Overview of the Bible – Step #2


The Central Message of the Bible


Introduction

Step #2 in our Overview of the Bible course requires that you learn the central message of the Bible.

Like any good story, the Bible contains a main plot, message or theme.

The theme serves as the central idea of the Bible and all the events, figures, stories, narratives and books of the Scriptures point to it and develop this main idea.

Overview of the Bible – Central Message

We can state the main theme of the Bible in this way:

The Bible tells the history of God’s salvation, on behalf of humanity and the creation, starting with Israel and completed through Jesus Christ.

The following serves to elaborate each word within this central message:

History

We use the word history to differentiate between events that really happened and myths or fantasies. The Bible records historical events and the experiences of historical people.

This is crucial because in today’s world, the historical validity of the Scriptures is under serious assault. The Exodus, the existence of King David even the resurrection of Jesus Christ have all come under historical doubt, even among Christians.

The bottom line is that Christianity is a historical religion. Without history, its claims cannot be sustained.

The word history is also important to demonstrate a progression over time and into the future. There is a past, a present and a future in history because events are happening on an actual timeline. In addition, there is a time when history will come to a complete end, at least as we know it here on earth.

Finally, the word history implies that Israel’s heritage is yours and informs your life as a Christian. It also implies that even now you get to participate in the history of God’s salvation by sharing your faith.

God

We refer to God in our central message (and in this overview of the Bible course) because he is indeed the main protagonist.

He is the Alpha and the Omega, the originator of history and by his Spirit, the creator of all that is seen and unseen as well as the author of the Scriptures.

He is the primary mover and the initiator of the rescue mission towards humanity.

He providentially guides history and ultimately steps into history in the form of a man to bring salvation to all.

God plays a role in every scene or narrative of the Bible (even when he is not mentioned).

Salvation

We use the word salvation to encompass the primary objective of God towards humanity and creation. Because of the corrupting nature of sin, God embarks on a rescue mission to reconcile both man and the universe to himself after the fall.

Salvation is also holistic and not simply a personal decision that saves me from eternal damnation.

God’s salvation incorporates mind, body, soul and spirit as well as relational, cultural, economic, environmental and societal structures.

Salvation includes no less than the coming of God’s kingdom to reign here on earth as well as the promise of eternal life in the world to come.

On Behalf of Humanity

Salvation is undertaken on behalf of humanity. If there were a theme within Scripture that stands out above the rest, this is it.

John 3:16 is perhaps the best and most well known expression of this theme: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

The goal of salvation history as portrayed in an overview of the Bible is the calling out of a people for God from among every tribe, tongue and nation in order that they might spend the rest of eternity with the triune God.

God’s covenant community represents the second most important figure or entity within the Scriptures. God is the husband; Israel is the wife. Jesus is the bridegroom; the Church is the bride.

On Behalf of the Creation

Secondly, and just as importantly, salvation includes the redemption of the universe and the earth. A new heavens and a new earth will culminate history.

In addition, because the earth is slated for redemption (just like humanity) it has inherent value.

This means that as Christians we are to be doubly concerned about our stewardship of God’s creation.

It also means that we must be ever vigilant in the protection of God’s environment. We are simply God’s caretakers of the planet. To abuse this world or to exploit it is to be answerable to the owner.

Starting with Israel

We say that salvation starts with Israel because it is through a chosen nation, whom God protects that the stage is set for the coming of a Messiah.

The Israel of the Old Testament is called upon by God to be a light to the nations and an example to the world of what it means to be a people ruled by a holy God.

Israel’s history is recorded in the Old Testament and becomes my heritage as a Christian since I too am a child of Abraham.

…and completed through Jesus Christ

Salvation culminates in Jesus Christ. His is the person, life, ministry and sacrifice to which all of the Old Testament points, and which all of the New Testament reveals. An overview of the Bible summary sentence would be:  God saves through Jesus Christ.

Jesus came to reveal the Father. He also came to redeem humanity and creation through his death and resurrection.

The beginning of the end of time is now upon us.

Though we still inhabit mortal bodies and are prone to sin, we can experience God’s glorious kingdom today: the blind see, the dead are raised, the captives are set free and the Spirit of God has been poured out on all flesh!

Conclusion

As you can see, there is much theology wrapped into the central message of the Bible. Yet all of that theology is consistently repeated and elaborated as you work your way through Scripture.

Of importance for this Overview of the Bible Course is that you take time to memorize the Bible’s central message.

After that, it is important that you be able to tell someone why each word in that phrase is important.

Getting this statement down and all of its attendant meaning will pay back rich dividends as you continue your exploration of the Scriptures.

What is the Bible’s central message?

The Bible tells the history of God’s salvation, on behalf of humanity and the creation, starting with Israel and completed through Jesus Christ.

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