Many scholars, pastors, and church leaders teach that the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation is all about God’s plan to save humankind from their sins. But if the whole Bible is about how God rescues human beings, doesn’t that make it all about us?
A Redemptive Historical View of the Bible
The single, unified story of God’s eternal plan to overcome humanity’s rebellion and unite us to Himself is called the “redemptive historical” view of Scripture. While there’s much more to redemptive history than a few sentences can describe, God’s plan of salvation is the central component.
Beginning right after Adam and Eve sin in the Garden, God curses the serpent and describes the consequences of rebellion for our original parents and all their descendants. Yet in the midst of these disastrous repercussions, God also promises a Deliverer. Genesis 3:15 says, “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.”
Dr. John Currid, Professor of Old Testament at RTS, summarizes the Bible’s description of redemption this way:
“Because of its grand predictiveness, some theologians call [Genesis 3] verse 15 the “proto-euangelion”, that is, the ‘first gospel’ message. The remainder of Scripture is an unfolding of the prophecy of Genesis 3:15. Redemption is promised in this one verse, and the Bible traces the development of that redemptive theme.”
All About Us?
But if the whole Bible is about God’s work for us as human beings doesn’t that make the Bible all about us? Isn’t the proper understanding that the Bible is all about God first? How, then, do we keep a God-centered focus as we read the Bible even as we understand that the Bible is all about God’s plan to save us?
It is possible to believe that the Bible is all about God’s plan to save sinners and not make the Bible all about us.
Lessons from Psalm 23:1-3
The first three verses of Psalm 23 serve as a useful place to help us hold a God-centered view of the Bible. If any passage of Scripture could be interpreted as man-centered it is Psalm 23. In the first three verses alone there are six first person personal pronoun (I, me, my) references. And there are at least six benefits to humankind the psalmist describes. God is our shepherd, He satisfies our wants, He makes us lie down in green pastures, He leads us beside still waters, He restores our souls, and He guides us in paths of righteousness.
Clearly, Psalm 23 details numerous ways that God’s work benefits us. So it would be easy to read this psalm with ourselves as the most important subject. And in reading the whole Bible, many preachers and teachers focus predominantly on the benefits that come to humankind as a result of God’s work.
A human-centered reading of the Bible results in a type of preaching that heads straight towards what will make people feel good. The preacher is effective only to extent that he communicates the benefits that come to us as a result of Christ’s work. And this view of the Bible encourages people who come to church and come to the Word primarily to ask, “What good does God promise me? How will this passage make my life better?” We are indeed the recipients of untold blessings from God, but we fail to see the true meaning of Scripture if we stop there.
For His Name’s Sake
Yet Psalm 23 verse 3 does not end with the benefits God gives to humankind; it also gives the reason for those benefits. “For his name’s sake” (v. 3b). Psalm 23:3b demonstrates that God has a purpose for our salvation. He has a purpose for blessing us. And that purpose is his glory.
Yes. The Bible is a book about how God saves us. Yes. It is a book that tells about the many and rich blessings God gives to us. But the Bible is not a book that is primarily about us.
God’s ultimate purpose for humanity and all of creation is most clearly demonstrated in the person and work of Jesus Christ. When Christ became a human being he brought many blessings to the people he encountered. He healed the sick, he preached and taught unto repentance and faith, and through him the proto-gospel was fulfilled thus bringing salvation to all who believe.
But why? For what purpose does God save sinners?
For his glory alone.
God is central to all reality. He is both the foundation and the goal of existence. He is the objective ground of all creation and the unchanging point of reference for all subjective experience. He is the Alpha and the Omega (Rev. 1:8).
Soli Deo Gloria
Whatever we read in the Bible, although it may benefit us and although it may concern us, it is not finally about us. The Bible and this entire created world is about God. Failure to recognize this leads to a “me-centered” reading of Scripture and a self-centered perspective. God in His word is saying to us that He is the Shepherd and we are His sheep. All for His name’s sake. Soli Deo Gloria!