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Bible reading plan & guide - week 1


For this first week, seven chapters from different parts of the Bible introduce major concepts which help us to understand God’s purpose; guide us on how to read and understand the scriptures; and help us appreciate the value of God’s Word. All quotations are from the King James Authorised Version.

Sunday: Genesis 1

This is the first chapter in the Bible and tells us what happened “in the beginning”?. The first verse states that at some moment in the past, maybe many millions of years ago, the universe came into existence, a fact presumably accepted by everyone. Here the Lord declares that this was his creation: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth”.

The rest of the chapter, however, is not about the creation of the universe, but about the transformation of our planet from a dark water-covered world into a suitable habitation for living creatures, especially mankind. We are not told what happened to the earth during the millions of years from creation to this point of time because it is not relevant to God’s scheme of salvation described in the Bible. But we are told, verse 2, the condition of the earth before the work described began: it was empty, shapeless, enveloped in darkness, and completely covered in water. During the next six days a complete transformation was effected by the power of God, in the hands of angels - the word translated “God” is plural and means “mighty ones”.

Firstly, it was necessary to bring light to bear on the planet. This was done on the first day. Secondly, the watery mists were dissipated so that space was made between the surface and the clouds. This space was called “Heaven”, and later it was seen that space extended far out into the universe. Thirdly, dry land was brought above the water, possibly by locking up great volumes of water in ice at the poles or by moving the earth’s plates to push land above sea level. However it was done, the result was a mass of dry land upon which vegetation was caused to grow.

On the fourth day further dissipation of the clouds occurred, revealing the sun, moon, and stars to enlighten the earth and to regulate light and darkness, and times and seasons. On the fifth day sea creatures and birds were created, and on the sixth day creatures to live on the land. Finally among these, man was created in the image of the angels who said: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” v.26, and man was given dominion over all the other creatures and instructed to “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it” v.28.

This chapter is commonly misread and misunderstood, and people also often reject this record on supposedly scientific grounds. But it is unscientific to leave God out of account, as is often done, and thereby omit the most important factor affecting the past. There is nothing in the scriptures inconsistent with scientific discoveries, as opposed to theories. For example, if fossils are discovered which really are of creatures that lived millions of years ago, then clearly this would have been before the transformation of the earth described in this chapter. A myriad of events must have taken place since the beginning of the universe but God does not recount these because he is concerned only to inform us of his purpose, beginning with Adam and ending with a world inhabited by righteous and immortal people from among his descendants.

Scientists make many remarkable discoveries but acknowledge that their knowledge of the universe is very limited. They develop theories which hold for a time and then are discarded or changed when new discoveries are made. If you stake your life on these theories you may be making a fatal mistake, but no verifiable fact discovered by scientists contradicts the Bible and new discoveries vindicate what God says. The word of God never changes so you may safely stake your life on it, and the more you read it the more you will be convinced of its truth by the overwhelming evidence it provides.

Monday: 1 Corinthians 15

This chapter, in the apostle Paul’s letter, shows us where the purpose of God is leading - the removal of death from the earth: “Death is swallowed up in victory” v.54. This is one of the great messages of the Bible: death will be overcome so that men and women live for ever. This will be achieved by raising people from the grave and making them immortal, and this process has already begun. An essential element of the gospel is the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead to eternal life: “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel... for I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” vs.1,3-4.

Many witnesses saw Jesus after he came out of the grave: they met with him, touched him, talked with him, and ate with him. Therefore Paul affirms: “Now is Christ risen from the dead” v.20, and as Jesus is only the first of many he adds: “and become the firstfruits of them that slept”. Just as so many die as a result of Adam’s disobedience, so many will be made eternally alive through Christ’s obedience: “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” vs.21-22.

However, God has set times in his purpose for the granting of immortality, one was when Jesus himself was raised and another is when he returns from heaven: “But every man (will be made alive) in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterwards they that are Christ’s at his coming” v.23. These immortal men and women will reign with Jesus in the kingdom of God on earth until “the end” when others also will be raised from the dead: “Then the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father: when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power, for he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” vs.24-26. When this is accomplished, God’s purpose will be finished for the earth will be inhabited only by righteous and immortal people.

Knowledge of God’s purpose gives us a glorious hope for the future. If we die we will be raised to eternal life; if we are alive when Jesus returns we will not die but be changed to be immortal: “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory” vs.51-54. With this wonderful prospect before Christ’s disciples, Paul exhorted them: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” v.58.

Tuesday: Mark 4

Jesus emphasises the importance of receiving his teaching in the right attitude of mind. He likens his preaching to a sower sowing seed. The seed falls on different kinds of ground, representing different kinds of people: the hard hearted in which the word cannot take root; people preoccupied with the cares of this life and pleasures, preventing the word from flourishing; and others with receptive minds who receive the word with joy, keep it, and become fruitful in God’s service.

Jesus, furthermore, says he taught in parables to cater for these different characteristics. His disciples were like fertile soil and believed his teaching of the gospel of the kingdom of God, while the majority were unreceptive of the word: “Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables, that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them” v.11-12. Hence, we should ensure that we ourselves adopt the right attitude of mind to the word of God, so that in hearing the teaching of Jesus and all God’s prophets we may be like good ground which brings forth fruit in abundance.

Jesus also likens the kingdom of God to a mustard seed which is the smallest of all the seeds in the land of Israel, but which ultimately becomes a great plant covering the earth, v.30-32. Thus the teaching of the kingdom of God is a very small inconsequential matter now in the minds of most people, but soon the kingdom itself will be established in Israel to rule all the nations of the earth.

