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The Biblical Narrative: Redemption

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BY AUSTIN HESS, Pastoral Intern for Oakwood Presbyterian 

     When we moved to Lewistown, we knew our house would need a lot of work. It had fallen into disrepair through neglect. Paint was peeling off the walls from layers of old wallpaper. Plumbing didn't quite work the way it should have in our bathroom (not to mention clogged for multiple feet). Stairs squeaked louder than a dog's bark. Radiators flaked (probably lead) paint. Old Romex wiring insulation was unraveling in the walls. Junction boxes in the ceilings were coming loose with every turn of the fan blades. Formica countertops—all 24 inches of it —were finding their way into our food. The heat from our oil furnace was shooting through our roof, not to mention baking our 40-year-old shingles that needed to be replaced. For the past year, we had to identify the problems in our house, remedy them and breathe life back into this once quiet and still house.

We're looking for restoration. We recognize that something is horribly wrong with this world because of the way we are hurt by others and we hurt others. However, God did not leave us to wonder about where redemption would come from. He provided a way of redemption for his people through his only begotten Son the Lord Jesus Christ. In this final post, we'll see how the biblical narrative points to redemption as we read Scripture and live in community.

Reading Redemption

Fall Anticipating
     If you read Genesis 3 in the previous post, you'll notice that when God bestowed the covenant curses upon Adam and Eve, he gave them hope:

I will put enmity between you [the serpent] and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel (Genesis 3:15, ESV).

     Many commentators call this verse the first gospel of the Bible. For in this passage, all the way from the fall, we have been anticipating redemption and God has not left us without hope, a purpose, or a plan.

     The person referenced in Genesis 3:15 is none other than Jesus. The one whom we regularly confess is God's only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate. He was crucified, died, and was buried. He felt the effects of our sin, he experienced misery, all for us—to redeem God's people from their own sin and misery.

     However, He did not stay dead, but on the third day, he arose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven. He sits at the right hand of God the Father from where he will come to judge the living and the dead at the last day.

     The person promised all the way back in Genesis 3—the serpent crusher—fulfilled what was promised by stepping and crushing Satan's head, thereby taking away the power of death. For through his physical death he tasted eternal spiritual death for us, so that through our physical death we may taste eternal spiritual life forever. That's the hope of the gospel.

New Creation
     People have asked me what my favorite passage is in Scripture and I struggle to answer this question because I have so many favorites! Perhaps my most favorite passage can be found in Colossians 1:15-23.[1]

     This passage, a sort of hymn, describes in a poetic fashion the preeminence of Jesus over all things—creation and his people. In this passage, Paul recites how Jesus sustains and holds all things together. But, most importantly, how he has reconciled "all things" to himself—God's people and God's creation.

     Often, when we talk about redemption, we talk about the redemption of souls. This is true, but only a part of the gospel. When you put Jesus' redeeming acts in the context of the whole sweep of the biblical narrative, all the way back to Genesis 1 and 2, you see that His redemptive acts have extended to not just our souls, but to our physical bodies and the entirety of God's creation:

…and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross (Colossians 3:15, ESV, emphasis added).

     However, our ultimate goal is not to get back to the Garden of Eden, but to get to the New Jerusalem. Our journey is forward, not backward. For in the New Jerusalem, the possibility of sin will never exist (like in the Garden), and each one of us will have a Garden of Eden to tend —a place where we can cultivate the potential of what God has given us (Revelation 21:9-26).

Already/Not Yet
     The story of the Bible is our story by faith and history. We know that God created all things good, but everything is tainted by sin and misery. We know that Jesus' life, death, resurrection, and ascension accomplished redemption, but we still experience sin and misery.

     Right now, we live in this tension that theologians have called the "already/not yet." Meaning, we enjoy the benefits of a proper relationship with God, but we still look forward to the day when that relationship will be completely unhindered by sin. During this time, we are called to live and fulfill God's original intention for us.

Redeemed Community

     What are we to do now? First, we are called to proclaim the gospel through Word and deed. The same gospel message that awakened you to your own need for repentance is the same gospel message that the world needs. They need to know who God is, who they are, why the world is this way, and how they can be redeemed from their sin and misery.

