If like me, you grew up in a Christian environment, hearing God’s word from your childhood, believing that you had all the right answers in kids Sunday School, thinking that you already knew all the Bible stories, and being very familiar with characters like Isaac, Abraham, David, Joseph, Saul, Jonah, etc. Then this blogpost is for you.
I must admit that I was that annoying child that had (almost) all the right answers to the kids Sunday school teacher’s questions. That’s right, I was that child that didn’t let others answer because I found joy in having all the answers and letting others know how much I knew. However, if you had asked me to tell you how do all those stories fit together or what’s their significance. I would have not been able to tell you.
Even if you cannot identify with my background, or if you are just starting to read the Bible for the first time, this blogpost is also for you. Whatever your background and experience is, my hope is that this information keeps you from making the same mistakes I made, and helps you have a clearer understanding of God’s Word as a whole; not so that you can have all the right answers, but so that you can know God better the way he decided to reveal himself, and humbly praise him for his great salvation which he planned before the foundation of the world.
Fortunately, God’s mercy and grace have not let me remain an annoying know-it-all child (I hope). The more I learn about the Bible, the more I realize how little I knew then, and how little I really know now. I do understand several things a lot better than I did then, but the more I dig into the Word, the more I realize its depth, as well as my deficiency (or straight up ineptitude) to understand it all.
However, one of the concepts that has helped me the most in my understanding of Scripture is the fact that the Bible is one whole story.
The Bible is the story of redemption
All the biblical characters that I mentioned above are very well known. I was able to recite their individual stories, but I really didn’t understand how these stories were related to each other.
If you ask people, “what is the Bible?” Some of the answers you might get are “The Bible is God’s word. It is a book of rules. It is a life handbook. It is a collection of ancient literature, etc.” None of these answers is wrong in itself, but none is complete either. The Bible is more than just a handbook or a book of rules and commandments. The Bible is the inspired word of God through which he reveals the story or drama of redemption. That is to say, the Bible is one whole story through which God reveals how he took the initiative to redeem the world.
Yes. It is definitely important to study each passage of the Bible in its original context, grammatically, historically, culturally, etc. But if in addition to that we don’t study it and understand it as one whole story about God’s redemption, we are not interpreting it correctly. In this drama of redemption God is the main character, humans are the actors, and Jesus is the heroe.
This drama has four main acts. Creation, Fall, Redemption and Restoration.
In the first act, God creates a perfect world, he creates human beings in his image; Adam and Eve, and he gives them the vocation to represent him on earth, to govern as his representatives, to take dominion. He gives them the job to care for his creation, to be fruitful and multiply. Furthermore, they have a perfect relationship with God. God walks in the garden among them! This is a perfect place where everything works as it is supposed to work.
In this act, the humans are tempted by the snake and they disobey God. Consequently, the connection they had with God is broken. They also damage the image of God in which they were created, and they also fail to fulfill the vocation that God has given them. They die spiritually and are separated from God. Death and pain are introduced to God’s perfect world. Things all of the sudden are no longer working how they are supposed to work.
This is the main act. The majority of the story of redemption is focused on this act. From the moment that Adam and Eve sin against God, he brings into action his plan to redeem his creation. This plan, of course, existed before the foundation of the world, but it is expressed in it most prototypical form in Genesis 3:15, where God gives the serpent its sentence.
“I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
Here God is expressing his plan to send a redeemer who will be a descendant of Adam and Eve, who will destroy the serpent, but not without a cost. The serpent will bruise his heel. This passage is known as the protoevangelium because it is an allusion to the climax of God’s redemption when he would send his Son Jesus to die on the cross to rescue his creation and free them from the power of death, sin and the serpent. Derek Kidner describes this concept as “the first glimmer of the Gospel.”
From that moment in the story of redemption to Jesus arrival; his life, death and resurrection, and everything in between, is the act of redemption.In other words, 99.9% of the Old Testament is essentially about this act of redemption. The Old Testament is not a random collection of laws, anecdotes, and records. It is one story that narrates God’s salvation of this world. Each one of the writings included in the first part of our Bibles contribute something to the story of redemption of this world. That’s right; even Leviticus, Nehemiah, Song of Solomon, Proverbs, etc.
The arrival of Jesus into this world, his life of perfect obedience to his Father, his teaching, and particularly his death and resurrection are the climax of this drama. All the story of redemption points to this paramount event in the history of the universe. It is at the cross that God accomplishes the decisive step to redeem the world.
After the magnum event of redemption happens, the dénouement of this story begins. All things start to return to their intended order and they get even better. In Colossians 1:20 we learn that through Jesus, God “reconciled to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” God is restoring us, and he is restoring his creation.
This act of restoration is not complete until all things have been fully restored by God. This will ultimately happen when Jesus comes a second time to consummate the already inaugurated kingdom of God, and to finally restore all things; to destroy death, sin, and the serpent once and for all. When he returns, we will finally be in God’s presence without the interruption or hinderance that the fall caused. God’s image will be restored in us. In fact, the Bible says, we will be like Christ. We will represent him on earth the way he had originally intended. He will walk among us. We will see him face to face.
What’s the difference between that future time and the state of Adam and Eve at the garden? We will know the love of God more deeply, knowing how big of a price he was willing to pay in order to redeem us. God loved us so much that the price he paid for our redemption was the blood of his precious Son; our Lord Jesus Christ.
Read the Bible with the story of redemption in mind
Next time you read the Bible (I hope it is really soon), read it with this perspective in mind. Read it knowing that is is more than just a collection of commandments with no rhyme or reason, or stories about interesting characters. Read it knowing that it is the way God decided to tell the story of how he is redeeming this world. Read it knowing that in this drama of redemption you can find salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”2 Timothy 3:14-15