The Bible in one sentence

Dane Ortlund asked a number of prominent evangelical pastors and writers to sum up the Bible in one sentence.  Here is a sampling (see more at the link):

Dan Block:

God was so covenantally committed to the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him may have eternal life!

Craig Blomberg:

God is in the process of recreating the universe which has been corrupted by sin and has made it possible for all those and only those who follow Jesus to be a part of the magnificent, eternal community that will result.

Darrell Bock:

The Bible tells how the loving Creator God restored a lost humanity and cosmos through reestablishing his rule through Jesus Christ and the provision of life to His honor.

Mark Dever:

God has made promises to bring His people to Himself and He is fulfilling them all through Christ.

Kevin DeYoung:

A holy God sends his righteous Son to die for unrighteous sinners so we can be holy and live happily with God forever.

Zack Eswine:

Apprenticing with Jesus to become human again.

John Frame:

God glorifies himself in the redemption of sinners.

Scott Hafemann:

The Triune God is the beginning, middle, and end of everything, ‘for from him (as Creator) and through him (as Sustainer and Redeemer) and to him (as Judge) are all things’ (Rom 11:36).

David Helm:

Jesus is the promised Savior-King.

Paul House:

The movement in history from creation to new creation through the redemptive work of Father, Son, and Spirit who saves and changes corrupted people and places for his glory and their good.

Gordon Hugenberger:

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’).

via Strawberry-Rhubarb Theology: What’s the Message of the Bible in One Sentence?.

Some of these are pretty good, but two things struck me:  (1)  How unevangelical many of these are. That is, how they emphasize not the Gospel (evangel), but the Law, putting the focus on our being or becoming.

(2) How these different takes on Scripture often reveal a specific theological perspective.  Evangelicals often maintain that they are taking their beliefs straight from the Bible, without needing a theological framework, but scratch the surface and you will tend to find a specific theology at work.  Not that that’s bad, since I believe one needs a specific theology.  In fact, this exercise shows that theology is inevitable.  We say we believe the Bible.  It’s legitimate to ask next, “What do you believe the Bible says?”  And that’s your theology.  We Lutherans answer that in a whole book of confessions rather than one sentence, but the principle is the same.

Can you do better?  Sum up the Bible–or the message of the Bible– in one sentence.  Or, if you consider that too reductionistic, comment on these other attempts.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Caleb

    This is a silly and meaningless exercise, there’s a reason that the Holy Ghost gave us the totality of scripture, precisely because it could not be summarized in one sentence.

    #buzzkill

  • Caleb

    This is a silly and meaningless exercise, there’s a reason that the Holy Ghost gave us the totality of scripture, precisely because it could not be summarized in one sentence.

    #buzzkill

  • Booklover

    I can’t do better than John 3:16.

  • Booklover

    I can’t do better than John 3:16.

  • G

    How’s this? “Read me.”

  • G

    How’s this? “Read me.”

  • Dennis Peskey

    1 John 4:10 – “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
    Peace,
    Dennis

  • Dennis Peskey

    1 John 4:10 – “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
    Peace,
    Dennis

  • Eric Brown

    For God demonstrates His love in this; while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

  • Eric Brown

    For God demonstrates His love in this; while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

  • Stephen

    I’m with Luther and Booklover @ 2.

    G @ 3 is pretty good too, and I feel like riffing on that. Because we are not really entreated to “read” but to hear more or less as far as I know. The phenomenon of the book is fairly new. This is something of new law. Not saying it’s a bad idea, Just sayin’ It’s a great idea. One of the best. But it is law,a s is this whole exercise in trying to sum things up.

    If you think about it, this is what Jesus did for us when he summed up the law and the prophets. He also did this in and when he spoke to Nicodemus. I think Luther recognized this in John 3:16. Outside of that, we have the Creed as our summation of pure Gospel that no one can understand as our catechism states. The bible in a nutshell. And I think this explanation is more precise in that it says that we cannot truly comprehend Christ, which is the whole point of who scripture reveals to us – the Word made flesh.

    In other words, Jesus is not a sentence held out in a proposition. If he were it would only require an assent of reason. This is Caleb’s observation right off the bat @ 1. The only positive expressions that say “what he is” beyond that are ones of praise and claims of faith. Whatever we say in a sentence would sound something like that – like poetry, symbol and praise perhaps, and not these rationalistic constructions.

  • Stephen

    I’m with Luther and Booklover @ 2.

