Guest post by Reaching & Teaching staff member, Jon Deedrick
Is theology necessary to your life as a Christian? Beyond that, is teaching, understanding, and loving theology a vital component of the mission that Christ gave each one of us – to go into all the world and make disciples?
At its most basic level, theology is simply defined from its etymology: a study of God. But, in order to answer my question above, we have go deeper than that. If we stop at the etymological definition, we’re in danger of giving an entirely wrong impression of the importance of good theology. You see, God is not a subject to be sterilely analyzed, like some sort of cosmic lab rat. Nor do we study God to learn facts about him, as if life is a big game of theological Jeopardy and the one who knows the most facts wins. No, we study God to know him personally, to love him personally, and to obey him personally.
Because he is the Lord, Creator of heaven and earth and the Redeemer of his people, God is worthy of our highest worship. God’s Word broadcasts his matchless character and mighty deeds, and so our worship must be be informed by the knowledge of God as he has revealed himself to us. We study God in his Word so that we might better glorify him with our lives.
Therefore, a proper definition of theology connects the knowledge of God in the Scripture to its application in our lives. John Frame’s definition of theology is brief, but helpful:
If this is true, any time we study or teach the Scripture in order to apply it, we are doing theology. When we interpret the Bible verse-by-verse, we are doing . When we trace the Biblical story as a history of God’s dealings with us, we are doing . When we summarize what the Bible says about a certain subject (i.e. what the Bible says about redemption), we are doing . When we carefully seek how to communicate God’s Word, we are doing. When we study how others throughout the church’s history have understood the Scripture, we are doing . In other words, whether you realize it or not, each one of us that studies the Bible is doing theology.
Now that we understand what theology is, we’re ready to answer my question. Is teaching, understanding, and loving theology a vital component of the Christian mission?
When King Jesus ascended into heaven, his marching orders for our mission on earth were clear:
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you
The Great Commission clearly includes teaching. We cannot fulfill our mission unless we teach in order to develop mature disciples of Jesus. That is why the Apostle Paul speaks of pastoral ministry being aimed at “the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:13). He exhorts pastors to teach sound (healthy) doctrine because healthy doctrine rightly applied produces healthy churches (1 Tim 1:10; 6:3; Tit 1:9; 2:1). The church cannot maximally glorify God without a sturdy grasp and application of sound doctrine. Any time we teach and apply the doctrine of the Scripture, we are doing theology.
Of course, I’ve tipped off the answer to my question several times. “Yes!” Teaching, understanding, and loving theology is an absolutely necessary component of the Christian mission. Yet, we must embrace what theology actually is. It is not a study of God in the abstract. It is the application of the Bible to every area of our life. That is why theology is vitally, eternally important.
So friend, let’s go into all the world and preach the gospel. Let’s boldly announce that Jesus Christ is the King who has died to pay sin’s price and rose to conquer sin’s curse. Let’s urge sinners to repent of their rebellion and invite them to trust in Christ. But let’s also be about the business of teaching, understanding, and loving theology in order to make mature disciples of Jesus Christ.
If you find yourself neglecting theology, you might soon find yourself neglecting your mission from the King.