Wednesday: 1 Corinthians 13

God is love and he requires us to love. His first commandment is that we love him with all our being, and the second is that we love our neighbour as ourselves. This love, defined in our reading today and translated “charity”, is not the love of popular song but selfless devotion to others, seeking their welfare, free from evil and iniquity, rejoicing in the truth, and motivated by faith and hope in God’s promises: “Charity (love) suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth” vs.4-8. It is only by learning God’s truth from his word that we may manifest this love in our lives.

The first disciples of Christ were commanded to love but they were also given spiritual gifts enabling them to perform extraordinary works such as healing and speaking in foreign languages they had never learned to preach the gospel to strangers. These powers, however, would be withdrawn: “But whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away” v.8, so today no-one has any of these spiritual gifts. Nevertheless, we can all have those gifts which still remain: “Now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” v.13. Faith is belief that God will perform his promises; hope is the eager anticipation of their fulfilment; and love is the virtue which will cover a multitude of sins and which God has shown to us in the sacrifice of his beloved Son (John 3:16).

Thursday: Ecclesiastes 3

This chapter by Solomon teaches that all time and times are in God’s control: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven” v.1. For us individually also there is: “A time to be born, and a time to die” v.2. Therefore, the scriptures exhort us to use our time wisely, because we only have a short period of existence, and only during this brief time can we take the opportunity to bring our lives into conformity with God’s purpose.

Unfortunately, people throughout the ages have been drawn away from God’s truth by false hopes of natural immortality. They believed they were immortal and would continue in existence after death: but God has never taught such a thing. Therefore Solomon wrote: “I said in my heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and they might see that they themselves are beasts. For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again” vs.18-20.

All animals, including men, have the same breath which leaves them when they expire, but people naturally believe we have a higher destiny than the animals, even suggesting that our breath (spirit) goes upwards, while theirs goes downwards, but “Who knoweth?” v.21. God knows and tells us plainly that at death we all return to the dust and unconsciousness: “The living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun” (chapter 9:5-6).

Our case, however, is not hopeless because the purpose of God is to raise all his righteous servants from the dead to give them eternal life, after the example of Jesus his son. This will be on the day of judgment when: “God shall judge the righteous and the wicked; for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work” v.17.

Friday: 2 Timothy 3

God’s truth, though revealed in the Bible, is known by few today, and this is precisely the state of affairs predicted by the apostles. For example, in this letter Paul foretold how perilous times would come for Christ’s disciples when love of the truth would be replaced by self love and when commendable qualities among them such as love, joy, peace, meekness, goodness, faith, and truth would be replaced by the evil characteristics listed in the first few verses. This would lead to a corrupt form of “Christianity”: “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” v.5, as we see in the denominations today. In view of this development the command of the apostle was: “from such turn away” because “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” v.13.

Looking back on ecclesiastical history we can see this apostasy progressing through the centuries with people “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” v.7. The antidote to this, says the apostle, is to keep strictly to the teaching of the word of God in the “holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” v.15. We have the assurance that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” v.16, and we profit exceedingly by reading and learning therefrom because it instructs us how to live our lives according to God’s will: “All scripture... is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect throughly furnished unto all good works” vs 16-17.

Saturday: Psalm 19

This Psalm extols the word of God: “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes” vs.7-8.

It also tells us there is great advantage to ourselves in obeying God’s commandments: “In keeping of them is great reward”, and so much of the Bible is about this great reward. By reading it for yourself you will learn what God’s reward is and will appreciate that the things promised are of greater value than anything else in life, e.g. “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold” v.10.

This Psalm, like so much of the scriptures, looks forward to the time when God will replace the existing governments of the world with rulers who will confer righteousness, justice, and peace on mankind. This change of government is expressed as a metaphor, as the apostle Peter does for example: “We, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13). It is of this elevation of righteous rulers to high places in world government that the Psalm speaks: “The heavens declare the glory of God” v.1, and the stars of this new world order will publish the knowledge of God throughout all the world: “There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line (rule) is gone through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” vs.3-4. These words are quoted in the New Testament (Romans 10:18) and applied to the preaching of the gospel by the apostles, which shows that God is speaking in this Psalm, not of the stars in the natural heavens, but to those men are women who are the stars of his new constitution for "they that turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars for ever and ever" (Daniel 13:3).

The greatest luminary in our sky is the sun, and this is used to represent the Lord Jesus Christ who, as the chief ruler, will arise with healing in his beams to bless all nations. This Psalm tells us of the universal rulership of Christ, for as the sun: “His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it; and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof” v.6.

This Psalm is an excellent example of the character of the whole Word of God. It expresses the purpose of God to intervene in the affairs of the world and to institute righteous rule for all nations who will learn the truth about God and enjoy great blessings. It shows that God’s purpose is centred in his son Jesus Christ, and considerable information is given about his life and work in the Old Testament written hundreds of years before he was born. Only God, with his foreknowledge, is able to do this; providing overwhelming evidence that the Bible is his word.

The Psalm also shows that in reading the Bible we have to distinguish between literal statements and figures of speech. We do this every day in our ordinary speaking, and we should understand the Bible in the same way. For example, “The statutes of the LORD are right” is literal; but stars speaking is figurative. In particular, Jesus is here represented figuratively not only as the sun but also as a bridegroom and as a strong man. These figures and others are consistently applied to Jesus in the scriptures to express God’s purpose in him, e.g. he is the man God made strong for himself to achieve his great and glorious purpose with mankind; and his disciples are commanded to wait for his coming as a bride waits for the bridegroom when all the anticipated rejoicing will begin.


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