Missing Link, an excerpt from Becoming Magazine
Our friends at Becoming Magazine are helping reinvent the way women are looking at their Bibles, their lives and their place in God's story. In this excerpt from Becoming Issue 7, an article entitled "Missing Links," Editor and First Pres leader Shannon Basso shares her investigation of the Bible as a complete narrative, and teaches what to look for as we do our own investigation.
Up until a few years ago, I lived my life as a New Testament Christian. I understood its themes and it was (mostly) comfortable there. Whenever I found a reference to the Old Testament that I didn't understand, I just skipped over it. Studying the Bible as a whole never really occurred to me.
The stories of Noah and Jonah- put on the mental shelf long ago as mere children's stories- were eclipsed by the weighty and "more important" story of Christ. The links between Old and New remained largely unconnected for me. So, there I was, calling myself a follower of Christ for 25 years without understanding half the Book I professed to be so devoted to!!
Saint Augustine said, "The New Testament lies hidden in the Old, and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New." In other words, the Old and New testaments are inseparable and not understanding their interconnectedness is like missing a link in a chain- it just doesn't work. If you grew up in the church like me, you probably have plenty of David-and-Goliath-type stories locked in memory, but with little understanding of their purpose in the overall story. How's your comprehension of the Tabernacle or the Exodus from Egypt or Abraham's life? All these things foreshadow Jesus in amazing ways- rich little nuggets of truth that we miss if we never seek to understand the overarching storyline of the Bible.
Add, on top of that, that we've been taught to pick apart the Bible to suit our daily situational needs. That's fine for certain purposes! I have several verses that are dear to me and provide encouragement and strength in times of trouble. But, if all we know about Paul's letter to the Philippians is "Do not be anxious about anything…", or "For God so loved the world…" from the Gospel of John, then it stands to reason we might be missing quite a lot. It seems silly when we think of it this way, but this is the method many Christians use to study the Word, and it can amount to a very limited understanding of redemptive history.
If we are to become mature and sanctified Christ-followers, we must take an interest in the whole council of Scripture, as challenging as it may be. If we disregard any portion of Scripture or if we dissect the story down to individual verses, we get an incomplete picture of God's nature and His intentions for human history. In God’s Big Picture, Vaughan Roberts highlights some vitally important information:
Here’s what The Bible is...
A book written by one Author.
Although, there were many writers of Holy Scripture, we must remember that "all Scripture is God-breathed" and that its writers were under the influence of the Spirit of God to reveal the exact message He wanted revealed (2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 3:16). The Bible, above all else, tells God's story.
Written with one clear and constant message. It is the story of God's plan to redeem His creation through the Son Jesus. This is what we call the metanarrative, or "big story", of the Bible. While the Bible has much to teach us, we must always keep in mind that it is a book about God. When we study it, our first question should not be, "How does this apply to me?", but "What does this tell me about God?"
Here’s what the Bible is not…
A book of stand-alone sayings or stories. Author and pastor, Tim Keller, says that many of us "read the Bible as a series of disconnected stories, each with a 'moral' for how we should live our lives. It is not. Rather, it comprises a single story telling us how the human race got into its present condition and how God through Jesus Christ has come and will come to put things right." Extracting individual verses or stories without respect to context can often lead to misunderstanding. Every piece relates to the larger whole which is why we should work toward a good understanding of the entire Bible.
A collection of independent books... that have no reference to the others. Each book of the Bible is one part of the larger whole and must be studied and understood within that larger context. It is amazingly complex and, at the same time, simple and straightforward in it's main message. Vaughan Roberts says, "If we want to understand any part of the Bible properly, we must consider where it fits in [God's] great plan and how it contributes to it."
Remember two things:
“God is the hero of the Bible from beginning to end, and He never changes... He is the same God in both the Old Testament and the New: holy, just, loving, and sovereign. For example, His deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt not only foreshadows the redemption Christ achieved; it also speaks, in and of itself, of the grace and power of God.” - Vaughan Roberts
We keep 2 dimensions in mind when we study the Bible: the historical and the relational. Wherever we land in the Bible, we ought to seek to identify what the passage has to tell us specifically about God, as well as considering how it fits into the overall story of redemption.