Perusal* – August 2009, The Importance of Biblical Theology

(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail)

Titus 2:1 But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine:

I read an interesting statement last week – “Whether devout or agnostic, we are all theologians.” Recently a person mentioned that they didn’t like to listen to sermons that describe the meaning of certain words in the scriptures. How boring! Certainly the needs in our day are greater than dead words on a page. Excite us to do something, cause us to get involved, break it down into 3 easy steps or 5 basic principles. Better yet, make it into a movie. A friend of mine was fond of saying, “excuse me while my eye glaze over.” All this focus on theology causes my head to hurt.

But are we all theologians? And can we know the triune God experientially or do we as sinners need for Him to reveal to us His nature? Is there a characteristic of God that cloaks His attributes and infinite characteristics from our easily deceived souls? Are the very words of scripture important? We should answer with a thundering “Yes”! For the words of scripture, the doctrine, is what God uses to convict sinners of their sins, convince them of their need for a Savior, and save them in the character and person of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Biblical theology is important for the very reason that a good, fundamental grasp of the nature of God, man, sin, the church, our Christian responsibilities and the like serve to develop mature disciples. And establishing and growing mature disciples fulfills the prime directive of the Great Commission.

So, what is biblical theology? It is best described as a comprehensive understanding of the historical time line of the Bible. Notice I did not say systematic theology, which is concerned with exegesis of unique doctrines and their logical progression in scripture. But I did say “comprehensive” because the main theological precepts (doctrines) in the Bible are discernible. Paul instructed every church and two pastoral disciples, Titus and Timothy, to speak or pronounce (preach) those things. Our Lord stated that all authority was given to Him in this world and for the church, His body, to make disciples from His doctrine. Teaching these amazing truths should cause believers to wonder at God’s amazing grace, and sinners to tremble at the prospect of not falling at His feet in repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ.

God’s word is given to us to bring us to His Son. There are no doctrines in scripture that are meant to bring harm to the church. Preaching expositionally forces the pastor to systematically exegete the theology of particularly hard sayings such as divine sovereignty and election. It causes the church to see God as He is in His revealed word and question such statements as “we are all theologians.” One of the very purposes of biblical theology is to avoid removal of those scriptures that are sometimes intentionally offensive so that God’s people and lost sinners, may see distinct lines of demarcation between the theologies of the world and the theology of His church.

Gal. 1:6 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.

Does the method of preaching and teaching in a church obscure or reveal the true character of God and His glory? Is the simple gospel effectively communicated? Martin Luther said that if we preach everything but that one point of doctrine which in our time and culture is unpopular, we flee from the very battle we are called to fight. Paul taught the church “sound” or healthy and accurate adherence to the doctrines of the Bible, being faithful to its message even when others are abandoning the texts as too controversial and substituting all manner of church growth techniques on the altar of pragmatism. What Paul meant was for pastors to believe, obey, and preach all the counsel of God in such a way that it is accurate, reliable and faithful.

What are the benefits to the church? If we want to live lives that please God in every way, then we must know something of who God is, what He desires from us, how he wants us to walk before Him, and the traits in His character that He delights to see reproduced in us. Biblical theology therefore functions in the local church to inform pastor and believing member alike of how we can please God in our behavior. It demonstrates to us His character and ways noticeably written in the wounds suffered by the Lord Jesus Christ on Calvary’s hill as He redeemed to Himself a peculiar people.

Preaching and teaching biblical theology while expounding scripture expositionally is in practice at Flat Creek. Our Sunday School classes, Lord's Day worship, Sunday evening and Wednesday bible studies are focused on mining the Bible for the nuggets of truth that exalt and glorify the Lord of all – Jesus Christ! 

Sola Deo Gloria!

Pastor Carey