Ray Ortlund asked this question on Twitter the other day.
We of course know that All Scripture is God breathed but I agree with Ray that in our experience most of us will find that there are specific books of the Bible that have particularly stood out for us and ones which we find ourselves returning to again and again.
Reading the lists of different people was fascinating both in terms of seeing common themes and in seeing differences. I’d love to know why people chose the ones they did (I’m opening comments at the bottom so you can give your answers).
Here’s my five with reasons.
I’ve had four opportunities to work through this epic book with others as an adult. First of all, the church I was a member of in my 20s worked through it in a Sunday morning series, I remember struggling a little as we worked slowly through all the laws, but we learnt something about persevering in God’s Word together! Then at Oak Hill, the brilliant James Robson ran a 4th year course on the book and I think that’s when I really started to fall in love with it. I then ran an overview course for OM and finally in the last year or two we took the plunge and studied it together at Bearwood Chapel.
Deuteronomy is central because of its role as the anchor for much of the rest of Scripture. The Psalms and Proverbs are in effect a meditation on the Torah and when you get to the New Testament Deuteronomy proves foundational in understanding the structure of Matthew and the content of Romans. At the heart of Deuteronomy and the heart of the Law is the call to whole hearted love for God and to be centred and saturated in his Word. What a fantastic pointer towards our need for the Gospel.
Tucked in between the big picture drama, heroes and anti heroes of Judges and 1 Samuel we meet this little book that tells the story of an ordinary family caught up in a refugee crisis. I love Ruth because
- It offers a prime example of what we might call “redemptive comedy” – a story of rescue and redemption with a joyful ending
- It introduces Ruth, an outsider into the family tree of Christ.
- It presents Boaz as both the ideal righteous Israelite and a type looking forward to Christ
- It helps ordinary people like you and me to see the part our small lives can play in the big drama of the Gospel.
Luke is my favourite Gospel. I love his commitment to an orderly structured account from an historian’s perspective. I cannot help but me moved by the parables of the lost sheep, coin and son. I’ve used Luke in our evangelism course “First Look” and this is the Gospel I normally prefer to give out to people.
Usually when we think about Romans we think about Paul’s doctrinal masterclass as he introduces us to original sin & total depravity, penal substitution, propitiation, justification, sanctification, assurance and security. Yet through further reading over time I’ve been drawn more and more to the practical application we found throughout the letter and particularly in chapters 12-15. Here we discover what it means to be Gospel centred people who are saturated in love so that this love flows out in sacrificial worship and care for each other.
No surprises here. I immersed myself in this book for my MTh dissertation. People often refer to John as the apostle and his first letter as the epistle of love. Well I don’t want to suggest we snatch that crown away from him but he needs to at least share it with Paul and Ephesians. This letter introduces us to what it means to be chosen in love by God, to be saved and safe in Christ and so to know his great love for us. That love is expressed and experienced within the context of a local church as we seek to do battle in spiritual warfare. This spiritual warfare isn’t a spooky thing but is about allowing the love of Christ to shine out in our lives at home, at work and in the church
So which books would be in your five and why?