Monday, January 03, 2011

Why Theology Matters

In Hebrews 10, the writer begins to give a lot of commands to his readers as to how they are supposed to live their Christian lives. If we were writing this letter in today's church, we probably would have started right in with the commands of verse 22. We would tell our audience (congregation) that they need to draw near to God and hold on tight to Him, while trying to help others grow in their faith as well. This would be exactly what people would want to hear. They want practical applications for their daily life.

But verse 22 (which begins a section of practical application) is not in chapter 1. It is in chapter 10. Chapters 1 through the first have of 10 deal with theology. They cover subjects like the supremacy of Christ over angels, the supremacy of Christ over the Law, the progressive differences between the Old and New Covenants, the built-in frailties of the Old Covenant sacrifices, how the shadows of Old Covenant worship pointed to the reality of Christ and His once-for-all sacrifice.

The author thought it important enough to have 9 1/2 chapters of theology before getting into any kind of application. Paul did the same thing in Romans. He spends 11 chapters on theology before getting into practical application in chapter 12. So, the biblical writers seem to think that theology is as important as practice, if not more so. Why?

Simply put, right practice comes from right belief. Your actions flow from your beliefs. You cannot live correctly if your theology is wrong. In Hebrews 10, the writer shows this with one very important word. That word is found in the beginning of verse 19. After dealing with how God made promises under the Old Covenant and fulfilled them through the sacrifice of Christ as He brought in the New Covenant, the writer then says, "Therefore..."

I say this is an important word because it tells us how the following information is going to function. What follows are specific commands that detail how we are to live both individually and corporately. But, the word "Therefore" shows us that these commands don't stand on their own. They are a conclusion from previous material. You don't draw near, hold fast, and consider one another for just any reason. THEREFORE, you do these things. In other words, you do these things because of what God has already done for you. You base your actions on trusting in what God has already done and what He is doing. You live your life by faith in what the writer has just detailed in 9 1/2 chapters.

It's very similar to the Great Commission. We all know that we are to make disciples by going, baptizing and teaching. But, what is often missed in the Great Commission is the word "therefore". We are not to go, baptize and teach in our own power and for our own purposes. If we look back to see what the "therefore" is there for, we see that we are to go, baptize and teach because "All power in heaven and earth has been given to [Jesus]." In other words, our practice is based on our theology.

You cannot know how to live or what to do if you do not know what to believe. The Bible is full of theology because who God is and what God does is much more important than who you are or what you do. Spend a little time learning some theology. Once you know God well enough, then you might be able to figure out how you should live.


Lora Lee said...

Jesus prayed for believers: "Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth." John 17:17 But, how will we know truth unless as you said in your post we start at chapter 1 of Hebrews instead of starting at chapter 10 or 11.

An Old Member said...

Point Taken taken to heart...In my case, I have refused to believe that predestination as you stated in your sermons on theology was true. Now I know the full truth of it and the repercussions of it...I am one of the rejected by God. As you say "There is no way of knowing who is called by God." But if I was called by God, there would be evidence right? My repentence and following life would mean something. Since it is not marked by peace of mind or joy of heart, then I now know I am rejected by our cruel God.
Thank you for your strong theological teaching. Without it, I would never have come to accept the truth of my rejection (and a trillion or so other people's rejection) by God.

hyperyoda said...

Amen! Doug are you a 5-point TULIP Calvinist? I am an ambiguous Calvinist :) Where do you stand on infant baptism?

Doug said...

Lora Lee, I agre with you. We need to start at chapter 1. That is why I preach through a book from the beginning.

Doug said...

Old Member,

I am (obviously) not sure who you are, but it saddens me that, which your heart is still beating, you have determined that you are not an object of God's mercy. It saddens me that you consider the God who would send His Sn to become one of us and die on the cross in our place to be "cruel".

I have no idea what your life is like now, but as I have often said, most of us struggle with temptation and desire and, therefore, doubt the work of God in our lives. That is why we can't depend on our feelings to determine our salvation. We depend on the mercy of God.

God is not some cruel tyrant who laughs sadistically as he sends millions to he'll. God is a holy, righteous, and merciful Benefactor who set into motion an entire course of events to save millions who don't deserve it.

I pray that whatever you are going through, you come to depend on the grace of God and not on your performance.

Doug said...

Hyperyoda (is this Zach?),

I am a 5-point Calvinist, if you wish to call me that. I prefer to see myself as striving to fully understand the awesome Word of God and determining what I believe based on that, not on someone's systematic theology. I do read a lot of theological works, but will find that I don't agree with any of them completely.

I do not believe in infant baptism. That is the primary reason I am a Baptist and not a Presbyterian.

hyperyoda said...

Hi Doug,

Yes this is me Zach. Ah I see, Amen. Thanks for answering.

An Old Member said...

I agree with you that salvation is not based on our emotions. If it were there would be no certainty and it would not be based at all on predestination or free will but on the whim of our emotional state at the time. The decision to bow to the point you made about predestination has only one conclusion...God is a cruel God that rejects all but a few that he has determined are worth, for whatever His reasons, of his love and blessings. Of the privilege of even knowing him. Being that there is no fruit in my life though I struggle to seek Him and serve Him, leaves me with the conclusion that I must be rejected if I believe in predestination. Again, this statement is based on what you have said. Without fruit, we don not know him Please note: My thoughts on this are what you have said yourself on multiple occasions in sermons.
Please believe me when I still search, hoping my conclusions are wrong. IT is my last shred of hope that God cares for me because I choose him even though He has rejected me.
Either way, I thank you for destroying my illusioned state and helping me see the point in this theological view. I mean this with all sincerity. May God continue blessing you as one of His chosen.

Doug said...

A couple of things need to be brought out here:

1) This post said absolutely nothing about predestination. You have done what most people who don't like that subject do. You have arbitrarily seen predestination in everything I say.

2) If you believe what the Bible says about the state of man because of their sin nature (that they are spiritually dead and have neither the desire or ability to seek God) then it would be Hightower of cruelty for God not to choose to save some. The fact that he does is mercy.

3) You have completely missed the point of my teaching on fruit as evidence (which, by the way is the teaching of Christ and all the Apostles). The point is not that you will always see evidence. Sometime you will only see desire. Sometimes you won't even see that. You can't freeze time and look at one point in your life and determine whether or not your saved based on that particular time. The issue is are you trusting in Christ. The evidence of that faith is a new direction in life. Over time,there will be growth and perseverance in faith.

I don't know who you are, but I will pray that God will draw you closer to him so that you trust and love him more.

Doug said...

In point #2 "hightower" should be "the height". I love it when my iPad changes spelling and I don't notice!