Becoming Part of the
of the People of God
by Allan J. McNicol. 2001. 112 pgs.
ISBN: 978-0-9666326-2-0; 0-9666-326-2-1
(also available in Spanish)
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Becoming Part of
Our Story and God's Story
What We Will Study
Chapter 2: God Calls a Special People
The Promises to Abraham
The Nation of Israel
Exile and Hope for Renewal
Chapter 3: Jesus and the Impact of His Mission
Jesus and John the Baptist
Jesus' Mission in Galilee
The Last Days of Jesus' Ministry
The Resurrection: God's Vindication of Jesus
The Rest of the Story
Chapter 4: Entrance into the People of God
The Emergence of the Church
Hearing the Word
Repentance and Confession
The End of it All
Chapter 5: Maintained in Holiness
Living the Life of Faith
At the Assembly
Our Lives Outside the Assembly
The Moral Life
Chapter 6: The Story Until This Day
The Impact of the Coming of Jesus
Persecution and Betrayal of the Faith
Acceptance of the Scriptures
The Rule of Faith
A Different Lifestyle
The Church After the Early Centuries
Churches of Christ Today
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Becoming Part of the Story
When children are young, many parents establish
customs which last for generations. We start with the story of a typical
followed such a practice.
Every year this family would all pile into the
family car and go to the seashore for vacation. The thrill of getting that
of the sea, walking on the beach, collecting shells, or fishing in
a quiet cove became precious in family memories.
Based on this trip, family routines and rituals
emerged. Some time during the second week at the seashore, this family would
wise old gentleman who lived in a small cottage nearby. He was a distant
As they responded to his “Come in!,” they found him sitting
in his favorite rocking chair. Dressed in well-worn slacks and a
gray flannel shirt, barefoot as usual, he impressed them with his
Often they would find him rocking slowly in the
chair, his spectacles dangling lightly near the tip of his nose, a well-used
in his lap. He always reminded them that the Lord was coming back
some day and
that he planned to live until then. Some of his long-time neighbors
seemed to think that he might. His long, flowing, white hair and the
in his eyes left the impression of great wisdom and gentle innocence.
After warm greetings and the exchange of pleasant
words, the family members would coax him into telling stories from his experiences.
Once he began, he could continue all afternoon. And such stories they
Some he told over and over, but there were also new ones.
What an exciting and fulfilling life the old man
had lived! His gift of memory enabled him to recall events from his life
a way that
made them very real to those listening. An entire afternoon passed
knew it. The old man’s stories of joy and sorrow, wealth and poverty,
good and bad, and life and death spoke vividly, especially to the
young. Those listening felt as if they were truly sharing in the
tragedies of an earlier time, as well as finding deeper meaning for
their own lives.
Finding meaning for the present through stories
from the past is similar to what happens in God’s church, the body
The church is a people of memory existing to remind
one another and to tell others of the Story of God’s faithfulness
to His creation. This Story of faithfulness is found in the Bible. It centers
choice, out of all the peoples of the world, of one special people
to follow him. In the beginning, the name of this chosen people was
later, when other people came to learn about God and follow him as
a result of the life of Jesus, they called themselves the church,
the people of
The church can be compared to the torch that is
lit every four years on Mount Olympus in Greece. This torch is carried by
runs with it for a while before handing it off to someone else. This
is repeated until, finally, the last athlete brings the torch to
of the new Olympic games, and it is used to light the Olympic flame.
As this flame is passed on from person to person, so the flame of
the church is passed from generation to generation furthering the
Since Bible times, each generation tells to the next generation the
Story of how God remains faithful to His creation from the past to
It is time for you to receive the torch and to run with it.
This study is simple and direct. It will help you
understand the Story of God’s faithfulness to his people. These lessons
will enable you to carry the torch boldly and to pass it on faithfully
Our Story and God’s Story
Each one of you has your own story. When you are
given the torch and you enter into a more mature and responsible service
his people, your personal story will become part of God’s greater
Story. You will be connected with the plan of God for his people and
of his creation. God has shaped the lives of his people in this way
for centuries and will continue to until the end of time.