    G @ 3 is pretty good too, and I feel like riffing on that. Because we are not really entreated to “read” but to hear more or less as far as I know. The phenomenon of the book is fairly new. This is something of new law. Not saying it’s a bad idea, Just sayin’ It’s a great idea. One of the best. But it is law,a s is this whole exercise in trying to sum things up.

    If you think about it, this is what Jesus did for us when he summed up the law and the prophets. He also did this in and when he spoke to Nicodemus. I think Luther recognized this in John 3:16. Outside of that, we have the Creed as our summation of pure Gospel that no one can understand as our catechism states. The bible in a nutshell. And I think this explanation is more precise in that it says that we cannot truly comprehend Christ, which is the whole point of who scripture reveals to us – the Word made flesh.

    In other words, Jesus is not a sentence held out in a proposition. If he were it would only require an assent of reason. This is Caleb’s observation right off the bat @ 1. The only positive expressions that say “what he is” beyond that are ones of praise and claims of faith. Whatever we say in a sentence would sound something like that – like poetry, symbol and praise perhaps, and not these rationalistic constructions.

  • Tom Hering

    The revelation of Jesus Christ, from the beginning of this world (“God created”) to the beginning of a new world (“Come, Lord Jesus”).

  • Tom Hering

    The revelation of Jesus Christ, from the beginning of this world (“God created”) to the beginning of a new world (“Come, Lord Jesus”).

  • Bart

    Am I the only one that smells Kuyper and Dooyeweerd in many of those sentences?

  • Bart

    Am I the only one that smells Kuyper and Dooyeweerd in many of those sentences?

  • Helen F

    “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” – 1 Corinthians 2:2

  • Helen F

    “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” – 1 Corinthians 2:2

  • Stephen

    Come to think of it, the bible sums itself up:

    John 20:31

    ” But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

  • Stephen

    Come to think of it, the bible sums itself up:

    John 20:31

    ” But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

  • Mrs. Peel

    Shema, yisrael Adonai elohenu, Adonai echad: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and all thy mind and all thy soul.

    (Jesus says that, but I can’t remember which Gospel puts it this way. It’s when the Pharisees ask him what the most important commandment is. He starts with the Shema to get their attention, then calls us to love God.)

    I’m surprised no one went with “God is love” as their summary. Personally, I concur with those who said that there’s too much to summarize in one sentence (or one sentence fragment, as in Eswine’s answer).

  • Mrs. Peel

    Shema, yisrael Adonai elohenu, Adonai echad: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and all thy mind and all thy soul.

    (Jesus says that, but I can’t remember which Gospel puts it this way. It’s when the Pharisees ask him what the most important commandment is. He starts with the Shema to get their attention, then calls us to love God.)

    I’m surprised no one went with “God is love” as their summary. Personally, I concur with those who said that there’s too much to summarize in one sentence (or one sentence fragment, as in Eswine’s answer).

  • http://Www.Toddstadler.com tODD

    My submission:
    Jesus Christ.

    The trick is in the unpacking!

  • http://Www.Toddstadler.com tODD

    My submission:
    Jesus Christ.

    The trick is in the unpacking!

  • collie

    The bible reveals Christ, who is Life.

    or,

    I John 5:11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

    But I think John 3:16 is my favorite.

  • collie

    The bible reveals Christ, who is Life.

    or,

    I John 5:11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

    But I think John 3:16 is my favorite.

  • Michael

    way to go, Helen! “Christ crucified for sinners.” He’s what all the sacrificial blood in the old testament pointed toward. He’s the one sacrifice to whom all Christ’s Apostles point us now.

  • Michael

    way to go, Helen! “Christ crucified for sinners.” He’s what all the sacrificial blood in the old testament pointed toward. He’s the one sacrifice to whom all Christ’s Apostles point us now.

  • Jerry

    After John 3:16, perhaps Genesis 3:15?

  • Jerry

    After John 3:16, perhaps Genesis 3:15?

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    I’m with Todd on this one.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    I’m with Todd on this one.

  • Pete

    How about the inspired Word give though St. Paul “The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, Our Lord.”

  • Pete

    How about the inspired Word give though St. Paul “The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, Our Lord.”

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    all the law and the prophets have their end in Jesus Christ.
    Jesus is THE Telos. there is no other. Certaintly not the Law.
    Jesus is also the FULL revelation of the Eternal Will of God.

