Story of the Bible: Scripture’s Storyline in 7 Steps
What is the story of the Bible, and why is it important? The story of the Bible starts with God creating the world and ends with God recreating it after the destruction caused when humans choose self-rule over God-rule. The central character in this story is Jesus Christ.
To understand the Bible, it is helpful to have an idea of its broad storyline. This storyline can be summarized using seven important and basic teachings. These teachings provide the broader context for you to make the decision to trust and follow Jesus (that is, to be his disciple).
This might be described as the “Grand Story” of the Bible. The major focus in the Bible is that Jesus is the “Christ.” The word Christ is the same as Messiah (“Christ” is from Greek; “Messiah” is from Hebrew). They both mean “the anointed one.” Therefore, when we say “Jesus Christ,” we are not saying that his first name is “Jesus” and his last name is “Christ.” In the time of Jesus ,that kind of designation was accomplished by saying “Jesus of Nazareth” or “Jesus, son of Joseph.”
Instead, we are describing his identity: “Jesus the Messiah” or “Jesus the Anointed One.” Jesus the Messiah (Christ) is the main character in the most important story ever told. Human history before his birth leaned forward—waiting and longing for his entrance into the world. And after his short life on earth, history is now leaning forward again, with eager anticipation of his return at the end of history as we know it. You can understand Jesus’ identity as the Messiah in light of the Grand Story of the Bible. Here it is in a brief, outline form.
Story of the Bible: “Jesus the Messiah (Christ) is the main character in the most important story ever told.”
#1 – Creation
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth….Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’” (Genesis 1:1, 26)
The Bible begins with God calling all things into being. Every part of creation is declared good by the Creator. God’s creative work climaxes in his creation of human beings, uniquely made in his image to display his character and to exercise his rule in the world as his representatives. The first human beings, Adam and Eve, enjoyed warm and close fellowship with God in the Garden of Eden.
#2 – Curse
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it….Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. (Genesis 3:4-6, 8)
God is both holy and loving. We were created to glorify him and to have an intimate relationship with him. Tragically, Adam and Eve were deceived by Satan to question God’s faithfulness, and as a result they willfully chose to rebel against God’s clear command. By their decision, human beings are now spiritually broken and separated from God. We are incapable of undoing the effects of sin; we desperately need God’s saving intervention.
Story of the Bible: “We are incapable of undoing the effects of sin; we desperately need God’s saving intervention.”
#3 – Covenant
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1-3)
God reached out to sinful humanity in grace in several ways. He rescued a man named Noah and his family in a time of judgment, making a covenant with him not to destroy the earth in a flood again. Then, he offered a covenant to a man named Abraham that became an outline of his redemption plan in history. God promised to create a nation from Abraham and to bless all people of the world through him. Abraham believed God and accepted his covenant, and God eventually made Abraham’s descendants into twelve tribes who became slaves in Egypt.
#4 – Covenant People (Israel)
“The Lord will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the Lord your God and walk in obedience to him.Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will fear you.” (Deuteronomy 28:9-10)
The Grand Story of the Bible continues with the descendants of Abraham. We see how God, using Abraham’s descendant Moses, liberated the twelve tribes from bondage in Egypt. God showed his love for the Israelites by giving them special gifts. Three gifts are notable: the Ten Commandments and the Law, sacrifices for sin, and a special Promised Land (known today as Israel) for their twelve tribes.
Then, God found in one of their kings, whose name was David, a faith so pleasing that God made another promise to fulfill his commitment to bless all people. He said that one of David’s descendants would become the messianic King. His kingdom would never end and would be a paradise for God’s people. This Messiah would also judge those outside his kingdom.
Story of the Bible: “One of David’s descendants would become the messianic King, whose kingdom would never end.”
#5 – Christ (Messiah)
“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
Jesus came as this Messiah, our King, and in him, the kingdom of God broke into this sin-permeated world. Jesus came to reveal the true nature of God and to restore and redeem God’s original intent for humanity. Jesus’ mission led him to the cross, where he suffered and died to save all people, both the Jews and the Gentiles (that is, those not physically descended from Abraham). After three days, Jesus rose from the dead, freeing us from Satan, and then he ascended into heaven. He is coming back again to fully restore God’s kingdom.
Story of the Bible: “Jesus came to reveal the true nature of God and to restore and redeem God’s original intent for humanity.”
By repentance and faith in Jesus and his finished work on the cross, we can enter into his kingdom reign. He takes our sin away, he gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit, and we are adopted into his Father’s family. Our old identity is dead, and we become a new creation through the grace of God, by faith in Jesus and what Jesus has done for us. We now live a new life, trusting and following him as his disciples. This teaching is called “the gospel,” which means “the good news.” Really, it is the best news anyone can ever hear!
#6 – Church
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
Before Jesus returned to the Father in heaven, he gave his apostles and followers a commission to carry on his teachings and make disciples. After ascending to heaven and sitting enthroned, he sent the Holy Spirit and established a global community for those who placed their faith in him.
Story of the Bible: “Jesus sent the Holy Spirit and established a global community for those who placed their faith in him.”
Jesus is the head of this body, and he calls those in his church to use the gifts and the message he has given them to be disciples who make disciples. Disciples are people who love God, love others, and live out God’s kingdom reign in word and deed by reaching out to those who do not know the gospel and by showing compassion toward the poor and the oppressed. The life and teachings of Jesus form the blueprint for the mission and identity of the church, and the Holy Spirit unites disciples from different cultures, places, and times into one body—the body of Christ.
#7 – Consummation
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:1, 3-5a)
Jesus promised his followers that he will return one day to fully remove the effects of the curse and usher in the age to come where sin, death, pain, and sadness are gone forever. This is the blessed hope for all disciples of Jesus. Until that time, Jesus offers humans a standing invitation into his “already-but-not-yet” kingdom.
He offers salvation to us by grace through faith. Grace is God’s unearned favor through which he offers us forgiveness and life in his kingdom, and we respond to this offer by faith, which is expressed as trusting and following Jesus. When Jesus comes back, he will judge those living as well as those who have died. Those who did not respond in this life to God’s gracious invitation to be redeemed will be punished for their sins in hell. Those who trusted and followed Jesus will experience everlasting joy with God forever in the new heaven and the new earth.
Story of the Bible: “Those who trusted and followed Jesus will experience everlasting joy with God forever in the new heaven and the new earth.”
These seven plot points are the major movements of God’s story. Every plot movement in the Bible’s overarching story points in some way to Jesus. Since Jesus came to lead us into all-of-life discipleship, not just a one-time conversion, this storyline is essential to know. You can fully understand and follow Jesus and what he calls us to only in light of this grand, creation-fall-restoration story. Again, do not worry if you do not understand every detail in this story. Let it serve as a starting point.
 The following storyline is taken from the book written by myself and Josh Patrick, The Disciple Maker’s Handbook (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017).
 Bill Hull describes the importance of this broader paradigm in Christlike: The Pursuit of Uncomplicated Obedience (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2010), 44.
 For a book in our Real Life Theology series which delves into the story of the Bible, check out Tony Twist and Mihai Malancea, Grand Metanarrative: God’s Story as an Invitation to Theology (Renew.org, 2021).
This is excerpted from Bobby Harrington, Trust and Follow Jesus: The Leader’s Guide (Renew.org, 2020).