The Bible can be an overwhelming book. But there are a handful of chapters that shape the entire book’s theology and world-view and if you grasp these few chapters they will drastically alter the way you see and understand the world. Here they are in chronological order in the Bible:
This is a foundational chapter for understanding why there is good and evil and why we need God. The Fall of Adam and Eve introduces sin, conflict, and brokenness into an otherwise perfect world. This single act of rebellion set humanity on the path of separation and judgment from God. Yet in the midst of expelling them from the Garden, God introduces the hope of redemption in 3:15, which begins a historic plan of God to redeem fallen humanity.
In this chapter, we learn about Abraham, the man whose faith becomes the prototype for every believer who follows. Before there was the nation of Israel, the Ten Commandments or even the Law, there was Abraham and his faith. He demonstrates obedience and sacrificial service. God makes a covenant with Abraham in which God promises to bless the entire world. The key verse is found in 15:6.
The nation of Israel (who are the descendants of Abraham) has long been established and the Exodus is a faded memory. They have been sacrificing and living by the statutes of the Law for centuries, but theirs is a tragic tale. Their inability to purge themselves of idols and disobedience demonstrates that we cannot work our way into favour with God, even though they were given every privilege. In this chapter the prophet Isaiah predicts the coming of the Suffering Servant, the Messianic figure who will become the culmination of the sacrificial system and the agent of salvation. That through his death the promise of God blessing the entire world will now come to fruition.
Jesus is now grown and in the midst of his ministry. In this chapter he encounters a high-ranking Jewish official and the matters of life and death, heaven and hell, salvation and condemnation are clearly spelled out. Even this man, a religiously pious Jew, is in need of being born again. The contrast of light over darkness, remnants of the Fall, are given to further amplify the need to come to Christ in faith. The chapter concludes with a teaching from John the Baptist that reinforces the first part of the chapter. All this in anticipation of Jesus’ crucifixion as predicted in Isaiah 53 as the once for all sacrifice for the world.
Every Gospel writer recounts the crucifixion and the resurrection. My preference for the resurrection is John’s account in this chapter. It moves from Mary Magdalene finding the tomb empty and her running to give the news to Peter and John. When they leave Jesus appears to Mary and John unfolds the remainder of the chapter with the appearances of Jesus, starting from the least doubter (Mary) to the ultimate doubter Thomas. Upon seeing Jesus, Thomas gives the ultimate proclamation of Jesus as “My Lord and my God!” This is the place that every human needs to come in order to become spiritually alive and whole and to be reconciled again to God. Without the resurrection, Christianity would fail as a faith, yet it is true beyond argument.
The Apostle Paul crafts one of the most theologically profound chapters in the entire Bible, contrasting living life in the Spirit versus living it by your sinful desires. We are essentially a slave to something, whether we like to acknowledge it. To live by the sinful self is a life that leads to death while one of faith leads to eternal life, filled with hope and glory. In the midst of these contrasts are the reminders by Paul of the damage of the Fall on the entire creation, and the depth of God’s love to send his son in order to rescue us from it.
Just as God created Paradise in Genesis 1 and 2, we are once again re-introduced to it in this chapter. What was marred by the Fall has now been renewed in the New Heavens and New Earth. The plan of God throughout history has been slowly moving toward this reality. Humanity has been given every opportunity to see Jesus as the only means of becoming right with God.
These 7 chapters certainly do not exhaust the Bible’s teaching, but they are critical to understanding the over-arching narrative and primary message that makes up the Bible.