This Sunday I am going to talk a little bit in my message about the Bible being a “story.” Not in the sense that it is a fable or a fairy-tale, but in the sense that it chronicles a united narrative from creation through fall, redemption, and into new creation. Even though the settings, and genres, and authors are diverse, by the Holy Spirit’s providence the whole collection coheres.
And that got me thinking about something I worked on last year for one of my seminary courses; one of the hardest assignments I was given in my entire degree (which as of this past week is now officially complete! Hurray!) was the task of summarizing the entire New Testament in 120 words. It may have been the shortest assignment in my entire degree as well, but it was undoubtedly the most difficult. For to do so, meant that I had to become familiar enough with the entire body of literature that I could discern not just what certain authors said (there is a lot) but what things every author said (much more difficult). For example it is wonderful that both Peter and Paul talk about Christ’s descent into Hades after the crucifixion to liberate the dead from their bondage (1 Peter 3; Ephesians 4; and to a lesser extent Matthew 12) but the majority of the New Testament authors do not consider that to be essential to the story (we will talk more about that specific issue when we come to the eighth line of the Apostles Creed in a few weeks). There are many other favourite doctrines and theological hobby horses that don’t have wide dissemination among the New Testament authors as well. In fact, the challenge of telling the story in 120 words (no more, no less) is not so much about setting aside all the things that aren’t widely testified to, and more about finding the very few things that are.
And yet, there is tremendous value in knowing the story that we are called to tell, and so, this week I want to share with you what I wrote. I’m keenly aware that much of the material that I produced during my seminary education is not fit for general (non-specialist) reading without being thoroughly re-worked, but this is one assignment that actually stands on its own. After the summary, I’m going to include a link to my “proof,” the second part of the assignment where I had to demonstrate where every statement was from and how it was widely attested to by each of the NT authors.* Allowance was given in the assignment to not prove complete agreement with James and the Author of Hebrews because of the relative brevity of their body of work, but as you’ll see, everyone else seems to agree. So, I present to you now, the New Testament story in 120 words:
Jesus Christ, Son of God has come into this world to be the fulfilment of God’s promise to, and purpose for, Israel by giving his life as a ransom for sinners. After his resurrection he gave his Holy Spirit to his followers, creating the Church, so that they could bear witness to this event and call all peoples back into a relationship with their creator. In these last days, the followers of Jesus live by faith in Christ, in accordance with the apostolic testimony, sharing in his sufferings, and experiencing his power for holy living. When he returns, all peoples will be resurrected and judged, and God’s everlasting kingdom of new creation will be consummated to the glory of God.
What story are you a part of?
*You can review the proofs for this statement here