     The world is hurting and desperately needs to see the hands and feet of Jesus through service. This message can come from the actual sharing of the Gospel, or it can come from meeting needs (Luke 7:36-49).

     Gospel proclamation seems really intimidating—putting yourself out there to share a message of hope that may very well lead to you being rejected and verbally battered. A lot of evangelistic training methods and programs have attempted to help people through this fear by providing words of comfort as well as a framework to fall back on in order to meet objections and ensure a right presentation of the gospel.

     However, increasingly, I think the most radical and effective form of evangelism that we can have in our communities is simply to be hospitable to our neighbors in our communities. Time and time again in Luke's gospel, we see Jesus sitting down and eating and drinking with those whom the religious elite would not dare to associate. Through sharing meals, Jesus would disarm the most sinful and the most skeptical in order to give words of life.

     In the same way, the simple act of having others in your home and sharing a meal with them disarms them by showing the love of Jesus, enabling the reception of his message of hope for the world.[2]

The Narrative

If we're ever lost in reading Scripture, this narrative helps to reorient us in the direction we are to go and situates us to where we are in the story. If we're ever confused by what we're called to do or trying to make sense of what in the world is going on, this narrative gives us context and hope for what's going on and what's to come.

The biblical narrative—Creation, Fall, Redemption—is the basic storyline of the Bible and the storyline we inhabit even today. In this storyline, we see how God has created all things, but the fall subjected them to sin and misery, so God takes steps to redeem his original creation from their sin and misery by bringing it into redemption.

Further Reading

  • Allender, Dan B.: The Healing Path: How the Hurts in Your Past Can Lead You to a More Abundant Life. Colorado Springs, Colorado: WaterBrook Press, 1999. This work guides you through how your past hurts—your sin and misery—can be used to guide your focus on redemption and ministering to others in the midst of their pain. You can also check out Henri Nouwen's briefer work The Wounded Healer.
  • Doriani, Daniel M.: Work. My professor's work on work uses the biblical narrative and the cultural mandate at the beginning of the Bible to give a realistic perspective on its value. You can also check out Tim Keller's book Every Good Endeavor.
  • Forester, Greg: Joy for the World. Greg's book is a bit of a historical analysis of how Christianity lost its cultural influence in the United States and gives specific and practical advice on how to reclaim it (but, not in the ways you expect).
  • Wright, Nicholas Thomas: Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. New York: HarperOne, 2014. One of the most paradigm-shifting ideas I went through revolved around redemption and new creation, and it largely had to do with how I applied the biblical narrative. Wright, in his abbreviated work, guides you through how we got to our worldview, and what the biblical worldview really is.


  1. I'll probably change my mind after this post is published.
  2. One of the best stories out there right now of this "method" of evangelism is found in Rosaria Butterfield's recent work The Gospel Comes with a House Key.
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The Biblical Narrative: Creation

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 BY AUSTIN HESS, Pastoral Intern for Oakwood Presbyterian  

The Biblical Narrative: Creation

Pennsylvania was beginning to come out of its first rounds of lockdowns. I started biking regularly again. Saundra and I had adjusted to working from home together. One Monday morning, I heard the lovely beep of a fresh pot of coffee finishing its brew at 8:00 am on the dot. I punched in for the day and headed for the steps. I hit the first step, the second step, the … last step? The first thing I remember hearing was my wife saying, “Uh, I gotta go, I think my husband just fell down the steps.”

The pain was excruciating. She rushed me to the hospital and they whisked me away to a room to be processed. (I still hadn’t had my morning coffee yet). They then took X-rays of my foot. My nurse said she couldn’t see anything from the scan, but sent it for a second opinion. So we waited (and a friend who worked at the hospital brought me coffee... blessed is he).

Finally, the second opinion came back. I had broken my navicular bone. What’s that bone? Well, it’s the tiniest bone on top of your foot. Yet, it holds together all the tendons. There are also two blood vessels on it that supply all the blood for your foot. Professional soccer players regularly break this bone. But me…I broke it falling down the steps. (My nurse said she had only seen this break once, 13 years ago. I guess you can say I’m a professional?) So started months of physical therapy and recovery and there went my summer of biking.

