The Storyline of Scripture

Thinking today about reading scripture …

We met with our church’s elder cohort this week. We’ve been discussing a theological vision for ministry – first from an epistemological point of view and now from a hermeneutical point of view. We talked quite a bit about our backgrounds in reading the Bible. Many of us had similar experiences. We read “across” the Bible, up close, chapter or even verse by verse. We chased certain words through scripture, organizing theological ideas like redemption, sanctification, and so on. We learned about God, man, sin, and salvation this way. We’ve collected promises as well as prescriptive truths.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

Psalm 1:2 ESV

But there is another way to read the scripture that may provide a different perspective. Where reading “across” the Bible is a kind of deep dive, up close, reading “along” the Bible is the big picture, seeing the big story that God is telling. In the deep dive we quite possibly pay more attention to the human writers, this is what Paul says, what Peter says, or John’s thoughts. In reading “along” the Bible we see God as the one author telling his story through human hands.

Maybe you are familiar with the storyline of the Bible – but for many of us, reading the scripture in big chunks, several chapters at a time, somewhat chronologically is fairly new – maybe only emphasized in the last 10 years or so. Ron and I have read through the Bible in a year (or mostly so) several times but recently we have been encouraged by reading scripture even in larger chunks, so that we read whole story in 3 months. This year we will read the whole Bible 4 times. I don’t say that to boast – it is a challenge but it is more than that. We want to know the PERSON revealed in scripture! We long to know HIM better!

For too long, we, meaning the church in general, have implied that scripture is too hard to read, takes a long time to read,
has to be read a little at a time.

I’m writing today to encourage you to also read for the big story … creation, fall, redemption, restoration … to see the flow of the story … much like you might read other books – fiction, nonfiction. We don’t typically read other literature a page a day!! I’m not sure why I did that with the scriptures for so long.

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:10-11 ESV

For folks unfamiliar with the big story arc of scripture there are several excellent books that give overviews. Reading one of these books while getting started reading the Bible through can help you make connections, help you see the organization of the story and how it fits together. Choose one of these books, maybe one with a teaching resource, and invite a few friends to explore God’s grand narrative!

Vaughn Roberts wrote God’s Big Picture: Tracing the storyline of the Bible. In his book Roberts uses the unifying theme of the kingdom of God to show how the Bible’s story flows from Genesis to Revelation. Additionally, the Gospel Coalition has a free study course, 9 units, with video, outline, study guide, and leaders’ notes to help you work through that book. It’s not a difficult read – rather short, to the point!

Graeme Goldsworthy wrote According to Plan: The unfolding revelation of God in the Bible. His book is also quite accessible although possibly more academic than Roberts and follows a similar theme – the kingdom of God using this three-fold idea: God’s people, in God’s place, living under God’s rule. You can check out this summary of Goldsworthy’s book on the Gospel Coalition site, part 1, part 2, and part 3.

D. A. Carson wrote The God Who Is There: Finding your place in God’s story – yet another book that will take you from creation to new creation to see how the storyline of the Bible fits together. The Gospel Coalition has also created a free study course using this book at the center – with 14 videos (almost an hour long each) to guide you through the study. This is a great introductory book to the storyline of scripture!

Last, Christ from Beginning to End: How the full story of scripture reveals the full glory of Christ is written by Trent Hunter and Stephen Wellum. As they tell the full story of scripture they trace the theme of covenant – a rich way to see Christ from beginning to end. In 2018, the Gospel Coalition sponsored a conference with this theme. On this site you will find videos and blog posts that take you through the storyline of scripture – the covenantal progression.

There are other books for sure – the Gospel Coalition mentions some of them in this post, 12 Books that Showcase the Grand Narrative of the Bible. If you have children, you would definitely want to read The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones. She does a magnificent job – her tagline being every story whispers His name!

And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 8:32 ESV

Bottom line, though, no matter which resource you choose,
the key is reading the scripture itself!

You’d be surprised at what you can learn from Scripture, how much of it you can enjoy if you can set aside some time each day to read! Check out these infographics from Crossway and start reading!

Or this one … how many minutes per day can you spare to read God’s revelation to you?

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Romans 15:4 ESV

If I can encourage you in reading Scripture,
pray for you as you set goals, I would be honored!
Just drop me a line, put a note in the comments!

Lest I forget, reading scripture is NOT about checking off one more box, or being able to put on our spiritual resume that we read the Bible. The WHOLE purpose is to get to know the ONE revealed in scripture, to love and serve Him better! May THAT be the prayer of our hearts!

Holy Bible, Book divine,
Precious treasure, thou art mine:
Mine to tell me whence I came;
Mine to teach me what I am.

Mine to chide me when I rove,
Mine to show a Savior’s love;
Mine thou art to guide and guard;
Mine to punish or reward.

Mine to comfort in distress,
Suffering in this wilderness;
Mine to show by living faith,
We can triumph over death.

Mine to tell of joys to come,
And the rebel sinner’s doom:
O thou Holy Book divine,
Precious treasure, thou art mine.

John Burton, 1803
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