Don't Skip the Introduction
My wife and I are big readers. Whenever we get the chance, we will both escape into our books. She loves fiction. She loves the excitement, the characters, the “other.” I am the opposite. I read non-fiction exclusively. When I read, I always have a pen and paper ready to underline, take notes, and copy down quotes for future reference. I read every line, from the introduction through the conclusion. Sometimes I will even look through the index! But when it comes to Scripture, my mentality shifts.
As I read through a book of the Bible, I find myself searching for the “meat.” I may occasionally skim the first section of any given book in order to get to the “doctrine” or the “important stuff.” However, two experiences in my life have taught me a crucial lesson about not skipping the introduction.
When I first got the Bible app (c. 2011), I decided to go for a walk and listen to the audio version of the Bible. For a while I was obsessed with the book of Romans, so I chose to listen to that. Something interesting happened: I couldn’t get past the introduction! I was blown away. I kept restarting the book, listening to the introduction over and over again. In Romans 1:1-7, Paul describes who he is in Christ, who Christ is, what he has done for us, and what our purpose on earth is. He ends verse seven with “grace and peace from God.” What an introduction! I couldn’t believe how much there was to gain from those seven verses.
The second experience was just last year. I had decided to attempt memorizing the book of Ephesians. As I began, the same realization I had in 2011 hit me again. In the introduction to Ephesians, Paul makes known his identity in Christ, who the Ephesians are in Christ, and offers them grace and peace from God. This is how Paul greets fellow believers!
I believe we can learn two things from these first verses of these biblical books.
First, don’t skip the introduction. I keep saying it, but it is important. Every word of scripture is the very Word of God, “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17). God speaks powerfully, even in the greetings of the biblical writers.
Second, Paul does not jump right into the matter of the letters he writes. He begins with the gospel. We should emulate Paul. When we have something to say, teach, or preach, first turn to the gospel. Remember who you are in Christ. Remember who your audience is in Christ. Have an introduction and make it gospel-filled. “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 1:2).