Introduction to the Bible for Bibles International
I wrote the following introduction for Bibles International; it is being translated and placed at the beginning of Bibles all around the world. Come back tomorrow and the next day for intros to the Old Testament and New Testament.
The Bible tells one story.
It’s a long one, and sometimes a complicated one. But it’s just one story.
The Bible is the story of what God is doing to glorify Himself by redeeming His fallen creation. That includes four major things to remember:
- Creation: God created the world and man to rule it.
- Fall: God’s world fell into sin with Adam.
- Redemption: God is redeeming (or restoring) this world.
- Glory: God is doing all of this for His own glory.
Many important things are left out of this little summary of the Bible’s one story. For example, Jesus Christ does not appear by name, even though He stands at the center of God’s plan to redeem the world. It’s important to add, too, that everything God does for His own glory is also done for the good of His people. And there are good reasons for thinking that the kingdom—God’s rule of the world—is also a major theme of the Bible. God is trying to re-establish His full rule over the world (1 Cor 15:24–28).
But a summary has to be short if it expects to be memorable. Every summary will leave something out, because it can’t be as long as the Bible! And a summary is important, because with such a long book we need something that will help us understand how all the smaller stories in Scripture—Adam, Abraham, Moses, David, Paul—fit into the one big story.
Let’s look at the first three elements of our summary of Scripture. These three are all pointing toward the last one.
God’s creation was originally “very good” (Gen 1). He created Adam and Eve, the first humans, in His image, and He blessed them with the ability to multiply and to subdue the earth (Gen 1:26–28). But those blessings were also tasks: their job was to “image” God to all of creation by ruling God’s world like God would.
They failed (Gen 3). They believed the lies of the serpent, and they plunged both themselves and the world they cared for into what the Bible calls “slavery to corruption” (Rom 8:21). Instead of submitting to God’s rule, all people are now born in rebellion. Even animals suffer and die—and kill. The creation is still “very good,” but it groans, waiting to be redeemed, waiting to be restored to the way God meant it to be.
The creation didn’t have to wait long for that redemption to start. God promised Adam and Eve that the “seed of the woman” would one day crush the head of the serpent (Gen 3:15). In the middle of the saddest day in world history God brought good news: he was going to fix what Adam broke.
Years later, God chose one idol-worshiper, Abraham, to be His tool for that fix. The promised seed would come through him, God promised. Abraham’s family would be big, and they would get a land of their own (Gen 12, 15, 17).
Abraham’s family became the nation of Israel, the one family with whom God had a special covenant. They were meant to do what Adam failed to do: to image God to everyone else (Ex 19:5–6). God (through the prophet Moses) gave them laws to show them what it meant to be holy like Him (Ex 20). He instructed them to sacrifice animals in order to teach them how seriously their sin offended His great holiness (Lev).
But the story of God’s chosen people Israel became one of continual sin. Adam’s sin had infected them too deeply, and they never loved and obeyed God as they should. Their prophets, their priests, and even their kings failed them. They needed something more.
God promised that more was coming. He told one of their best kings, David, that someone from his line would sit on Israel’s throne forever (2 Sam 7). And he told one of their most important prophets, Jeremiah, that He was going to start writing His laws on people’s hearts so they would not continue their cycle of terrible sin (Jer 31).
The Old Testament ends on a question mark: how will God do all these things? How will the story end?
The New Testament
The New Testament opens with an answer and an exclamation point: Jesus Christ is God’s answer! Where all Israel’s leaders and all mankind have failed, Jesus succeeded. He, God in flesh, lived a perfect life. He died for the sins of the world and rose from the dead to start a new era in world history (Rom 4:25).
He then sent His Spirit to instruct and comfort His followers as they established a new institution outside Israel, the church (John 16:1–15, Acts 2). This was the way Jesus chose to spread His rule over Jew and Gentile alike, through local gatherings of believers who come to fellowship, pray, eat the Lord’s Supper, and learn scriptural doctrine (Acts 2:42). The New Testament explains and applies Christ’s work to God’s people. It reveals the Creation-Fall-Redemption story you’ve just been reading about.
God has never set aside His command for mankind to fill the earth, subdue it, and have dominion over it. But because so many people fail to worship the God who gave us those tasks, believers have a new task (Matt. 28:18–20). We must spread the message of Christ’s forgiveness to those who do not believe. We must teach everyone to repent and do whatever Jesus has commanded.
The church and the rest of creation can look forward to the day when Jesus will completely rule the world and death will be no more. These “last days” began, in fact, when Christ conquered death through His resurrection (Heb 1:2; 1 Cor. 15:26, 55–58). God’s grace will restore nature to the way He originally designed it to be. Arctic foxes won’t steal and eat goose hatchlings. Lions will nestle together with lambs (Isa. 11:6). Jesus will renew and restore the whole earth, judge all the wicked, and bring His people to live under His wise rule in His city—the New Jerusalem—for all eternity (Rev 21). People will fill the earth and subdue it as God first planned.
At the end of this age Christ will hand all rule to the Father, and God will be all in all (1 Cor 15:28). That’s where Creation, Fall, and Redemption all point: to God’s glory. Your great goal in life, by God’s grace, ought to be the same: to point to the glory of God.