The message of the Bible in one sentence

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Dane Ortlund, Senior Editor at Crossway Books (Bible division) recently asked 25 scholars and pastors to sum up the “message of the Bible in one sentence”. You can read the contributions, some of which are really quite good exemplars of the genre, on his Strawberry-Rhubarb Theology blog. I have two rather contradictory reactions to it, one essentially postmodern, the other much more “modern”—or as I would prefer to call it, “hermeneutically correct”.

My first reaction is that the notion of 25 all American, all evangelical, all male (“brothers”), and all white (correct me if I’m wrong) scholars and pastors endeavouring to extract a single “message” from a massive compendium of ancient religious texts cries out for deconstruction on all sorts of levels. The contributions range from the blinkered (Leland Ryken) to the sentimental (Ray Ortlund) to the tentatively emerging (Greg Beale), but what they give us is the only slightly faceted theological lens of a narrowly constituted religious subgroup. Only Gordon Hugenberger is imaginative enough to subvert the exercise—and should be applauded for it:

The message of the Bible in one sentence is that genuine truth, unlike every human philosophy, is far too luxuriant, too enthralling, too personal, too all-encompassing, too sovereign, and too life-changing to be reducible to one sentence (or, as Einstein once put it, the challenge is to ‘make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler’).

My second reaction is: Hey, can I have a go too! My contribution—from a white, male, non-American, and I suppose post-evangelical perspective—is somewhat influenced by the recent series on the missio Dei and perhaps only makes sense against that background. But it reflects my deepening suspicion that evangelical theology has overlooked the massive theological and historical significance of a narrative theme that runs from the thwarting of the Babel project through the clash with Babylon to the pronouncement of judgment on “Babylon” and the proclamation of the reign of Christ and of those who suffered and were vindicated with him. So here is the core storyline in a sentence:

The one true god of an obscure and cantankerous Middle Eastern people eventually, after numerous set backs and no small amount of suffering on the part of that people, overcomes the pagan empires that conspired against him for so long—and the rest is history.

If we then want to translate that story into a “message”—or perhaps better a historically meaningful statement of “good news”—I would suggest something along these lines:

The long conflict between the one true creator God and the pagan nations, culminating in the victory of Christlike communities over Rome, has fundamentally transformed the nature and status of his “new creation” people in the world.

If anyone else wants to have a stab at summarizing the message of the Bible in one sentence, post it in a comment below. If you can do so without simply reinforcing the grip that white, male, American evangelicalism has on our understanding of the Bible, so much the better. If no one posts, I’ll assume this is just a lost cause.

The message of the Bible, reduced to one sentence is one of…

The eternal purpose of God: the establishment, through vocation and suffering, of a covenant community, blessed to be a blessing to all the families of the world, through being faithful to the Spirit of the Messiah of the Creator.

(British caucasian male)

Yahweh, beginning through one man (Abraham) and finishing through The Man (Jesus Christ), made known and established His rule in the cosmos.

couldn't resist this Andrew....and I'm also wondering what you expect- "God so loved the world that she gave her only child..." maybe?

Why should my understanding of the message of the Bible be any different from yours, just because of my gender?

What interests me more is how we communicate to a post-christian world. So my summary of the message would look something like this-

There is something bigger and better than us out there- and that something turns out to be a someone, who wants to transform our lives, our families, our communities and our world into something bigger and better than we can imagine.



donsands | Thu, 01/20/2011 - 16:19 | Permalink

"Then he [Jesus] opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,  and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead,  and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem."

How about Dr. Luke, a Greek male, friend of Paul.

My own: "There is a genuine Creator of the universe, and He is quite longsuffering with rebel-people, made in His image, who will be condmened to hell for their rebellion, unless they turn from their wicked ways, and trust in Jesus, the Son of God, and His death on the cross and His rising from the dead for the forgiveness of their rebellion and sin, wherewith they will have eternal life with God, where there is genuine love, righteousness, and peace forevermore." a white American man, who lives in Maryland, with Irish roots, and also a descendant of Noah, and Adam. Your basic Gentile sinner on planet earth. 

(Actually, you can't do it with one sentence. Nay.)

God wins.

