Last Sunday at Capitol City, in our first Equip gathering, we began to unpack the idea of reading Scripture through the lens of the gospel storyline. Our natural instinct, when it comes to reading Scripture – or thinking about the anything from the events of the day to the purpose of our existence – is to read (or think) for ourselves. Our first question is usually along the lines of, “How do I apply this?” or, “How does this impact me?” Whether we are reading Ephesians or the newspaper, our instinct is to look for personal application.
Of course, application is good and necessary. But if we are to live lives that are centered on the gospel, we need to refine and retrain our instincts. In any passage of Scripture, and in any circumstance or event in life, we need to think first about the way that passage or event reveals truth about God, and specifically truth about how God is redeeming us and the world we live in. Rather than asking, “How do I apply this?,” we should ask, “How does this reveal gospel truth?” and, “How do I understand and apply it in light of that gospel truth?”
If you were with us last Sunday, I advocated a strategy for finding the gospel truths in any passage of Scripture – I called it reading for the gospel storyline. In case we flew through some of the ideas too quickly for you, or in case you missed it, I thought I’d review the basic ideas here.
First, we need to grasp the gospel storyline well. Like any story, the story of what God is doing in the world has chapters. There are four of them: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and New Creation.
- Creation. God made everything, out of nothing, and everything he made is good. He did not create the world or us because he needed us, for he already existed from eternity past in relationship with himself as Father, Son, and Spirit. Rather, he created everything – and especially us – to witness to his manifold perfections in the world. Humanity was made in God’s image – we were made to portray or image forth his glory and awesomeness in the world. As the world was created, everything was “very good” (Gen 1:31), and everything and everyone knew how good God was.
- Fall. But we turned away. Rather than embracing and trusting in the goodness of God, we rejected God and his authority over his creation. Adam and Eve’s rejection of God in the Garden of Eden (and our subsequent and ongoing rejection of God) plunged God’s good creation into chaos. Because we are sinners – by nature and by choice – we stand condemned by the God of the universe and enslaved to our sin. Because of our sin, nothing is as God intended it to be: The world is broken with a brokenness that extends to every one of our cells, and to every molecule in all of creation. Every problem in the world stems from this brokenness. Sickness and death, suffering and injustice, natural disasters and human wars…all these are the result of the Fall.
- Redemption. But God did not leave us, or the world, in our brokenness. God sent a Redeemer into the world to free us from the condemnation and enslavement of sin and to restore God’s creation to wholeness. Our Redeemer had to be fully human – to be an acceptable sacrifice for our sin, and he had to be fully God – to be able to conquer sin and death. So God sent his Son, the second person of the Trinity, into the world to be our substitute. Jesus died a horrific death, paying the penalty for our sin, and rose victoriously from the grave, defeating the power of sin.
- New Creation. The resurrection of Jesus was the dawning of a new age, an age that we experience now only in part, and that we shall experience fully upon Christ’s return. In this new age, everything is being made new – there will be no more mourning or tears or sickness or death, and there will be no more suffering or injustice or rejection of the Creator. This new age is already born in the lives of those who are in Christ (see 2 Cor 5:17), and God’s people are to live as beacons of the light of the new age in the darkness of the world today (see 2 Pet 2:11-12).
Once we’ve wrapped our brains and hearts around this story, we need to ask questions that reveal to us how we can read and think through this story. Whether we are reading Scripture, or thinking through life’s events, we need to process what we encounter by locating the movement of the gospel story within it. At Equip, I recommended asking these questions:
- Creation. How does this story or event reflect the way God intended life to be? What does this reveal about the goodness of God, specifically the goodness of God’s intended order of life?
- Fall. How does this story or event reflect the effects of sin in the world? What evidence of the brokenness of creation that is the result of the Fall do we see here?
- Redemption. How does this story or event reflect the work of God to fix what is broken in the world? Specifically, how does this point to the person and work of Jesus? How do the person and work of Jesus impact what we are reading, seeing, or experiencing?
- New Creation. How does this story or event anticipate the way things will be when Christ returns and restores all things to glory? How does this story or event lead us to cling to the future hope of the coming new creation?
All of us need to grow in our ability to process life in light of the gospel. I pray that these questions can help you toward that. If you’re at Capitol City, join us for our next Equip gathering on Sunday, April 19, as we continue to unpack and understand these ideas.