Here are six good reasons to personally grow in our theology:
1. God has revealed himself to us in his word and given us his Spirit that we might understand the truth. Obviously, you don’t need to master every theme in Scripture in order to be a Christian. God is gracious to save lots of us with lots of gaps in our understanding. But if we have a Bible, not to mention an embarrassment of riches when it comes to resources in English, why wouldn’t we want to understand as much of God’s self-revelation as possible? Theology is getting more of God. Don’t you want your church to know God better?
2. The New Testament places a high value on discerning truth from error. There is a deposit of truth that must be guarded. False teaching must be placed out of bounds. Good teaching must be promoted and defended. This is not the concern of some soulless Ph.D. candidate wasting away in front of microfiche. This is the passion of the Apostles and the Lord Jesus himself who commended the church at Ephesus for being intolerant of false teachers and hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans.
3. The ethical commands of the New Testament are predicated on theological propositions. So many of Paul’s letters have a twofold structure. The beginning chapters lay out doctrine and the latter chapters exhort us to obedience. Doctrine and life are always connected in the Bible. It’s in view of God’s mercies, in view of all the massive theological realities of Romans 1-11, that we are called to lay down our lives as living sacrifices in Romans 12. Know doctrine, know life. No doctrine, no life.
4. Theological categories enable us to more fully and more deeply rejoice in God’s glory. Simple truths are wonderful. It is good for us to sing simple songs like “God is good. All the time!” If you sing that in sincere faith, the Lord is very pleased. But he is also pleased when we can sing and pray about how exactly he has been good to us in the plan of salvation and in the scope of salvation history. He is pleased when we can glory in the completed work of Christ, and rest in his all-encompassing providence, and marvel at his infinity and aseity, when we can delight in his holiness and mediate on his three-ness and one-ness and stand in awe at his omniscience and omnipotence. These theological categories are not meant to give us bigger heads, but bigger hearts that worship deeper and higher because of what we’ve seen in God.
5. Theology helps us more fully and more deeply rejoice in the blessings that are ours in Christ. Again, it is a sweet thing to know that Jesus saves you from your sins. There’s no better news than that in the whole world. But how much fuller and deeper will your delight be when you understand that salvation means election to the praise of God’s grace, expiation to cover your sins, propitiation to turn away divine wrath, redemption to purchase you for God, justification before the judgment seat of God, adoption into God’s family, on-going sanctification by the Spirit, and promised glorification at the end of the age? If God has given us so many varied and multi-layered blessings in Christ, wouldn’t it help you and honor him to understand what they are?
6. Even (or is it especially?) non-Christians need good theology. They may not thrill to hear a dry lecture on the ordo salutis. But who wants dry lectures on anything? If you can talk winsomely, passionately, and simply about the blessings of effectual calling, regeneration, and adoption, and how all these blessings are found in Christ, and how the Christian life is nothing more or less than being who we are in Christ, and how this means God really does want us to be true to ourselves, but ourselves as we were born again not as we were born in sin–if you give non-Christians all of this, and give it to them plainly, you’ll be giving them a whole lot of theology. And, if the Spirit of God is at work, they just might come back looking for more.
On Sunday December 11th we will be going to serve at the 10th Presbyterian homeless dinner. We will be leaving the church at 12:30 and getting back around 5pm. We can only bring so many people along, so if you are interested please let me know!
Verse 23, Moses’ parents faith is mentioned for their willingness to disobey Pharoah’s law in respect to God’s law.
Verses 24-26, Moses himself is brought before us. His faith is worked out in a three step process: 1) Moses esteemed or accounted. 2) Moses chose. 3) Moses refused.
1) Moses took all of Egypts riches and pleasure and put that against the reward of following God. He then carefully weighed both options.
2) Thus having esteemed or accounted each, Moses then made a conscious and decisive choice between the two. He decided that he would choose the temporary suffering and pain of following God and the eternal reward thereafter, rather than have a temporary pleasure in sin that only lasted for a season and nothing thereafter.
