When asked where a person “new to the Bible” should start reading, I could without hesitation suggest beginning with one of the Gospels.
Why Start Reading the Bible with One of the Gospels?
All of Scripture revolves around Jesus and what He did in coming to earth to die in our place to take on Himself the penalty our sin deserves.
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Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. (1 Pet. 1:10-12)
All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. (Acts 10:43)
Jesus Himself noted how the whole of Scripture points to Him.
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Lk. 24:27)
He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” (Lk. 24:44)
You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, (Jn. 5:39)
Consequently, beginning with one of the Gospels makes sense to get to know this Jesus identified as the way, the truth, and the life (Jn. 14:6). If Scripture is about Him, is it any wonder He is called the Word in John 1?
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (Jn. 1:14)
Which Gospel Should I Start With?
One of the things people who are new to the Bible want to avoid is getting bogged down right from the start in some of the detailed accounts with genealogies and the like. Matthew begins with a list of names in Jesus’ lineage. Luke is a more detailed account of Jesus’ birth and life. Consequently, I would recommend initially skipping Matthew and Luke and beginning with Mark and John. Many people recommend starting with John while others suggest Mark. Why not read both, one right after the other?
Mark is a quicker read. In it we see Jesus as a servant (Mk. 10:45), doing good. It provides an easy to read account of what Jesus did. John then brings substance to what Jesus did by letting us know more about who Jesus is and that what He did was motivated by God’s love and purposes. We learn that because of who Jesus is, His death is sufficient to bring salvation to the world. The Gospel of John concludes,
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (Jn. 20:30-31)
But where should a person new to the Bible go after reading the Gospels of Mark and John? When asked for a list of all books in the order they should be read, I had to stop and think more about the reasoning behind my response — the topic of the next post.