by Brandon Freeman in Theology

Much could be said about precautions to take and wisdom to heed in digesting content that is theological in nature. Before one dismisses this post as one that is too deep or academic, you must understand that everyone has theological views. To say that the Bible says or does not say something about a particular topic is to say something theological. In that way, everyone is a theologian! When one listens to a sermon or reads a book that renders biblical truth, there is a grid through which that content must be discerned as true or not true.

So how can we be wise in hearing and reading theological content? Here are fifteen ways in which we must study theology.

  1. Biblically (Psalm 119:160; Luke 24:25-27; John 17:17; Acts 15;17:2-3, 11; 18:28; 20:27; Titus 1:9; Hebrews 1; 11). That’s to say that we derive our views of God and truth from the Bible. The Scriptures are the gateway into true knowledge of reality. Everything must be proven by the Word of God and proper interpretation of it. The Bible alone is authoritative in life and doctrine (doctrine just means what the Bible teaches about a particular topic).
  2. Exegetically (Matthew 12:3-7; 19:4; 22:29; Mark 12:10). Our reception of the truth and our interpretation of biblical texts cannot be separated. To understand any passage, one must grasp what God was saying through the specific author to the specific recipient in its context. A writer or preacher that doesn’t regularly and carefully explain a passage according to its context should be disregarded. We need to base our theological convictions on proper interpretations of the Bible. 
  3. Historically (2 Timothy 4:7; Jude 3-4). We consult faithful saints of old to see how they rendered passages and communicated truths. We look to the past to see how Christians contended for and kept the Christian faith.
  4. Humbly (Jeremiah 9:23-24; 1 Corinthians 8:1-3; 1 Peter 5:5). For Christians to arrive at and remain in the truth is a result of God’s grace in our lives.  Recall the words of Peter under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). To study humbly does not mean that we do not speak confidently about any Scriptural topic. That’s a false humility. To study humbly means to be willing to accept whatever you see as true in Scripture, to submit fully to God’s instruction. We won’t know everything there is to know about any single doctrine, but we can know that doctrine truly.  
  5. Charitably (Acts 15:36-40). There are Christians who love Christ, submit to the Word of God, believe in the gospel, cherish the local church, who interpret some passages and doctrines differently. This should impact our level of criticalness. There is a distinction between major and minor doctrines.
  6. Seriously (John 17:3, 17, 20; Ephesians 4:12, 13, 15; Philippians 1:27; 1 Timothy 2:4;  6:3-5; 2 Peter 1:3; Jude 3; 2 John 9). To have wrong views of or wrong affections for, God and His Word, have damning consequences. Precision does not come by those who are flippant in their study of God. Louis Berkof once wrote, “They who minimize the significance of the truth, and therefore ignore and neglect it, will finally come to the discovery that they have very little Christianity left.” Why? Because Christianity is founded on truth. An earnestness must accompany every person, class, church, or seminary that seeks to define and defend a sound theology. We must have a resolute determination to be God-honoring theologians. God is not properly glorified where He is not rightly known. 
  7. Prayerfully (Psalm 119:18,33, 34, 169; John 15:5; 1 Corinthians 2:9-13; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6; Ephesians 1:17-19). We pray before and during study time because only God can give us eyes to see Him, minds to know Him, hearts to love Him, and wills to obey Him.  
  8. Worshipfully (Psalm 19:8; 96:4; 119:14, 103, 111, 162; 139:17; Romans 11:33-36). To study the Bible is to study the most precious realities in the universe. Seeing and savoring the God of the Bible is the chief goal in studying biblical truth. 
  9. Redemptively (Luke 24:13-27; John 5:43-47). In studying theology, we are looking to how God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, planned, accomplished, and applied salvation to God’s people. There are more and more layers of glory to uncover each time we attend time to the story of redemption. 
  10. Obediently (Luke 11:28; James 2:14-26). We want to be Christians who hear and obey the truth that we see in the Bible. “Blessed…are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:28). 
  11. Practically (1 Timothy 1:10; 6:3; Titus 1:1). There is an interconnectedness between theology and ethics. The lives we as Christians are supposed to live and the attitudes we are supposed to have (ethics), is largely dictated by the truth that we know and believe.
  12. Persistently (Psalm 147:5; Romans 11:33). God is infinite! His excellencies are more than the sand on the seashore and the stars in the sky. Christians will forever wonder at God’s glory and those glories can be seen and delighted in now. Every true Christian will give themselves to knowing God in the fullest way possible.
  13. Corporately (Matthew 28:20; 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:13; Titus 1:9). Who in your local congregation can you learn from or helpfully instruct in sound doctrine?
  14. Evangelistically (Mark 1:15; John 3:1-8). We study not only for our own joy in the Lord, but also that the nations might be glad in God (Psalm 67). Is there someone you know that you can share the gospel of Christ with? Forgiveness of sins and eternal life are found in no other place but in Jesus Christ. 
  15. Doctrinally (Romans 3:21-26; Titus 3:5). As a result of studying theology, we want to be able to biblically articulate what God has said about topics in the Bible. Bad theology hurts people. Folks make destructive decisions every day as a result of the biblical truth they disregard or the biblical truth that they do not know. We must do our part as Christians to seek their good in being competent theologians.

What other ways do you think theology must be studied?