The purpose of reading and studying the Bible is to learn of Jesus Christ and how to become like Him.
In a narrative sense, the Bible tells the story of how God created the heavens and earth and then had that creation spoiled by the entrance of temptation and sin. The corruption occurred so early in the history of the creation, one can only conclude that God had expected this. And given the manner in which the first sin occurred, one can only conclude that the very purpose of the creation itself was to deal with the sin that had pre-existed it.
The narrative goes on to explain how from one man (Abraham) God produced a nation, and then how from that nation He produced a man (Jesus of Nazareth). It was Jesus of Nazareth who would conclusively deal with the problem of sin in the world, though His manner of dealing with it seemed altogether unexpected…just as His manner of dealing with it now still seems altogether unexpected.
The point of the Bible’s narrative is that Jesus has ushered us into a new age of creation in which sin can be overcome. In this age – called the kingdom of God or the day of the Lord – we look to the Bible for truth and for principles by which to live. Most of it was originally written to the nation of Israel as instruction for their life as a nation but we read it looking for its spiritual applications. For example, references to Israel in the Old Testament refer to those physically descended from Abraham, but we read it today as referring to those people who are living for God regardless of their nationality or ethnic heritage.
Stated another way, the Bible was originally read for its meaning according to the flesh. We read it for its meaning according to the spirit. By saying that we read it spiritually, this does not mean we take its words less seriously. If anything, we take them more seriously. Spiritual realities are more important and more lasting than physical realities. Therefore, we do not take up the the religious rituals of the Bible, whether they be of the tabernacle in Old Testament or the church in the New Testament. All these forms have passed away, but the spirit of them remains eternally important.
Jesus promised that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness would be satisfied. This promise has been fulfilled in the coming of the kingdom God. All who desire righteousness can find it in this kingdom which is in our midst. For all who desire direction to it, the Bible provides the way. We look to the Bible, therefore, for the principles of righteousness – not the rituals of religion.
Surely many groups use the Bible to justify their ritualization of devotion to Christ. But Christ lived and died to remove rituals and bring the fullness of righteousness into the world. Therefore, the purpose of the Bible today is to teach righteousness. Jesus Christ is the beginning and end of that righteousness.