Theology 101

Our Mission Is More than Sin Management: The Four-Chapter Gospel and God’s Grand Story of Redemption

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This first chapter of Genesis is more than the opening to the first book of the Bible. It is the opening chapter in the grand story of God’s redemptive plan for his creation.

This comprehensive story has four parts:

  • Creation: The way things were.
  • Fall: The way things are.
  • Redemption: The way things could be.
  • Restoration: The way things will be.

This is the four-chapter gospel.

Despite the greatness of the biblical narrative, the church in the Western world has looked at the Bible from a different and more limited perspective for the past 150 years. We have truncated the four-chapter gospel down to two chapters: the Fall and redemption.

While sin and salvation are undeniable realities, they are not the complete gospel.

This abridged version of the gospel leaves out God’s original, good creation and God’s future restoration of creation in its entirety. It is an incomplete story with a number of problems:

  • It does not tell us why we were created.
  • It does not tell us about our true destiny.
  • It overemphasizes the individualistic aspects of salvation. Salvation becomes all about us.
  • It leads to an escapist view of redemption.
  • It becomes a gospel of sin management.

This two-chapter gospel leads Christians to see their salvation only as a bus ticket to heaven. They believe what they do while they wait for the bus doesn’t really matter.

There is an important, practical reason to read the Bible as one narrative, as the four-chapter gospel: it enables us to understand our identity as God’s people as we see our role in his story.

From this perspective we clearly see our call to participate in God’s redemptive mission. Our identity as God’s people comes from our missional role in the biblical story, which is in the here and now. We rediscover our true identity by recovering this storyline of Scripture.

When understood in its fullness, the gospel starts in Genesis 1 with creation. This gospel is not solely about individual happiness and fulfillment; it is not all about me.

Tim Keller says,

It is not just a wonderful plan for ‘my life’ but a wonderful plan for the world; it is about the coming of God’s kingdom to renew all things.

Only with this bigger picture in view can we understand how our story fits into God’s story and begin to fulfill his call on our lives.

Scripture begins with the creation of all things and ends with the renewal of all things. In between it offers an interpretation of the meaning of all history.  In his book The New Testament and the People of God, N.T. Wright says that the divine drama told in Scripture “offers a story which is the story of the whole world. It is public truth.”

The biblical story makes a comprehensive claim on all humanity, calling each one of us to find our place in God’s story.

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