Benjamin Merkle: The Theology of Ephesians In one sense, there is nothing distinct about the theology of Ephesians. It is a New Testament letter written by the apostle Paul that conforms to the message of the rest of the Bible—a message about how the God of the universe rescues sinners through the work of his Son, Jesus Christ. And yet, the book of Ephesians adds unique tones to the symphony of music that sounds forth from Scripture. For its size (six chapters and 155 verses), Ephesians has had a profound impact on the life and theology of the church. Harold Hoehner declares, “The Letter to the Ephesians is one of the most influential documents in the Christian church.”1 But why has this small letter had such a big impact on the church? The answer, at least in part, is due to the depth and diversity of topics emphasized in the letter. Paul addresses topics such as the plan of God in
Coping with Coronavirus by means of Good Theology!
Sam Storms: Bridgeway Church likely is no different from other gospel-centered churches when it comes to the frequency and variety of suffering that people endure. On top of all it all, we can now add the emotional instability and, on the part of some, panic that has set in as we watch the spread of Covid-19. I’m inclined to think the best way to respond to such personal tragedies, such as the sudden and inexplicable death of a loved one or an extended illness or the loss of a job, is simply to say nothing. I have little patience for those who feel the need to theologize about such events, as if anyone possessed sufficient wisdom to discern God’s purpose. On the other hand, people will inevitably ask questions and are looking for encouragement and comfort. So how best do we love and pastor those who have suffered so terribly? How do we persevere in faith when the future days
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Should every Christian study theology?
J.I. Packer: Theology simply means the study of God. This is something that every Christian needs to realise. I think the way that the word has been used in the past has frightened many Christians away from it, even though they never stopped to consider what the word actually meant. People got the idea somewhere that theology is the business of the seminary professors and the clergy, but has very little to do with the day to day living of the Christian life. It’s something people seem to think you can get along without, provided that you read your Bible daily and think one or two guiding thoughts from your passage to keep you on the rails. I don’t believe it’s at all like that. But theology means the study of God, and if we are to love God, as we are commanded, with all our “minds” then we need to be in the business of theology. So when I speak
Theological Minutia Matters
Trevin Wax: Who needs theological education? Doesn’t theology just lead to mind-numbing debates over insignificant matters? Only theological eggheads insist on parsing doctrines and dogmas until powerful, life-changing experiences with God get dissected and reassembled as stale and crusty formulas. Who cares about the minutia? Give me something simple and relevant! That’s the cry from many in the church these days. We’re told that the next generation doesn’t have patience for rehashing theological quarrels from previous centuries. To reach millennials, we need to get back to the basic message of Jesus’s love. Stay simple. Stay practical. Whatever you do, don’t get mired in meaningless distinctions about ancient words or complicated concepts about the essence of God or the nature of salvation. But what if the minutia matters? Like, really matters? Draw to Theological Controversy I realize that, as commonly understood, minutia often refers to trifling and insignificant matters that don’t deserve our attention. Perhaps you’ve been in a place where
Should every Christian study theology?
J.I. Packer: Theology simply means the study of God. This is something that every Christian needs to realise. I think the way that the word has been used in the past has frightened many Christians away from it, even though they never stopped to consider what the word actually meant. People got the idea somewhere that theology is the business of the seminary professors and the clergy, but has very little to do with the day to day living of the Christian life. It’s something people seem to think you can get along without, provided that you read your Bible daily and think one or two guiding thoughts from your passage to keep you on the rails. I don’t believe it’s at all like that. But theology means the study of God, and if we are to love God, as we are commanded, with all our “minds” then we need to be in the business of theology. So when I
Beware Theological Dangers on Both Left and Right
Tom Schreiner: Paul charges Timothy to “guard the good deposit” (2 Tim. 1:14), which is the gospel of Jesus Christ. We’re to remain vigilant in guarding the gospel because both the Scriptures and also church history remind us that many have swerved from the truth. Even a cursory reading of the New Testament reveals that upholding the truth and the purity of the gospel has been a challenge from the beginning. We aren’t facing anything new in our day, and we have the promise that the church of Jesus Christ will triumph over “the gates of Hades” (Matt. 16:18). In this article I want to briefly consider threats to the gospel—from the left and from the right. Dangers from the Left Paul’s speech to the Ephesian elders is the only speech in Acts addressed to Christians (Acts 20:17–35), and it’s significant that it’s addressed to leaders, to the elders and overseers in the church (Acts 20:17, 28). Paul warns them in
Every Christian Must Be a Theologian
