Systematic, Biblical, and Historical Theology

3 Theologies

I’ve got a high school diploma and a whole semester of technical college under my belt and I’m going to crudely explain Systematic, Biblical, and Historical Theology.

Systematic Theology

This is the most common way to study theology. Basically, all of the information in Scripture is put into different categories and these categories are taught ‘systematically’ (hence the name). The main idea behind systematic theology is make clear what Scripture as a whole teaches about a particular doctrine or idea.

Recommended: “Foundations of the Christian Faith” – James Montgomery Boice

Biblical Theology

Biblical Theology is a less common way to look at theology, but it is still important nonetheless. Personally, this is my favorite way to look at theology so it’s possible that I could be a little biased. Biblical Theology seeks to looks at the narrative of Scripture on a particular topic. Because of this, Biblical Theology will, at times, overlap with Systematic Theology. The main difference is how the ideas are presented. While Systematic Theology looks at what Scripture as a whole says about an idea or a doctrine, Biblical Theology will often look to see how that doctrine or idea has evolved from Genesis to Revelation.

Recommended: What is Biblical Theology? – James Hamilton

Historical Theology

Finally, we come to the seemingly most ignored of the three methods, Historical Theology. While Historical Theology does look at what Scripture says about a particular doctrine or idea, it also goes outside the bounds of Scripture and looks at how a particular doctrine or idea has been taught and examined throughout church history leading up to the present day.

An article on Got Questions accurately summed it up in this way:

“Like any area of theology, historical theology is also sometimes used by liberal scholars and non-Christians to cast doubt upon or attack the essential doctrines of the Christian faith as simply being the concoctions of men instead of the divinely revealed biblical truth that they really are. One example of this is in the discussion of the triune nature of God. The historical theologian will study and trace the development of this doctrine throughout church history knowing that this truth is clearly revealed in Scripture, yet throughout church history there have been times when the doctrine came under attack and thus it was necessary for the church to define and defend the doctrine. The truth of the doctrine comes directly from Scripture; however, the church’s understanding and proclamation of the doctrine has been clarified over the years, often in times when the nature of God had come under attack by those “savage wolves” that Paul warned would come.”

The article goes on to say:

“Historical theology, when correctly understood and applied, does not diminish the authority or sufficiency of Scripture. Scripture alone is the standard in all matters of faith and practice. It alone is inspired and inerrant. Scripture alone is our authority and guide, but historical theology can help us understand the many dangers of some “new teaching” or novel interpretation of Scripture. With over 2,000 years of church history and thousands if not millions of Christians preceding us, shouldn’t we be automatically wary of someone who claims to have a “new explanation” or interpretation of Scripture?”

Recommended: Historical Theology – Alister McGrath

Conclusion

Systematic theology asks, “What does the Bible as a whole say about x?”

Biblical theology asks, “How did the writers of Scripture understand the idea of x, and how did this concept evolve from Genesis to Revelation?”

Historical theology asks, “What can we learn about x from the time of the Bible all the way up to our present day?”

None of these methods are perfect. They all have their pros and cons. Glean from all three methods of studying and don’t just get stuck in one mode because you’ll create a theological blindside for yourself.

Like I said earlier, this is a crude explanation. If I left something out or said something incorrectly (and I probably did), let me know about it in the comments.

God bless.

Our Story – Sermon Resources

After writing the blog post, “Our Story”, I put together a sermon outline and notes to go with it as well as some JPEG slides. So, here is the finished product free to use for any occasion whether it be a full-length sermon, a short devotional, or just a personal study.

Introduction:
In 1896, Henry Ernest Nichol penned these words:

“We’ve a story to tell to the nations,
That shall turn their hearts to the right,
A story of truth and mercy,
A story of peace and light,
A story of peace and light.”

While this hymn speaks to the ecclesiastical mandate for the Church to spread the gospel, on a much more personal level, you and I have a responsibility to tell others what God has done for us. Each one of us has a story. What God has done for us is important and it could very well help someone turn their test into a testimony.

Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul. – [Psalm 66:16 ESV]

Outline:
Two Reasons To Tell Our Story:
1. It Causes Us To Remember What God Has Done For Us (Joshua 4:4-7)
Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.” – [Joshua 4:4-7 ESV]

    1. Remembering What God Has Done
      A. Builds Faith For the Present (Hebrews 11:1-6)
      B. Gives Hope For the Future (Hebrews 11:8-10)

2. It Causes Others To Know What God Can Do For Them (Psalm 71:17-18)
“O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. 18So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.” – [Psalms 71:17-18 ESV]

  1. David’s motive for this prayer came from
    A. a desire to glorify God by telling his story
    B. a desire to tell of God’s might to the next generation

Challenge:
Make your story known to someone this week as a reminder to yourself of what God has done and as a help to someone else who may be struggling to find God in the midst of their circumstances.