(male, Californian, Gen X, straight, middle class, mainline Protestant, centrist progressive) 

peter wilkinson | Fri, 01/21/2011 - 08:07 | Permalink

God made, Adam bit, Noah arked, Abraham split, , Joseph ruled, Jacob fooled, Bush talked, Moses balked, Pharaoh plagued, People walked,  Sea divided, Tablets guided,  Promise landed, Saul freaked, David peeked, Prophets warned, Jesus born, God walked, Love talked, Anger crucified Hope died, Love rose, Spirit flamed, Word spread, God remained.

Daniel Arseno | Sun, 06/26/2011 - 13:05 | Permalink

"This is what you must do in order to be right with God." (I.e. believe, obey, love.)

"Conflict" is such a male word. My female, and somewhat influenced by Islamic and Hindu cultures sentence is: 'The Creator God has overwhelmed and blessed his world (shared with us) with a luxurious abundance of love, having given His 'Izzat', his honour, Christ, in place of all our shortcomings (sins).' 



Doc Brasher | Wed, 07/27/2011 - 17:34 | Permalink

Although the eternal & holy Creator of the cosmos (visible & invisible) planned in Adam that mankind could reflect His image, life & glory (enjoying fellowship with Him) , Adam chose to believe the lie of Satan (‘you will not die’) & disobeyed God’s truth, bringing God’s promised judgment of death on all lost mankind—UNTIL—the Heavenly Father progressively revealed thru His prophets & apostles in the preserved Biblical record, the promised ‘Good News’ found in His ‘only’ Son & Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ (‘Deity visible in human flesh’) Who is saving for His eternal kingdom (from among the lost & spiritually dead) a born of God beloved people, made spiritually alive by the Holy Spirit, those who’ve repented toward God & put their faith in Christ, following,  proclaiming & glorifying Him in all the earth. 

Lamont Goodling | Sun, 08/07/2011 - 02:19 | Permalink

"All you need is love."

(white, middle-class male quoting four white males of undetermined class.)

To me, the Bible tells us that God is the Creator, He created human beings with free will, and He provided them with a means to be with Him.

Corey | Mon, 09/19/2011 - 15:48 | Permalink

I think Jesus did a pretty good job summing things up with 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength, and to  ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’


But, of course, that would technically be combining 2 sentences! ;-)

Doug in CO | Mon, 10/03/2011 - 03:21 | Permalink

The creator of the universe chose to engage his creation in a loving relationship (requiring the possibility of rebellion) through a creature created in his image and the process he chose for this was to start with one man of whom a perpetually increasing family grew in the image of God himself through the example he set for them in the God/man through whom he judged rebellion, forgave sins, and demonstrated righteousness.

Eric Boehmer | Mon, 10/10/2011 - 04:47 | Permalink

Creation and Creator groan and hope for relief.

Duncan | Mon, 10/10/2011 - 06:00 | Permalink

The Bible is obviously based on the structure of the romantic comedy.  Here is some background.

In many romantic comedies, the three-act structure could be stated simply as "Boy meets girl, boy gets girl (Act One), boy loses girl (Act Two), boy gets girl back (Act Three)." Even though the protagonist wins the girl in Act One, his potential for failure should be evident throughout the act. The perfect love affair will start to unravel in Act Two, as the protagonist's fears and the machinations of the antagonist build. The romance then falls apart, with the antagonist apparently victorious. By the end of Act Two, however, the hero will resolve to win the girl back and defeat his foe. In Act Three, the boy executes his plan and succeeds in restoring the romance.

Ok, I am ready for my close-up Mr. Demill.  The message of the Bible in one sentence (and one take):

God makes man; God loses man; God becomes man; God gets man back. 

OK, it is a four act structure insted of three, but at its heart it is pure Hollywood.

Duncan (proud white American male!)

Lot’s of creative answers. Here’s a nugget from Jonah that I’ve noticed - After the judgment, the human is furious, because God is merciful.

Gregory Du Bois | Wed, 04/18/2012 - 16:19 | Permalink

 The message of the Bible in one sentence:

I, God, love you, my creation, and will do whatever it takes, even if it kills me, to woo you back until time runs out and I completely put down the rebellion without violating any individuals’ free will to refuse my love even though that tragic choice results in personal destruction and eternal suffering.

