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Must I Tithe 10% of My Net or Gross Income?

Reading Your Bible to Know God

Posted May 13, 2024
Bible Study

The very first sentence of Genesis reveals the main character of the entire Bible, God: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). From start to finish, every book of the Bible, every chapter and verse, reveals who God is and what God does. This is why one of the most helpful questions we can ask to understand any passage of Scripture is also one of the simplest: What does this text teach us about God? The Bible is the self-revelation of the creator to his creation. This means that to read the Bible well, we must always remember that it is about God first and foremost. He is the main character; we are not. If we make ourselves the main character of the Bible, then we will miss the message God wants us to understand.

God is the Main Character

Here’s an example to help make this point. Recall the story of David and Goliath (if you don’t know the story or need a refresher, take a few minutes to read 1 Samuel 17). If we were to make ourselves the main character of this story, then we would probably interpret it something like this. First off, we would likely identify ourselves with David (of course, we aren’t the evil giant!). Like David, we face “giants” in life. Most of us aren’t regularly attacked by nine-foot-tall men, so to make ourselves the main character in the story we have to get a little creative and turn Goliath into an allegorical symbol for something else. The “giants” in our lives might be any sort of hardship or trial. Everybody has something difficult in their life they can plug in the story as their personal “giant.” The message we take away from reading the story of David and Goliath in this manner is essentially that we must overcome our problems by, symbolically, taking up our sling and stones. Perhaps it is the stone of faith: we just need to believe harder or live holier, and then our hardships and trials will disappear.

This way of reading the Bible makes it easy to relate the story of David and Goliath to our lives and what we are going through. The problem, however, is that it completely and totally misses the point! We are not the main character, and the Bible is not all about us. God is the main character, and the story of David and Goliath is about him! If instead we ask what this story teaches us about God, then we the message is quite different: In a nutshell, God is mighty and saves his people. All of the Israelites lived in terror of Goliath, but God sent a humble shepherd boy with a mere sling to defeat the enemy of his people. This teaches us something of God’s character, and it ultimately points us to the way he will save his people eternally from their sins by coming in humility, not power, to suffer and die. To read the Bible rightly, we must begin with the understanding that it is both from God and about God.

The Bible is About God’s Kingdom

A fundamental theme that provides an underlying structure to the Bible is the “kingdom of God.” Theologian Vaughn Roberts defines the kingdom of God as “God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule and blessing” Although this definition is broad, it doesn’t mean it’s shallow. The idea of God’s kingdom is one that emerges from the pages of the Bible from beginning to end, as we see how God relates to his people over time, in some ways that are similar and some that are different.

For example, under Moses, the Israelites were governed by God. They had a theocracy, a rule by God, and Moses represented God to the people as God’s prophet. Later in Israel’s history, this theocracy gave way to a monarchy and the Jews were ruled by earthly kings. Yet even when Israel had a monarchy, they were still God’s kingdom because they were his people. This is why the theme of “kingdom” is complementary to the theme of “covenant.” The subjects of God’s kingdom are his covenant people whom he has called, by his word, to be a part of the church.

God’s covenant people are what we call “the church.” The church is not a building or location; it is the people God called out of sin and darkness into his kingdom of righteousness and light. Our entrance into the church is not something we can accomplish on our own, because sin excludes each of us from citizenship in God’s kingdom. As Paul explained, though “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). Yet God chose to show grace by sending Christ to die for our sins.

Through faith in Christ, we enter into the covenant of grace and become citizens of God’s kingdom today. The church now is a spiritual kingdom, ruled by Christ, which dwells in the midst of the various kingdoms of this world. As members of the church, we look to the Bible for instruction on how to live and believe (see Matt. 5–7 as an example). In addition, the Bible teaches us that, as members of God’s kingdom, we have become and are becoming a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).

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Andrew Menkis

Andrew Menkis holds a B.A. from the University of Maryland in Philosophy and Classics and an M.A. in Historical Theology from Westminster Seminary California. He is a high school Bible teacher whose passion is for teaching the deep things of God in ways that are understandable and accessible to all followers of Christ.