I wanted to share a tool with you that I've found very useful when teaching the gospel to those both within and without the family of God. This is not the typical systematic gospel presentation methodology that is so prominent today and with which you are likely familiar — e.g. The Four Spiritual Laws, Way of the Master.1 This is a story-formed way of presenting the good news of Jesus and his kingdom come. — which is the proclamation methodology we find used most often by heralds in the New Testament.
These are the Six Acts of Redemptive History
Act 1: ↓ — God comes down to create a people for himself, bearing his image and likeness, for his glory, and for their joy.
Act 2: x — Man rebelled against the Creator God; sin and death entered the world; and man was expelled from paradise and the shalom of God. But, there was a promise of a Redeemer given in Gen 3:15; it would be through the offspring of the woman that the Serpent’s head would be crushed and the curse of death would itself be put to death.
Act 3: ↷— Abraham is chosen by God. He is promised that it would be through his offspring that the whole world would be blessed. Sarah, who was too old to bear children, miraculously has a child with Abraham. That child, named Isaac, is blessed by Abraham to be a blessing to the nations. Isaac blesses his son Jacob with the same blessing. Jacob has 12 sons who become the 12 tribes of Israel. God makes covenant with them. In that covenant is a law, if Israel keeps it, they will receive such a blessing that the nations will come to them to enquire about their wisdom and their God. They would be a light to the nations. They almost get there with the reigns of David and Solomon. They are blessed and the nations begin taking notice. But, because they sinned and broke covenant with God, God casts them out of the Land, just as he cast their Father Adam out of the garden.
There was a promise that emerged during this time of exile. Another covenant, unlike the former, would be given. One where God’s teaching would be written upon the hearts of his chosen people. There was also the promise that, one day, the knowledge of the glory of God would saturate the earth like the waters cover the sea.
Act 4: ✝ — The promised offspring of Eve, Sarah, Rebekah, Leah and Mary is born. The wisdom of God and the blessing of the nations has finally come! His name is Jesus and he is the light of the world, a light for the nations. He is obedient where Adam rebelled, making him the ideal image bearer of God’s likeness. He did for Israel what Israel was incapable of doing for themselves; he kept covenant with God. He was flawlessly obedient, wholly submitted, and perfectly godly, thereby, making him the ideal Jew. He received all the blessings due Israel for covenant obedience. However, because he loved his people, he also took upon himself all the curses promised in the covenant for Israel’s unfaithfulness. He died the death that Israel deserved and received the ultimate expulsion from the Land, death and the grave. But, that’s not all that happened at the cross. He also gave to his people everything that his perfect obedience had earned. All the blessings that were due him, everything he had earned during his life, were now given as an inheritance to believing Israel. As he satisfied the terms of the former covenant he was also establishing the prophesied new covenant in his blood. It was not possible that death should hold him. He rose from among the dead, then received glory, honor, and all authority from the Father. And all who are believing in him, though their bodies die, because Jesus rose from among the dead, so too they will one day rise.
Act 5: ↗— Jesus sent his followers out, just as he was sent by the Father, to teach the nations about the knowledge of the glory of God. He sent his Spirit into them, to dwell among them, to write his teaching upon their hearts; and to empower them for the global discipling mission that he began during his ministry.
Jesus crushed the head of the serpent at the cross and his holy congregation continues to storm the gates of the grave. Those gates will fall!
Act 6: ↓ — God comes down again, to dwell with and among his chosen people. Everything that was spoiled by the curse through sin is over. It is gone, forever. Death and sin are killed by God, and life, as it should have been lived had there been no rebellion, is reestablished by our great God and King, Jesus. Shalom will be returned to the Land!
Heaven is not our final destination. A new heaven and new earth is. The Christian hope is not that we will one day die and go to heaven. Our hope is that we will one day rise from among the dead, like Jesus, and be given new bodies like his, made ready to live a forever life-after-death-after-life on a new heavenly earth. There, Jesus will be our light and we will forever joyfully image him to one another and to all his creation as his perfect image bearers. 3
1 This should not be misconstrued as a disparagement against these methods, particularly with regard to using the law in evangelism to bring about the knowledge of guilt and sin and the need for a savior. However, because these methods lack continuity with the biblical story and assume some biblical literacy on the part of the hearer, they truncate the gospel and insufficiently position Jesus as the answer to what is wrong with the world as we know it. A robust gospel presentation will include what these Systematic Theological presentations provide — namely, the knowledge of sin and the need of Jesus as Savior — but it will also provide a Biblical Theological foundation for the systematics to make sense; in other words, it will put Jesus and his gospel in their proper historical and theological context. ↩
2 Credit goes to Chris Gonzalez for codifying the Story of God in the drawing (though I took some liberty with what he's drawn).↩
3 The narrative provided for the 6 Acts above are not necessarily considered sufficiently complete. They are only intended to give you an idea of how to use the tool and help you better understand and communicate the metanarrative of the biblical story. In other words, don't accuse me of heresy if I left something out. Feel free to amend or draw out other relevant themes that best support the biblical story as Jesus as our Rescuer King. ↩