Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

Reading the Bible Missionally with Tony Stiff – Part III

Reading the Bible MissionallyReading Scripture in Light of It’s Missional Narrative
Is there a single grand narrative for Scripture? That question has caused no little stir among biblical-theologians. Some say yes, others say no, and still others say yes and no. For those that say yes a common way of summarizing the grand narrative of the bible is to sum it up in four parts or four acts: Act 1) Creation; Act 2) Fall; Act 3) Redemption; and Act 4) Consummation. Others shorten this narrative outline to two parts: Creation and New Creation. Most scholars side with the third option and say yes and no. There are several major themes that get developed in Scripture and there are several ways to trace those themes. While there is not one grand narrative that excludes others, there are some narratives that are more dominant and the mission of God is certainly one of those. As George Hunsberger has said, “The mission of God provides the framework, the clue, the hermeneutical key for biblical interpretation.”

There are two things we need to consider as we explore the mission of God as a dominant narrative in the biblical story: 1) the mission of God as a narrative that stretches the biblical story from Genesis to Revelation has a Christotelic coherence to it; and 2) it is a narrative that’s relevance is missional-ecclesial in form. First, the mission of God in Scripture has a Christotelic coherence to it, that is it has Christ as its goal (telos in Latin means goal). Christ as the goal of the biblical narrative is what holds it together. The biblical narrative is not just Christocentric (centered on Christ) but it is Christotelic. He is what makes since of the many dominant narratives in Scripture. The mission of God finds its goal in Christ (Col. 1.15-20; Ephesians 1-3), therefore reading Scripture missionally in light of its narrative means seeing how Christ functions as the goal of the story. Old Testament professor Peter Enns, fleshes this out when he says; “Christ is the end (Greek, telos) of Israel’s story and so gives the entire story its unifying, coherent structure—much as the climax of a well-crafted story puts the pieces of the novel together in wonderful and exciting ways.”

The climax of the missional narrative of the Bible is Christ and the new humanity he in accordance with his Father’s missional desires is creating through the Spirit with the word. Our reading of the Bible ought to connect each passage to Christ as its goal who has, is making all things new through his sent people. Which means, Secondly, that the relevance of the Biblical narrative which is Christotelically coherent is found in the formation of this “sent people.” The Bible both records and functions as God’s tool in forming a missional-ecclesial people. Again Peter Enns’s reflections from the same article above is very helpful; “And that Christotelic coherence is properly embodied only in the church, the body of Christ. The proper application of Israel’s story—its true relevance—is in God’s newly reconstituted people whose identities are found entirely in their union with Christ and his saving work [read: “his mission/saving work”].”

What does it look like to read the Bible in light of its missional narrative?
Questions intended to help you read Scripture in light of its missional narrative:

  • What does this text say, implicitly or explicitly, about the missio Dei and the missional character of God?
  • What does this text reveal about humanity and the world?
  • What does this text say about the nature and mission of God’s people in the world, that is, about the church understood as an agent of divine mission rather than as an institution, civic organization, or guardian of Christendom?
  • How does this text relate to the larger scriptural witness, in both testaments,to the missio Dei and the mission of God’s people?
  • In what concrete ways might we deliberately read this text as God’s call to us as the people of God to participate in the missio Dei to which it bears witness?  (All the questions above for this section were taken from Michael J Gorman, Some Basics of a Missional Hermeneutic)

In the next post, we will look at reading scripture in light of our missional context as readers.  This will be posted next Tuesday.

Tony Stiff is a pastor seeking to make sense of an ever changing ecclesial landscape while continuing to bring God’s Kingdom to bear on a global/local world. This is almost as daunting a task as loving my wife as Christ loved the church, and raising my child to have her moms strengths rather than her dads weaknesses. I am currently searching for a pastoral calling in a city. My resume website is tonystiff.com.


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