What do you think of systematic theology?
We started a course last week at the Northern Plains Biblical Seminary—Bible School in Systematic Theology. This course is avoided by many people because it seems too “heady” to many people. We have a discussion forum as part of the class. For the first discussion, I asked the question:
Systematic theology seems like such a boring topic and besides that, it draws us into pure intellectualism. Why should I be concerned about studying this topic? One student provided a very insightful response.
Paul makes many references to his protégé Timothy regarding the study of Scripture and doctrine in the pastoral epistles of 1 and 2 Timothy. Paul instructs Timothy, a pastor/teacher at the church in Ephesus, to be diligent in his preaching and teaching of doctrine, and warned him especially about those teaching false doctrines. There have always been false teachers throughout history who obscure God’s truth. An example is the current health and wealth prosperity taught today by many prominent television “evangelists.” Believers who are thoroughly indoctrinated with the Bible will be able to be effective Christian workers and staunch defenders of the faith. The study of systematic theology will not have a deadening effect upon the spiritual life; it will, instead, be the guide to intelligent thinking and act as an impetus to holy living which will glorify God.
The study of Biblical doctrine should not be avoided; rather, it must be our fuel so that we can expose false teaching, but also have it as a guide for Godly living. The only reason we can study the Bible and directly apply it to our lives is that the Bible is true. The Bible is the word of God given to us so that we can know Him and make Him known. The Bible reveals to us the nature of God…at least as much as He wants us to know.
The only way we can know God is by studying His word. This week, Pastor Terry’s living lesson from his message was, “God has repeatedly called us in His Word to live our lives in submission to the will and the leading of the Holy Spirit. If we do, He will lovingly “fill” us with His characteristics and produce in our lives the traits and behaviors that characterize Him. Thank you Lord for Your wonderful presence and ministry in my life. May I always honor You and please You!” We cannot live Spirit-filled lives without knowing was God expects from us and we can learn that only by studying His Word to us.
The Bible is the Word of God
Both Testaments reveal to us that the revelation we have from God, the Bible, is the Word of God. From the Old Testament we learn at least five characteristics of the Word.
- The Word of God is holy: Moses is requiring the nation of Israel to take seriously the words commanded by God. They are to be taught throughout the generations and lived by because they are His testimony and statutes (Deut 6:6-18).
- The Word of God is good: The Book of the Law should be meditated on because it is the very command of God. They were to do according to all that is written in it. This raises the commands to such a level that only God could have made such commands (Joshua 1:8).
- The Word of God is proven: The new nation had been through enough to know that His way is perfect and He is a shield to those who trust in Him (2 Samuel 22:31).
- The Word of God is pure: The Lord’s words are pure. These words are recorded in the Bible. No true purity exists outside the bounds of God (Psalms 12:6).
- The Word of God is powerful: The word of the Lord emanates from God and it will accomplish that for which it was intended (Isaiah 55:10-11).
From the New Testament we learn at least another five characteristics of God’s Word.
- The Word of God is faithful: Faith comes from hearing. But to what should we listen? Only the Word of God as recorded in the Bible (Romans 10:17).
- The Word of God is edifying: Only the Word of Christ can really bring us to God. Only through the word of God as recorded in the Bible do we receive wisdom and instruction. Only through that Word can we admonish one another (Colossians 3:16).
- The Word of God is profitable: All scripture is God-breathed—it is inspired by God. This is the only Word that can be used for sound doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteous. Only through the Word of God can the man of God become prepared for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
- The Word of God is inspiring: No prophecy of scripture ever came from the will of man but it came from holy men of God that wrote while being moved by the Holy Spirit. Thus, they recorded the very words God wanted to communicate to His people to bring them the message He wanted them to hear (2 Peter 1:21).
- The Word of God is everlasting: At least concerning The Revelation, the very words of God are so important that, once recorded, God commanded that no one should tamper with the words He gave to man (Revelation 22:18). The result of any such tampering with the Word carried the most severe penalty, i.e. “God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:19).
Live according to the truth of God’s Word
When we look at a city from a distance, we see the beauty of human creation. As we get closer to the city, we begin to see the ragged edge of the human creation. As we take closer and closer looks, we begin to see the flaws associated with the very materials used in our creation.
God’s creation is not this way. When we look at a living organism, we see the perfection of creation. The closer and closer we observe God’s creation, the more perfectly it appears. I was always amazed (during my first years of training to be a research biologist) that organisms were interesting to look at as they appeared in nature. But, when I looked at cells under a light-microscope, I was even more amazed at the perfection of God’s creation. And then to look at them under an electron microscope, the perfection was even more evident.
That’s the way it is with the God works. The closer and closer we look at His creation, the more perfect it becomes. This is the same as with the Bible. The closer we look at the Bible, the more perfect we see that it is.
The more we look and study, the more we see and learn. No human can grasp the totality of the word of God. As Chafer states, “In extent of its revelation, biblical truth goes far beyond human discovery, reaching as it does from eternity past to eternity future and revealing facts which only God could know. No other book in all the world even attempts to present comprehensive truth as the Bible does.”
We can use the Bible as the basis for our lives. We can do this because the Bible is infallible and inerrant. Using the term ‘infallible’ as a characteristic of the scriptures is to say the scripture is declared unfailingly accurate in the original languages. Scripture is also inerrant, meaning the Bible, as recorded in the original writings, does not contain any error as a statement of fact. The Scripture, however, may contain false statements truly made by men; yet, the Scriptures are inerrant in that the men did make those false statements.
The Bible is the true Word of God to us, His creation. For that reason, we can…we must…base our lives on His revelation to us.
The main message of the Bible
The Bible’s supreme purpose is to give glory to God. The Bible reveals that:
- All things were created for Him and through Him for the glory of God (Colossians 1:16).
- The nation of Israel is for the glory of God (Jeremiah 13:11). Though Israel has failed, they were created ‘that they may become My people, for renown, for praise, and for glory.’
- Salvation is for the glory of God (Romans 9:23).
- All service is for the glory of God (Matthew 5:16; John 15:8).
- The Christian’s passion should be targeted for the glory of God (Romans 5:2).
- The believer’s death should be for the glory of God (Philippians 1:20).
- Those saved by faith in Christ will share in the glory of Christ (John 17:22; Colossians 3:4).
Sound doctrine is necessary
As we have seen, the Bible is the true revelation of God to us, His people. The purpose of the Bible is to reveal to us the Person of God and His work on Earth. We can know this only through what is written in the Bible. We can understand what God has said only by properly studying and interpreting the Bible. The outcome of learning sound doctrine is not our own edification; rather, we study and learn the Bible so that God is glorified.
How are you doing? Are you growing in your knowledge and understanding of God’s word. Paul’s prayer to the Philippians was that “your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment.” From where does discernment emanate? From the Word of God.
What is the most important component of your life? For Paul it was becoming righteous in the sight of God. This was done by knowing Jesus:
But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7–11)
The righteousness that Paul sought can only come through knowing and understanding the Bible.
Are you committed to maturing in your Christian faith by knowing the Word of God?
Only then will you be able to fully glorify God.