The Bible in 40 steps - Articles about the Bible - Bible Society

The Bible in 40 steps

Although the Bible is made up of separate books, it is possible to trace a story that runs through all the books from beginning to end.

The story is the story of God’s love for the world that he created. Although men and women turned away from God time and time again, the story of the Bible is the story of how God tried to draw people back to him and mend their broken relationship. For Christians this story reaches its pinnacle in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus which offers us the chance, though faith, to find peace with God once more.

It can be helpful to trace this story through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. You can read the whole of this story through the 40 passages below. (If you don’t have time to read them all, just read numbers 1, 2, 7, 15, 20, 24, 27, 29, 30 and 33.)

The Old Testament

1. The world was created by God and it was good: Genesis 1–2

In the beginning, God created the world and all living creatures, including human beings.

2. But it went wrong: Genesis 3

Adam and Eve disobeyed God and could no longer stay in the garden of Eden.

3. So God decided to start again: Genesis 6.5–22 and 8.1–9.17

God decided to flood the world and start again, but he saved Noah and Noah’s family and gave a rainbow as a sign that he would never flood the world again.

4. God chose a family – the family of Abraham – to be his people: Genesis 12.1–8

God called Abraham to leave his home and follow him, and God promised that he would bless Abraham.

5. God promised that Abraham’s family would become a great nation: Genesis 17.15–18.15

God promised the elderly Abraham and Sarah that they would have a son together.

6. But his family became slaves in Egypt: Exodus 1

Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, moved to Egypt with his twelve sons (one of whom was Joseph), but as time went by, their descendants became slaves of Pharaoh.

7. So God called Moses to free his people from slavery: Exodus 3.1–4.13

God appeared to Moses in a burning bush and called him to set his people free.

8. And Moses led them out of Egypt: Exodus 14–15

Moses led the people out of slavery in Egypt. After crossing the Red Sea, they wandered in the wilderness.

9. In the wilderness, God gave Moses the Ten Commandments: Deuteronomy 5.1–22

God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on the top of Mount Sinai.

10. After 40 years, a new leader brought God’s people to the Promised Land: Joshua 3.1–4.7

Joshua entered the Promised Land with God’s people, and the twelve tribes settled there.

11. In the Promised Land, they faced many enemies: Judges 6–7

God raised up a number of different leaders to face the people’s enemies; one of these was Gideon, who led an army against the Midianites.

12. And so the people asked for a king to lead them in battle: 1 Samuel 8.1–10.1

Despite the prophet Samuel’s uncertainty, God asked him to anoint Saul as king.

13. God then chose David to be king: 1 Samuel 16

Saul could not live up to the calling to be king, so God chose David to be king instead of him.

14. David made Jerusalem the capital city: 2 Samuel 5.6–6.12

David brought the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem and united all twelve tribes.

15. God’s people kept on turning away from God: Hosea 10.12–11.4

Despite God’s care for them, God’s people turned away from him time and time again.

16. So God became even more angry with them: Micah 6.1–15

God felt he had no choice but to punish his people for their dishonesty and wickedness.

17. When they still would not listen, God sent the people away into exile: 2 Kings 24–25

The people were punished and sent into exile in Babylon, far away from the land God had given them.

18. But after punishment there was hope: Isaiah 40

God returned to his people and gave them comfort.

19. Eventually they returned from exile and came back home: Ezra 1

King Cyrus of Persia issued a decree that allowed God’s people to return home to Judah.

20. But still they hoped that God would come and save them: Malachi 3

Malachi promised that a messenger of God would come to prepare the way for God to be with his people. The people yearned for a Messiah, someone like David who would bring them hope and peace.


The New Testament

21. In the end, God sent his son, born as a baby: Matthew 1.18–25

Mary gave birth to a baby, conceived by the Holy Spirit, to fulfil what people had hoped for, for so long.

22. His birth was announced by angels and he was visited by shepherds: Luke 2.1–20

The angels confirmed that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah whom God would send to save his people.

23. Then he was visited by wise men from the east: Matthew 2.1–18

The king at the time, Herod the Great, was terrified when he learnt that a true king had been born, and he tried to kill Jesus.

24. Once Jesus was grown up, John the Baptist announced who he really was: Mark 1.1–11

John the Baptist made clear that he thought that Jesus was the Messiah – the one for whom God’s people had waited so long.

25. And Jesus began to call people to follow him: Mark 1.14–18 and 2.14–17

Jesus gathered around him twelve people who learned from him in everything that he said and did.

26. Jesus healed people who were sick: Mark 5

People crowded to Jesus because he healed them of many different kinds of illnesses.

27. He taught people about the Kingdom of God and what it meant to follow him: Matthew 5

This part of Jesus’ teaching is taken from a part of the Bible that people call the Sermon on the Mount.

28. He told stories to help them understand how to live: Luke 10.25–37

Jesus told many different parables, which were stories designed to teach a truth, of different lengths and styles.

29. But he upset the leaders of his day and they put him to death: Mark 15.1–37

Jesus was crucified on a cross between two robbers.

30. After three days, however, Jesus rose from the dead: John 20

Jesus came back to life and appeared to many of his followers.

31. And he sent his disciples out to tell everyone about him: Matthew 28.16–20

After his resurrection, Jesus told his disciples that they needed to share with the whole world the good news about who he was.

32. Jesus went back to heaven: Acts 1.1–12

Before he left his disciples, Jesus promised that they would receive power from God to help them share the good news of Jesus as he had asked them to.

33. Then the Holy Spirit came and gave them what they needed, to do what Jesus had asked of them: Acts 2

God sent his Holy Spirit to the first Christians and gave them the confidence and authority to tell the story of Jesus.

34. Many people heard their message and followed Jesus; one of these was a Jew named Saul: Acts 9

Saul was a zealous Jew who had been persecuting the followers of Jesus. After his conversion he began to use the name Paul.

35. Paul believed that everyone could follow Jesus, not just Jews: Acts 15

The earliest followers of Jesus were all Jews, but Paul persuaded them that non-Jews (Gentiles) could also follow Jesus.

36. And he began to spread the message far and wide: Acts 16

Paul travelled backwards and forwards from Jerusalem to Greece (and eventually to Rome).

37. He talked about Jesus – who he was and what he did: Philippians 2

Paul wrote many letters in which he talked about Jesus – who he was, what he did and what difference that makes.

38. He explained the difference that belief in Jesus makes to the way people live: Ephesians 3.14–4.6

He also laid out why is it that those who follow Jesus must behave differently.

39. And he talked about how the world is a different place because of Jesus’ death and resurrection: 2 Corinthians 5.11–21

Paul believed that Jesus’ resurrection had brought new creation, so that the world could at last be reconciled to God.

40. Right at the end of the New Testament, the book of Revelation looks forward to the time when the world will, at last, be as God always wanted it to be: Revelation 21.1–7

In Revelation, John presented a vision of a world at peace with God, with no more grief, crying or pain.

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