How you phrase that question is critical.
The most important thing in the Bible, of course, is the Gospel: Jesus Christ, Who is fully man and fully God, came to live a perfect, sinless life on earth, to be tortured and killed as punishment for the sins of all mankind, and then to be resurrected by God on the third day of His death to prove that He was indeed Who He said He was. All we have to do to have our sins forgiven us by God, and thus be allowed to live eternally with God in Heaven, rather than eternally separated from Him in hell, is to accept that sacrifice He made on our behalf as payment for our crimes committed against God (meaning, our sins), and He will not only forgive us our sins, but He will also impart the righteousness of Jesus Christ onto us. Once we accept that, God sends the third Member of the Holy Trinity, the Spirit, to live inside us and guide us throughout the rest of our earthly lives, helping us transform to become more Christ-like, more like we were intended to be before the fall of Man in the Garden.
Everything else in the Bible is secondary, information that surrounds and supports that single, One Minute of Vital Truth that separates the godly from the condemned. Mind you, it’s all important to understanding Who God Is, and What the Holy Nature of the Trinity is. Many theologians argue that every single verse of the Bible, Old Testament and New, is about Jesus, and I’m not sure they aren’t correct. (Despite the double negative, that’s not QUITE the same as saying “I’m sure they’re correct”. But I think I agree with them. I think…)
So, when I ask about the most important chapters in the Bible, obviously the MOST important are the ones which lay out that One Minute of Vital Truth: Luke 2 and John 1 describe the birth of the Christ on earth; Genesis 3 the fall of man in the garden; Matthew 26-28 the critical 72 hours from the Last Supper to the reuniting of Jesus with His followers on Sunday evening; and so forth.
But that’s not quite what I was thinking.
I’m going to include those, but what I’m really looking for are the chapters that describe what is essential to what it means to BE a Christian.
Without giving away all my cards in the opening bid, let me give you a couple of examples of two chapters that I can guarantee you will see somewhere in this series. (Unless the Rapture comes before we get to them. Or the warning of James chapter 4 is relevant – never say you’re going to such and such a place for a year, unless you add “God Willing….”)
ROMANS chapter 8
When my late wife Melissa first entered counseling at our church for some of the horrific stuff she’d lived through in her life, the first thing our pastor recommended to her was to memorize chapter 8 of Paul’s epistle to the Romans. The more I’ve learned as a Believer, the more I’ve come to appreciate what he asked of her, and the more I would recommend this practice to every single Christian who has ever questioned the “point” of his or her faith.
Without giving away the entire post, think about what Romans 8 begins with, has as its centerpiece, and ends with:
- It STARTS by telling us “there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” – we no longer have to feel guilty for the sins we’ve committed.
- The CENTER of the chapter, essentially, is verse 28: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” – arguably the most reassuring verse in the NT: no matter what happens, it’s working for the benefit of Christians.
- And the END is the promise that no matter what the future holds, “nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
FIRST CORINTHIANS 13
The infamous “love” chapter, read at more weddings that Psalm 23 is at funerals. Unfortunately, 1Co13 plays into the naive thoughts of immature Christians who only choose to see half of the picture – that our Lord is a God of Love and not also a God of Justice. These are the folks who think everybody is going to Heaven because “how could a loving God send anybody to hell?” The answer, of course, is that He doesn’t – we choose that destination for ourselves, just as a criminal chooses prison by committing crimes. Exactly like that, in fact, except that because He IS a God of Love, He will STILL let the criminal go to Heaven if they choose to allow His Son Jesus to pay the penalty for their crimes. (It also shows the immature Christian’s lack of understanding of what Heaven IS: it’s not a reward for GOOD people – or else NO ONE would go there. It’s the eternal Home for those who choose to be with Christ and follow Him. It has nothing to do with how “ethical” you were in your shadow life on earth.)
Sorry. I digressed. But it’s a sore point for me. There are so many people who – whatever their real fear of surrendering to God is – use that question as their argument against “your God”. It’s an amazingly naive straw man set up around a ridiculous, non-Biblical misinterpretation of Scripture – the idea that “Good people go to Heaven”. As always, they quote a Bible that doesn’t exist. Nowhere does it ever say that; instead, Christ is very clear. “I Am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” He NEVER says “if you’re good enough”. He never says, “after you’ve done thirteen good deeds.” In fact, the very first person Jesus guarantees acceptance into Heaven to is… an insurrectionist thief, strung up on the cross next to His, mere minutes before their deaths. That man wasn’t “good” He certainly hadn’t DONE any “good deeds”. But what he had done was put his faith in Christ. That’s all it takes. Even if you’re so guilty that the government is killing you.
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.” We’ve all heard these lines before. “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” The thirteenth and final verse. This chapter should be easy to memorize!
But one of the unsung and most important thoughts in the chapter comes in verses 11: “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.” That, my friend, would be a great idea! What a marvelous use of this chapter!
For example, perhaps you could put away the childish thought that Heaven is where “good little boys and girls go when they die”, and start thinking in mature ways, like “Heaven is only for those who place their full faith and trust in Jesus Christ.”