The Bible narrates a story. Its narrative is an all encompassing one that attempts to account for the world, humanity, and the divine as it was at the beginning, as it is today, and as it will be in the future. Post-modernism would call it a metanarrative. This does not mean that the Bible will answer every question that we may bring to it, but if we read and ponder it carefully, it will ask us questions and shape us with its answers.
Since the beginnings of the Christ-following movement, God’s people have read the Old and New Testaments as sacred Scripture. The biblical story proclaims a counter-story to every other human story. It engages every human culture and works to realign those cultures with the will and purposes of God. It does this by intersecting with our stories at key points but then offering a crossroads to lead us into the new story that God desires to write through us. The question for us is this: What story primarily shapes our life? This is a question that we must continually reflect upon as we read the Bible.
First, let’s look briefly at the broad contours of God’s story in the Bible – a story that I will narrate in a three-part series. It is helpful to be able to think through the contents of the Bible as a whole to provide frameworks for understanding its smaller pieces. As you read this overarching summary, reflect on how you would summarize the overall message of the Scripture.
The Bible tells the story of God’s purposes for humanity and the world. It can be summarized in six movements: Creation, Fall, Israel, Jesus the Messiah, Church, and New Creation.
The biblical story begins with God’s creation of a very good world (Gen 1–2). This is an important beginning. The world that we find ourselves in today is not the world as God originally intended. God’s original creation is a place of wonder and goodness. It is not fractured by violence or any form of evil. Instead, God fashions a place of abundance, beauty, and justice. As God creates he evaluates his handiwork as “very good” (Gen 1:31). God fills this earth with plants and living creatures. God creates humanity as a community of women and men to serve as God’s hands, feet, and mouthpieces — his ambassadors to and stewards of creation. The Bible emphasizes the centrality of humanity in God’s plans by declaring that God has crafted humanity in the very image of God. The invisible creator desires to manifest his character and purposes through the witness of the human community. In the beginning, humanity lives in a garden of abundance and experiences harmonious relationships between humanity and God, between humanity and creation, and between women and men. This is Eden and life as God intended it.
But the biblical epic takes a pivotal turn in Genesis 3–11 due to the entrance of sin in the world. Sin exists because God allowed for its possibility. Authentic relationships require choices. God did not create robots when he crafted men and women. God desires humanity to live eternally in communion with him. This is the highest and best for all people, but God does not compel the first human’s to obey. In the stories of these chapters, humanity chooses to live outside the boundaries of God’s purposes. This choice has profound implications. It fractures the created order and causes a breech in the harmony of creation. Humanity falls short as stewards of creation and in its role of embodying the invisible God to Creation. These stories teach that humanity has lost its way.
But God does not give up on his creation. Rather God responds by reaching out to bring healing and reconciliation to creation. The bulk of the biblical story – which I present in the second and third parts of this series – is the narrative of God’s mission to redeem and restore a lost humanity and broken creation. God’s goal is make it “very good” again.