Theology is one of those dirty words in churches today. Some think of it as an exercise in academics that distracts us from experiencing a real relationship with God. Others think of theology as something that divides good Christians. While the average Christian just plain finds it boring. However, theology is like a map that shows us where we are going and opens up the scriptures to us. The purpose of this essay is demonstrate the benefits of theology in the life of the every day believer.
Theology helps us know God better
[People] may love a God of their own imaginations, when they are far from loving such a God as reigns in heaven.” -Jonathan Edwards
Theology by definition is the study of God, but in its common use it refers to understanding the person, nature, work and words of God as found in His scriptures. In our current cultural climate with the aid of social media, we have developed the skills of knowing a lot of people but only knowing them at a surface level. If I am going to have a more meaningful relationship with people, I must spend more time with them. Find out about their interests, their dislikes, what is important to them and how they think about life. The believer who lives at the level of mere Christianity without theology limits His knowledge of God and is susceptible to coming away from the bible without a full understanding of who God is.
Take for instance the "believer" who sees God as a god of love in the scriptures. This is clearly a true understanding of who our God is and is a large part of God's motivation. However, that same believer might come to the conclusion that God would never send anyone to hell because He is so loving. They might think that God will eventually just forgive everyone and let them all into Heaven. This "believer" is only seeing part of the picture. God is also a God of wrath and a God of Justice. Proper theology helps us see how all these truths about God that are seemingly contradictory actually work together in the person of Jesus Christ.
Many professing believers have an inaccurate view of God and His plan for salvation and the consequence could be an eternity in Hell. Matthew 7:21-23 says "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." For them the consequence of not having a proper theological understanding of who God is has extreme results.
Theology protects us from being deceived by false teachers
1 Tim 4:16 Paul challenges young Pastor Timothy with these words, "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee." The end result of the command that Paul is giving to Timothy is that he himself would be saved and those who hear him. The word for "save" here (σωζω) sozo is the standard word for salvation; however it also carries the idea of preserving something. What is it that will preserve his hearers? The taking care to watch over his own personal character and the doctrine or teaching.
As believers were are told to test the spirits to see whether they are from God (1John 4:1). One of the marks of false teachers is that they will bring in damnable heresies into the church (2 Peter 2:1-2). A church that does not know what the bible teaches is subject to being led astray by these false teachers. No one ever believes something without some reasoning behind it. False teachers will have a way of making what they say make sense, but their teaching must be compared to scripture.
Studying theology is a command
“ Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." - 2 Tim 2:15
Sometimes as preachers, we see a lack of devotion to God's words in the lives of believers and we emphasize that they need to do their devotions everyday. Growing up, I always understood devotions to be just reading the bible; however, as I have grown older, I am realizing that there is more to it than that. This passage clearly states that we are to "study" and to "rightly divide the word of truth." Hebrews 5:12 speaks of those who are headed to apostasy as those who should be eating meat but can only handle the milk of the word. Paul uses the same analogy when speaking to the carnal Corinthian church. If we want to move beyond the milk of the word it is going to take some serous study.
The phrase "rightly dividing the word of truth" has been misapplied throughout the years as support for dispensationalism. By saying this I am not denying the concepts of dispensationalism; however, the phrase comes from the idea of cutting true and references separating error from truth. We are responsible for how we handle the scriptures and delving into theology helps us make those distinctions.
Theology helps us grow into mature believers
In John 17:17, Jesus prayed that we would be sanctified through God's truth which He specifically defines as the word of God. Sanctification is a term that speaks of the gradual growth of the Christian. The means of growth in our spiritual lives is God's truth.
When I speak of theology, I am not speaking about the opinions of men, but rather, what does the bible teach. Everyone of us has been called to be a theologian. For those hungering for a deeper relationship with God, I cannot recommend more a deeper understanding of theology.