Benediction:
“Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, “Amen!” Praise the LORD!” – [Psalms 106:48 ESV]

Our Story 1 Our Story 2 Our Story 3 Our Story 4 Our Story 5 Our Story 6 Our Story 7 Our Story 8 Our Story 9 Our Story 10 Our Story 11 Our Story 12 Our Story 13 Our Story 14

Sacred: Part 2: Fellowship

“God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” – 1 Corinthians 1:9-10 (ESV)

In this series, I’m going to use 1 Corinthians to cover some basic things that we can’t afford to forget as Christians.. In the first two posts I made in the series, I discussed who Jesus is and why it’s important to know and believe His deity and humanity.

In this post, we’re going to take a look at Fellowship. The word for “fellowship”, in the Greek is koinōnia it literally means to be “in intimate community and participation”. This would be like a tightly knit group of people that have a strong common bond. When Paul talks about the importance of fellowship and unity, he makes it clear that you can’t have true fellowship with each other unless you first have fellowship with Christ.

Fellowship With Christ
In verse 9, he says that we are called into the fellowship of God’s son. What does this mean for us? It means simply that we have intimacy with Jesus. We are to walk so closely to Him that our hearts break over what makes His heart break. If you truly love someone, you’re torn to pieces when you see them suffer. Our hearts should be broken over the injustice in the world. Our hearts should be broken over those that reject the love of God. That’s only a tiny fragment of what it means to have intimacy with Christ.

Let’s take a look at the writings of John for a minute:

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard,which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” – 1 John 1:1-3 (ESV)

John is writing to three people groups, Believers, Judaizers that claim to be believers, and Gnostics who claim to be believers. The big issue with the Gnostics is that they believed that Jesus could not have been fully a human being. What the Judaizers couldn’t understand is how God could be human. The Judaizers also believed that the resurrection was a hoax created by the apostles.  John is immediately starting off His letter addressing the issue by tell them that we have touched Him, we have heard Him, and we have seen Him. There is no way this could be an illusion. If it was, then it was an illusion shared by over 500 men (1 Corinthians 15:5). 

If we want to go deep, we’ll break this down, Lots of people saw Jesus without ever hearing what He had to say. Still, there’s a great number of people who heard what He had to say, but never got to touch Him. There are very few instances where people got to touch Him while He was on Earth, but now that He’s at the right hand of the Father anybody can come before the throne of grace and touch Him. In the words of a pastor friend of mine, “That’ll preach.”

In John 20, Mary can’t touch Him because He hadn’t ascended (John 20:17). Yet, when Thomas sees Him, Jesus tells Thomas to do more than touch Him. He tells Thomas to thrust his hands through the scars (John 20:27). The difference is that Mary didn’t need to touch Him to believe, Thomas did. A touch from Jesus is always available when we need it.

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:14-16 (ESV)

We touch Him because we have fellowship with Him. We have fellowship with Him because Jesus tore down the veil of separation between God and man with His blood.

Because God made a way of fellowship with Him, we can have fellowship with each other.

Fellowship With One Another

 “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”
– 1 Corinthians 1:10 (ESV)

Throughout the rest of chapter 1 and then on up into chapter 3, Paul addresses the issue of divisions. In verses 11-17, Paul talks about how people were dividing over who they were baptized by or by what teachings they followed. Christians were picking and choosing their favorite theologian and dividing over it. Then you had this fourth group of people that said, “We don’t care about theology, we just cared about Jesus”, hence the “I of Christ” in 1 Corinthians 1:12. These are the same arrogant people that think being “non-denominational” makes them special because they’re not actually apart of a denomination. Regardless, that’s a different rant for a different time.

Solomon said that there is nothing new under the sun, we have the same problems today that the Corinthians were having then. We start allowing ourselves to be students of Calvin, Wesley, Luther, or others and we allow trivial theological differences to divide us.

In the words of Mark Driscoll, “It’s okay to disagree, it’s sin to divide.”