3) So having weighed his options, and made his choice, Moses then actively refused to be identified with Egypt and all it’s worldly pleasures and benefits, and instead united himself to the fate of Israel and their God.
Verse 27, Moses was constantly putting God before himself. Think Ps. 73.
Verse 28, Moses revealed faith by instituting and keeping the Passover.
Verses 29-30, Now the writer moves on to the people of Israel as a whole and reveals their victories in faith–despite their many faults! This should be encouraging to us.
Verse 31, Rahab is placed before us as both a Gentile and an obvious sinner! Still, her faith purchased for her redemption and salvation from the fate of those in Jericho. Read of her faith in God in Joshua 2:8-11.
Verses 32-37, Here the writer comes to the crescendo of his argument, showing through rapid fire events that faith can be active in any circumstance of life and triumph in any circumstance in life. Trials, in fact, only strengthen true faith in God. See James 1:2-4.
Faith allows us to suffer the hardest things as well as accomplish the greatest things. It’s all the same to faith. Thus the examples reveal that all of us can have God working in our life if we only have faith.
Verse 38, The writer pauses his account of the difficulties faith has overcome to let us know God’s point of view. When God looks down upon the agony of the ages, He sees those who hold to Him in faith as constituting the true wealth of the world. What an amazing thought!
Verses 39-40, The promise they had not received fully was that of a heavenly city, in a heavenly country, with the Heavenly King ruling and reigning on earth as it is in heaven. We shall all be made perfect in that ultimate work of God together!
Are we willing to choose God and accept the fate of those associated with Christ and His kingdom?
Three questions must govern readers of the inspired Word:
First, in the passage being read, what is shown about God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? What does it say about what the holy Three are doing, have done, and will do in God’s world, in his church, and in lives committed to him? What does it reveal about God’s attributes, that is, God’s power and character, how he exists and how he behaves? One reason, no doubt, for God’s panoramic, multigenred layout of the Bible—with history, homily, biography, liturgy, practical philosophy, laws, lists, genealogies, visions, and so on, all rubbing shoulders—is that this variety provides so many angles of illumination on these questions for theological Bible readers’ instruction.
Second, in the passage being read, what is shown about the bewildering, benighted world with all its beautiful and beneficial aspects alongside those that are corrupt and corrupting? Discerning the world’s good and evil for what they are, so as to embrace the world’s good and evade its temptations, is integral to the godliness that theological Bible reading should promote.
Third, in the passage being read, what is shown to guide one’s living, this day and every day? The theological logic of this question, through which the reader must work each time, is this: since God, by his own testimony, said that to those people in their situation, what does it follow that he says to readers today in their own situation? The Holy Spirit answers prayer by giving discernment to apply Scripture in this way. Those who seek will indeed find.
Verse 7, Here Noah is held up as an example of faith in regards to the unseen future judgment revealed by God. Noah walked with God–Gen. 6:9–and was a preacher of righteousness–2 Peter 2:5–for nearly 120 years as he built the ark. All that time his faith in God’s Word of coming judgment on the world kept him pure and obedient. And that in the worst moral climate in all of human history! See Gen. 6:5; Mt. 24:37-39; 2 Peter 3:3-7.
Verse 8, Now Abraham is placed before us as possibly the ultimate example of faith outside of Jesus Christ Himself. 3 specific acts of faith are mentioned. The first is here in verse 8, and it is what I would call Leaving Faith.
Abraham was willing to leave all that was familiar and comfortable for God. There was hesitancy, fear, and question, but he still obeyed and acted in trust. He did not know where he was going, but he knew why and for Who he was going.
Verses 9-10, the writer reveals to us what reasoning was behind Abraham’s faith, enabling him to turn his back on his whole world. God had given him the hope of a future city greater than Ur. He had a conviction of a city not seen! He knew his time here in this world was temporary. A city dweller is a permanent resident; a tent dweller is a temporary resident.
