The Old Testament walks us through the history of mankind and the relationship God was keeping with the Israelite nation. After 400 years of silence, God stirs among His people again with the birth of Jesus to begin the New Testament. After much rebellion from the Israelites God expands the promise He made to include Gentiles (non-Jewish believers).
The New Testament is comprised of 27 books written by several others inspired by God, though most are written by Paul, a zealous Jew who persecuted believers before his own conversion. Reading the New Testament will challenge your lifestyle, give your life purpose, provide direction, and guard you from lies of this world.
The Gospels: (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John) The gospel books are written by the names they are titled after: Matthew by Matthew, Mark by Mark, and so on. Mark was the first gospel written, then Matthew and Luke in the 50s/60s AD, and John the last estimated to be written between 70-100 AD. Unique personal backgrounds and varying audiences in mind give each their distinct perspective. The gospels cover the story of Jesus' life and His teachings.
Why read it? The gospels is where Truth is found and the good news is born. Get to know your Savior - Jesus, learn from His example, read of His sacrificial death, and rejoice in His gift of new life.
Acts: Written by Luke around 62 AD, Acts is the continuation of his self-titled gospel. Follow the disciples as they discern their role in the Kingdom after Jesus' death and resurrection. The Christian church begins and the Holy Spirit takes center stage. (Also see the conversion of Saul to Paul in Acts 9.)
Why read it? See the Holy Spirit at work, become familiar with the history of the Church, be encouraged by the perseverance of those persecuted, and be awestruck by the boldness of the apostles and the reach of their ministries.
Pauline Epistles: (Romans, I & II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon) These books were penned by Paul to the city churches and Paul's apprentices between the years 48-62 AD. Romans is written from a logical approach to theology and christology while Corinthians and Thessalonians are written about specific concerns in each city church. Each book has a particular purpose. What remains consistent is the letter format and the clear description of Jesus as Savior to those who believe, confessed sinners accepting the grace gift of God's forgiveness through Jesus.
Why read it? The Epistles are littered with practical tips on how to live out one's faith. Remind yourself of your sinful, hopeless state, and revel in the gift of Jesus making you righteous before the holy Judge.
The Epistles: (Hebrews, James, I & II Peter, I, II, III John, Jude) The author of Hebrews is unknown, but the other epistles are self-titled by the author all written between 40-60 AD. Spiritual encouragement is the focus, direct instruction based on the audience, and a heavy focus on love for the sake of Jesus Christ.
Why read it? The issues of early Christians have not escaped present day believers. We still need the reminders of be kind, to love as He loved, to have faith in trials, and to serve one another. We live this way not to be saved, but out of thanksgiving for what God has done for us through Jesus. In order to continue the walk of faith we need to read the epistles for focus, encouragement, and conviction.
Revelation: John wrote one of the most controversial books, Revelation, from a cave prison when exiled in the 90s AD. Majority of the book concentrates on end times, when Jesus comes back and judges the world. Most of the book is figurative and hard to interpret, though there are plenty of books and translations available to help. John uses the first several chapters to write seven churches from the perspective of Jesus. Overall Revelation is a fascinating book that will peak your curiosity and challenge your mind to grasp eternal concepts.
Why read it? Jesus will come back and Revelation reveals parts of the greatly anticipated moment.
The Old Testament informs us of God's character and His story with the Israelites, repeatedly needing forgiveness to be made right with Him. The New Testament is God's plan for reconciliation unveiled through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, once for all. We read the Bible because it's our story too. God's character is the same today as it was then. God's plan of reconciliation to His people is for us as much as the Jews. God's Truth is applicable today as it was thousands of years ago. We read the Bible to get closer to God, be strengthened in our faith, and to learn from our spiritual ancestors.