In essentials unity…

Mark 2 – Biblical Theology – Part 3

This is a continuation of the discussion about the importance of Biblical Theology…

The Definition of Biblical Theology

I think that the definition of Biblical Theology found at the 9Marks web-site is helpful…

“Biblical theology is sound doctrine; it is right thoughts about God; it is belief that accords with Scripture.” (9marks.com)

Typically, Biblical Theology is understood in two ways…Sound Doctrine as well as a way we interpret the Bible.  Let me explain.  When we talk about biblical theology as sound doctrine we simply mean what the average person would think that it means, i.e. theology that is biblical, or theology that accurately reflects what God has revealed of himself in his Word.   This kind of biblical theology is simply always looking to know God more.  Sadly, however, many church leaders are often tempted to teach, or pressure their teaching pastor to teach, what is popular, what won’t offend, and what people’s “itching ears want to hear.”

The second way biblical theology is used is to describe A Specific Way of Interpreting the Bible. It describes a “hermeneutical discipline” (or way of interpreting the Bible) that attempts to trace the Bible’s one main storyline through all of the Bible’s different books and genres. Biblical theology in this sense looks at how certain themes develop throughout all of Scripture, “how the Old and New Testaments relate to each other, and how all of Scripture, in one way or another, points to the saving work of Jesus Christ.” (Thabiti Anyabwile, pg. 28)

Therefore, Biblical Theology is an attitude, commitment and conviction that the Bible has been given to us by God so that we can do two things:

  • Know God
  • Know God’s macro story as it is unfolded in the pages of His Word.

So, the question is…

Who is God?  What is He like?  How has He described or revealed Himself to us?

“Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? You stretched out your right hand; the earth swallowed them. ” (Exodus 15:11–12, ESV)

  • These we call “His Attributes”…

There are a number of ways to categorize His attributes, but I find the best way is to distinguish between what are called his “communicable” or “incommunicable” attributes.

  • Communicable attributes refer to characteristics of God that he shares with us in some measure, since we are made in his image—things like knowledge, wisdom, love, and mercy—in fact, the things Paul actually mentions in this doxology in Romans. God is infinitely above us in these things, of course, but we somewhat understand what they are since we share in them on a much lower level.
  • The incommunicable attributes are characteristics of God that he does not share with us, indeed, cannot share, since they are uniquely a part of what it means for God to be God. They involve such things as self-existence, self-sufficiency, and eternality. (Boice, J. M. (1991-). Romans (1413). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House.)

So, the next question is…

How is God revealed throughout the pages of Scripture?

God is revealed through the pages of Scripture and we are blessed to gain a greater understanding of his attributes, but by His grace, we are given more.   As Mark Dever says,

“It is one thing to look at a resume; it is another thing to actually work with that person.” (Dever, 9Marks, pg. 61)

In that sense God’s attributes would be his resume.  However, we also have God on display through the pages of Scripture, in particular, the narratives, revealing to us how this unique, holy and just God relates to the people of His creation.  So, as we read the Word of God we see a variety of themes laced through the pages of His word, i.e. the fact that he is a creating, holy, faithful, loving and sovereign God, just to name a few.

This  now all brings us to the next question… “What are the implications or applications that Biblical Theology requires?”

The Implications of Biblical Theology

1. The fact that Theology Matters to God

Theology matters to God.  It is through theology that we truly find unity.  Or to say it properly, “Theology is the basis of our unity” because it describes “What we believe about Who God is, what He says and what He expects of us.”

Some may say, “Doctrine only divides us” as if Doctrine were a dirty word, but that is to misunderstand where unity really comes from.  It is true that doctrine divides us because doctrine defines key biblical truths.

Also, others often catch the contemporary spirit by saying, “Don’t we just all believe essentially the same thing?”  Well, Biblical Theology exposes that statement to be completely false.  If we neglect Doctrine we will likely be tempted to embrace such a slogan. But if we take it seriously we will have no option than to agree with scripture that God speaks clearly and wants us to know His will.  Albert Mohler says,

“Those who sow disdain and disinterest in biblical doctrine will reap a harvest of rootless and fruitless Christians.  Doctrine is not a challenge to experiential religion; it testifies to the content of that experience.  The church is charged to call persons to Christ and to root them in a mature knowledge of Christian faith.”

Here are some important questions that Mark Dever poses that will have radical effect on how we do ministry or live our lives:

  • Are people basically bad or good?  Do they merely need encouragement and enhanced self-esteem, or do they need forgiveness and new life?
  • What did Jesus Christ do by dying on the cross?  Did He make possible an option, or was He our substitute?
  • What happens when someone becomes a Christian?
  • If we are Christians can we be sure that God will continue to care for us?  If so, is His continual care based on our faithfulness, or on His.

The answers to these questions will fashion and shape how we do ministry.  Our answers must flow from a healthy approach to God’s Word and a theology that is truly rooted in understanding the nature of God.

2. Theology Matters Based on Essentials or Priorities

We have heard it before, but it is worth noting again…

“If we were to lay out everything that constitutes sound teaching, we would reproduce the whole Bible.  But in practice, every church decides the mattes in which there needs to be complete agreement, can be limited disagreement, and can be complete liberty.” (Dever, 9Marks Booklet, pg. 18)

The point is that not all the teachings of Scripture rise to the level of similar importance and where there is some reasonable difference we must not be dogmatic.  That’s why the old maxim of the church is helpful…

 “In essentials unity, in non-essentials diversity, in all things charity.”

3. Theology Matters For A Church or Individual to be Healthy

According to Wayne Grudem practicing Biblical Theology…

  • Helps us grow in our reverence for God.
  • Helps us to overcome our wrong ideas.
  • Helps inoculate the church against doctrinal controversies.
  • Is necessary to fulfill the great commission.
  • Deepens our understanding of and facility with the Gospel.

Let me encourage you to take the growth of your biblical theology seriously.  Remember, we are all theologians.  The question is going to be, are we sound theologians, foggy theologians or ignorant theologians?

It is your decision!

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