Have you ever read a story and not understood it? This struggle is one that many people have when they read the Bible. The stories seem disconnected, isolated, and remote. People read the Bible and wonder how the laws relate to the narrative, how the poetry fits into the flow of the story, and how all the individual stories fit together.
The discipline of biblical theology helps us to understand the story of the Bible and how it relates to the story of our lives. The Bible’s movement has an overall narrative, with characters, a setting, and a plot. This movement of the Bible goes from creation to fall to redemption to new creation.
The aim of biblical theology is to help us understand the how all the parts of the Bible fit together into a unified whole. Just as an acorn grows into a tree, the movement of Scripture shows us how the story progresses from the promise that God would crush the serpent enemy by a child of promise (Gen. 3:15).
To understand biblical theology, it is helpful to consider how the Bible is a story with patterns for the Church.
Every story has a setting, some characters, and a plot. The Bible is no different. The Bible is about God and the world that he has made. It recounts how he is King and his creation is defiled by the serpent, and shows us how God works to redeem and recreate that which has been ruined. God rules as King and covenants to rescue his people so that God’s people can live in God’s place in God’s presence.
The plotline of the Bible traces how the descendants of the woman (Eve) overcome the descendants of the serpent. Once God’s garden place has been defiled, his people are exiled from the Garden. God promises to recreate his people by bringing them out of bondage, into his place. But over and over, his people fail. It is only when God sends his Son in humility that the proud and arrogant serpent is overcome. Consistently, God uses the weak, the lowly, the despised to show that humility overcomes arrogance, obedience overcomes sin, and faith overcomes the world. In the end, God’s Son will return and rule in a new creation without sin.
What makes the Bible so amazing is how the story progresses through covenants. God is building his story of redemption with a consistent flow from beginning to end. From prophet, priest, and king, through sacrifice and deliverance, from exile to exodus, the Bible builds on these patterns and themes over and over. By paying attention to the connections of Scripture, the Bible is its best interpreter. Images, patterns, allusions, contrasts, and themes help us to see God’s promises fulfilled. As we pay attention, we discover that all of these symbols and themes are showing us God’s great intention – that he would dwell with his people again in his place without sin or sorrow. From the Garden to the pillar of cloud and fire, to the tabernacle and temple, to Christ and his Spirit, until the New Jerusalem comes out of heaven and God dwells with his bride, we see God’s work to rescue and restore us through his covenant promises.
Church and our place in the story
Since the Bible is a book about God, we have to remember our place in the Bible. We find our significance in the story not by trying to be a hero, but by trusting Christ, the true hero. As we know our place and we see God’s work in Jesus, we know our mission more clearly – to know and show the glory of Christ. And as we understand the story of the Bible, we discover that we have a framework to understand all of life. God has made all things good, but everything has been corrupted by sin. So Christ has come to redeem us and rescue us and recreate us and this world. So we trust, work and wait for that day even this day.
Biblical theology helps us to understand the Bible, our place in the story, and who we are in light of who God is. So as you read the Bible, don’t just look for a golden nugget for your day; look for Christ and his covenanted promise to rescue us so that we would be with him and he with us forever.
If you’re looking to understand biblical theology a little better, I’d recommend two resources:
Nick Roark & Robert Cline, Biblical Theology: How the Church Faithfully Teaches the Gospel Wheaton: Crossway, 2018.
James Hamilton, What is Biblical Theology? A Guide to the Bible’s Story, Symbolism, and Patterns. Wheaton: Crossway, 2014.