Like Jesus, we are “just visiting” this world. We are not meant to “fit in”. See John 15:18-19 and 17:16.
Verses 11-12, Sarah is placed before us as an example of faith bringing life through man’s impossibility. And not just one life, but abundant life! The key to her faith is seen in the phrase: she judged Him faithful.
Verses 13-16, In these verses we see a summary of Abraham’s (and others) daily life of faith. I would call this Living Faith. He openly confessed to the world that he was a sojourner, just passing through this world to the next. Do we?
Abraham proved his desire for heaven by never returning to his hometown of Ur. He left his old life once and for all, proving that he was possessed of a desire for something better than what he left. Do we?
That desire for a heavenly country and heavenly city is one that God puts His approval upon. God is not ashamed to claim those desirous of heaven as His own! See 2 Chron. 20:7; Isa. 41:8; James 2:23.
Verses 17-19, Here we see the third and final occasion of Abraham’s faith, his offering of Isaac. This is Loving Faith!
God wants us to enjoy His blessings, but we so often devolve into selfishness and idolatry. We soon love the gifts over the Giver and the blessings over the Blesser. So He asks us to give back into His hands what He has graciously placed in ours–Gen. 22:2.
Can we trust God’s goodness and character in that moment? What about when He places His finger upon that which we love most? Can we still say like Abraham–I choose you God!
Verses 20-22, The writer moves through the rest of the patriarchs to show that they too held onto these promises of God and passed them down in faith from generation to generation, believing God would be true to His Word and not fail them.
If any of you are interested in possibly going to Africa with us this summer, please get in touch with me and let me know. It is not 100% just yet, but I am gathering a list of those interesed if–God willing–we head back to Ndola this summer.
Verse 1, The writer is still encouraging these believers toward the life of patience and endurance show in 10:32-39. He does so here by using a great cloud of witnesses, of which Jesus is chief in 12:1-2.
Thus the writer is not defining faith in this verse but showing faith’s unique involvement in the life of godly endurance and Christian patience. Faith thus becomes necessary for hopes to come true and our confidence in the unseen to be real–despite being hidden–10:34-36.
There are so many thoughts and ideas about the word faith, so as we move forward I would like to clarify some. So, if I were to define faith, it would be trust in the character of God.
1) That is why the Word builds our faith in Rom. 10:17. Because the Word talks about Jesus! See Lk. 24:25-27; Jn. 5:39-40; Heb. 10:7; etc…
2) That is why faith without works is dead in James 2:17-22. We cannot merely trust people in intellect, we must trust them in action to show we actually believe in them.
3) That is why faith works by love in Gal. 5:6. The more you love someone, the more you are able to trust them, even if you do not understand. See Dan. 3:16-18.
Biblical faith is trust in the character of God. It’s not that we dont believe, it’s who we dont believe.
Verse 2, The elders were those O.T. characters that revealed faith in God, despite their own personal failings. Notice how even the word “faith” is rarely used in their accounts or associated with most of them. But still we can see their trust in the character of God through various circumstances and trials.
Verse 3, We must all view creation in faith. No one was there! Everything that was created was made by the Unseen God.
Verse 4, Abel is a picture of faith coming to God and worshiping. Abel realized God’s holiness and his inadequacy and therefore brought the correct offering–revealing that what was in his heart was right. Cain brought the wrong offering in the wrong way–revealing a lack of faith and knowledge of God.
Abel’s blood cried out to God about anguish and sin and death in Gen. 4:10, but Christ’s blood cries out in answer to those woes in Heb. 12:24.
Verse 5, Enoch is an example of walking through life in a way pleasing to God and overcoming death through faith. If we are to walk together with someone we must: 1) Go the same direction. 2) Be in agreement 3) Trust 4) Have love/friendship.
