A Play in Six Acts: The Message of the Bible


This outline is adapted from a paper presented by Michael W. Goheen, Theological Director at the Missional Training Centre in Phoenix, Arizona (USA). It is a very brief overview of the biblical story presented as a play in six acts. So when next you pick the Bible to read, ask yourself what act of the play you are reading!

Act One

God calls into being a marvellous creation. He creates human beings in his image to live in fellowship with him and to explore and care for the riches of his creation.

Act Two

Humanity refuses to live under the Creator’s word and chooses to seek life apart from Him. It results in disaster; the whole creation is brought into the train of human rebellion.

Act Three

God chooses a people, Israel, to embody his creational and redemptive purposes for the world. Israel is formed into a people and placed on the land to shine as a light. They fail in their calling. Yet God promises through the prophets that Israel’s failure will not derail His plan.

Act Four

God sends Jesus. Jesus carries out Israel’s calling as a faithful light to the world. But he does more: He defeats the power of sin at the cross, rises from the dead, inaugurating the new creation, and pours out His Spirit that his people might taste of this coming salvation. Before he takes His position of authority over the creation, he gathers his disciples together and tells them: ‘As the Father has sent me, I am sending you’ (John 20:21).

Act Five

Here we learn of the story of the church’s mission from Jerusalem to Rome in the first hundred or so years. But the story ends on an incomplete note. The story is to continue; the church’s mission is to continue in all places until Jesus returns. We are invited into this story to witness to the comprehensive rule of God in Jesus coming at the goal of history.

Act Six

… Jesus the King returns. Redemption is completed!

Marks of Revival, by J.I. Packer

The church needs revival. But how would we recognize it? What would a revived church and society look like? Here we can benefit from the wisdom of the great Christian writer and theologian, J.I. Packer. In the article below, he considers five universal signs of genuine revival. May this be of help as we pray and expect the outpouring of God’s spirit in Nigeria and beyond.

The features of revival movements on the surface vary widely, perhaps as a result of different settings, yet indeed God appears to delight in variety. Nevertheless, at the level of deeper analysis, there are constant factors recognizable in all biblical and post-biblical revivals, whatever their historical, racial, and cultural settings. They number five and are described below.

Awareness of God’s presenceRevivalI_2010

The first and fundamental feature in revival is the sense that God has drawn awesomely near in his holiness, mercy, and might. This is felt as the fulfilling of the prayer of Isaiah 64:1ff(ESV): ‘Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence . . . to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence!’ God ‘comes,’ ‘visits,’ and ‘draws near’ to his people, and makes his majesty known. The effect is the same as it was for Isaiah himself, when he ‘saw the Lord sitting on a throne’ in the temple and heard the angels’ song — ‘Holy, holy, holy’— and was forced to cry, ‘Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips’ (Is. 6:1-5). It is with this searching, scorching manifestation of God’s presence that revival begins, and by its continuance that revival is sustained. 

Responsiveness to God’s Word

The sense of God’s presence imparts new authority to his truth. The message of Scripture which previously was making only a superficial impact, if that, now searches its hearers and readers to the depth of their being. The statement that ‘the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart’ (Heb. 4:12) is verified over and over again. God’s message—the gospel call to repentance, faith, and holiness, to praise and prayer, witness and worship—authenticates itself unambiguously to men’s consciences, and there is no room for half-measures in response.

Sensitiveness to Sin

Deep awareness of what things are sinful and how sinful we are is the third feature of revival that calls for notice. No upsurge of religious interest or excitement merits the name of revival if there is no profound sense of sin at its heart. God’s coming, and the consequent impact of his word, makes Christians much more sensitive to sin than they previously were: consciences become tender and a profound humbling takes place. The perverseness, ugliness, uncleanness, and guilt of sin are seen and felt with new vividness. Under revival conditions, consciences are so quickened that conviction of each person’s own sinfulness becomes strong and terrible, inducing agonies of mind that are beyond imagining till they happen. The gospel of forgiveness through Christ’s cross comes to be loved as never before, as people see their need of it so much more clearly.