    I am with todd and steven. It is Jesus. alone. alone. alone. plus nothing we can do or add.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    all the law and the prophets have their end in Jesus Christ.
    Jesus is THE Telos. there is no other. Certaintly not the Law.
    Jesus is also the FULL revelation of the Eternal Will of God.

    I am with todd and steven. It is Jesus. alone. alone. alone. plus nothing we can do or add.

  • http://www.immanuelhamilton.com Kevin

    Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

  • http://www.immanuelhamilton.com Kevin

    Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.
    God Loves You and Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Best Life Now.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.
    God Loves You and Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Best Life Now.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Okay, having made my submission, can I say that some of those truly were stinkers?

    I’m trying to wrap my head around the fact that a Wheaton professor thought “was so covenantally committed” was a good (or, perhaps, better) substitution for “loved” when it came to the “Gospel in a nutshell”.

    And then a “Distinguished Professor of New Testament” at Denver Seminary tells us that “all those and only those who follow Jesus” go to Heaven, which can only prompt the response, “Am I following Jesus enough to qualify?” Which makes it all about me and what I do.

    I don’t even know what Dallas Theological Seminary Professor of New Testament Studies Bock is talking about. “Reestablishing his rule through Jesus Christ”?

    Indeed, it seems the seminary professors are the ones whose submissions were most lacking.

    As for you, Zack Eswine, Senior Pastor of Riverside Church, “Apprenticing with Jesus to become human again”?! Oof. So the Bible is about what I do, and Jesus came to teach me that? Once I get it right, I become human … again? What?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Okay, having made my submission, can I say that some of those truly were stinkers?

    I’m trying to wrap my head around the fact that a Wheaton professor thought “was so covenantally committed” was a good (or, perhaps, better) substitution for “loved” when it came to the “Gospel in a nutshell”.

    And then a “Distinguished Professor of New Testament” at Denver Seminary tells us that “all those and only those who follow Jesus” go to Heaven, which can only prompt the response, “Am I following Jesus enough to qualify?” Which makes it all about me and what I do.

    I don’t even know what Dallas Theological Seminary Professor of New Testament Studies Bock is talking about. “Reestablishing his rule through Jesus Christ”?

    Indeed, it seems the seminary professors are the ones whose submissions were most lacking.

    As for you, Zack Eswine, Senior Pastor of Riverside Church, “Apprenticing with Jesus to become human again”?! Oof. So the Bible is about what I do, and Jesus came to teach me that? Once I get it right, I become human … again? What?

  • SKPeterson

    You just need to be a better covenantal apprentice, tODD, so you can follow the rules to becoming a better hoomin. Like that Jesus fella.

  • SKPeterson

    You just need to be a better covenantal apprentice, tODD, so you can follow the rules to becoming a better hoomin. Like that Jesus fella.

  • http://www.tschopp.net Ted Tschopp

    The saying is trustworth and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I the the formost.

  • http://www.tschopp.net Ted Tschopp

    The saying is trustworth and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I the the formost.

  • Dust

    am going to say this in very dramatic blog fashion…..

    they. are. all. bad. bad. bad.

    In my mind, the briefest one could possibly get would be to take the Apostles Creed and remove all the periods and replace them with commas, semi-colons, a few “ands” etc. and make it one sentence :)

    And. that. doesn’t. really. cover.the. other. 99.99%!

  • Dust

    am going to say this in very dramatic blog fashion…..

    they. are. all. bad. bad. bad.

    In my mind, the briefest one could possibly get would be to take the Apostles Creed and remove all the periods and replace them with commas, semi-colons, a few “ands” etc. and make it one sentence :)

    And. that. doesn’t. really. cover.the. other. 99.99%!

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    “We are declared righteous, for Jesus’ sake.”

    – Martin Luther

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    “We are declared righteous, for Jesus’ sake.”

    – Martin Luther

  • SKPeterson

    Just once I’d like to see one of these guys say something like, “God saves us from space monsters.” Just like in Signs which I saw the other day.

  • SKPeterson

    Just once I’d like to see one of these guys say something like, “God saves us from space monsters.” Just like in Signs which I saw the other day.

  • http://drhambrick.com Paul

    Man messed up, died, cursed all of creation, and God fixed it through Christ.

  • http://drhambrick.com Paul

    Man messed up, died, cursed all of creation, and God fixed it through Christ.

  • Pete

    Sentence, schmentence. How about this one:

    Justification

    (But, as with tODD’s second-shortest entry – a bit of unpacking necessary.)

