The Story of Christian Faith: Summary and Key Verses of the Bible

The Bible is a long and complicated book with many different authors, literary styles, stories and ideas. For many people, reading the Bible from cover to cover may seem daunting, and as a result, they never do. This is unfortunate, because to have a good understanding of the message of Christianity one must have a broad knowledge of the contents and themes of the Old and New Testaments, which comprise the Judeo-Christian scriptures commonly known as “the Bible.”

Psalm 136 in the Old Testament

People who grow up in a church may absorb many Biblical teachings through sermons and Sunday school lessons. But what about the many people who come from a non-religious family and have never decided to read the Bible on their own? And what about the huge percentage of the world’s population who belong to a different religion and are unfamiliar with the scriptures of the Christian faith? For such people, a simple distillation of the Bible could be very helpful — and even for those who grew up with it or are already familiar with it, this could be a useful refresher and study tool.

Below, I have compiled a list of what I see as the most important themes of the Bible, with links to verses that present these stories and teachings. Every student of the Bible will have their own idea about what would be worth including in such a list. This list comes from my own spiritual perspective, which could be described as Restorationist Christian Universalism. Therefore, I tend to emphasize Biblical messages that are hopeful and inclusive. To sum it up, my view of the Christian Gospel — and the overall story of the Bible in general — is of a God who has created and loves human beings with a parental love, and who leads us on a journey from our fall into sin to our redemption and exaltation through the awesome, all-encompassing power of our divine-human brother and perfect exemplar, Jesus Christ.

With that introduction, here is what I would encourage all people to take from the Bible as a starting point, to learn the things that matter most in this great book of Christian teachings.

God and the human condition:

The Creation of Adam
“The Creation of Adam” painted by Michaelangelo
  • God creates men and women in God’s image. (Genesis 1:26-27)
  • God’s Wisdom is described as His ancient companion, overseeing the creation, like a husband and wife with human children. (Proverbs 8:1-4, 8:22-36)
  • Adam and Eve, our archetypal first parents, rebel against God and are expelled from the Garden of Paradise into an imperfect world of sin. (Genesis 3)
  • Cain murders Abel, his brother, because of differences about how to worship God, representing the curse of religious hatred among men. (Genesis 4:1-11)
  • God destroys most of humanity for being sinful, but promises that He will never do that again. (Genesis 6:5-22, 8:6-22, 9:12-17)
  • God destroys the Tower of Babel, representing human attempts to create a worldly utopia, and the people of this world are scattered and divided. (Genesis 11:1-9)

Prophets of Israel and the Messiah:

Moses holding the tablets of the Ten Commandments
Moses with the tablets of the Law
  • God tells Abraham that through his seed all the people of the world will be blessed. (Genesis 12:1-3, 17:1-8, 22:1-18)
  • Moses is called by God to deliver the descendants of Abraham out of slavery in Egypt. (Exodus 3:1-14)
  • God tells Moses and his people to eat a sacrificial lamb and unleavened bread in the ritual of Passover, and to consecrate the firstborn to God, as symbols of their salvation. (Exodus 12:1-17, 13:1-16)
  • Moses receives the Ten Commandments and the Jewish Law. (Exodus 19–21:1)
  • The people of Israel receive the Holy Land that God promised them. (Joshua 1:1-11)
  • King David reigns in glory over Israel, and God promises that his kingdom shall endure forever. (2 Samuel 5:1-5, 7:8-16)
  • God is good and His love endures forever. (Psalm 136:1-16, 1 Chronicles 16:34-36)
  • Israel is conquered by Babylon as punishment for their sins, but God promises restoration and restores them to the Holy Land. (Jeremiah 2:1-9, 25:1-11, 29:10-14, Ezra 6)
  • God tells the prophet Isaiah that He desires justice and righteousness, not ritualistic sacrifices. (Isaiah 1:11-18)
  • Isaiah prophesies the coming of the Messiah, the righteous Savior of Israel, who will be born of a virgin. (Isaiah 7:14-15)
  • Isaiah prophesies that the Messiah will suffer and die as the ultimate sacrifice to bring healing to our souls and our world. (Isaiah 53)
  • Hosea prophesies that the Messiah will be torn to pieces but raised on the third day, and that the knowledge of God and His mercy replaces the Law of bloody sacrifice. (Hosea 6:1-6)
  • Jeremiah prophesies that the people of Israel will be regathered to the Holy Land after being scattered throughout the earth, and that the Messiah will reign in Israel with wisdom and righteousness. (Jeremiah 23:1-8)
  • Isaiah prophesies that the Messiah will reign on the throne of King David from Jerusalem, bringing peace to all the earth. (Isaiah 9:6-7, 2:2-4)

The life, station, ministry and teachings of Jesus:

