For many, books of the Bible are merely that – separate books of the Bible. Verses are verses and books are books and there’s no rule of interpretation. The majority of my life I fell in this category, ignorant to the concept of a biblical meta-narrative. What is a meta-narrative? It is the big story of the Bible; the overarching storyline of God’s redemptive work in the history of his people (i.e. the gospel). Each book and each verse is a part of the whole. We need the whole to understand the parts, and we need the parts to bring light to the whole. 

John Piper describes it this way:

“The word ‘boy,’ does not have much meaning. ‘The boy in the corner,’ has more meaning. ‘Feed the boy in the corner,’ has even more. ‘Feed the boy in the corner with the word of God,’ makes the meaning clearer. Without this ‘whole’ (sentence) the meaning of the ‘part’ (feed) would not be clear. And yet it is parts that create the whole. Both parts and whole are crucial for meaning to be transferred from one mind to another.”

This was a monumental shift in my understanding of not only Scripture but the character and nature of God. For the whole and it’s parts reveal an intentional, all-knowing, unchanging, creator, sustainer, Lord, and redeemer; Who has an active, sovereign plan to build a kingdom with his children who have been saved by his Son. 

Seeing and knowing the big story sets our focus on the gospel message both as a whole and as it is specifically revealed throughout history. 

Let’s break down the narrative. 

1. Creation

  • God is the creator
  • Man was made in God’s image
  • Everything was in harmony
  • Man was made for perfect fellowship

Implications of creation: As we study the Bible we need to remember that there was an inherent good and harmony between God and his creation

2. The Fall

  • Man was tempted and fell into sin
  • Man was no longer in relation with God
  • God’s presence left creation

Implications of the fall: There were three major areas of brokenness – man and God, man and man, man and creation. This reminds us that the current world is not the way it was supposed to be. 

3. Anticipation

  • There is a promise for restoration
  • God provides through people and events that symbolize the coming restoration

Implications of anticipation: As we read much of the OT there is a tension of incompleteness and imperfection for God’s people that should ultimately point us to Jesus.

4. Redemption

  • God sent his Son to die on our behalf
  • Jesus was sinless (perfect righteousness)
  • God’s people are redeemed through the death and resurrection of Jesus

Implications of redemption: Studying Scripture should occur in light of this truth, connecting everything to the Hero of the story.

5. Restoration

  • Hope for a second coming of Jesus
  • A new heaven and a new earth
  • Sin will forever be defeated

Implications of restoration: We live in the already of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the not-yet of final restoration. This is our living hope that one day the Kingdom of God will be free from suffering and sin, and restored to its original state – but better. 

As we look at the storyline of the Bible, it is crucial to read it through the lens of a sovereign God. In other words, Jesus was not an after-thought. Jesus was always the plan from the beginning – before creation and before the fall – he was not a reactive rescue mission. This narrative lays out for us the ten-thousand-foot-overview of the Bible, the whole, and through it, we can see the glorious, merciful particulars that make it up – which ultimately point us to a very detailed, loving, and gracious Father. 

Begin to read and study Scripture through this lens. Where are you at in the narrative and how does that affect the way you interpret the text?

What is the meta-narrative?


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