@Andrew Perriman:

Its a no brainer surely?

love Love with all your heart and mind and love each other.

The Creator is a potter and the universe his wheel, some of his pieces he keep, some he will not. 

beyondthecave | Sun, 12/09/2012 - 10:35 | Permalink

Faith in the Holy Spirit (the love that follows the Golden Rule, the rule that is the whole of the Prophets and the Law) (1) is the key to the Kingdom (a loving community, heaven) in this life and the next, and (2) separates truth from falsity, in the scriptures and elsewhere, by being the measure of what is true prophesy (since the Holy Spirit is the tree that only bears good fruit), (3) is absent when we demand retribution for sin (the Parable of the Prodigal Son), but that demand can be silenced, and thus the Kingdom can be restored, if one who has faith in the Holy Spirit accepts the request of the Holy Spirit that he endure the demanded punishment in place of the sinner, thereby demonstrating to the retributivist the retributivist’s error of valuing retribution over love (The Atonement), and (4) requires faith that each person and sentient being will eventually be fully provided for by becoming pure Holy Spirit, entering into the perfect community of such Holy Spirit, and fully sharing in all the knowledge and power that  the Holy Spirit has (universal salvation).

(White, American, Male, Believer in the Holy Spirit of Benevolence, in beings who are filled with that Spirit, and in the Gospel of the Golden Rule)

The life of God incarnate

Adam, Israel, Christ, church.

Jesus Christ loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so

[irony on] It’s not mine, but a quote [irony off]

Anyway, I feel more and more that this simple statement includes so much doctrine, you won’t believe:

  • Jesus Christ = man and god, promise and messiah, NT realization and OT promise, trinity
  • loves = holy spirit, 1 corinthians 13 doctrine of love, 2 subject relationship aka creator and creation are different objects, it is real and not just spiritual, it is emotional and not puritan (ephesus church in revelation…)
  • me = personal God vs spiritual truth or gnostic ideas
  • = individual salvation&accounting, not church/group religion or repentance
  • know = knowledge as experience, i.e. God knew Abraham had faith, but Abraham didnt know if he would even kill his son for His God, realization of what we rely on, possibility to know this (against Apophatic theology)
  • Bible = the way God is talking to us and revealing His plan through the creation, search for prophets but checks and tests them with Bible sound doctrine, material object to work on
  • tells = God’s interpretes for me and through me the Word, doesnt say the for the Bible I read/understand sounds so,
  • me = God’s message is personal, love doctrine and theology but we should go to bible personally anyway, not through any man intermediation
  • so = affirming the inerrancy of bible in just two letters.
Barnabas | Fri, 12/13/2013 - 11:40 | Permalink

The bible gives glad tidings of good fortunes to righteous believers now, and when God’s kingdom comes; with dire warnings of impending hellfire, torment and agony for the ones inclined towards evil.

john poorwolf | Wed, 03/26/2014 - 16:58 | Permalink

agree 1 sentence is silly exercise, but..

It is about passion, the Love that is great and deep; it embraces human tragedy, and does not save us from it, but redeems us in the thick of it, bringing us through it to a far shore on the other side; its perspective -unlike Eastern ontological/metaphysical religions — is Existential and Daemonic= God is a Lover who takes a passionate risk with humanity, and when it fails, redeems it. Thus, God requires the human heart. ‘God became man, so that man might become God’, but only through the depth brought by passion.. We were created as gods, fell like princes, and die like animals [worm food]. Such is the paradox the heart carries like a weight.

cante wasteya,

Maybe something like this….

God created a place and people for himself; who then forsook their God; who then mercifully reconciled those same along with others, through his Son as a precursor to the final reestablishment of a people and place for himself.

computer | Wed, 09/10/2014 - 06:49 | Permalink

Just to add to the discussion.

Running a self weighting text summarization algo over the entire biblical text with the result being fed back in until it reduced to one single sentence came up with the following as the single sentence that summarized the written word.

“Deu|5|14| But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou.~”

I draw no conclusion from that except to state it as the algo found it to be.

