Where did we come from? Where are we going? What does this all mean? These are questions whose answers form the framework of a worldview. A worldview is a grand story of the world crafted to makes sense of the world. So then, our lives are informed by story. We all have a reigning story in our minds of the world that colors the way we perceive ourselves, others and the events that unfold around us. Yet there is only one Story that is perfectly true. It is the Story that all good stories imitate and whisper. It is the biblical Story. The true Story of the whole world.
This Story not only fulfills our desire for a meaningful past and stirs our longing for a promised future but compels our participation in the present now. Therefore, a right grasp of the biblical narrative is absolutely essential to the life and mission of the redeemed people of God. To ignore it is to be ignorant of the Story that is shaping our lives and the world around us. We too often approach the Bible with a knife in hand, chopping and dividing its singular narrative into devotional, moral, or even theological portions. We then take these portions and fit them like little blocks in the reigning story of our own culture without having to really reject any of the idols of the stories of culture. The Bible is robbed of its power and stripped of its beauty when we glean from it only those portions that adhere or conform to the prevailing themes of our reigning story. Consequently, what it means to be the church, to engage in all of life as the redeemed of God, is obscured and minimized. The mission of the church is all but lost. In order to understand the mission of the church—how we are to live together as the redeemed people of God in the world—we must recover the concept of the biblical narrative as worldview and the gospel of the kingdom of God that lies at its center.
To ignore the biblical narrative is to be ignorant of the Story that is shaping our lives and the world around us.
To aid in constructing a biblical worldview out of the pages of Scripture, outlined below is a brief treatment of some of the main themes of the biblical narrative. The narrative movements of creation, fall, redemption and restoration will serve as four hooks upon which we can hang the truth claims we find in Scripture. In this way, we can not only articulate the singular narrative of Scripture, we can be equipped to engage the world around us with the unparalleled power of the true Story of the whole world.
The first narrative movement of the biblical story is creation. The Story begins, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1.1). We know from the first sentence of the Christian story that it is a story about God. And God is the Creator of all things. As such, all things find their origin in God. The meaning, identity, place and purpose of everything is determined by God, the Creator. This undercuts the prevailing self-determinism of today. Because God alone is eternal, there are no other grounds for true and lasting existence. To determine your own meaning, identify, place and purpose is a lesser existence, indeed, non-existence. God alone is the source and grounds of the existence. And God is a good and benevolent Creator. Out of the perfection of His own nature, everything He creates is perfect and good.
The meaning, identity, place and purpose of everything is determined by God, the Creator.
As God is the Creator of all things, He is the King over all things. The Psalms in particular are rich with the declaration of God’s kingship over all the earth. Psalm 47.7 says, “For God is King of all the earth.” Being King over all the earth, everything owes allegiance to God, the King. God has structured and ordered life in His kingdom in a way that is live-giving and life-sustaining. God’s kingdom is a kingdom of life and flourishing and fullness. There is no lack or want.
The crown jewel of God’s creation are the creatures that bear His image. Genesis 1.27 proclaims, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” This does not mean that humanity bears a physical resemblance to God. Nor does it mean that humanity is like God in the sense of attributes. Instead, man and woman are created by God and called to manifest the rule of God in all of creation, living in a way that testifies to the reality of His benevolent reign. Humanity was created to be living testimonies, animated markers in the world that point to the reality of God’s kingship. Humanity was to rule over and be at work within the world God made as vice regents of the King of Heaven.
Yet something went tragically wrong. The second narrative movement is the fall. Genesis 3.6 reveals what happened: “So when the woman saw that the tree (from which the King had commanded they not eat) was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” Adam and Eve rejected God’s kingship, and the Bible labels this rejection of God’s rule sin. Adam and Eve were not content to be like God, bearing and reflecting His image in the world, they wanted to be God. We too, like Adam and Eve, don’t want to live out of our God-given existence, we want to create and existence—purpose, meaning and identity—for ourselves. Additionally, Adam and Eve and distrusted God’s goodness. They refused to trust that the decree of the King that they should not eat of that tree was for their good. So sin is first an internal reality. It is not something external to be avoided. It is something internal that destroys everything we are and everything we do because we have rejected the One in whom have our existence.