Mary and Joseph with the infant Jesus
Mary and Joseph with the infant Jesus
  • Jesus, the Messiah (Christ), is miraculously conceived and born of the virgin Mary. (Luke 1:26-38, Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 2:1-20)
  • Jesus is descended from King David. (Matthew 1:1-17)
  • Leaders of other religions and peoples are guided by God to pay homage to the newborn Jesus Christ. (Matthew 2:1-12)
  • Jesus recognizes that God is his Father and teaches in the Jewish Temple as a child. (Luke 2:41-52)
  • John the Baptist prepares the way for the ministry of Jesus. (Matthew 3)
  • Jesus is the Word of God, the Light of God, the Son of God, the sacrificial Lamb of God, and the Messiah, greater than any other human prophet such as John the Baptist. (John 1:1-34)
  • Jesus teaches that he is God (whose name is “I AM”), and therefore greater than other great human beings such as Abraham. (John 8:49-59)
  • Jesus is a human being who overcomes the temptations of Satan. (Matthew 4:1-11)
Jesus preaching the Sermon on the Mount
Jesus preaching the Sermon on the Mount
  • Jesus heals the sick, gives sight to the blind, casts out demons, and raises the dead. (Luke 5:12-26, Matthew 8:5-17, John 9, Luke 8:26-56)
  • Jesus teaches us to pray with a humble and merciful spirit to God, our Father in heaven. (Matthew 6:5-15)
  • Jesus teaches that he is the Son of God, and that other human beings can share in the divine nature. (John 10:22-39)
  • Jesus teaches that God is working through him as His manifestation, and that the only way we can truly come to God the Father is through Jesus Christ. (John 14:1-11)
  • Jesus came to save the world. (John 3:16-17)
  • We must be spiritually reborn if we wish to see the Kingdom of God. (John 3:1-8)
  • Jesus calls his followers to be the light of the world. (Matthew 5:14-16)
  • Jesus chooses Peter as the chief of his Apostles. (Matthew 16:13-19)
  • Jesus says it’s acceptable for people to do good things in his name even if they’re not part of the church he has chosen. (Mark 9:38-41)
  • Jesus rejects the legalistic hypocrisy of the Jewish religious leaders. (Matthew 23)
  • Jesus forgives a woman caught in the act of adultery. (John 8:1-11)
  • Jesus shares the Gospel with a sinful woman from a tribe that was looked down upon by the Jews, and she persuades her people that Jesus is the Savior of the world. (John 4:1-42)
  • Jesus teaches that we should regard all good people as our neighbors, including people who are not part of our own tribe. (Luke 10:25-37)
  • Jesus teaches that the greedy rich will be punished by God, and that if we want to be his disciples we should give away our money to the poor. (Luke 16:19-31, Matthew 19:16-26)
  • In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches that suffering and oppressed people will be rewarded in God’s Kingdom. (Matthew 5:1-12)
  • Jesus teaches us to fellowship with imperfect people, to avoid being judgmental, to treat others the way we would wish to be treated, and to love even our enemies. (Luke 5:27-32, Matthew 7:1-5, 7:12, 5:43-48)
  • Jesus teaches that God will always forgive us when we repent of our sins, like a loving and merciful Father. (Luke 15:11-32, Matthew 7:7-11)
  • Jesus teaches that God seeks out every lost soul, like a shepherd saving the lost sheep of his flock. (Luke 15:1-7)
  • Jesus says that he has other sheep that are not of the fold of Israel. (John 10:14-16)
  • Jesus demonstrates that his mission is not a political rebellion. (Matthew 22:15-22)
  • Jesus overturns the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple, rejecting the corrupted rituals of the Jewish religion. (John 2:13-17, Mark 11:15-18)
  • Jesus prophesies that some Christians will be religious hypocrites rather than his true followers. (Matthew 16:24-27, 7:21-23)
  • Jesus prophesies the destruction of Israel by the Gentiles (non-Jews such as the Romans), the spread of the Gospel throughout the world, and his second coming at an unknown time to establish God’s spiritual Kingdom on earth. (Matthew 24:1-14, 24:36-44)

Christ on the Cross
Jesus Christ is crucified

Jesus’s death and resurrection:

  • On Passover, Jesus tells his Twelve Apostles that he will be crucified, and he instructs that bread and wine should be eaten in remembrance of the sacrifice of his body and blood. (Matthew 26:1-5, Luke 22:7-23)
  • Jesus is betrayed by one of his own Apostles. (Matthew 26:14-16)
  • Jesus reluctantly accepts that God has called him to martyrdom, allows himself to be arrested, and warns his followers not to fight with the sword for a worldly victory. (Mark 14:32-38, Luke 22:39-53, John 18:1-3, Matthew 26:51-52)
  • The Jewish leaders condemn Jesus to death for blasphemy. (Matthew 26:57-68)
  • Jesus tells the Roman governor that his Kingdom is spiritual, not a worldly rebellion, and the Jews ask the governor to pardon a political rebel instead of Jesus. (John 18:28-40)
  • Jesus is tortured and crucified. (John 19:1-22, Matthew 27:22-44, Luke 23:35-49)
  • Jesus asks God to forgive those who were crucifying him. (Luke 23:33-34)
  • Jesus feels that God has forsaken him, but he declares that God’s will has been accomplished. (Matthew 27:45-50, John 19:28-30)
The resurrected Christ
Jesus Christ is raised from the dead
  • Jesus’s body is placed in a tomb. (Matthew 27:57-66)
  • Mary Magdalene and other disciples of Jesus find his tomb empty on the third day, and she sees Jesus Christ risen, resurrected from the dead. (Luke 24:1-12, John 20:1-18)
  • The Apostles see the risen Christ appear to them. (John 20:19-29)
  • The risen Christ commissions his followers to make disciples of all nations. (Matthew 28:16-20)