But conviction of sin is a means, not an end; the Spirit of God convinces of sin in order to induce repentance, and one of the more striking features of revival movements is the depth of repentance into which both saints and sinners are led. Repentance, as we know, is basically not moaning and remorse, but turning and change. Peter’s listeners on the day of Pentecost were ‘pierced to the heart,’ which literally means to inflict with a violent blow, a vivid image of an acutely painful experience. Shattered, the congregation cried out, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’ Peter showed them the way of faith, repentance, and discipleship through Jesus Christ, and three thousand of them took it (Acts 2:37-41). Revival always includes a profound awareness of one’s own sinfulness, leading to deep repentance and heartfelt embrace of the glorified, loving, pardoning Christ.

Liveliness in Community

A revived church is full of the life, joy and power of the Holy Spirit. With the Spirit’s coming, fellowship with Christ is brought right to the center of our worship and devotion; the glorified Christ is shown, known, loved, served, and exalted. Love and generosity, unity and joy, assurance and boldness, a spirit of praise and prayer, and a passion to reach out to win others are recurring marks of a people experiencing revival. So is divine power in their preachers, a power which has nothing to do with natural eloquence.

Fruitfulness in testimony

Revival always has an evangelistic and ethical overspill into the world. When God revives the church, the new life overflows from the church for the conversion of outsiders and renovation of society. Christians become fearless in witness and tireless in their Saviour’s service. They proclaim by word and deed the power of the new life, souls are won, and a community conscience informed by Christian values emerges. Also in revival times God acts quickly; his work accelerates. Truth spreads, and people are born again and grow in Christ, with amazing rapidity.

Such in outline is the constant pattern by which genuine movements of revival identify themselves. Christians in revival are accordingly found living in God’s presence (Coram Deo), attending to his word, feeling acute concern about sin and righteousness, rejoicing in the assurance of Christ’s love and their own salvation, spontaneously constant in worship, and tirelessly active in witness and service, fuelling these activities by praise and prayer. The question that presses is whether revival is actually displayed in the lives of Christian individuals and communities: whether this quality of Christian life is there or not.

J.I. Packer is currently the Board of Governors’ Professor of Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada. The original article was obtained from Grace Online Library and can be found here.

Unbelief – Humanity’s root problem

image - people 

Unbelief is actually perverted faith, for it puts its trust, not in the living God but in dying men. The unbeliever denies the self-sufficiency of God and usurps attributes that are not his. This dual sin dishonors God and ultimately destroys the soul of man.

A.W. Tozer

Recently, I was watching a CNN news report on the migrant crisis in Europe. EU leaders had met and were proposing  to increase the amount of aid given to the UNHCR to combat the problem. And it just struck me that for centuries, the wisdom in human societies has been that our problems are to be solved solely by us. Whatever the problem is  – Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, Boko Haram, and now the Migrant Crisis – we (humanity) are to find a solution. And, of course, the drive is normally from that sword-wielding and obedience-compelling institution we call the ‘State’ or ‘Government’.

I am not advocating that we abandon responsibility for the problems in our societies. Indeed, when I have a leaking roof, I would not remain on my bed hoping it would somehow fix itself. In a short while, I would have more than a leaking roof; I may not even have a roof any longer. However, what I could not help noticing is that utter reliance on Man by Man to interpret, explain, and solve his problems by Himself without help or support from any transcendent being or power. It is the assumption that this is ‘our’ problem and only ‘we’ can solve it. As Man, we have no one to call on. And we define great leaders by their ability to resolve challenges. The strong leaders are not those who have called on God for help in crises. No. They are those who have grasped the dynamics of a problem, identified a solution, and successfully implemented it.


This mindset is not new. It was birthed in the world shortly after humans were created. It was the outlook which prompted Adam and Eve to disregard God’s view of things, and formulate their own interpretation. Thus, Adam had sinned before he sinned. He had broken faith with God before he took a bite from that fruit. Unbelief isn’t new.