Jared Wilson: Every Christian must be a theologian. In a variety of ways, I used to tell this to my church often. And the looks I got from some surprised souls are the evidence that I had not yet adequately communicated that the purposeful theological study of God by laypeople is important. Many times the confused responses come from a misunderstanding of what is meant in this context by theology. So I tell my church what I don’t mean. When I say every Christian must be a theologian, I don’t mean that every Christian must be an academic or that every Christian must be a scholar or that every Christian must work hard at giving the impression of being a know-it-all. We all basically understand what is meant in the biblical warning that “knowledge puffs up” (1 Cor. 8:1). Nobody likes an egghead. But the answer to formal scholasticism or dry intellectualism is not a neglect of theological study. Laypeople have no biblical
Three great soundbites that make terrible theology
Matt Fuller: Punchy sound bites are great—they’re memorable and help us get some things clear in our head. Jesus often used punchy sentences without any nuance: “If your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out.” Yet most of us recognize that if we turned that sentence of great preaching into an absolute statement, then there would be a lot of Christians stumbling around without any eyes. There are other very helpful sound bites that often get used in church. They are good preaching and make a helpful impression upon us. But, again, we don’t want to turn them into absolute statements or our faith will similarly stumble. Let me mention three common ones related to sin. 1. “There’s nothing I can do to make God love me more, or love me less.” On one hand that is wonderfully true! Our status before the LORD is secured by our union with Christ. The Christian is one who is justified, adopted and
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5 Reasons You Should Delight in Theology
Brandon D. Smith: Robert Jenson once observed that theology is “a sort of grammar. The church, we must say, is the community that speaks Christianese, and theology formulates the syntax and semantics of this language.” The word theology, made up of the words theos (God) and logos (word), literally means “words about God” or “God talk.” Talking about God is doing theology, and theology is a multi-faceted discipline that describes who God is and what he does. When we say “God is love” or “Jesus is Lord” or “We need a Savior,” we’re doing theology, because we’re talking about God. We’re describing him in some way, whether it’s a direct attribute (God is good) or something he says about us (we’re not good). Theology is the language of Christianity. We of all people should be consistent, contagious God-talkers. Yet many act as though theology is alien to the nature and works of God. Loving God isn’t about a set of doctrines, they say—it’s about a relationship. For them, theology is just an academic sport
What Is Theology?
Erik Thoennes: Meaningful relationship with God is dependent on correct knowledge of him. The Goal of Theology The study of theology is considered by many to be dry, boring, irrelevant, and complicated. But for those who want to know God, the study of theology is indispensable. The word “theology” comes from two Greek words, theos (“God”) and logos (“word”). The study of theology is an effort to make definitive statements about God and his implications in an accurate, coherent, relevant way, based on God’s self-revelations. Doctrine equips people to fulfill their primary purpose, which is to glorify and delight in God through a deep personal knowledge of him. Meaningful relationship with God is dependent on correct knowledge of him. Any theological system that distinguishes between “rational propositions about God” and “a personal relationship with God” fails to see this necessary connection between love and knowledge. The capacity to love, enjoy, and tell others about a person is increased by greater
J. I. Packer on Justification by Faith Alone: The Hallmark of the Protestant Reformation
Sam Storms: This past Saturday, October 31, 2015, marked the 498th anniversary of Martin Luther’s decision to post his 95 Theses on the church door at Wittenberg, Germany. As I’ve thought this week about the significance of the Reformation, and that we are fast approaching the 500th anniversary of that momentous event (1517), I thought it would be helpful to listen to one of evangelicalism’s greatest living theologians on the subject. Here is what J. I. Packer says about justification by faith. It is perhaps the most concise and accurate description of justification you will ever read. And his explanation of the Roman Catholic view and how it differs from the evangelical, biblical, and Protestant view is extremely helpful. “The doctrine of justification, the storm center of the Reformation, was a major concern of the apostle Paul. For him it was the heart of the gospel (Rom. 1:17; 3:21-5:21; Gal. 2:15-5:1) shaping both his message (Acts 13:38-39) and his devotion
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3 Things to Remember Before You Criticize Someone’s Theology
Justin Taylor: Critique—done well—is a gift to the one being criticized. (“Faithful are the wounds of a friend,” Prov. 27:6a). We should welcome the opportunity to have our thinking corrected and clarified. We see in a mirror dimly and we know only in part (1 Cor. 13:12), but God has gifted the church with teachers who often see things more clearly than we do at present. In God’s providence and through the gift of common grace he may also use unbelievers to critique our views, showing our logical mistakes or lack of clarity. Critique done poorly—whether through overstatement, misunderstanding, caricature—is a losing proposition for all. It undermines the credibility of the critic and deprives the one being criticized from the opportunity to improve his or her position. It’s impossible in a blog post to set forth a comprehensive methodology of critique—if such a thing can even be done. But there are at least three exhortations worth remembering about criticism: (1) understand before
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The best and highest study of all
Tim Challies: This powerful quote from Charles Spurgeon is from the introduction to a sermon he preached when he was just 20. Spurgeon called upon his church to commit themselves to the study of God—the best and highest study of all. It has been said by some one that “the proper study of mankind is man.” I will not oppose the idea, but I believe it is equally true that the proper study of God’s elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father. There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that
