At Work & Theology 101

The Four-Chapter Gospel: A Story of Significance

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“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.”

-Tim Keller 

There is a powerful scene at the end of the Lord of the Rings  that was not in the movie. After the ring is destroyed at Mount Doom and the eagles rescue Sam and Frodo, Sam wakes up from his sleep surprised he is alive and surprised to see Gandalf standing at the foot of his bed.

He gasps, “Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue?”

We believe the answer to Sam’s question can be found in the historical redemptive narrative told by the Bible. We call it the Four-Chapter Gospel: Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration. It’s the ultimate story of significance.

For over 1800 years this grand biblical narrative was taught by the church, but in the last two centuries the evangelical church has truncated the Four-Chapter Gospel to only two chapters: Fall and Redemption.

This Two-Chapter Gospel often leads Christians today to see their salvation only as a bus ticket to heaven. They believe that what they do while they wait for the bus doesn’t really matter. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

While the Two-Chapter gospel is most certainly true, it also is limited. It leaves out God’s original good creation (characterized by shalomuniversal flourishing, wholeness and delight), and God’s future restoration of his entire creation (also characterized by shalom). It is an incomplete story with a number of problems:

  • The Two-Chapter Gospel does not tell us why we were created.
  • The Two-Chapter Gospel does tell us about our true destiny.
  • The Two-Chapter Gospel tends to over emphasize the individualistic aspects of salvation. Salvation becomes all about us.
  • The Two-Chapter Gospel tends to lead to an escapist view of redemption.
  • The Two-Chapter Gospel becomes just a gospel of sin management.

The Bible begins with the creation of all things and ends with the renewal of all things, and in between it offers an interpretation of the meaning of all history.

We need to rediscover the lost two chapters to find out why we were created and understand out future destiny. The Four-Chapter Gospel is the framework for the significance of our life and work.

Only in this larger framework can we truly understand why our work is important to God and how he has called us to Stewardship. This biblical narrative makes a comprehensive claim on all humanity.

As Christians, we are called to live a life so transformed by this Four-Chapter Gospel that others glimpse in it the possibility of their own transformation – and the world’s.

Sam’s question, “Is everything sad going to come untrue?” recognizes that the world is not the way it was supposed to be. It is a place that is filled with much sadness, cursed by sin.

In the final restoration of shalom, those sad things will be made untrue. The curse will be rolled back. The world will be forever changed. As we read in Revelation 21:1-5:

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!

What do you think? How does the Four-Chapter Gospel inform your view of your own work and significance? Leave your comments here

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  • Dan Burke

    This sort of view of the gospel is popular in my church. I understand the short-comings of the fire-insurance gospel but I cannot embrace fully the four-chapter gospel as I understand it. It seems to me that this four-chapter gospel makes the same assumption made by earlier universalists. The assumption is that as long as all that was made wrong by the fall is not made right in the gospel, we are not teaching the full gospel. I beleive this doctrine to be un-biblical and false. Even though the universalists built their doctrine of no eternal punishment on this support, I am not accusing teachers of the four-chapter gospel of being universalists. I am only saying that in their zeal to see the gospel transforming human life on earth, they are relying on a false supporting argument.

  • Rico D del Rosario

    Thanks, Hugh! This has changed how I read the Bible from henceforth. I realize God is present in all four chapter.

    God my Creator.
    God my Forgiver.
    God my Redeemer.
    God my Restorer.
    All glory to Jesus.

  • Rico D del Rosario

    God the I AM, the Eternal, the Ever-Present God, is present in all four chapters of mankind’s story.

    God my Creator (Creation)
    God my Forgiver (Fall)
    God my Redeemer (Redemption)
    God my Restorer (Restoration)

  • Rico D del Rosario

    I wonder why God will do away with the sea. The sea is beautiful. And all the sea creatures. The sea turtle is my personal favorite.

  • Angela Corrigan

    The 4-chapter Gospel reassures me of a purpose for my creation and existence on this earth. It provides meaning to this time “in the middle” in which we may experience terrible loss and pain. As God created us for eternal fellowship with Him, and scripture informs us that it is God’s desire that all be saved, our current existence, through God’s Grace and sanctification, becomes defined by this all-encompassing mantra. We then function with a purpose to offer salvation to all We are to live on, that someone else might be saved. Without that purpose, God’s delay might be misunderstood as cruel and meaningless. The horrifying number of suicides reveals pervasive feelings of hopelessness and disconnection with this purpose. Without the hope of restoration, we may become weary and disheartened by the revolving door of our fallen state as sinners in need of forgiveness. There will be an end to the madness that is perpetuated in the spiritual battle for our souls. God limited our years here on this earth in an act of mercy that we not live in the eternal presence of sin. While in this current life, united with God in a desire that all be saved, it is necessary to accept that our personal comfort might offer little towards the salvation of others. Whether in comfort or agony, because of our love of God and desire to please our Creator and expand His kingdom, we strive that all might share in the restoration to come. There is a tendency to think that if we are not the “giver” of help our life is less valuable. I believe, however, that we may have negatively limited our definition of “help.” A person may provide the most valuable spiritual “help” by being that frail and aged person that another is called to love and care for. Whether a recipient or provider of that love, God’s kingdom is strengthened through that dynamic interaction.
    While able to perform within an occupational arena, reflecting and supporting the value system of our Heavenly Father is imperative. Like that of a parent, the role of faculty and counselor are positions of leadership, acted out through genuine concern, example and accountability. As faculty, we provide an experience for our students that, if done well, strengthens their awareness and commitment to the discipleship of Jesus Christ through honest and skilled deliverance of their learned trade. If approval from the student, or popularity, become our primary goal, the strength of our witness is diminished. Likewise, if pride dominates our agenda and is acted out in an excessive need for control and authority, our identity and effectiveness as disciples are weakened. Either extreme limits our ability to labor for the harvest of souls. While only God is the perfect combination of mercy and justice, we must as educators pray for the Holy Spirit to guide our interactions with students. Rigidity of response through either mercy or justice denies the Holy Spirit full authority over our will. As counselors, we provide an experience for our clients that maximizes the client’s awareness of their value. We teach and reinforce those behaviors and traits that our Heavenly Father has bestowed us in His image and as a reflection of His character. Research continues to support that those traits are necessary for health and harmony with others.

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