Chapter 2

The Gospel: A Short Summary of God's Big Story

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16–17

Let’s rewind, back before the days when I was a teacher at Christian Heritage School, back to when I was a student. It was during my junior year of high school, and I thought it might be fun to try out for our drama department’s spring production, The Music Man. But while I was patiently waiting for my audition and watching other students perform for the director, a thought occurred to me: I can’t sing, and I can’t dance. I had no business trying out for a show like this. When it was finally my turn, I sang a few lines of “Jingle Bells” and admitted that it probably sounded terrible. The director shook her head politely, but I knew the truth.

The only part of my audition I enjoyed was reading from the script. And that must have been the part the director liked too. When the cast was announced, I discovered I had not one or two, but three separate speaking roles in the show. I had several costume changes, lots of makeup to apply and remove and then reapply, and lots of lines to memorize, but I didn’t have to sing, and the only dancing I had to attempt was a short waltz on a crowded stage at the end of the show. (The director put me and my partner in the back.)

The week before the show premiered, I had my lines down, perfected my delivery, and had timed all my wardrobe and makeup changes down to the minute. I was ready to go. But then a classmate asked me what the show was about, and I realized that I really didn’t know. I had skimmed the script for my own lines, and I only showed up at rehearsals when it was time for my scenes. Even when we did run-throughs of whole acts, when I wasn’t on stage, I was backstage, changing clothes or fussing with my fake mustache. I had never actually seen the entire show. I decided it might make the experience of being in The Music Man a bit more enjoyable if I read the entire script. So with just a few days to go, I sat down one night and read every photocopied page.

Knowing the whole story made a difference. While my performances up to that point had been fine, when I understood where my roles and my scenes fit into the larger story, my delivery somehow had more life. I could feel it, and my director could see it. After our first dress rehearsal, she asked me what I had done to improve my performance. “Just practice, I guess,” I said. I was too embarrassed to admit I had just recently read the entire script for the first time.

Knowing the Whole Story

For many of us, our experience with the Bible is a lot like my experience with The Music Man. We know a few scenes, and we do our best to play the roles we’ve been given, but we would walk with new life if we knew where we truly fit in the larger story, if we knew the entire script. But that’s not often the way the Bible is taught. A Sunday morning sermon will usually focus on one text or one theme. A Bible study might walk participants through one book of the Bible or trace a topic of interest. And a through-the-Bible reading plan will get a faithful reader from Genesis through Revelation, but she would be like someone who has traveled across Europe by train, never getting off at a stop. Technically speaking, she saw Europe, but she didn’t experience it—not really anyway.

There is a danger the other way, though, too. Sometimes people, in an attempt to find their place in God’s story, impose their own questions on the Bible, rather than letting Scripture speak for itself. This can lead to serious misapplication of certain verses, or it can lead to frustration because the answers these readers want to find are just not there.

This chapter opened with a passage from the Bible, a promise God’s Word makes about itself: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 timothy 3:16–17 niv). There’s no promise to address all our curious questions or provide a roadmap to a life of wealth and success. The Bible is a gift, given to help us get to know the God who loves us. As we dive into the story, we’ll do well to remember that God is the main character. Whether we’re reading about Moses or Esther or David or Barnabas, every chapter is about God.

Our goal in this booklet is to take a quick glimpse at the whole story of God. We’ll see that we have a role to play, but that role is informed by the larger story—what has gone before, what is happening right now, and what will someday come. But, so we can all be on the same page, I offer the follow summary of God’s story from Genesis to Revelation.

Genesis to Revelation: The Short Version

In the beginning, it was all about goodness. God made the heavens and the earth, and they were good. In fact, God made all things to reflect his goodness. But sin twisted the goodness of creation—all that we can see and all that we can’t. Every aspect of creation was affected. Nothing was left unbent. Worse still is that we opened the door and invited sin in. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, were deceived and believed a lie about God’s heart. As a result, they discovered what it was like to be separated from that good heart. Down through history, every child of Adam and Eve has experienced this brokenness firsthand. The situation, apart from God, is hopeless, for nothing broken can fix itself. But thankfully, our Maker does not want us to live apart from Him.

Starting with one man and his wife, Abram and Sarai, God created a nation to be a light to the world. Israel was to walk in God’s ways and invite her neighbors to do the same. But Israel blew it. Over and over again, the people disobeyed God, and instead of inviting others to know the true God, they chased after the false gods of their neighbors. It would seem that God’s plan had failed. But God’s plan never depended on the faithfulness of his people. God is the faithful one.

At just the right moment in history, God himself put on flesh and came to earth to be born of a virgin in Bethlehem. Jesus did what Israel never could: obey obey perfectly. Jesus did what the sacrifices of animals never could: pay for sin. And Jesus did what broken people never could: make a way back to the Father. Someday, he’ll return to put an end to every evil thing and restore the unbroken goodness of God to all creation.

This summarizes the whole Bible, but the questions my students asked me in chapter one remain:

What difference does the gospel make right here, right now? What difference does it make in our lives today?