LCM DIRECTOR OF STUDIES ALAN BLACK BRINGS THE SECOND IN A SERIES ON HOW THE BIBLE STORY SHAPES OUR FAITH, TAKEN FROM ONE OF OUR MISSIONARY TRAINING MODULES – A LOOK AT THE EARLY STORY OF HUMANITY AND HOW IT POINTS FORWARD TO RECONCILIATION.
The Bible begins with a story. But it doesn’t just begin with a story, it is a story. An epic story. It tells the history of the world from beginning to end. It has a particular focus on Israel as a people, but not exclusively. Before its focus on Israel, it tells the history of all humanity (Genesis 1 to 11). The Bible story is so simply told that everyone can enter into it. But the story tells us far more profoundly than either science or philosophy who we are, why we are here, and what is wrong with our world.
WHO WE ARE
Our identity is tied to three fundamental relationships: our relationships with God, with each other and with the created world.
WHY WE ARE HERE
We were created as God’s mission partners, to fill and order the earth, with communities and structures that reflect his glory. So, if we read the last two chapters of the story, we see what this world was always destined to become – a city full of people radiating the glory of God (Revelation 21 and 22).
WHY THE WORLD IS OUT OF JOINT
Because of our refusal to relate properly to him, and so to each other and to the world he gave us to live in. The Bible shows this through three short stories of relational breakdown, each of which results in an increasing alienation from God, from one another, and from the world itself. In the first, Adam refuses the word of his Father in heaven, as a result of which he not only experiences shame, fear and guilt, but is expelled from the Garden where he had walked with God. In the second, Cain murders his brother, and is expelled from the land, ‘from the presence of the Lord’, as he puts it.
And in the third, there is some sort of break down in sexual relationships, with the ‘sons of God’ acting inappropriately towards ‘the daughters of men’. As a result, the earth is filled with men of violence, to such a degree that the Lord is grieved he ever created humanity. But the God who had the first word will have the last word, we do not see him abandoning his world and his purposes for the world, or washing his hands of us. Instead, the story of creation becomes a salvation story, a story that focuses on Israel, climaxes in Jesus and culminates in the City of God descending from heaven to earth. And if from Genesis 3 onwards the Bible story becomes predominantly the story of salvation, the story of salvation does not replace the story of creation but rather serves it.
We are saved not simply to go to heaven when we die, but so we may live fully human lives on earth, filling and subduing it – ‘making disciples of all nations and teaching them to obey’, as Jesus put it – in order that the earth might be filled with the glory of the knowledge of God. Just as Genesis 1 begins with God creating both heaven and earth, but then focuses almost entirely on the earth, the same could be said for the rest of the Bible. So, we only go to heaven when we die while we are waiting for Jesus to return to the earth, to deliver it from its bondage to decay. On that day we will descend with him, in order that we and the whole earth may share in his bodily resurrection. Then instead of us going to heaven, heaven will come down to earth, so that God may dwell with his people. This is what we were created for. How then does our evangelism and discipleship need to be re-storyed by this story?
IT CLIMAXES IN JESUS BECAUSE
— He is the Last Adam who was faithful to his Father’s word
— He is the victim of his brothers’ hatred, yet the victim whose blood speaks a better word than the blood of Abel
— And he is the one Noah’s father was hoping for when he said of Noah, ‘He will comfort us in the labour and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed.’
HEAVEN WILL COME DOWN TO EARTH, SO THAT GOD MAY DWELL WITH HIS PEOPLE. THIS IS WHAT WE WERE CREATED FOR
If God has given to us the ministry of reconciliation, making us ‘ambassadors of a world restored to harmony’, what are we teaching those who come to Christ that they are saved for, and are to be discipled towards? If Christ came to reconcile all things to himself, how is that seen in our lives and ministries?