The Big Picture: God’s Grand Narrative

I’ve been given an opportunity to disciple (and be discipled by) a believer from another state. We intend to accomplish this, partly, through e-mail, phone calls, and a private blog that I set up. The following is an essay I wrote to introduce the Bible’s storyline. Please take a moment and offer any comments you believe would be helpful in this task. Sincere thanks in advance for doing so!


Introduction
We all have our own stories to tell. But, God has a story, too, and understanding how our stories fit into his story is the right order of things. Too often we expect a good and decent god to fit neatly into our plot that we have so proudly crafted for ourselves. But this is to “fly upside down” (borrowing from Dallas Willard). Rather than making God’s story a footnote in our own, it’s crucial we understand that we are characters on the stage of history and, though our part is essential to the script, we are not the authors. Just as the Bible is about God, it’s also the script for our story. Technically, the Bible is not a single book, but a library of books containing all that God intends for us to know as we see each person’s narrative woven together through time that turns out to be History … and ours.

The Big Picture: God’s Grand Victory
In a sense, the Bible’s picture can be captured under the theme “God’s Grand Victory”. Throughout Holy Writ, God is asserting himself as King over a kingdom and Conqueror over evil. Only a few chapters (Genesis 1-2 and Revelation 21-22) actually detail a universe without evil in it. The remainder and bulk of Scripture (Genesis 3-Revelation 20) annotates the arduous and plainly painful but gloriously triumphant story of the kingdom of God emerging.

After creation, evil enters the world and God inaugurates his plan (already in the eternal blueprint) to redeem or buy back his people from a life of slavery to sin’s grip. Beginning with Abraham’s call (Genesis 12), God introduces blessing for all nations by specially choosing a family known as Israel. The entire Old Testament slowly details the nature of that blessing through countless tragedy and occasional triumph. Upon reading the last few books of the Old Testament, one gets a sense that the story continues.

Enter the New Testament. In the Gospels, all-out war breaks loose between the kingdom of hell and the kingdom of heaven. There we have an anointed One, the Messiah known as Jesus of Nazareth, who personifies Israel as God’s chosen (albeit He remained obedient where they failed). His three-year ministry is consummated by the full display of God’s victory over evil through the ignoble and seemingly unimportant death on a cross. Death does not prove to the final victor as the definitive, unmistakable reality of Jesus’ resurrection puts on display God’s victory over evil. The resurrection of Jesus is the clear, historically undeniable signpost of God’s right to rule and reign over all and in all. In many ways, the resurrection is the culmination of Genesis 3-Revelation 19. Though ascended, Jesus promises to remain resident in the hearts of those who through faith alone have committed to God’s story and who will become forever part of God’s family, the Church, through the indwelling Spirit of God. The final chapter of God’s story indicates that one day the crucified, risen, and ascended One will return to reveal and rule over a transformed earth occupied by transformed residents who will never be defeated by evil.

This is God’s Grand Narrative as I read Scripture. God is King. We are his subjects. Each day is a new opportunity toward realizing God’s story in our lives as it gradually but certainly unfolds.

Capturing, in a brief post, the entire storyline of the Bible is daunting. Inevitably some details will be left out. Yet we have to start somewhere. And so, I think it best that we start at the end of the story (Revelation 21-22) where we find the climax of an intriguing plot unfolding throughout the ages. I know that it’s cheating to turn to the last chapter in a book and find out how the story ends, but knowing where we’re going will help us keep our bearings during the journey and provide us hope along the way as we see how the Author intends for us to live.

Why Is This Grand Narrative Important?
If the Bible’s story is true, then it follows that what we do now matters. This day matters just as much as the coming “Day of the Lord.” Someday God “will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of people’s hearts. At that time each will receive their praise from God” (1 Corinthians 4:5; see also Romans 2:16). And so, until the Day of the Lord is here we “ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (2 Peter 3:11-12).

Bible Reading Plan
[Note: As time permits, I will add to this plan for reading.]

  1. Read Revelation 21-22
    • Note what will and will not be present in the new heavens and new earth
  2. Read Genesis 1-11 and consider this outline:
    • Creation (existence not non-existence)
    • Fall (stain not purity)
    • Flood (justice not boundless grace)
    • Babel (arrogance not humility)
  3. Scan Genesis 12-50 and consider this outline:
    • Abraham (God’s promise given and received by faith)
    • Isaac (God’s promise fulfilled)
    • Jacob (God’s unending patience)
    • Joseph (God’s unending faithfulness)

Note: A special thanks to Dr. Gay Hubbard who originally provided the theme through her lecture at Denver Seminary (’94), “God Has a Story, Too.”

4 thoughts on “The Big Picture: God’s Grand Narrative”

  1. Hi Paul,

    I’m sure you already have a beautiful curriculum (beyond even what you shared) lined up for your disciple and I am sure you will be a blessing! I for one will be praying.

    I do not know where your disciple is in the things of God, but for whatever it is worth I can tell you that I wish I had in my early years: sound doctrine. Christianity as I erroneously learned was about doing not being. Teaching and doctrine were secondary (if that). God is interested in sonship not service. Though service is important sonship comes first. I cannot stress to you the importance of learning how to rightly divide the word of truth early on. Learning sound biblical doctrine right from the get-go is just so crucial. And, as I’m sure you gathered I do not subscribe to the semi-Palagian theology that is rampant among Arminian circles that I have been in. I’ve had quite enough, thank you very much!

    I truly believe that the doctrines of Grace represent true biblical teaching as opposed to Arminian theology. I know that each theological system has its flaws but from what I can see Reformed theology just makes more sense.

    So, that’s my 2 cents!

    Blessings!
    Christina

    1. Hi Christina:
      Thanks for taking the time to read. Without doubt a solid biblical background and knowledge will make all the difference in Christlikeness. The first two years of my new life in Christ were spent saturating myself in Scripture memory and Bible reading. I’ve never regretted that and still remember most of the hundreds of passages memorized after almost 3 decades.

      You’re so correct that we must focus on our attention on who we are in Christ. From this alone will come any activity of eternal import. Indeed, our first memory verse is Gal. 2:20 and we’ll move in and out between memorizing passages on God’s character and our identity in Christ. Aside from regular Scripture reading and discussion, our first book is Stott’s Basic Christianity, which provides a good grounding for that very thing. We hope to begin next week with the first chapter. Eventually I hope to address apologetics, systematics, hermeneutics, spiritual disciplines, among other topics. This may sound aggressive, but we’re not in any hurry and will likely take at least a year. This person, though not so young in the faith, is eager to learn and grow in Christ. It’s a thrill and privilege to be used of the Lord in this way. Your prayers are sincerely appreciated.

      As for Reformed theology, I could not agree more. While I respect the Arminian tradition of thoughtful scholars (Ben Witherington, I. Howard Marshall), my reading of Scripture has led me in the direction of Calvin, as it has with you.

      Blessings and joy from above,
      Paul

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