They appear to stand opposed, at opposite sides, bearing swords ready to fight: theology and good deeds. Some will argue theology only separates, so we only need to love others more. Some will argue theology is necessary and more important than good deeds.
I’ve stood at both ends of the spectrum. I was the girl who wanted to move overseas, give up everything, and become a missionary to the lost. Though I had a passion for mission work, I had a twisted view of the gospel—which made me one of the lost to be reached. Once I became a believer and gained a proper view of grace, I secluded myself to my desk studying theology and devoted hours to my Bible and sermons—at the neglect of serving the God I claimed to now worship.
Friend, I have learned it is not a question of, “Is theology or good deeds more important?”, but rather, “Are you cultivating both?”
Theology Without Love Is Useless
“If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:2
Theology without love profits nothing. You could have the entire Bible memorized, know the Greek and Hebrew, know all of the creeds and be able to articulate the doctrines of grace flawlessly, but if you do not use that theology to glorify God, it is useless. As believers, we were not saved to solely fill our brains with biblical knowledge. That’s not our purpose. Our purpose is to glorify God.
The question is not simply if you are theologically well-versed, but how are you using that theology? Does your theology lead you to love others better? Does your theology lead you to serve God whole-heartedly? Does your theology shape your daily life? If your theology has not changed your heart, your theology is useless.
In Colossians 1:9-12, Paul prays for the believers that their knowledge would lead them to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord. He didn’t want their knowledge to be the stopping point of their faith but to be what pushes them forward in obedience.
Deeds Without Theology Lead to Weak Faith
Loving others and doing good isn’t much better if it doesn’t have solid theology attached to it. Looking back to Colossians 1:9-12, we see our knowledge is what fuels our obedience to God. We need theology to serve God and love others.
Without theology, who are you serving? Do you know Who you worship? Do you know why you worship? Are you serving the one true God, or are you serving a false god you have created? Theology keeps our service and worship directed at the true God. Theology protects us from leading others to worship a false god.
Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as, “The assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Theology is what creates this faith. In the beginning, emotions and passion may fuel you for a while as you strive to serve God, but what happens when that burns out? What happens when the promised suffering captures you? How will you stand strong? Your theology reminds you of the things hoped for; your theology burns the conviction of what you can’t see into your heart.
In order to serve God well, point others back to Him, and stand strong in our faith, we need solid theology.
The Gospel: Both Theology and Action
It’s no different with the gospel. When you first heard the gospel call, it wasn’t solely a theology to accept or an action to take. It was both. You were first called to recognized your total depravity—that you are a sinful human being who hated God and could do nothing to save yourself. You then had to hear and believe the gospel message—Christ died, bearing the wrath of God you deserved for your sins, and He rose again from the dead so you could do the same.
But it wasn’t the belief in this theology alone that saved you. God still called you to confess and turn from your sins, which you were only able to do by His grace. Romans 10:9-10 says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”
From there the believer is called to a life of obedience to God, pursuing Christ-likeness. Though this does not save us, we do this because of our new love for God. Though a believer is not saved by their good deeds, it is these good deeds that prove them to be a true follower of Christ. As Jesus said to his disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
Theology and Deeds Cultivate a Whole Woman of God
It’s not theology or good deeds alone that make a woman of faith whole. It’s when she has both. It’s when her heart is so captivated with the God, she has learned about that she must run to tell the world about Him. It’s when her passionate desire to love and serve others leads her to tell them about the false doctrine, they are stuck in. It’s when her understanding of salvation and God’s grace compels her to go out into the hostile world and preach Christ. This is a whole woman of God.
We can easily get caught up in one extreme or the other. We can get stuck in our rooms with our noses in books, only ever studying God’s word and never actually living out. We can also get stuck in a lifestyle of running and striving to serve without a true knowledge of who we are serving. We must protect ourselves against both extremes and seek to be a whole woman of God who loves both theology and good deeds.
We need a theology that presses us forward in obedience and passion to serve that always drives us back to the Word. We need both ladies. It’s not a question of which is better, but rather which we are lacking.