Skip to content

Blog / Understanding the Bible in Four Small Words: An Interview with Jarrett Stevens

Understanding the Bible in Four Small Words: An Interview with Jarrett Stevens

Jarrett StevensWhen it comes to a story as theologically thick and rich with history, metaphor, and meaning as the Bible, the thought of trying to understand or communicate that story can be overwhelming. What if the essence of the story of God can be understood, applied, and shared in just four small words: Of. Between. With. In.

Bible Gateway interviewed pastor Jarrett Stevens (@jarrettstevens) about his book, Four Small Words (Zondervan, 2016).

Click to buy your copy of Four Small Words in the Bible Gateway Store

What need did you observe that prompted you to write this book?

Jarrett Stevens: What prompted me to write Four Small Words was the growing awareness that while we have greater access to the Bible than at any point in human history, people in general are becoming less connected to it. For as much as people are interested in the Bible, they find themselves feeling intimidated by it and therefore stay a safe distance from it. I wanted to write a book that spoke to and sparked that interest, while eliminating as much intimidation as possible.

You write, “What if God’s idea behind the Bible isn’t the endless pursuit of knowing enough, but rather understanding more.” How can we understand if we don’t know?

Jarrett Stevens: As a kid who grew up in church and was blessed with a great Christian education, I found myself in my 20s knowing a lot about the Bible…but having very little understanding of how it all connected, or better yet, how it connected to my life.

Proverbs 4:5 says, “Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them.” Wisdom and understanding are God’s clarion call to us throughout the Bible. You can know a lot about something without understanding what it means. We’ve all met people who can quote verse after verse on forgiveness, yet harbor deep anger or resentment in their hearts. We know people who can explain the concept of grace, but seem to forget how it applies to their own life in a real and transformational way. That’s why an experiential understanding of the Bible beats endless knowledge about the Bible any day.

How is it possible to better understand the Bible with only four words and what are those words??

Jarrett Stevens: The big idea of these four small words is to see the Bible in greater context; to see the whole story through four main movements. The words are: of, between, with, and in.

OF = Creation—The Story of Our True Identity (Genesis 1–2). Each of us is created with an identity that comes from God and is so much bigger than who we are right now.

BETWEEN = The Old Testament—The Story of Separation (Genesis 3Malachi 4). Each of us has experienced separation from God when sin comes between us and God. And it’s the story of all the things that we use as “go-betweens” between us and God to make up the gap that only grace can bridge.

WITH = The Gospels—The Story of a Present God (Matthew 1Acts 1). We are invited to do life with Jesus. Just as Jesus called those in his days to be with him, he calls each of us today to do the same.

IN = The Rest of the New Testament—The Story of a People Inhabited by God (Acts 2Revelation 22). Each of us has been created to live with the power and presence of God in us in our everyday lives.

These words not only tell the linear, chronological story of the Bible, but at a much deeper level they resonate with each of our own stories as well. They give us a framework for understanding the bigger picture. Like seeing the forest through the trees, they help us see the meaning and message through the verses.

What do you want readers to do when they finish Four Small Words??

Jarrett Stevens: I would love nothing more than for people to pick up and engage the Bible in a fresh and transformational way. To have less intimidation and greater understanding. And to share God’s story with others with greater clarity, context, and confidence.

What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App??

Jarrett Stevens: Honestly, Bible Gateway is where I start every sermon. At least every other day I’m on Bible Gateway for one reason or another. I am so thankful for this amazing yet simple tool that makes the Bible so accessible and engaging to people literally around the world. And I’m thrilled to be able to share the message of Four Small Words here.

One of the things that I am so excited about is the partnership I have with Biblica. Biblica is an amazing organization that helps get Bibles into the hands of people who need one all over the world. For a limited time, anyone who pre-orders Four Small Words will be able to give a Bible to someone who needs one through the work of Biblica. This is an amazing opportunity for us to grow in our experience with God’s Word, while giving others the opportunity to experience it themselves! To be a part of this special opportunity, visit

Bio: Jarrett Stevens is a pastor, writer, and speaker. He and his wife Jeanne live in downtown Chicago where they have planted a growing church, Soul City, and do life with their two young children, Elijah and Gigi. Jarrett, also the author of The Deity Formerly Known as God, was previously on staff as a teaching pastor with Willow Creek Church in Chicago, as well as pastoring at North Point Church in Atlanta. Known for his humor and honesty, he’s a popular speaker at churches and conferences both nationally and internationally.

Filed under Bible, Books, Interviews, Introduction to the Bible, Literacy