* * * * * * * * * *

We all love a good story. And perhaps, that’s why we enjoy reading the Bible so much. It contains love stories, battle reports, biographies, testimonies, people calling bears from the forest to slay a bunch of kids who called him bald (it’s true—2 Kings 2:23-25).

However, the Bible is not just a collection of stories. It is held together by one ultimate story: God’s redemptive work to redeem His creation from sin. In this series, I would like to walk us through the three-part narrative of God’s redemptive work: creation, fall, and redemption1—and what it means for our study of God’s Word and our life together at Oakwood. We’ll begin in this post where the Bible begins: creation.

Most of us could open our Bibles and within seconds be at the creation account found in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. Being at the beginning of our Bibles,2 it tells us how all things came to be out of nothing, by the power of God’s Word, in the space of six days, and all very good (WSC 9). While it’s easy to gloss over these chapters because we’ve read them for the millionth time, these chapters provide the foundation for how we read the rest of Scripture. They aren’t meant to be read in isolation, but with the rest of Scripture.

Reading Creation in the Bible

Summary: In the beginning, there was nothing except the one God dwelling in three persons (Genesis 1:1, 2).3 They created all things in the space of six days (Genesis 1:3-31) and rested from their work on the seventh day (Genesis 2:1-3). However, on the sixth day, God created humanity, male and female—Adam and Eve (Genesis 1:26-31, Genesis 2:4-25). He charged them with their first command: they were to be garden keepers (Genesis 1:28). Now, when I say that, you may be thinking of people working hard weeding, planting flowers, and cultivating produce. But, that’s only part of the image. As we read in Genesis 1:26, 27, humanity reflected God in both their nature and their actions. That means Adam and Eve were supposed to cultivate the full potential of this garden—of creation—by exploring, researching, and creating. Finally, a constant refrain heard throughout this portion of Scripture is that “God saw that it was good.” God did not create junk, and He did not create anything in its fallen condition. At one point in time, all things were good.

Reading Creation: Genesis was written for the ancient Israelites, probably as they sojourned through the wilderness and began to inhabit their promised land. No doubt, as they encountered other pagan nations, they would have begun to hear of their religions and how their gods created them. One popular myth they would’ve heard would be the Enuma Elish.  In this myth, sub-gods regularly fought each other for power and authority. Marduk challenged Tiamut who ruled over the sea, which represented violence. Marduk wins the battle, tears apart Tiamut, and the earth is made from her blood. Since Marduk was able to prove his superiority, he created humanity to serve Him and his leisure. Most ancient near-eastern origin stories recount a similar story.4 God, through Moses, wrote the true creation story—that He had made all things, not out of violence, but out of peace; not to assert dominance over other gods, because He was the true God; not for humanity to indulge Him, but to further His creative work. They needed this story to know who their God was, how they came to Him, and what they’re supposed to do in their new land.

Concerning the Fall. As we’ll get to in our next post, the fall radically distorted everything. Sin infected every part of God’s good creation, including us. Creation no longer flourished in the way God originally designed, but suffered under the weight of sin. The commands God originally gave Adam and Eve became even harder to keep. Things were simply no longer the way they were supposed to be. So much so, that God would send His Son thousands of years later to redeem all creation and His people from their sin and misery.

Reading History: As we read the rest of the Old Testament, we read of the people of God continually trying to inhabit their promised land—as their first parents were supposed to inhabit the Garden of Eden. At certain times, they were more successful in cultivating the resources of the Promised Land and following God’s law. At other times, the land vomited them out into exile for their sins and rebellion against God’s commands. Their new land was supposed to be their garden of Eden—and the temple provided that reminder. However, they continually fell for the same sins that ensnared Adam and Eve.

Reading Jesus: But then Jesus appears on the scene and, as we’ll discuss in our final post, He comes to right the wrongs of our sin and misery. He comes to begin to make real what Adam and Eve were supposed to do: establish God’s kingdom on this earth through the cultivation of what He has given them. Jesus is intimately concerned with restoring creation because He was there in the beginning and created all things (John 1:1-3). Therefore, one of the final commands that He gives to His disciples post-resurrection is what we call the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20). The Great Commission further clarifies how God’s people are to carry out His original commands in the Cultural Mandate in Genesis 1:26-28. God’s people are to continue cultivating the potential of His creation, but in light of the redemptive work of Jesus, as they go out and proclaim this good news to all creation.