“Jesus love me; this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

(written by a white American woman from New York circa 1860; offered by a white American guy in his 50s)

Man has eaten the fruit of the tree to gain the knowledge of good and evil: welcome to the consumption.

phillip mutchell | Tue, 05/10/2016 - 10:19 | Permalink

Well from the reformed perspective I’d have to borrow the vaguely remembered line from Braveheart, ‘the almighty says I’m alright but you’re fucked.’

The story of how God restores his good rule over the beautiful world he made by restoring to himself and to their created potential the human beings he made.

Lenny | Fri, 09/02/2016 - 23:43 | Permalink

Jesus saves.
Or even one word,…..

faith grace | Sun, 01/01/2017 - 14:32 | Permalink

Choose one of the following: your righteousness or Jesus righteousness

Richard Cliff | Sat, 04/15/2017 - 12:32 | Permalink

Quite a challenge;

From the beginning Yeshua Messiah, by the authority of the Father and by the power of the Holy Spirit, offered himself as the blameless lamb of YHWH so that those of faith who believe on him and the Father who raised him from the dead, and share in the power of YHWH through the Holy Spirit, might be joined to him eternally in the Kingdom of YHWH

Repeat | Mon, 10/09/2017 - 21:42 | Permalink

This isn’t original to me; however, I like the summation of the gospel from the book of Genesis, given by Chuck Missler:
http://www.khouse org/articles/1996/44/

The Gospel in Genesis
by Chuck Missler
…this can be glimpsed in Genesis Chapter 5, where we have the genealogy of Adam through Noah. This is one of those chapters which we often tend to skim over quickly as we pass through Genesis it’s simply a genealogy from Adam to Noah.

The Composite List (to summarize)
Hebrew English
Adam Man
Seth Appointed
Enosh Mortal
Kenan Sorrow;
Mahalalel The Blessed God
Jared Shall come down
Enoch Teaching
Methuselah His death shall bring
Lamech The Despairing
Noah Rest, or comfort.

Which reads in one sentence:

Man (is) appointed mortal sorrow; (but) the Blessed God shall come down teaching (that) His death shall bring (the) despairing rest.

Here’s the Gospel hidden within a genealogy in Genesis!

“Love your neighbor as yourself, all the rest is commentary”

Susanne Medina | Sun, 12/31/2017 - 21:43 | Permalink

How can I get my creation to love understand and adore me for our mutual benefit.

Paul Ewart | Fri, 11/23/2018 - 16:24 | Permalink

How about…We couldn’t, Christ could.

God promised to Abram that He “will make him the father of a multitude of nations” (Gen 17), not just one nation; then came Moses, and the Israelites thought that that promise was only for them; then came Jesus and infuriated the Jews because he said to them, “Before Abraham become [father of a multitude of nations I am [the Messiah]”; now we are waiting for God to bring about the original promise to Abraham: the Kingdom of God.

The bible is a complete, concise account of the begining and the end; of man’s being ‘cast out’ of his father’s presence and how god reconciled us again to himself, raising us up to the position that Adam had in the beginning.

Jeremiah | Thu, 07/18/2019 - 09:08 | Permalink

1 Chronicles 1:1-3, first word of v.4:

Adam seth enosh kenan; mahalalel jared enoch; methuselah lamech noah.

I hope this blesses someone!

Edit: I see someone already posted this; the the initial discovery is surely not attributed to Chuck Missler; certainly it must be a prophecy from God, who declared the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10).


Unfortunately, several of those names do not translate to the “English” meaning that is attributed to them.

For example, “Methuselah” means “man of the javelin.”

Jared Westendorp | Fri, 04/10/2020 - 15:31 | Permalink

A creative, inspiring story that inspires me to find my story creatively.

Edwin | Fri, 05/22/2020 - 04:28 | Permalink

Useful exercise in pondering the emphasis of the story. Working through the plot and distilling the narrative to something personally comprehensible is an ongoing challenge, but I appreciate the idea of prologueing the opening chapters of genesis as a backdrop to the story rather than the story. My composition approach is based on a screenwriting exercise to make a logline:

When a small enslaved tribe is rescued by their ancestral deity, Yahweh, they form a treaty of loyalty to him but struggle and fail to stay true to their promise risking their destiny until an unlikely hero— to fulfill Yahwehs faithfulness to this tribe— rescues them from their own selves to fill them with real life and spare them the inevitable finality of death