In some ways, it’s one of the toughest questions we can try to answer. What is the Bible? How would you describe it? What kind of book is it? After all, there are a number of answers. It one book but multiple books covering multiple genres and forms. It is God’s revelation of himself, so that we might know His will and how we can be in relationship with him. It is a book of stories, epic adventures, romance, and devastating loss…
All of this is true, of course. But there’s something else we should always say about the Bible. The Bible is a book of stories, but it is also one story. More than that, it is God’s story. I love how Edmund Clowney described this in The Unfolding Mystery:
Anyone who has had Bible stories read to him as a child knows that there are great stories in the Bible. But it is possible to know Bible stories, yet miss the Bible story. The Bible is much more than William How stated: “a golden casket where gems of truth are stored.” It is more than a bewildering collection of oracles, proverbs, poems, architectural directions, annals, and prophecies. The Bible has a story line. It traces an unfolding drama. The story follows the history of Israel, but it does not begin there, nor does it contain what you would expect in a national history. The narrative does not pay tribute to Israel. Rather, it regularly condemns Israel and justifies God’s severest judgments.
The story is God’s story. It describes His work to rescue rebels from their folly, guilt, and ruin. And in His rescue operation, God always takes the initiative. When the apostle Paul reflects on the drama of God’s saving work, he says in awe, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen” (Rom. 11:36).
Only God’s revelation could maintain a drama that stretches over thousands of years as though they were days or hours. Only God’s revelation can build a story where the end is anticipated from the beginning, and where the guiding principle is not chance or fate, but promise. Human authors may build fiction around a plot they have devised, but only God can shape history to a real and ultimate purpose.
Clowney understood this so well. He recognized the Bible for what it is—the story of God’s rescue of “rebels from their folly, guilt, and ruin.” It is a story that tells not to find heroes to emulate, but to know the Hero who came to redeem his people. The story—the Bible—is God’s story. Let’s take every opportunity to know it well.