Bible scholar Stephen Dempster writes that “although the Bible is a coherent Story, it is a sprawling one, a sort of ramshackle narrative with many stops and starts, dead ends and detours, and any number of high and low points.” To be sure, the Bible is a coherent Story, but a Story that can prove difficult to follow for many readers (myself included!).
For those of us who need help—or just a reminder—here’s the message of the Bible in 6 minutes, 240 words, 240 pages, or 1 sentence. Your choice.
What's the message of the Bible in 6 minutes?
Don Carson is a scholar who for many years has devoted his life and ministry to helping Christians better perceive the unity of the Bible’s progressive storyline. He provides a brilliant summary of the Bible in this 6-minute video:
Speaking of Dr. Carson, he will again be joining us for the Next 2011 conference in Orlando (May 28-31). This year’s conference theme is Christian worldview, and Carson is a leading Christian scholar on the topic.
What's the message of the Bible in 240 words?
Similarly, Carson articulated the gospel within the broader scope of the biblical storyline in 240 words in his contribution in the book For Such a Time as This: Perspectives on Evangelicalism, Past, Present and Future. Carson writes the following summary:
God is the sovereign, transcendent and personal God who has made the universe, including us, his image-bearers. Our misery lies in our rebellion, our alienation from God, which, despite his forbearance, attracts his implacable wrath.
But God, precisely because love is of the very essence of his character, takes the initiative and prepared for the coming of his own Son by raising up a people who, by covenantal stipulations, temple worship, systems of sacrifice and of priesthood, by kings and by prophets, are taught something of what God is planning and what he expects.
In the fullness of time his Son comes and takes on human nature. He comes not, in the first instance, to judge but to save: he dies the death of his people, rises from the grave and, in returning to his heavenly Father, bequeaths the Holy Spirit as the down payment and guarantee of the ultimate gift he has secured for them—an eternity of bliss in the presence of God himself, in a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.
The only alternative is to be shut out from the presence of this God forever, in the torments of hell. What men and women must do, before it is too late, is repent and trust Christ; the alternative is to disobey the gospel (Romans 10:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17).
What's the message of the Bible in 240 pages?
Last year Carson released a 240-page book to answer this question. The book is titled The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God's Story. In it Carson expands and explores the various themes introduced in the 6-minute video and excerpt above. The book is a reliable guide for any reader seeking to better grasp the Bible’s major storyline, and was developed from a series of messages Carson delivered in Minneapolis. Those message videos are now available for purchase as a set of DVDs, and the video and audio recordings are available online for free here. A study guide is also available for leaders of group discussions. It’s worth checking out.
What's the message of the Bible in one sentence?
Recently on his blog, Dane Ortlund asked this (rather daring) question to several pastors and Bible scholars. He received numerous responses, and posted them online. Here's a sampling:
God has made promises to bring His people to Himself and He is fulfilling them all through Christ.
Kevin DeYoung (who will also be speaking at Next 2011):
A holy God sends his righteous Son to die for unrighteous sinners so we can be holy and live happily with God forever.
God glorifies himself in the redemption of sinners.
God created mankind in order to love them, but we all rejected his love, so God sent His Son to bear our sins on the cross in order that by believing in His sacrificial atonement, we might have life.
The message of the Bible is twofold: to show how people can be saved from their sins through faith in Christ's atonement AND how to live all of life as a follower of God.
God reigns over all things for his glory, but we will only enjoy his saving reign in the new heavens and the new earth if we repent and believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ, who is the crucified and risen Lord and who gave himself on the cross for our salvation.
Ray Ortlund’s response makes sense in light of his book God’s Unfaithful Wife:
The Lover of our souls won't let the romance die, but is rekindling it forever.
So there you have it: the message of the Bible in 6 minutes, 240 words, 240 pages, and 1 sentence.