Contend Earnestly: A Systematic Theology; Introduction

Monday, April 02, 2007

A Systematic Theology; Introduction

Recently I began a Sunday School class for our church entitled “The Doctrines of the Bible”. We are eight weeks into the study, and it has proven to be a needed reminder, for all of us, of the importance of theology. In light of this, I was encouraged by Seth and our Pastor to make this class available on our blog. My first reaction was that it felt self-serving (even my reaction is an indictment to me). But, as we have grown in our perspective in regards to the ministry that is taking place on the blog, I speak for both Seth and I when I say we are sober minded about allowing this site to be an extension of the ministry in our local church. And, of course, we recognize that any work being accomplished is solely by His grace. For apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5)!

So, here is the format; I will give a distillation of the class while also providing a link to an mp3 of the full session and a copy of the outline in .PDF format (if you need a copy of acrobat reader, you can get it here).

To begin, we need to recognize the importance of doctrine itself. The term has almost become a byword in Christian circles today. “Doctrine divides!” and “we need to be practical!” seem to be the cries of those who are woefully misinformed of the importance of diligently studying the Scriptures. Consider:

Acts 2:42
“They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

1 Peter 2:1-2
“Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation”

Does doctrine divide? Yes! And it should always be proclaimed clearly and constantly to make a strong demarcation between truth and error. (And to assuage those who feel that I would not care about division between true believers, know that unless we disagree on the essentials such as salvation or the person of Christ, we should never be divisive but walk side by side while we let the word teach us who is wrong and where we need to repent.) “We need to read our Bibles!” most would admit, while cringing at the word "doctrine" or "theology". But the disconnect seems to be in the misunderstanding that reading and understanding our Bibles is doctrine! It is our theology to know the word! And as far as practicality is concerned, we know that as a man thinks, so he is (Prov 23:7). Or, in the words of Romans 12:1-2:

"Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."

Let’s be clear, however, that we are not talking about the power of positive thinking. We are to meditate on the word day and night (Ps 1:2). And as we train our minds to think like Christ (for in the Scriptures we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16)), then we will live the way Christ commands us to live.

This discipline, however, needs to be empowered by the Holy Spirit. We are not to think that what we read will magically make us different people. We cannot generate our own sanctification. It is the living and active word of God (Heb 4:12) empowered by the Holy Spirit (Eph 5:18-21) that will transform us into the likeness of Christ (Eph 5:1, 1 Thes 1:6).

The goal: We are not attempting to amass information for the sake of information. For if we do that we run the risk of being prideful (1 Cor 8:1b). But we want to “prove (ourselves) doers of the word and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22). We seek to know God, not just know about Him. As we understand the Scripture, we will have an increased responsibility to live out its commands.

So, get ready to dig in. And, just to frighten you, this post covers about 1/4th of the first lesson! For the mp3 of the original class, click here. For a copy of the handout, click here. Also, if you want to “listen” ahead, I added a log of the audio on the left side of the page immediately under our Blog Archive.

Finally, as Seth and I always do after the other speaks, feel free to offer critiques as to how I can improve and grow as a preacher. I would challenge you, however, to not mention anything that is positive. This sounds strange, but anyone that has been placed by the Lord in a position to teach knows how easily the flesh can be prideful. I do not offer these lessons as a means to highlight myself. In the same way, I don’t need to hear what is “good” about the lesson. But I would welcome constructive criticism that will challenge and stretch me. Fire away!


Stan said...

Brother, I stumbled across your site.Been blessed, thanks!

Seth McBee said...

stan...thanks for coming by...hope we continue to be used for the Lord in this great new world of blogging...


So can we go ahead and put learning theology in the same aspect as food, wine, money and sex...

God created it to be good but the abuse of it creates sin? Too much food equals gluttony, too much wine equals drunkeness, too much money can lead to love of money, using sex in the wrong way (adultery, fornication) and now, too much theology can lead to being puffed up...

Just an observation.

Justin Evans said...


Yes, thank you for your encouragement!


Sure, anything that God has created was created "very good" (Gen 1:31) and we corrupt it by abuse and/or overindulgence. But we also know that depending on the circumstance one finds themselves in, we need to be willing to voluntarily give up something inherently good so as to not make another brother stumble (1 Cor 8:13), or if it is a hindrance to the gospel (1 Cor 2 - Paul refused to partake of "deep discussion and doctrine" or engage with the high flown philosphy debates with the teachers of his time. He did not want there to be any hint that the power of the gospel resided in him.)

So I guess the issue of whether something is inherently good because God created it is not the only factor in our approach to how to use it.

Jake said...

I laughed at the comparison between food, money, wine, sex, and... theology. I always think of that one after the first four are named ;). Good observation though :). Looking forward to the rest of the series.

risen_soul said...

Theology is important to the Christian life? Who knew!? I guaruntee you that many people in my denomination sure don't know. Thank God for people like Albert Mohler, Mark Deaver and others like them who teach biblical theology.

Justin Evans said...


Thank you for the comment. I agree. I am so indebted to these men who have been my teachers. They have eternally impacted my life, and the lives of those that I am now impacting through the continued preaching of the word. Inspired theology!

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