Reading Revelation: Finally, as we look to Revelation, we no longer see a garden. We no longer see a people struggling to inhabit a land and make it their home. Rather, we see God finalizing His reign on this earth and we will dwell in His city forever. We see the future of what creation was supposed to be headed towards before sin derailed these plans. We’re stuck in the middle—exiled from the Garden, but on a pilgrimage to the City. We’re carrying out the original commands, while also looking forward to the ultimate rest from our labors.

Applying Creation Together

We may have learned to use these beginning chapters of Genesis in an apologetic fashion—disproving evolutionists of their faulty evidence and worldview. Or perhaps, we’ve used these chapters as the foundational understanding of marriage. While both of these uses are legitimate, I want to propose a third purpose possible overriding purpose of these chapters: creating things.

The first act we read of God is Him creating something out of nothing. While the way we create is not identical to God (we cannot create something out of nothing), we mirror His creative ability (we create something out of something else). Practically, this looks like actually creating gardens or exercising dominion over animals through domestication or using them for farming. However, as we read in these chapters, it more broadly looks like cultivating the potential of others or things in our spheres of influence. For example, it could be writing that computer code that helps our company complete a major project or for a client. It could look like raising our children to know the Lord and guiding them through life. It could look like taking care of our physically or mentally handicapped children. It could look like gathering people together over a meal and enjoying fellowship or hunting to provide food for others. Teaching undergraduate or graduate students our discipline or supporting faculty in that endeavor. Adopting a pup from a rescue. It could be counseling someone through their grief and pain. Essentially, anything that furthers the goodness of God’s creation and helps His people and His creation flourish can be an application from these chapters.

Now, you may be asking, “But if the world is sinful and God is going to destroy it all in the last days, why bother?” While this is a common reaction, I think we’re one step ahead of where we should be. God created everything good. While sin has severely distorted all things and God will redeem all things, he will not start His creation over. Creation did not sin, we subjected it to sin. While it suffers from our act, Peter writes in 2 Peter 3:10 that “the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!” Without going into all the exegetical details of this passage, the imagery Peter is communicating is the idea of a precious metal being refined by fire. When you have gold, there are impurities mixed in with it. By superheating it, and turning it into liquid, the impure metals sink to the bottom, and the pure metal rises. Just so with creation—it will be so refined and purified that it will look similar to what God created, but also drastically different. As such, our cultural achievements will be carried into the new creation and refined by God to endure forever and be improved upon.

In this post, we explored the basics of the narrative structure of Scripture by specifically focusing on creation. We briefly explored how creation impacts our reading of the rest of Scripture and how it applies to our life together. In the next blog post, we will explore the disastrous impact the fall had, how it impacts our reading of Scripture, and our sin and misery.

Further Resources for Study, Reflection, and Application
  • Bartholomew, Craig G., and Michael W. Goheen. The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014. A six-part explanation of the narrative of Scripture that goes into more detail about the biblical narrative.
  • Nichols, Stephen J. Welcome to the Story: Reading, Loving, and Living God’s Word. Wheaton: Crossway, 2011. A brief 4 part introduction to the basic narrative of Scripture.
  • Williams, Michael D. Far as the Curse Is Found: The Covenant Story of Redemption. Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 2005. A detailed walkthrough of the narrative of Scripture was written by my former seminary professor of systematic theology at Covenant Theological Seminary.
  • Wolters, Albert M. Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2005. A companion volume to Bartholomew and Goheen where it helps construct a biblical worldview based on the biblical narrative and its implications.


1 There are different schemes you may have heard about. You may have heard of the creation, fall, redemption, and recreation (of consummation) framework. I’ll explain more of why I chose the three-part framework in the final post.

2 In fact, Genesis comes from the Greek γενεσις, which means origin.

3 Although too broad for this post, during this time the Father, the Son, and the Spirit decreed all of human history in what is called among Presbyterians and Reformed the covenant of redemption.

4 Gregory Perry, “Genesis,” CTS 100 Bible Content Overview (class lecture, Covenant Theological Seminary, Saint Louis, MO). 

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