A tear runs down the cheek of your friend as they tell you their
teenager is rebelling and they’ve tried all they can but nothing is
working. A family member has lost their job but the mortgage payments
keep coming, and they tell you they are considering giving “in faith” to
that TV evangelist who promises they’ll receive back their gift a
hundred-fold. A co-worker confides in you that they are struggling with
depression and have considered suicide. What do you say in each of these
situations?

How we respond to life’s difficulties is determined by our theology.
Your view of God, or lack thereof, will dictate how you see the world
and your actions or advice to others. Far from being impractical and
irrelevant, our theological worldview impacts our daily decisions.

In the last post, we asked the question, “What are the defining marks of a healthy church?” We began looking at Mark Dever’s 9 Marks of a Healthy Church
in which he highlights certain defining marks that are seldom
emphasized today. The first mark we considered was expository preaching,
and today we’ll look at another mark of a healthy church: biblical
theology.

Biblical Theology

What is biblical theology? Biblical theology not only means that our
theology comes from the sound teaching of Scripture, but it also, as
Michael Lawrence says, “is about reading the Bible, not as if it’s
sixty-six separate books, but a single book with a single plot–God’s
glory displayed through Jesus Christ. Biblical theology is therefore
about discovering the unity of the Bible in the midst of its diversity.
It’s about understanding what we might call the Bible’s metanarrative.”

Paul instructs his pastoral protege Titus to “teach what is in accord
with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). All believers should strive to grow
in their knowledge and understanding of God. Scripture teaches us that
sound doctrine:

  • opposes ungodliness and sin (1 Tim. 1:10-11)
  • opposes false doctrine (1 Tim. 6:3)
  • is patterned by Paul (2 Tim. 1:13)
  • will be rejected by those who just want itching ears satisfied (2 Tim. 4:3).

Why Does It Matter?

If you’ve ever spoken to a widow who can’t understand why her husband
died from disease even though Scripture says “by his wounds we are
healed,” then you know the powerful effect of false belief. Not only
does she have to deal with the death of her husband, but now she carries
the guilt that maybe her husband died because she “didn’t have enough
faith.”

This is where biblical theology is necessary. We can easily pull a
verse of Scripture out of context and make it say what we want, but a
healthy biblical theology that understands the metanarrative of
Scripture provides a context for all of Scripture. To understand what
Isaiah 53 means when it says “by his wounds we are healed,” one must
understand it in the context of the whole chapter. That whole chapter
must be understood in the context of the whole book of Isaiah, which
must be understood in the context of the Old Covenant and how it applies
under the New Covenant. When understood in light of the whole story of
Scripture, we see that Isaiah 53 is a prophecy about Christ who would be
wounded, not primarily for our physical healing, but for our spiritual
healing. A fuller understanding of biblical theology will show that God
certainly is able to miraculously heal, but there are many times he
doesn’t. “Claiming” a promise that God never made is very dangerous.

I pray that this gives just a glimpse of how false teaching and
taking verses out of context impacts people’s everyday life. Many have
waited for God to do something he never promised to do, and have ended
up bitter, joyless, and angry at God. The more the members of a church
are trained and equipped with sound biblical theology, the healthier the
church will be and the more powerful her witness will be to her
community. As Dever states, “We will ‘do church’ differently, depending
on how we understand God and ourselves” (66).

Ultimately, however, our desire to learn theology stems from, and enhances, our love for God. As Lloyd-Jones said:

The doctrines of the Bible are not a subject to be
studied; rather we should desire to know them in order that, having
known them, we may not be ‘puffed up’ with knowledge, and excited about
our information, but may draw nearer to God in worship, praise, and
adoration, because we have seen, in a fuller way…the glory of our
wondrous God.

Why wouldn’t we want to know more about our great God? Why wouldn’t we want to worship him in Spirit and in truth? Our theology drives our methods and everyday decisions, but, most importantly, it drives our worship!

If you’re interested in an introduction to biblical theology, check out Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church or God’s Big Picture. If you’re willing to take on a longer book, check out The King In His Beauty.

Sources:
9 Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever
Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church by Michael Lawrence