Sacred Winds Ensemble and Ministries

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Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation: How the Reformation Brought Light to Scripture’s Metanarrative

by Bill Haynes

Metanarrative the word itself is somewhat intimidating. It’s not a word that we use in normal everyday conversation. When we talk about metanarrative, we are simply referring to the “big story.” The story that gives everything else its proper place within the story. In the Reformation, there was a return to looking at God’s “big story” in ways that had been neglected for generations.

The Reformation was about the Word of God. In a day when tradition, relics, superstition, and works-righteousness ruled the religious world, the Reformation provided a clarion call back to Scripture. Most are familiar with the “Five Solas” but there was another concept that gripped the reformers. Ad Fontes or “to the sources” was the focus that captured the hearts and minds of the great reformers of the Sixteenth century.

In going back to the sources, the Reformation brought about a recovery of the gospel. It had been lost by the church and many found that the religion in which they were captive was no “good news” at all. In fact, Martin Luther himself struggled to be good enough to please God for salvation. He agonized, and when he thought of the righteousness of God he saw no hope for himself. Luther would spend hours confessing and doing penance (a distortion of repentance) over the most mundane matters to try and earn favor with God. His confessor in the monastery became so weary that he told Luther not to come back until he had something real to confess. At one point the great Reformer said that the righteousness of God did not cause him “to love God,” just the opposite, he hated him! Luther would say later that “if ever a monk could have gotten to heaven by his monkery, it would have been me.”

After the events of the fall in Genesis 3, which brought sin and rebellion into the world, God gave a glance to us of what was to come and spoke of the atonement – “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” This is known as the protoevangelium—the first hint of the gospel.

Of course this return

to the sources, the Bible, was most clearly manifested with sola Scriptura. But what was it that broke through so clearly? I have a painting of Martin Luther hanging in my office, in which he is standing at a desk with an open Bible chained to the desk. There is a look of amazement, of discovery, on his face. The title of the painting is Martin Luther Discovering Justification by Faith.

The key, for Luther and for us, in opening God’s metanarrative was clearly Romans 1:16-17, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” It reached back to the Old Covenant – “to the Jew first” – all the way to the Gentiles. It opened the understanding of how one could be right with God. Not on the basis of works and inherent righteousness, but on the finished work of Christ and his righteousness being imputed to man, literally clothing the man or woman of faith in the righteousness of Christ.

As in Luther’s day in the sixteenth century, there is a need to recover the biblical gospel in our own day. Most, when asked, “What is the gospel?”, reply something like, “You are to repent and believe in Jesus Christ.” But there you have begun with the response to the gospel. The gospel is this: though you are under the righteous condemnation of God by virtue of your sin and rebellion and your participation in Adam’s original rebellion, God in his mercy and grace has sent his Son to die on your behalf, that you might become the righteousness of God in him. Now that’s good news! That’s gospel.

God’s Word gives us the metanarrative, from the beginning to the end. And in it we find the truth of God written and preserved for us that we might know him.

May God grant us in the Twenty-first century a new reformation. May we seek to follow the Reformers example and pattern our minds and hearts to Ad Fontes – “to the sources” – and may we seek his truth above all else.

Bill Haynes is Senior Pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Somerset, KY.

 

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