  • Pete

    Sentence, schmentence. How about this one:

    Justification

    (But, as with tODD’s second-shortest entry – a bit of unpacking necessary.)

  • Trey

    This is a tough one since it is very nuanced. For instance, if we say Justification (sorry Pete for picking your post), we must ask from what?

    I would submit:
    Rebels declared as saints because God took on the punishment due to their rebellion.

  • Trey

    This is a tough one since it is very nuanced. For instance, if we say Justification (sorry Pete for picking your post), we must ask from what?

    I would submit:
    Rebels declared as saints because God took on the punishment due to their rebellion.

  • T.C.

    Here is my attempt:

    “The Bible is the story of the creation, fall, and redemption of mankind by his Creator.”

  • T.C.

    Here is my attempt:

    “The Bible is the story of the creation, fall, and redemption of mankind by his Creator.”

  • http://www.newreformationpress.com Patrick Kyle

    Taken from ‘Bible in an Hour’ “The bible is the story of one man (Abraham) and his family, and how God kept His promises to both that man and his descendants.”
    I know, it doesn’t sound right, but once you hear Pastor Butler’s explanation, there is no denying it. Pr. Butler was an English major in college and analyzed the Bible as though it was a novel, following the major plot lines through the entire thing.

  • http://www.newreformationpress.com Patrick Kyle

    Taken from ‘Bible in an Hour’ “The bible is the story of one man (Abraham) and his family, and how God kept His promises to both that man and his descendants.”
    I know, it doesn’t sound right, but once you hear Pastor Butler’s explanation, there is no denying it. Pr. Butler was an English major in college and analyzed the Bible as though it was a novel, following the major plot lines through the entire thing.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    The Law came through Moses , but grace and truth through Jesus Christ

    In former times God spoke through the prophets, but now in these latter days he has spoken to us by his Son.

    I have resolved to know only Christ, and him crucified

    In Him is the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form.

    No man can come to the father except through me.

    Who for us men and for our salvation was incarnate by the HS and was made man.

    Immanuel.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    The Law came through Moses , but grace and truth through Jesus Christ

    In former times God spoke through the prophets, but now in these latter days he has spoken to us by his Son.

    I have resolved to know only Christ, and him crucified

    In Him is the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form.

    No man can come to the father except through me.

    Who for us men and for our salvation was incarnate by the HS and was made man.

    Immanuel.

  • Carol-Christian Soldier

    Full Armor-Is 59-when the Creator put it on-
    Eph 6 – the Creator gave it to us to put on-
    Lk 19- with a Command-’OCCUPY til I come….”
    C-CS

  • Carol-Christian Soldier

    Full Armor-Is 59-when the Creator put it on-
    Eph 6 – the Creator gave it to us to put on-
    Lk 19- with a Command-’OCCUPY til I come….”
    C-CS

  • collie

    hmmm, Frank – I think you’ve won the prize for “The Bible in One Word”

    Immanuel

    Good one!

    Actually, it’s a bunch of Hebrew words mashed together, right? But I love it.

  • collie

    hmmm, Frank – I think you’ve won the prize for “The Bible in One Word”

    Immanuel

    Good one!

    Actually, it’s a bunch of Hebrew words mashed together, right? But I love it.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    collie @34
    ;)

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    collie @34
    ;)

  • Susan

    What’s the Bible all about?

    Who got buried, then got out?

    All for us sinners, no less…

  • Susan

    What’s the Bible all about?

    Who got buried, then got out?

    All for us sinners, no less…

  • David Palmer

    OK, here’s one from a Presbyterian, who in other circumstances might have been a Lutheran:

    The triune God chose a people for Himself through redemption in Christ that they might live to the praise of His glory

  • David Palmer

    OK, here’s one from a Presbyterian, who in other circumstances might have been a Lutheran:

    The triune God chose a people for Himself through redemption in Christ that they might live to the praise of His glory

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    david palmer @ 37

    hey are you the david palmer of south dakota fame?

    welcome!

    “that they might live to the praise of his glory” does sound calvinistic. calvin says that the telos of the gospel is reconformity to the Law.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    david palmer @ 37

    hey are you the david palmer of south dakota fame?

    welcome!

    “that they might live to the praise of his glory” does sound calvinistic. calvin says that the telos of the gospel is reconformity to the Law.

