Bible: Where should a person begin studying?
I have found that it is the gospel of John that is typically suggested. However, that is by no means the best place to begin. That is because it is the apostle Paul who is our apostle, not John.
13 For I [Paul] speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: [Emphasis added]
John was an apostle commissioned with a gospel directed to Israel that is not the same as ours. The gospel John was commissioned with is the same as that of the apostle Peter. It is known as The Gospel of The Circumcision [Galatians 2:7] and The Gospel of The Kingdom [Matthew 4:23; 9:35]. Our gospel is called The Gospel of The Grace of God.
24 But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. [Emphasis added]
Our gospel is also called the gospel of the uncircumcision.
7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me [Paul], as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; [Emphasis added]
You may think that these gospel messages are the same, but there are major differences. The most important difference is regarding salvation. John’s gospel demanded faith in the name of Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah of Israel, as well as living by the teachings of the Mosaic Law.
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
18 He that believeth on him [believing that He was the Christ, the promised Messiah] is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name [Jesus being the Christ] of the only begotten Son of God. [Emphasis added]
Until John learned of the special revelation given to Paul from the resurrected Christ, he knew nothing at all about the meaning and place of the death, burial, and resurrection in our gospel today. Please note that Christ dying for our sins and being resurrected for our justification is nowhere to be found in John 3:16-18 or any other place in that book.
On the morning of Christ’s resurrection, both Peter and John ran to the tomb to verify what they’d heard about Christ’s tomb being empty. By no means were they believing in and expecting Christ’s resurrection, let alone did they know that Christ had paid for their sins through His death on the cross. The meaning of these things was something they’d learn later through the revelations given to the apostle Paul.
8 Then went in also that other disciple [John], which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed [that the body was gone].
9 For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. [Emphasis added]
It would be the apostle Paul who would be the first to know the meaning of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection providing a way for salvation.
I Timothy 1:15-16
15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.
16 Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. [Emphasis added]
It would be through Paul that people would discover that it is faith in these things that provides salvation.
I Corinthians 15:1-4
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: [Emphasis added]
It is in these Scriptures that we discover God’s provision for the salvation of anyone who would accept it.
II Peter 3:15-16
15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;
16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest [twist or distort], as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. [Emphasis added]
Even then there were many who rejected his teaching and his authority as the apostle to the Gentiles. By far most of the Bible teaching in churches today comes out of the non-Pauline books of the Bible. Therefore, as it has always been, there’s a tremendous amount of ignorance and misunderstanding about the true means to salvation and things pertaining to the Christian way of life for us today. Instead of rightly dividing the Scriptures, it is all run together.
II Timothy 2:14-15
14 Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers.
15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. [Emphasis added]
However, we understand and accept the fact that the authority of all the Scriptures must always be accepted whether they relate directly to us in our time or not.
II Timothy 3:14-17
14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;
15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine [things we should believe], for reproof [pointing out our wrong beliefs], for correction [putting us on a right course], for instruction [teaching] in righteousness:
17 That the man of God may be perfect [not sinless but made mature], thoroughly furnished [completely equipped] unto all good works [for every kind application]. [Emphasis added]
In every generation, studying the Word of God needs to be given priority over all else. Christ let us know that it must have the kind of priority we give to eating.
4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. [Emphasis added]
But, again, we find that Paul’s epistles, his writings, must be given priority over all others. Anything that conflicts with Paul’s teaching [and there’s a lot] must be seen as things not directed to us today. The changes in God’s program began with the salvation of Saul [who became Paul] of Tarsus recorded in Acts 9. We are then given Paul’s words regarding what He spoke when he was struck down on the road to Damascus.
15 And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.
16 But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;
17 Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,
18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins [teaching him to accept or be receptive of what He had accomplished through His death, burial, and resurrection], and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. [Emphasis added]
Paul explains the change God made to help us understand what happened and why it happened.
11 I say then, Have they [Israel] stumbled that they should fall [be utterly cast down to never rise again]? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.
12 Now if the fall of them [the result of their rejection of their Messiah] be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness [their conversion and restoration to their place of prominence]?
13 For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: [Emphasis added]
Through Israel’s fall salvation is being extended to Gentiles [non-Jews] through Paul’s ministry. Therefore, to understand salvation and the things of a believer’s life and eternal future today, we must go to the writings of the apostle Paul. He was the man God chose to use to provide the revelation of this information. The best summary is found in Paul’s epistle to the Romans. However, throughout all Paul’s epistles we find the things God provided for our understanding in our times. Even Christ in his earthly ministry tells us He was not sent or commissioned to go to the Gentiles with His message.
24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. [Emphasis added]
Even though they rejected Him, throughout His earthly ministry Christ provided many signs and wonders in His attempt to bring Israel around to accepting Him.
48 Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe. [Emphasis added]
Even Paul spoke of this.
I Corinthians 1:22
22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: [Emphasis added]
Paul did everything he could to bring people around to accepting his message.
II Corinthians 12:12
12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. [Emphasis added]
Of course, today we do not have any of these miraculous abilities available to us. Many claims are made otherwise about this, but they are all false.
Because Paul is the man God commissioned for us, we are to give his writings priority in our studies of the Bible. As always, we must remember that while the whole Bible is FOR us, it is not all TO us or ABOUT us. It is in Paul’s writings that we find all those mystery truths [truths that had been kept secret] that were provided for Paul to reveal to us.
1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.
8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; [Emphasis added]
The book of Romans is divided into four parts.
Chapters 1-5 – Justification by faith
Chapters 6-8 – Sanctification
Chapters 9-11 – Dispensational changes
Chapters 12-16 – Practical applications
No matter which Pauline book you study, you’ll probably find yourself cross-referencing to the others. That’s certainly been the case with my own teaching on, for instance, the book of Galatians and even various topical studies I’ve done. By focusing on Paul’s writings and learning the teaching that’s there you’ll eventually be able to easily spot things by other writers that conflict. In this way you’ll be able to sort out what’s addressed to us today and that which is not. Such will determine the difference between being an obedient believer instead of a disobedient believer. Altogether this will position you to get the teaching you need to become a truly mature believer and an effective tool for our Lord to use in representing Him as a faithful ambassador. In the end, you’ll get to enjoy fabulous eternal rewards in heaven because of your faithfulness to learn and live by His words that were addressed to us for today.