Verse 6, We do not only believe that God is, but who He is. We believe something about God’s character. What do you believe about God? Do you believe that He is the Rewarder of those that seek Him? Do you believe that giving your life to Him will be worth it?
We do not trust because “a god” exists, but because this God exists! Think John 3:16 vs. Job 21:14-15.
Verse 26, For means that the writer is giving reasons for heeding his previous exhortations and arguments. Forsaking the assembly for the forms and rituals of Judaism would be willful sin, for the writer assumes that they have received the truth through this letter and are now responsible to act in light of that revelation.
To reject the truths of Christ would be to turn back to a dead system with no more sacrifice for sins.
Verse 27, Once the decision to turn from Christ back to Judaism is made all that remains for such a willful choice is this! See. Mt. 21:41; Lk. 20:16; 21:24.
Verse 28, The writer makes that point that if the rejection of the Law of Moses was met with physical death, how much more the rejection of…
Verse 29, The very Son of God, the blood Jesus shed on the cross, and the work of the Spirit of Grace! To treat the sacrificial blood of Jesus as something common, or unholy, is to align oneself against the love of God.
Some people just do not care about the fact that Jesus left heaven for earth and died on a cross for their sins. They love and follow their own sinful desires despite all the warnings of God’s Spirit in their lives.
See Zech. 12:10 in relation to the Spirit of grace.
Verses 30-31, The writer now quotes from Deut. 32:35-36 to show that we know God’s character toward sin–we know Him. God’s character and holiness demands that wickedness is punished justly and fully. God is slow to anger, and seeks to be a refuge for those that come to Him, but He will also judge the wicked and pour out His wrath on sin. See Nahum 1:2-7.
Who can imagine a being of infinite power rising up, bent on vengeance and justice! Fearful indeed! Personal rejection of the Living God will mean personal dealing with the Living God.
This fearful recognition can be healthy! See Lk. 12:5 and Jude 23.
Verses 32-34, The writer now wants to assure these believer’s that he does not believe they will be those which he has just described. He encourages them to press on despite the fact that they faced public verbal and physical abuse for the sake of Christ.
Not only did they face such hardship, but they befriended those who suffered similarly–the writer being one–and even freely gave of their material possessions to support their hurting brethren. See Mt. 25:34-40.
These believers were able to suffer and endure their worldly losses because of the firm belief that they possessed something better. See 1 Peter 4:12-19.
Verses 35-36, The writer encourages them to have boldness and patience because he knows our penchant to grow weary in well-doing and quit under persecution. It is relevant to note that God always speaks highly of those who are truly suffering for Him.
Verses 37-39, The writer now quotes Habakkuk 2:3-4 to show that we must live by faith, even though the judgment of the wicked be delayed. See 2 Cor. 5:7
To draw back seems to be a reference to the fear of Israel at Kadesh-Barnea, and our ability to miss God’s promises and blessings because of unbelief and disobedience–as the writer covered earlier in the epistle.
Lastly note the numerous refrences of living by faith. Hab. 2:3-4; Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38. Each has its own specific facet of truth based upon the context of the book.
For all of you who are at home and not able to be with us in person at the Prayer Retreat this weekend, I thought I would give you just a couple things to think through to pray for us, and still be a part of the work God will do in spirit.
Moving through Paul’s prayer for the believers in Ephesus, pray that:
1) God would give heavenly strength and divine grace to all those who have particular burdens, physical pains, wounded spirits, and distracted hearts.
2) That Christ would fill all with His Spirit and find a true home in our hearts.
3) That the love of Christ and His work on the cross for us would be the solid foundation on which we stand and draw out life-giving resources.
4) That we might learn more of Jesus’ love, growing in grace and the knowledge of Him.
5) That we might experience more of Jesus’ presence in our lives that we ever have–some maybe for the first time!
6) That God’s power would make God’s love for us more real that we could ever ask, think, or imagine.
7) That God would get all the glory for the wonderful things He has done!