  • David Palmer

    Hi fws,

    Wow, I do get about.

    How about a Melbournian, is that OK? Think south and then some more.

    Not so sure about your Calvin quote, but then context is everything.

    Cheers

  • David Palmer

    Hi fws,

    Wow, I do get about.

    How about a Melbournian, is that OK? Think south and then some more.

    Not so sure about your Calvin quote, but then context is everything.

    Cheers

  • David Palmer

    How about,

    The triune God chose a people for Himself from before the foundation of the world through redemption in Christ that they might live to the praise of His glory.

    even better, don’t you think?

  • David Palmer

    How about,

    The triune God chose a people for Himself from before the foundation of the world through redemption in Christ that they might live to the praise of His glory.

    even better, don’t you think?

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    david @ 40

    how would you unpack “live to the praise of his glory ” david?

    again welcome. even if you are not that other poseur from south dakota.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    david @ 40

    how would you unpack “live to the praise of his glory ” david?

    again welcome. even if you are not that other poseur from south dakota.

  • David Palmer

    Good Morning/Evening fws,
    I may not be able to post after this as I will be on the road the next few days.
    I note Dr Veith saying, in relation to evangelicals, how they emphasize not the Gospel (evangel), but the Law, putting the focus on our being or becoming.
    I think the object of living to the praise of His glory is reminding us that our end is His glory not our satisfaction, though I hasten to add it is a satisfying thing in aiming to glorify the Lord in all we think, say and do*.
    I’m a little uncomfortable putting too much separation between Law and Gospel. The Gospel (Christ’s atoning substitutionary death and His perfect righteousness imputed to His children) we love and is the basis of our acceptance with God, but the Law still retains a place in reminding the believer how we should seek to live in ways that please and glorify God.
    How’s that?
    * allowing of course for the human sinfulness that is always blowing us off course – which is why every day (Mark 1:15) is a fresh day for repenting and believing.

  • David Palmer

    Good Morning/Evening fws,
    I may not be able to post after this as I will be on the road the next few days.
    I note Dr Veith saying, in relation to evangelicals, how they emphasize not the Gospel (evangel), but the Law, putting the focus on our being or becoming.
    I think the object of living to the praise of His glory is reminding us that our end is His glory not our satisfaction, though I hasten to add it is a satisfying thing in aiming to glorify the Lord in all we think, say and do*.
    I’m a little uncomfortable putting too much separation between Law and Gospel. The Gospel (Christ’s atoning substitutionary death and His perfect righteousness imputed to His children) we love and is the basis of our acceptance with God, but the Law still retains a place in reminding the believer how we should seek to live in ways that please and glorify God.
    How’s that?
    * allowing of course for the human sinfulness that is always blowing us off course – which is why every day (Mark 1:15) is a fresh day for repenting and believing.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    david palmer @ 42

    God demands of all , both pagan and christian, that they have true faith in God and that they love their neighbor as they love their own bodies and selves. the gospel does not change that. becoming a christian does not release a christian from the full curse and obligation of the law according to his old adam. you will die. that is the proof.

    God WILL have love be done on earth. even without the prayer or faith of anyone. Read what Jesus says before teaching the Our Father and the parables for this.

    So if we dont do acts of love for our neighbor willingly, he will send punishment and pestilence to make us to the Law.

    This Fatherly Goodness and Mercy God works through the Law is a result of the gospel in no way. it is not the result of sanctification or becoming a christian. it depends on god and not our faithfulness (luke 18)

    It is the opposite.

    The same undeserved goodness and mercy that makes the rain fall on the just and unjust alike resulted in that good God sending his Son to die for us.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    david palmer @ 42

    God demands of all , both pagan and christian, that they have true faith in God and that they love their neighbor as they love their own bodies and selves. the gospel does not change that. becoming a christian does not release a christian from the full curse and obligation of the law according to his old adam. you will die. that is the proof.

    God WILL have love be done on earth. even without the prayer or faith of anyone. Read what Jesus says before teaching the Our Father and the parables for this.

    So if we dont do acts of love for our neighbor willingly, he will send punishment and pestilence to make us to the Law.

    This Fatherly Goodness and Mercy God works through the Law is a result of the gospel in no way. it is not the result of sanctification or becoming a christian. it depends on god and not our faithfulness (luke 18)

    It is the opposite.

    The same undeserved goodness and mercy that makes the rain fall on the just and unjust alike resulted in that good God sending his Son to die for us.


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