An epic story in seven acts that gives us the chance to reach others in a powerful way...
A Story to Tell
By Ty Gibson
The Bible is not a textbook of systematic theology, nor is it a proof-text manual; it is not even a book of good moral advice.
The Bible is, rather, a story.
It’s a grand narrative rich with intersecting characters in an unfolding saga of infinite love, horrific loss, and glorious restoration at last.
At the center of the story is a singular, towering figure. Every prophecy and parable, every song and symbol, every wailing prayer for justice and weeping plea for mercy, every cry for help and longing for love, every episode and act of the story, whispers His name.
The entire Old Testament basically says, He is coming. The entire New Testament says, He has come.
A promise made and a promise kept! That’s the whole Bible, the whole story, in a nutshell.
In the Old Testament we hear God saying, I will faithfully love you at any and all cost to Me. No matter your posture toward Me, I will never stop loving you. I will come to your world and enter into your pain. I will bear your shame. I will absorb your sin into My love and overcome its power to destroy you.
In the New Testament we hear God saying, See, I am here, and I will fulfill every aspect of My promise to you. I will love you to the utter end of Myself. All the rage and hatred you can heap upon Me will not conquer, nor even weaken, My love for you. And when I am lifted up on the cross in self-sacrificing love for you, I will draw you back to Me.
Summing up the relation of the two testaments, Paul brilliantly observed, “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us” (2 Cor. 1:20). In Christ, God has shown His love to be faithful and true by fulfilling every promise He made through the prophets.
The story unfolds in seven epic acts:
1 Pre-Creation: Once upon an eternity, God was all there was. Before all of creation, for eternal ages past, God existed as an expression of other-centered love: Father, Son, and Spirit, the eternal Three as One. The God of the biblical story is not a solitary self, but rather a self-giving friendship, a social unit of nonstop outgoingness. Selflessness defines God and is the foundation of reality.
2 Creation: The physical universe, with all of its rational, thinking, choosing beings, was born from divine love as an expression of God’s character. Creation is simply the demonstration of God’s love in material form. We exist because God is love, and in order to love as God does. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually human beings were engineered to reflect God’s self-giving love back to Him and to one another.
3 Fall: Sin entered the picture as the desire to live for self above and before others, thus generating mistrust, which led to isolation, which led to death. The fall of humankind was basically a falling out of love with God and one another. Sin is not the breaking of arbitrary rules imposed by a controlling God, but rather is anti-love, resulting in breakdown of relationships.
4 Covenant: In response to the Fall, God remained true to His character. The key concept of the biblical story is God’s faithfulness. The story in Genesis reveals how God’s relationship with His people is summed up in the word covenant. In its various forms, the covenant is God’s pledge to continue loving fallen humanity in spite of our rebellion. He will follow through with His plan to save us at any cost to Himself. To accomplish the covenant plan, God establishes in Israel the biological and theological lineage through which His plan will be fulfilled. The prophets of Israel become the channel through which a series of covenant promises and prophecies are proclaimed, all of them pointing to Jesus.
5 Messiah: The Christ event—His birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension—constitute the complete fulfillment of God’s covenant promise. Jesus is God’s love embodied in human form. In Him, covenant is kept from both the divine side of the relationship and from the human side. As God, Jesus was faithful to humanity. As human, He was faithful to God. Salvation is historically, objectively accomplished in Christ as the complete fulfillment of the covenant.
6 Church: The body of Christ is His covenant community. Its mission is to bear witness, through words and actions, to the transforming reality of God’s love. As the good news of God’s faithfulness is communicated to the world, salvation, liberation, and healing happen for every person who says “yes” to the message. Saying “yes” is what the Bible calls “faith,” which is exercised when individuals identify with Christ and live for Him. This is the subjective experience of redemption in Christ Jesus.
7 Re-Creation: As the Bible story reaches its climax, everything contrary to God’s love will be eradicated. Only that which is good and beautiful will remain for all eternity. The story promises the final removal of evil and the restoration of all things to God’s ideal. Redeemed humanity will finally enter into the eternal bliss of other-centered, social integration God had planned from the beginning. God’s love will reign supreme in every heart as the only motive behind every thought, feeling, and deed.
This is the whole Bible at a glance, and this is the message God raised up the Advent movement to proclaim to the world. Our understanding of the Bible serves its true purpose only when we tell this story. It is the most enchanting and moving and mind-blowing story that can be told, because it tells of a God who loves each of us more than His own existence; one who would rather die forever than live without us.
If we tell this story, our own people, as well as those we try to reach, will spontaneously jump into the narrative to play their part.
Ty Gibson is lead pastor of the Storyline Adventist Church in Eugene, Oregon, United States. He has authored eight books and codirects Light Bearers, an international publishing, teaching, and media ministry.