The Heart of Reformed Theology
John Hendryx: The heart of Reformed Theology or Calvinism is the cross of Jesus Christ … that all redemptive blessings flow from Him alone (Eph 1:3). That His Person and work is sufficient. That salvation is all of grace because it is all of Christ. It is a sign of a corrupted doctrine which teaches anything in addition to Christ …i.e. that man must (at least partly) either attain or maintain his own just standing before God. Now you either believe one or the other.. If you believe that Jesus is not sufficient to save you to the uttermost, then you embrace a theology to a greater or lesser degree like Roman Catholicism (Gal 3:3). One of the main purposes of the five points of Calvinism is to demonstrate that the Scripture would always turn our trust entirely back to Christ: if you reject say, irresistible grace, then you then you reject or downplay the sufficiency of Christ, who provides
Wisdom from Luther on doing theology
J. I. Packer on Martin Luther’s approach to doing theology: When Martin Luther wrote the Preface to the first collected edition of his many and various writings, he went to town explaining in detail that theology, which should always be based on the Scriptures, should be done according to the pattern modelled in Psalm 119. There, Luther declared, we see three forms of activity and experience make the theologian. The first is prayer for light and understanding. The second is reflective thought (meditatio), meaning sustained study of the substance, thrust, and flow of the biblical text. The third is standing firm under pressure of various kinds (external opposition, inward conflict, and whatever else Satan can muster: pressures, that is, to abandon, suppress, recant, or otherwise decide not to live by, the truth God has shown from his Word. Luther expounded this point as one who knew what he was talking about, and his affirmation that sustained prayer, thought, and
Singing the Truth
Sound theology should shape everything we do in corporate worship. But what does that mean for music in particular? Don Carson recently sat down with worship leaders Keith Getty and Matt Boswell to discuss the relationship between the truth we believe and the songs we sing. Theology and Music from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.
Every Christian Is A Theologian
R.C. Sproul: Every Christian is a theologian. We are always engaged in the activity of learning about the things of God. We are not all theologians in the professional sense, academic sense, but theologians we are, for better or worse. The ‘for worse’ is no small matter. Second Peter warns that heresies are destructive to the people of God and are blasphemies committed against God. They are destructive because theology touches every dimension of our lives. The Bible declares that as a man thinks in his heart, so is he…Those ideas that do grasp us in our innermost parts, are the ideas that shape our lives. We are what we think. When our thoughts are corrupted, our lives follow suit. All know that people can recite the creeds flawlessly and make A’s in theology courses while living godless lives. We can affirm a sound theology and live an unsound life. Sound theology is not enough to live a godly life.
Moving Evangelicals Beyond Idolatry
R.C. Sproul: The central theme of Romans 1 concerns the general revelation that God makes of himself to the whole world. Paul labors the fact that the revelation of the gospel is to a world that is already under indictment for its universal rejection of God the Father. Christ came into a world that was populated by sinners. The most basic sin found in the world is that of idolatry. Man is a fabricum idolarum. So wrote John Calvin in an attempt to capture the essence of human fallenness. In Germany, a fabrik is a factory. It is a place where products are mass-produced. Calvin’s phrase simply means “maker of idols.” In cultured civilizations, we tend to assume that idolatry is not a problem. We may complain about the use of statues and focus on certain ecclesiastical settings but where they are absent, we feel relieved from concern about primitive forms of idolatry. In a broader sense, however, any distortion from the true
Sam Storms on….
Check out three great current series from Sam Storms on: What it means to be Reformed Some peculiarities of Revival, and Spiritual Gifts in church history Access Sam’s blog, and many other helpful resources HERE. Justin Taylor also points us to Sam Storms’ new book called Tough Topics: Biblical Answers to 25 Challenging Questions. Here they are: 1 Is the Bible Inerrant? 2 What Is Open Theism? 3 Does God Ever Change His Mind? 4 Could Jesus Have Sinned? 5 What Did Jesus Mean When He Said, “Judge Not, that You Be Not Judged”? 6 What Is Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? 7 Does the Bible Teach the Doctrine of Original Sin? 8 Are Those Who Die in Infancy Saved? 9 Will People Be Condemned for Not Believing in Jesus though They’ve Never Heard His Name? 10 What Can We Know about Angels? 11 What Can We Know about Satan? 12 What Can We Know about Demons? 13 Can a Christian Be
Why Study Theology?
Justin Childers: The Greatest Commandment: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:28-31). One of the ways we can love God with all our minds is to study God (theology = the study of God). Why should we study theology? 1. We want to know God better. 2. We want to glorify and worship God to the best of our ability. 3. We want to be a faithful witness of God and His ways. 4. We want to promote unity and purity in the church. 5. We want to correct our wrong and erroneous beliefs. 6. We want to be mature and stable Christians who remain steadfast to the end. So, with what attitude should we study God? 1. We should study God sticking closely to the Bible. 2. We should study God with prayer. 3. We should study God with humility. 4. We should study God in community with one another. 5. We should study God with faith and confidence. 6. We should