A meta-narrative is an over-arching, comprehensive, controlling story. God has such a story. It is the story of human redemption from sin, culminating in eternal life in heaven. This beautiful story is gradually unfolded on the pages of the Bible. Far from being a disjointed collection of sixty-six documents, each book of the Bible is a part of this amazing meta-narrative, and each makes its own contribution to the unfolding of God's eternal purpose to save man through Christ. Where does this tremendous story begin?
Paul, an apostle of Christ, wrote of God: ". . . who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before the world began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (II Timothy 1:9). Similarly, Paul spoke of the "hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began" (Titus 1:2). Thus, God's grand meta-narrative was conceived in His infinite mind before the world ever existed, and though Christ did not suffer for the sins of the world in historical reality until the end of His earthly ministry, in the grand purpose of God Jesus was "the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8).
The Old Testament, with its various promises and covenants, was only a precursor of Christ and the ultimate revelation of God's purpose as set forth in the New Testament. The promised seed of woman (Genesis 3:15), the call of Abraham and God's promise to him (Genesis 12:1-3; 15:1-6; 18:17-18), the people chosen to bring forth Christ according to the flesh (the descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob, the Hebrews/Israelites/Jews), the Law of Moses with its various institutions (commandments, tabernacle, temple, priests, sacrifices, rituals, and festivals), God's marvelous covenant with David (II Samuel 7:1-17)—all of these and more—provide pictures and previews of God's complete revelation of mankind's Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and the gospel plan of salvation. But Old Testament laws and institutions were never intended to be the final word, "God having provided something better for us" (Hebrew 11:40), that "something" being Christ, the gospel, and the church (the community of the redeemed) which is "the fullness of Him who fills all in all" (Ephesians 1:22-23) and the magnificent manifestation of "the manifold wisdom of God" (3:8-12).
Many Old Testament prophecies speak of Christ, the new covenant He would inaugurate, and the spiritual kingdom He would set up. Some of the more significant prophecies are those found in Isaiah 9:6-7, Isaiah 53, Jeremiah 31:31-34, and Daniel 2:31-44. Oddly, those uttering the prophecies did not always comprehend their significance (see I Peter1:10-12), but God knew what He was doing in gradually unfolding His great meta-narrative! "Known to God are all His works from the beginning of the world" (Acts 15:18).
It remained for Christ, however, to begin to reveal all that God had had in mind from the beginning. Thus, during His earthly ministry Christ began to "utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world" (Matthew 13:34-35). He spoke of His faithful followers being able to "inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matthew 25:34). Because God's ultimate purpose and plan had been kept secret from the foundation of the world, it was referred to as "the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God" (Ephesians 3:9). "Mystery" does not mean something mysterious or incomprehensible, but to the fact that up until a certain point in time God's grand scheme of redemption had not been revealed. However, with the coming of Christ, His ministry, His death, burial, and resurrection, His ascension, the setting up of His kingdom (otherwise known as the church) on the first Pentecost following His resurrection (Acts 2), and His reign over that spiritual kingdom, the "mystery" has been revealed (Ephesians 3:3-7) and all that was "according to the eternal purpose which He (God, hf) purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Ephesians 3:11) has now been made known by "the word which by the gospel was preached to you" (I Peter 1:12, 25b). (See also Colossians 1:24-29).
In a grand doxology to God's marvelous meta-narrative, Paul wrote: "Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the world began but now has been made manifest, and by the Scriptures of the prophets has been made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith—to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen" (Romans16:25-27).
What an amazing story! We all would do well to learn that beautiful story and how to avail ourselves of "the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory" (II Timothy 2:10).
October 7 (a.m.): Bethlehem Church of Christ, Lebanon, TN
October 7 (p.m.): Red Hill Church of Christ, Manchester, TN
October 2, 2012