Mission and vision of the early church:

  • The Holy Spirit comes upon the followers of Christ, empowering them to speak words of inspiration to share the Gospel. (Acts 2:1-41)
  • Peter has a vision that the Gentiles are included by God in the faith of Christ and that the Jewish purity laws have been abrogated. (Acts 10)
  • Paul (formerly known as Saul), a Jewish leader who was persecuting the Christians, has a vision of the risen Christ and becomes an apostle of the faith to the Gentiles. (Acts 9:1-28, 13:38-48)
  • James (the brother of Jesus) and the other leaders of the church at Jerusalem decide not to require Gentile Christians to be circumcised or to follow all the laws of Moses. (Acts 15:1-21)
  • Paul preaches to the Greeks in Athens about the “unknown God” who is our Father in heaven, making Him known to the pagans. (Acts 17:16-34)
  • Paul teaches that all types of people can be one in the body of Christ, sharing their gifts of faith. (Galatians 3:23-29, 1 Corinthians 12:4-27)
  • Paul encourages a master to free his slave and treat him as a brother in Christ. (Philemon 1:8-17)
  • The followers of Christ live in a spirit of charity and brotherhood in the early Christian church. (Acts 2:42-47, 4:32-37)

Paul preaching the Gospel in Athens
Paul in Athens, sharing the Gospel of Christ with the world

Apostles’ teachings about God’s plan of salvation:

  • Paul teaches that all people, both Jews and Gentiles, are saved by our faith in Christ, not by obedience to the Jewish Law. (Romans 3:9-24, Ephesians 2, Galatians 3:7-14)
  • James teaches that faith and good works are both important. (James 2:14-19)
  • Paul teaches that spiritual discipline and sharing in the sufferings of Christ empowers us to win the prize of salvation, like an athlete training to compete in the Olympic games. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Philippians 3:10-14)
  • Sacrifice and hardships in life are evidence of God’s discipline as our loving Father. (Hebrews 12:4-13)
  • Paul teaches that God revealed His plan through the cross of Christ, so that we can learn the value of humility and God’s power to raise up the lowly and weak to overcome the mistaken wisdom and powers of this world. (1 Corinthians 1:18-31)
  • The old covenant of the Jewish Law has been replaced with the new covenant of Christ, in which all believers are priests in God’s Kingdom, knowing and serving God directly. (Hebrews 8:7-13, 1 Peter 2:4-9, Revelation 1:5-6)
  • We no longer need to make sacrifices to God to ask forgiveness for our sins, because God has sacrificed for us, once and for all, to defeat the power of sin and death through Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. (Hebrews 7:23-28, 10:1-14)
  • Jesus is the first among many brothers and sisters in God’s family, and he suffered and died as a human being on earth so that we can be redeemed through his perfect example. (Hebrews 2:10-18)
  • Paul teaches that the followers of Christ can become co-heirs of our Heavenly Father in the Divine Kingdom, as brothers and sisters of Christ in His image. (Galatians 4:1-7, Romans 8:16-30)
  • Paul teaches that we should grow up into the full stature of Christ and become ambassadors of Christ and ministers of reconciliation to our fellow human beings. (Ephesians 4:1-16, 2 Corinthians 5:17-20)
  • Paul teaches that various ministers and church leaders are servants of God, as long as they are building on the foundation of Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:1-11)
  • Paul teaches that we should be open to new revelations of the Spirit, but that we should use discernment and reject anything evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22)
  • God is love, and being filled with love is more important than anything else in our religion. (1 John 4:7-21, 1 Corinthians 13)
  • Paul teaches that through the power of humility and compassion, all souls can be saved, and in the end, all shall know and acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Philippians 2:3-11)
  • Peter teaches that Christ preached to the spirits imprisoned in hell, so that they too can be saved. (1 Peter 3:18-22, 4:6)
  • Paul teaches that through Christ, God wins a total victory over death and evil, and in the end, God shall be “all in all.” (1 Corinthians 15:21-28)
  • John has a vision of God’s victory over worldly powers of corruption and evil, and the ultimate restoration of all things, when humans shall return to the Garden of Paradise. (Revelation 11:15-18, 18:1-20, 21:1-7, 22:1-5)