The biblical scholar N.T. Wright helps us to see
how our own story blends together with God’s Story for his people.
To illustrate his point, Wright asks us to imagine the following situation:
Suppose a play, thought to have been written by William Shakespeare,
has just been found. Through the years, the pages of the play have become
dull and brittle, yet it is obviously the work of a genius. The play is
in five acts. The first four acts fit together to form a masterpiece of
language and message. But as the fifth act is read, it is discovered that,
except for a few lines at the beginning and end, most of the pages have
been lost. What should be done? Should the play be performed?
After carefully considering the problem, those
in charge decide that the play should be presented. They hire the best actors,
in the performance of Shakespeare. After reading the play carefully
and coming to an understanding of its plot, the actors stage the play.
their skill and experience, the actors are able to improvise the
fifth act, thus bringing the play to a successful end.
According to Wright, this imaginary event demonstrates
how our own stories can intertwine with the ongoing Story of the people
to be his followers in Bible times. Using Wright’s example, we can
say that the first four acts of the Story of the people of God have
already been performed. The record of these four acts is found in
the Bible. We
may identify these as follows:
ACT ONE God, who is both demanding and tender, selects Abraham and
his descendants to bring forth a special people for a special role: to
be a model, or example for imitation, of what is best for the human family.
ACT TWO God brings his people, the Israelites (descendants of Abraham),
out of Egypt and guides them through many years in the desert.
ACT THREE God gives his people a land and makes the descendants of
Abraham (the Israelites) into a mighty nation.
ACT FOUR God allows his beloved people, who have failed to remember
his ways, to be punished by a foreign power (the Babylonians). Many of
them are exiled to Babylon for seventy years. After the punishment is over,
God allows some of his people to return to their homeland (Judah/ Jerusalem)
and rebuild what has formerly been lost. And when the people of God again
fail to turn to him in worship, their merciful Creator does not give up
ACT FIVE The last act of this drama begins with the coming of Jesus
Christ, who renews God’s people by his faithful ministry, his
sacrificial death, and his glorious resurrection. Though Jesus soon
passes from the scene, he promises to return and in Spirit continues
to remain among God’s people. Those of us who pick up the torch
are called to use it responsibly (to improvise through the fifth
act). Therefore, we need to understand how we should live as participants
in God’s great Story.
What We Will Study
The beginning four acts have been played,
setting the stage for the final act of God’s Story. Jesus lived,
died, and rose from the dead. He called disciples to follow him. His
message vividly portrayed in the four gospels shows what God expects
As to the final act, the Bible gives us a
small glimpse of how God’s
Story will be finished. We are told that Jesus will return to his
people and the faithful will live in a renewed creation.
But what do we do in the meantime?
As we wait for God’s Story to come
to its appropriate conclusion, we become like the Shakespearean actors.
people who have studied and learned from the earlier acts of the Story
invited to enter into the drama and contribute to its finish. This
study will give us instructions for our role and our duties in the
In the next chapter of this study, we will
carefully review the first four acts of God’s Story. Put simply,
this is the story of God’s people in the Old Testament. In the
third chapter we will give close attention to the fifth act. We will
are to connect and become involved with the conclusion of the drama
as it unfolds. This is the story of the New Testament.
At the mid-point of the study, we will have
completed the study of the basic outline of the biblical Story. With
hand we will
be ready to enter into the fourth chapter, where we will begin to
understand how our lives of faith and obedience, including what happens
in baptism (God’s work of our entrance into the people of God),
blend into God’s story.
What is baptism? What has it got to do with
Story? Why should I submit to baptism, and why does baptism make a
We will give clear answers to these questions in this chapter.
Other questions, however, will remain. After
we have become part of God’s Story, what do we believe and confess?
What do we have to do and how do we know we are doing well? In the
we will discuss how to live as a baptized believer in the body of
In the final chapter, we will review the
Christian Story since the time of Jesus. This exciting Story will
daily. Our hope is that this study will bring each of you to a deeper
understanding of the Christian faith and to a greater appreciation
of the wonder of God’s Story.
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