Yet sin’s destruction is not limited to the human heart. Sin has ushered in the reign of death in all of creation (Romans 5.12, 8.20-21). Nothing in all of creation has escaped sin’s snare. All things are held captive by it. Like a leach, sin has latched on to the good creation of God and poisoned it. While the good structure of creation remains, sin has bent the direction of creation towards evil, sinful ends. For example, there is nothing inherently evil with dancing. Anyone who has seen a toddler dance knows that God smiles upon such activity. Dancing is a good creation of God. Yet sin has taken dancing and perverted it, twisting it toward sexual promiscuity and self-glorification. Sexuality is another example. Human sexuality is a good, even necessary thing. God created man and woman, bound them in the covenant of marriage and told them to have children which involves a great deal of human sexuality. But sin has twisted human sexuality and directed it toward ends including pornography, adultery and homosexuality. From these examples it is clear that sin is antithetically opposed to God and His good creation. As such, sin is antithetically opposed to life. Though it promises life, sin can only and will ever only bring death.
The only adequate and just atonement for sin is eternal death.
And sin must be punished. Sin is an offense against an eternally great and good God. It is a rejection of His rightful kingship and a refusal of His infinite goodness. So the only adequate and just atonement for sin is eternal death (Romans 6.23). This is the wage all must pay for their sin. There is none who can pay or work to merit a pardon. All of humanity must and will endure the consequence of their sin—death. Enslaved to sin, humanity is helpless and hopeless doomed to die.
As the narrative moves into its third movement, the hero, who for so long had been foretold, at last enters the scene—Jesus Christ, the God Man, the very Son of God in human flesh. As the Son of God incarnate, He alone is qualified to make atonement for man’s sin. Jesus, being infinite, eternal God is the object of man’s rebellion. Therefore, only He can extend forgiveness and pardon for man’s sin. As the Son of Man, He alone is qualified to endure penalty for man’s sin. Jesus, being without sin, is the perfect man. Therefore, only He can stand in the place of sinful man and absorb the wrath of God against man’s sin. In Christ’s death, God made a way for all who repent of their sinful rebellion and trust that Christ stood in their place and bore their sin on the cross to receive a pardon for their sin and a right standing before Him. 2 Corinthians 5.21 declares, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” So then, Jesus is our substitute.
As Adam’s sin unleashed the destructive power of sin, Jesus’ resurrection marks the beginning of all sad things, all broken things coming untrue.
Jesus is also the vindicated King of the world. Jesus was “declared to be the son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1.4). In His resurrection, Jesus is proved to be the rightful King whose rule conquers sin and death. His resurrection is the public display of His willingness and ability to set all things right and make all things new. As Adam’s sin unleashed the destructive power of sin, Jesus’ resurrection marks the beginning of all sad things, all broken things coming untrue. All that is wrong and evil and corrupt in the world will one day be made right because Jesus, the King, has risen victoriously from the dead.
King Jesus now stands as the head of a new humanity. Where in Adam humanity is condemned to return to the dust in death, Christ resurrected out of the ground to eternal life to become the firstborn of a new creation, “the firstfruits of those whole have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15.20). Those for whom Christ has purchased renewal and restoration He now empowers and commissions to join with Him in bringing renewal and restoration to His world, serving as foretastes of the ultimate renewal that is to come when He consummates His heavenly kingdom on earth.
So the Story ends not with a spiritual existence in heaven. The end for God’s people is on earth. It is a bodily, physical existence in a material, physical world—new creatures inhabiting a renewed creation (Revelation 21.3). Therefore, as those who have been commissioned and empowered to join Christ in His mission of renewal and restoration, the church must not retreat from the world. We must engage the world because God through Christ will one day set the creation itself free from its bondage to sin’s decay. There is a day coming in which sin and death are at last and completely cast off and all things rejoice forever in the renewal that Christ the King has wrought.
And the greatest joy of all—God will dwell among His people, and His presence will be for them the ultimate and unending joy.
And the greatest joy of all—God will dwell among His people, and His presence will be for them the ultimate and unending joy (Revelation 21.3). The glory of the presence of God will illumine new and greater and richer and sweeter glories in the renewed creation. Yet for all the glories of the renewed creation, they will pale when held up against the supreme and surpassing glory of the presence of God. So much so that if the renewed creation lacked the presence of God, the glories that seem so new and fresh in the light of His presence will seem so empty and meaningless. God’s people will at last and forever abide in the presence of their Creator—living in the renewed world in perfect obedience to Him, enjoying the renewed world full of God-glorifying thanksgiving, and longing more still for the inexhaustible joy of His presence.