In the first part of this series, I defined what biblical theology is and explored how it matters for the life of the local church. In this second part, I will look at biblical theology in the life of a Christian and how good biblical theology helps guard the Gospel.
Because the Christian life should be a “churched” life, I started with the importance of biblical theology in the life of the Church overall. But knowing what biblical theology is and having a good biblical theology for yourself is critical in the life of a Christian for two main reasons.
First, it helps you read your Bible better. This brings us back to David — how do we know that the story of David and Goliath isn’t meant to be interpreted as an example of any random Christian tackling some big problem?
When you read the story of David and Goliath with a good grasp on the entire story of the Bible, you see key themes emerge that point to how the story is really about God providing salvation for His people through an unlikely Savior who defeats God’s enemies. And who does that sound like? That’s right — Jesus. The point of David and Goliath is that God gets the glory for Himself through saving His people from their enemies through means entirely of His choosing, even means that don’t look like the right way on first glance — like a bloody cross and a crucified King.
Second, good biblical theology helps individual Christians from being led away by false teachings and bad interpretations of the Bible. For example, when progressives defend LGBT positions, they often argue things like, “Jesus never said anything about homosexuality.” That statement betrays their embrace of some pretty bad biblical theology. Remember, all of Scripture is “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16). Everything that the Bible says, Jesus says — even if it’s not in red letters.
This means that when Paul calls homosexual relations “unnatural lusts” in Romans 1:26 or Peter references the judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah and how Lot was distressed by the “filthy deeds of lawless men” in 2 Peter 2:6-7, it carries the same authority as any of the parables or teachings of Jesus.
Biblical theology also takes us back to the account of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19, where we learn that these “filthy deeds” included the desire of the men of the cities to sleep with the visiting angels, who were appearing as men. Another critical reference to homosexuality as a sin is found in 1 Corinthians 6:9, which makes it clear that those who do not repent of this sin won’t inherit the Kingdom of God.
Putting all of this together, we see that a biblical theology that reveals a proper continuity in God’s moral standards — as revealed from the creation order in Genesis 1, reaffirmed in the negative sense in Genesis 19, and repeated in 1 Corinthians 6 and 2 Peter 2 — will not make space within a church to excuse or minimize homosexual attraction or sin.
Yet this is exactly what the Revoice Conference, led by Nate Collins, is attempting to do. A disagreement on this interpretive issue has led to great division within the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA) and other denominations.
Finally, biblical theology is important because it guards sound doctrine and ultimately the Gospel itself.
I would suggest that the first step in the faithful continuation of sound biblical teaching is found in the humble and grateful acknowledgment that God has so divinely decreed that His people would have this particular record of His acts throughout history — the Bible — but no more and no less. We may often be stumped by the Bible, what it includes, or what it leaves out that we wish was in there. But God is not in Heaven wishing He had “just gotten one more sentence into 2 Corinthians before He had to print it,” as I may or may not feel about this paper.
As Goldsworthy puts it, “Biblical history is theological history,” and that means that while the Bible is certainly not an exhaustive account of God’s actions throughout history, it is, in the purest sense, a complete account. It is sufficient. It contains everything the Church needs for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).
Therefore, by accepting the Bible as sufficient, the Church must then live within the doctrinal bounds of what is found in Scripture. Pastors and theologians are not called to the task of innovation but rather preservation. They are not called to create, but rather conserve. Preservation of all sound teaching, yes, but primarily the preservation of the Gospel, which, as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:3, is of “first importance.” And the Gospel message, the salvation that God has wrought for sinful man through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, can only be rightly understood, and proclaimed, within a context of biblical theology that flows to, through, and from Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
I wonder if there is a historical conversation that you wish you could have heard in full and in person? Perhaps been a fly on the wall when Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt were negotiating the Allied position in Yalta at the end of World War II, as an example?
Well, for me, there is one biblical conversation that would have been incredible to hear firsthand — and it was a conversation, led by Christ, about biblical theology. It was Jesus Himself doing biblical theology before such a discipline was even a twinkle in the eye of a future theologian.
In Luke 24:13-35, we read about a conversation that Jesus has, incognito, with two disciples on the road to Emmaus. These two men were discussing the life, ministry, and death of Jesus. They were saddened by His crucifixion and had heard the news of His resurrection but seemed uncertain about its veracity.
They recount who they hoped Jesus to be — the Messiah — yet finish their recap of the life and death of Jesus (to Jesus) with doubt.
“He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”
Look at verse 27 again: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”
Jesus explained how all of the Scriptures spoke about Him. The Old Testament tells the story of a coming Messiah. And now the New Testament tells us of the Messiah who has come and is coming again — and how we are to repent and live in the meantime.
That is biblical theology, friends. It is understanding how all of the Bible points to and teaches about Christ. And it matters because as Christians, Christ is our life — both now and forever.
Follow William on Twitter! @William_E_Wolfe
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.