Yes, I’m going to say again how essential I think understanding the “big picture” of the Bible is. It’s not a collection of disconnected stories and writings that each give us an important principle for living or examples to follow. It’s the story of what God has done and is doing in the world, with the story of redemption woven through every line, from Genesis to Revelation.
Welcome to the Story: Reading, Loving, & Living God’s Word by Stephen J. Nichols is another great resource for grasping this. It’s a fantastic introduction to the “big picture” of the Bible for new believers or those who haven’t considered it before, and even those familiar with the concept will benefit from his insightful treatment of it. I’ll let him explain in his own words what the purpose of the book is:
We have been given a book that is unlike any other book in human history, a book that transcends all human wisdom, all human insight, and all human expertise. We have been given the Word of God, the words of eternal life. And we, all of us, are invited to take up and read these words.
There is no substitute for reading the Bible. But some of us may need a little help to read it better. There are lots of books on reading and understanding the Bible, books that offer methods and skills and techniques. This book does some of that.
There are also lots of theological books that take a step back from individual biblical passages and step back from individual biblical passages and biblical texts to try to grasp the big picture of what’s happening. This book does a lot of that. And there are books that try to stir our hearts and souls to long for and desire to read the Word of God. This book does that, too.
This book invites you to enter in, to participate in, the story of the Bible. To do so, we must first see and grasp the story. We can put a puzzle together much more easily if we are looking at the picture on the box. This book aims to show you the big picture so you can make sense of all the pieces. (p. 17)
Dr. Nichols explains that the Bible is THE story, and it’s also OUR story. Many books tend to emphasize one over the other: either the big story of the Bible or the personal application, but he does a fantastic job of showing how essential both are:
The story of the Bible is not only the greatest story and not only the truest story. It is also the only story that makes sense of our lives. It alone makes sense of what happens to ous. The Bible alone makes sense of all the confounding and confusing things we experience. (p. 23)
After an introductory chapter, he examines the plotline of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration/consummation, with a chapter devoted to each one. As he explains:
These four pieces to the plotline pop up all over the pages of Scripture. Getting the big picture of this biblical narrative helps make sense of all the various details in Scripture, as well as all the details of theology. And, as we’ll see, it even helps make sense of your life. In fact, apart from this story nothing makes much sense at all. (p. 28)
The next four chapters discuss:
- the “characters” of the Bible: how their story is our story
- what the point of this grand narrative is (hint: it’s not us!)
- what the Bible does to us
- what the Bible does through us.
Dr. Nichols wraps up with concrete, practical application to pull all the ground covered together. He puts it better than I ever could, so I’ll quote him at length:
Many tend to read the Bible as if it were reduced to individual pieces of a puzzle, not knowing where those pieces fit in the grand scheme of things. Individual verses from Scripture are intriguing-lots of “color” and unusual shapes. We like to look at these pieces, even for long periods of time. We set them apart, look at them often, and bring them out to show others every once in a while.
Meanwhile, the rest of the puzzle pieces (the rest of the biblical text) sits there in a grand pile without sense or order, and many of them go overlooked. The solution is to get the box and have the picture in front of us as we look at the individual pieces and put the puzzle together. When we grasp the story line of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration, we have the big picture. We see how all of these verses that we find so intriguing, that we even come to hold quite dear, fit together. The big pile of pieces finally begins to make sense. (p. 148)
He explains that sometimes it takes a little work to figure out how the pieces fit. It’s not always readily apparent, so we must keep the grand scheme of creation, fall, redemption, restoration in mind. In the same way, our lives can also be likened to a puzzle. Sometimes individual events or parts of our lives don’t make sense. But, keeping this big picture in mind helps us see how they fit.
The beauty of this story line is not just that it makes sense of Scripture. It also makes sense of your life…What we need to see in these cases is that God is moving us in the same direction he is moving his world…The way we understand God’s working in our lives comes by interpreting our lives through the grid of God’s Word. Reading the Bible, in other words, is how we come to know what God is doing in, with, to, and through us. Reading his Word is the key. (p. 149)
Welcome to the Story does a great job of bringing together a basic understanding of the grand scheme of the Bible’s storyline, practical tools for Bible reading and interpreting, and personal application. It’s great for individual reading or even to use with teens, and I think it would be the perfect resource to give out in a new member or discipleship class. It’s definitely another great tool to have in the family discipleship toolbox!