Knowing the purpose of something makes a big difference in the way we view and interact with that thing. This is certainly true of objects as a whole—it would be foolish to rent a motorcycle for the purpose of a moving all your possessions from one home to another, just as it would be silly to rent a moving truck for the purpose of going on a joyride.
Purpose becomes even more important as you examine the parts of a whole. Doctors and surgeons must know the reason for the individual parts of the human body in order to treat and heal a patient without causing further damage. Auto mechanics without an understanding of the purpose of parts risk more extensive, and expensive, repairs in the course of a simple tune-up.
The Bible as a whole has one grand purpose—to reveal the person and work of God to the people He has created for their joy and His glory. Without this understanding, we are prone to mistake its meaning and misuse its words. Yet the Bible is not just a whole but also the sum of its parts—66 books of the Bible, each with its own purpose to support the one grand purpose intended by the Author who inspired every word.
Perhaps the best examples of unique purpose are the Gospels, which focus on the same Person and period of history yet with different emphases. The Gospel writers sought to communicate the truth of Jesus but did so in unique ways because of different audiences and their own style, experiences, and theological intents.
• Matthew wrote to display for Jewish Christians the redemption God brought about through Jesus as the promised Messiah of God.
• Mark wrote to display for Gentile Christians the redemption God brought about through Jesus as the perfect Servant of the Lord.
• Luke wrote to Theophilus, a Gentile Christian likely of high social standing, to provide an orderly account of the beginnings of Christianity so the reader would have reliable information about Jesus Christ.
• John wrote for both Jews and Gentiles to provide an account of Jesus’ life and the signs He performed so people would believe in Him as the Messiah, the Son of God, and experience eternal life (John 20:30-31).
[While the Gospels were written with specific audiences in mind, they—along with every book of the Bible—are the Spirit-inspired Word of God and therefore beneficial for everyone.]
The purpose of the biblical authors and the Author of the Bible inform how we read and understand their message. These aren’t random verses and chapters thrown together; these aren’t random books compiled on a whim. The words of Scripture are filled with meaning and purpose that the God of all the universe might be revealed and that we might know Him as He has revealed Himself ultimately in these last days through His Son (Heb. 1:1-3).
Explore the Bible, in its book-by-book Bible studies for groups of all ages, recognizes the importance of purpose for understanding God’s Word rightly, so we provide an introduction to each book we study. We give the background and importance of the biblical books, detailing the writer, date, recipients, occasion, themes, and, of course, purpose.
Additional resources that aid in understanding the uniqueness of each biblical book:
• Understanding the Bible: A Book-by-Book Overview, by Kendell H. Easley
• A Bible dictionary, such as Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary
• An introduction to the Bible, Old Testament, or New Testament
• A theology of the Bible, Old Testament, or New Testament
What resources have you found helpful for grasping the purpose of biblical books as you study God’s Word?