Human unbelief, however, became sophisticated and refined about five centuries ago (in the western world) during the period known as the Enlightenment. This was when Europe, turning her  back on her Christian heritage and worldview, began to rethink life and reality from the ground up. The Western world attempted to create for herself a comprehensive understanding of the world, but with one notable omission – God. Of course, God wasn’t just thrown out the window of society. It was believed that the cold and turbulent weather of Progress would be too harsh for him. Therefore, they could lock him up in the churches, homes, and maybe individual hearts. In time, though, he would be kicked out of these places, too. However, that is for another post. The crucial agenda here was that God was to have no place in the proceedings and discussions of modern man and civilized  society. It was okay to do God in the days of Charlemagne and Albert the Great. However, this is the modern era, the age of knowledge, technology, and innovation. We have risen beyond our intellectual childhood; we have grown up. God is a concept we no longer need. We are fine on our own. Perhaps no one better captured this mood than the German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) when he wrote:

Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance from another. This immaturity is self imposed when its cause lies not in lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without guidance from another. ‘Sapere Aude!’ Have courage to use your own understanding! – that is the motto of enlightenment.

And indeed, since the world embraced this system, it has had quite a lot to handle. In the midst of much technological progress (if all inventions can be seen as ‘progress’), we have experienced so much evil, disaster, and calamity. War, oppression, crime, terrorism, economic upheavals, disease, social breakdown – they all bedevil our ‘modern’ world. But we, enlightened and educated as we are, must find a way around them. We will not abandon our basic premise – we do not need God. And so the cycle continues.

A patient God, however, still holds out his hands to a foolish and conceited world. Like the father in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15), He is ever willing to run to us, lift us up, and restore us to all the privileges of sonship. If only – if only – we would admit our need. The great offense of God’s people in the Bible was unbelief. By worshipping other gods, they professed their unbelief in the true God who had created and redeemed them. The modern world has done the same for centuries. Our gods have been Humanity and his reason. We worship our ideas, our opinions, and ourselves. We have not sought counsel from the God who made us and to whom we belong. We may confess Him in private, but He belongs in the open. God belongs in the public square. And until we realize that this is his world, not ours, we will keep going in cycles, frustrated and defeated.

The Christian basis of Society

Society - imageWhat is the basis for human society? How can we justify a society where individual initiative and freedom is upheld, while also maintaining the cohesion and order that every society needs? The answer lies in the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.

The Christian worldview understands human society as being not a product of an individual’s will, nor the outcome of a prehistoric decision by a number of persons, but a creation of God which is truly a reflection of his own triune nature.

Ultimate reality is triune – a trinity in unity. This view has always distinguished the Christian outlook from other faiths which also believe in a personal God, such as Islam and Judaism. The great God of the universe, who formed all things by His sovereign power, has revealed Himself to be a single being with a distinction of persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Spirit, yet each one is fully and truly God.  And all three exist together eternally in loving fellowship and communion. The scriptures refer to this at different points: Mat 3:16-17; Mat 28:19; 2 Cor 13:14; 1 Pet 1:2. This loving relationship exists without altering the distinct personality of each member of the Trinity.

The Christian writer Nancy Pearcey wrote,

The balance of unity and diversity in the Trinity gives a model for human social life, because it implies that both individuality and relationship exist within the Godhead itself. God is being-in-communion. Humans are made in the image of a God who is a tri-unity – whose very nature consists in reciprocal love and communication among the Persons of the Trinity. (Total Truth, p. 132)

Therefore, the Trinity provides a model of society where unity and diversity are both present.

God’s Forgotten Libertarian | Foundation for Economic Education

Machen saw liberty as God’s intention for humanity and would not abide the presumptuous claims of earthly governments to diminish it “for our own good.”

Source: God’s Forgotten Libertarian | Foundation for Economic Education