As a matter of fact in 1 Corinthians 3:1-4, Paul implies that dividing over trivial things like that is a sign of spiritual immaturity. So, here’s what I want your big take away to be from this post: Jesus died to make a way for you to have fellowship with Him and with others. It’s stupid to divide over trivial things when Jesus is so much bigger than your differences and He is the best common denominator you can have with someone.

Be blessed today!

The Transcendence of God

“Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! For who can know the Lord’s thoughts?Who knows enough to give him advice?And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back?For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.” – Romans 11:33-36 (NLT)

I’ve been given the privilege by God and my church to teach the adult Sunday School class temporarily for the next few weeks and this week’s lesson is over the transcendence of God. As I began studying for the lesson, I began see all over again how fascinating and how awesome that the God we serve really is. I thought I would share with you some of my thoughts on this lesson.

Last week, we started learning about who God is. We learned that God is a Spirit and we learned is active. Not only is He active, but He is actively provisional, always willing and able to care for His children. We also learned that He is a person that identifies Himself with a name, through actions, and personal relationship with His people (Exodus 3:13-15; Matthew 6:30-33; John 8:58).

The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘transcendence’ as ‘existing apart from and not subject to the limitations of the material universe’.

As we look at the transcendence of God, I want to grasp that God has no limitations. Let that soak in for a minute.

We serve a no limits God!

God is not limited by time and space.
God is not limited by the physics.
God is not limited by circumstance or trouble.

God is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent.

Omnipresence means that God is not limited to geography. He is everywhere at all times.
Omniscience means that God is not limited to a human mindset. He knows everything in the past, present, and, future.
Omnipotence means that God is not limited by frailty. He is all-powerful.

When we truly understand that the God we serve is unlimited in anything and everything, I believe that will be the beginning to our minds opening up to praying big and thinking big.

So many times we face circumstances that our out of control and we feel powerless and hopeless but, we serve an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present God that is able to help us in our time of need. One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Hebrews 4:15, 16:

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”                          – Hebrews 4:15, 16 (NKJV)

We can come boldly before God’s throne and ask of Him anything and I believe He will hear and help us!

The Lord of Our Dance

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!”
– Psalm 139:14-17 [English Standard Version]

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
– Jeremiah 1:5 [English Standard Version]

“The Lord your God is in the midst of you, a Mighty One, a Savior [Who saves]! He will rejoice over you with joy; He will rest [in silent satisfaction] and in His love He will be silent andmake no mention [of past sins, or even recall them]; He will exult over you with singing.”
– Zephaniah 3:17 [Amplified Bible]

“Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said He!”
– Sydney Carter, The Lord of the Dance

Today in church, I heard a hymn that I’d never heard of before, The Lord of the Dance. As I sat and listened to words, I thought about how much God loves us. As a matter of fact, it occurred to me, God doesn’t just love us, He’s in love with us. We are His creation. He thought about each and every one of us long before creation and even now. He thinks of all of us and according to David and Jeremiah, the thoughts that he thinks about us are good thoughts of peace, prosperity, joy, and loving kindness. I know this sounds like a subject that Joel Osteen would preach on but stick with me here. Think about it, we’re sinful human beings. Sinful to our very core. About our nature, The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith states the following:

“Our first parents, by this sin, fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and we in them whereby death came upon all: all becoming dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body…From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.”
– London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689

Looking at that, I wonder how God could possibly love me much less want to dance with me. I’m humbled when I remember that even though I am sinful, He sees me sinless through the blood of His son, Jesus Christ. There’s a song that I used to sing in church that says “When He sees/He sees the blood of the Lamb/He sees me as worthy yet not as I am/He sees me in garments as white as the snow/For the Lamb of God is worthy and He’s washed me, this I know”. God sees beyond our fault and looks to our need. When He saves us, He brings us back to life with his dance of irresistible grace and after that we are forever His and He is forever ours.

“The sheep that are My own hear and are listening to My voice; and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never lose it or perish throughout the ages. [To all eternity they shall never by any means be destroyed.] And no one is able to snatch them out of My hand.”
– John 10:27, 28 [Amplified Bible]

Thanks for reading, and remember that you are loved by the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

The Quantity and the Quality of our Faith

“For by the grace given to me I say to every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” – [Romans 12:3 ESVUK]

There are times in our lives where it’s just hard for us to act on our faith. It would be easier to give up and live in compromise, comfort, and complacency. I’ve been there. I know how it is. I know how it is when you can’t seem to feel God no matter how hard you try. There are just those days when you don’t even want to get out of bed. What we have to remember in all of this is that God has dealt us a measure of faith. It’s our responsibility to work with that measure of faith that God has given us. Jesus said in Matthew 17:20:

“He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”” – [Matthew 17:20 ESVUK] 

Thinking about Romans 12:3, Paul said that we’ve been given the measure of faith. If memory serves me correct then the word, ‘measure’ in Greek refers to a specific measurement like it does in Revelation 6:6. If this is true, then a a measure would be about the size of a pint. Jesus said that it only takes faith the size of a mustard seed but Paul said that God went ahead and gave whole pint of mustard seed faith. I challenge you to do something for God today that would make you uncomfortable and put your faith to work.

