that
because the Bible has been translated from those original manuscripts
into English for us.
The most popular translation of the Bible is the King James Version. It
wasn’t the first version of the Bible in English, but it became the
most accepted. And it has certainly served its purpose over the years.
It was a beautiful translation which could remind you a lot of
Shakespeare’s writings, which would be fitting since Shakespeare was
alive when the KJV was first published in 1611.
But language changes over time. I remember hearing on a documentary
once that language changes 20% every 100 years. So it’s understandable
that the KJV isn’t as understandable as it was 400 years ago. So every
once in a while a team of scholars gets together and translates the
Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek into a more understandable version for us
today. Here at Sunrise we use the New Living Translation. Some other
suggestions would be the New International Version or the Contemporary
English Version. If you prefer to listen than read, perhaps you should
look at getting a version on tape or CD. Or you could even pick up a
Children’s Bible done in comic book form.
There are lots of options available, and the important thing is that
you choose one that has a good reputation (meaning that it’s accurate)
and that you can understand it. You don’t need a theology degree to
understand the Bible.
You don’t have to start in Genesis and read straight through. If you’re
brand new to scripture reading, I would suggest you start with the book
of Luke in the New Testament.
I found out this week that Pamela Anderson is teaching Sunday School. I
saw her in an interview where she said that she thought everyone should
read the Bible. And that’s good advice, but I’ve got a problem. Pamela
Anderson doesn’t seem to mind posing for Playboy and has appeared on
more covers than anyone else in the history of the magazine (9). She
doesn’t seem to mind sleeping around with people she’s not married to.
She doesn’t seem to mind making movies that make a mockery of morality.
Ashley Judd is someone else who’s been know to loose her clothing or
use profanity in movies. She said:
“I don’t go anywhere without my Bible.”
~ Ashley Judd
The problem I have with both Pamela and Ashley isn’t that they read the
Bible; it’s that they don’t apply it. You can read the Bible all you
want but until it makes a difference in your life it’s not worth the
paper it’s written on.
“Christian maturity is not understanding the principles of the Bible;
Christian maturity is character. If what we come to accept as truth
doesn’t affect our love for God and man, something is radically wrong.
‘Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies’ (1 Corinthians 8:1).”
~ Neil Anderson, Five Hindrances, Devotional for Sunday, November 12,
So here’s the key for you. While you’re reading, ask yourself, “So
What?” It’s fine and dandy that you’re reading it, but so what? What
difference does it make? How can you put it into practice in your life.
God’s not looking for inflated brains, He’s looking for changed lives.
It’s more important that you understand and apply what you read than it
is that you get through it in record time.
John 14:26 (NLT)
But when the Father sends the Counsellor as
my representative—and by the Counsellor I mean the Holy Spirit—he will
teach you everything and will remind you of everything I myself have
Pray that the Holy Spirit will teach you, pray that He will help you
understand, and pray that He will help you put the Word of God into
practice in everyday life.
Remember this: “Say-Mean-Apply”
Say? How can I summarize this passage in my own words?
Mean? What is God saying to me through this passage?
Apply? What action should I take in response to God’s Word?
To Go Deeper…
Underline or highlight passages that are especially meaningful to you.
Write notes in the margins of your Bible. A well used Bible looks
worn-out. Let me show you the Bible I used in high-school.
SHOW OLD NIV BIBLE
You may want to keep a journal. You can record your insights,
questions, feelings, and your response to a particular passage.
You could even rewrite a portion of Scripture or put it into your own
Psalm 119:11 (NLT)
I have hidden your word in my heart, that I
might not sin against you.
Every week there’s 2 or 3 verses included in your Sunrise update.
Perhaps you will want to memorize that.
There are a lot of other tools you can use to help you understand and
apply the Bible. Let me show you a few.
Q & Eh?