How can you understand the Bible?

In the past, I have talked to friends who felt intimidated by the Bible but eager to understand it. To guide them, I needed first to ask, “Where do I begin, and how do I begin to make sense of the stories found within the Bible?”

I eventually came to understand the grand, overarching story of the Bible. Those familiar with it often call it the “Greatest Story Ever Told.” It is the story of our world and follows the first branch of our family tree from Adam and Eve to Jesus and then to us.

Reading the Bible with the knowledge that every story fits within this Grand Narrative provides a greater understanding of the Bible, God, and Jesus. Knowing this story provides readers peace and direction for all the challenges life may bring.

This story is best understood in six acts. Let’s look at these acts briefly, realizing there are countless layers to the biblical story.

The first act provides the foundation of this Grand Narrative—humanity’s close relationship with God, which enabled them to care for others, our world, and ourselves just as he would.

In the second act, we learn that today’s troubles are not because God has forgotten us or is uninvolved. Instead, because of sin, we have not remained in a relationship with him. Therefore we are unable to carry out our duties of care for our world. Chaos is the result (Gen. 3:15).

Act three begins with God’s promise to an older man, Abraham, saying one of his descendants from the nation of Israel would redeem the world’s relationship with God.

Act four is the story of that descendant, Jesus, fulfilling this promise through his death, but his resurrection and return to life—overcame all evil. God’s plan to restore an undamaged relationship with himself has become a reality, now available to those who choose to believe in Jesus.

The spread of this good news is act five, where we live today.

Act six will begin at Jesus’ return when evil is defeated forever.

The last vital piece for biblical understanding is prayer and honest conversation with God, discussing your need to hear from him in these biblical stories.

Throughout the Grand Narrative, God extends his hand in loving grace to those whose hearts return to him. “If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me” (Jeremiah 29:13).