Every good endeavor should be done with purpose. Without a clear sense of purpose, our efforts to do a good thing well can flounder. But with a clear purpose, we are far more likely to persevere. This is certainly true of building Bible literacy—it takes effort to build, but maintaining a clear sense of purpose sustains us in our labor. How can we begin to be more purposeful in the way we approach Bible study?
It might seem terribly obvious to say that we should study the Bible with purpose. Certainly, we all have some purpose in mind when we begin to study… to make us feel a certain way, to help us make decisions, to help us with self-discovery. But we want to have in mind the purpose that the Bible itself intends us to have when we open its cover. No lesser purpose will do.
We have already considered that the Bible is a book about God, but now let’s consider that truth in more specific terms. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is telling us about the reign and rule of God. This is the Big Story of the Bible, the purpose for which it was written. Each of its sixty-six books contributes to telling this Big Story—a story of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. The Bible purposes to tell us this Big Story in a thousand smaller stories, from its first page to its last.
It follows, then, that our purpose in studying must be to look for that Big Story each time we go to the Scriptures. We should study asking not just what a particular portion of Scripture wants to tell us, but how that portion of Scripture is telling us the Big Story of the Bible as a whole. Studying the Bible with purpose means keeping its overarching message in view at all times, whether we are in the Old Testament or the New, whether we are in the Minor Prophets or the Gospels. In order to do this, we must “pan out” from any one particular book or passage and gain an appreciation for how it plays its part in unfolding the Big Story.