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled”, without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” – [James 2:14-17 ESVUK]

 

It’s All About Jesus, Part 2: The Praise Hymn, Part 4

I’ve decided that I’m going to do something that I’ve not done in a really long time and that is finish a series. So, if you’ve been following me for a while you’ll notice that I’ve been doing a series called, “It’s All About Jesus”. The title is self-explanatory. The material that we’ve been going over is found in Ephesians 1

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,  to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” – [Ephesians 1:3-14 NIV]

According to this passage of Scripture there are nine things God has done for us and they are:

1. He has blessed us (Eph. 1:3)
2. He has chosen us (Eph. 1:4)
3. He has predestined us (Eph. 1:5, 11)
4. He has made us accepted (Eph. 1:6)
5. He has redeemed us (Eph. 1:7)
6. He has poured grace on us (Eph. 1:8)
7. He has made known unto us the mystery of His will (Eph. 1:9)
8. He has given us an inheritance (Eph. 1:11, 14)
9. He has sealed us (Eph. 1:13)

Let’s get started where we left off:

6. He has poured grace on us (Eph. 1:8)

In the ESV, Ephesians 1:7, 8 read like this:

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight – [Ephesians 1:7-8 ESV]

The word ‘lavished’ implies more than enough. It tells me that God didn’t just give me enough grace to get by on but he gave me grace for every day. He gave me more than I needed. He didn’t have to give me more than enough but he did anyway because He really loves me. Just to think that God has shown that kind of love for each and every person is incredible and unfathomable.

7. He has made known unto us the mystery of His will (Eph. 1:9)

When Paul is talking here, he’s telling us about the mystery of the will of God. How can this mystery remain a mystery if it’s made known to us? To be honest, it can’t. Paul couldn’t keep his mouth shut. He just had to talk in Ephesians 3:6:

“And the mystery is this: Because of Christ Jesus, the good news has given the Gentiles a share in the promises that God gave to the Jews. God has also let the Gentiles be part of the same body.” – [Ephesians 3:6 CEV]

We, who were rejected and kicked out in the cold, are now welcomed by God’s wonderful grace to be his elect people.

“Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” – [1 Peter 2:10 ESV]

8. He has given us an inheritance (Eph. 1:11, 14)

This great inheritance that Paul speaks about is our salvation. God gave this to us as a free gift. I’ve heard a lot of Baptists express this as God giving us a box wrapped in paper and all we have to do is accept it but I’m with RC Sproul on this one:

“God just doesn’t throw a life preserver to a drowning person. He goes to the bottom of the sea, and pulls a corpse from the bottom of the sea, takes him up on the bank, breathes into him the breath of life and makes him alive.” – R.C. Sproul

A dead man can’t receive anything. God has to be the one to bring you to life. Jesus says in John 10:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” – [John 10:10 ESV]

A lot of people use this to preach on living a blessed and abundant life. That’s all well and good but people seldom realize that you must have life before you can have abundant life and that’s what our inheritance is: life.

9. He has sealed us (Eph. 1:13)

I love what Scofield has to say about this in his commentary.

The Holy Spirit is Himself, the seal. In the symbolism of Scripture, a seal signifies:
(1) A finished transaction; (Jer_32:9); (Jer_32:10); (Joh_17:4); (Joh_19:30).
(2) Ownership; (Jer_32:11); (Jer_32:12); (2Ti_2:19).
(3) Security; (Est_8:8); (Dan_6:17); (Eph_4:30).

After reading and studying what a seal was and its purpose, I understood what Paul was communicating. Our salvation is a done deal. God owns me. I’m secure. I’m not going to lose my salvation at the drop of a hat. As a believer, I have the Holy Spirit as a testimony that God will never let me go.

I hope that God absolutely blesses your socks off today. Remember, that you are loved by the Creator of the universe.