“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” John 17.3
The goal of all theology
In his treatise, On Christian Doctrine, Augustine (354-430 AD) argued that all study of Scripture is aimed at knowing, loving, and serving God. Only as we turn to the Word of God can we bring self-love under proper control, direct our most positive affections toward God, and thus gain from Him the love we need for our neighbors. He summarized his argument thus: “The sum of all we have said since we began to speak of things comes to this: it is to be understood that the plenitude and end of all the Law and of all the sacred Scriptures is the love of a Being [Who] is to be enjoyed and of a being [who] can share in that enjoyment with us…”
That is, our reading and study of Scripture must be unto loving God and our neighbors, or it will be a labor in vain.
The goal of all theological study, therefore, is to increase in love for God and our neighbors. This is the very substance of eternal life. We have been saved to know the Lord, and if we know Him, we will love and serve Him, and He will empower us to overcome inordinate self-love so that we love our neighbors. Theology, which is the disciplined pursuit of the knowledge of God and His glory, realizes its great purpose and potential as those who engage in it grow in the grace and knowledge of God through the Lord Jesus Christ in the power of His Spirit.
To realize that end, all theological study must be grounded in the revelation of God and His will, beginning with the Scriptures. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, points us to Jesus, and equips us for every good work (2 Tim. 3.15-17; Jn. 5.39). Reading, studying, and meditating on Scripture is for the believer a source of great joy and spiritual growth (Jer. 15.16; 1 Pet. 2.1-3). The theological discipline that opens the treasures of Scripture to us is Biblical theology. Engaging the disciplines and protocols of Biblical theology is the privilege and duty of all believers. And, while some will explore the depths of this aspect of theological study more earnestly and comprehensively than others, all believers are charged with the study of Scripture so that we might be equipped for the good works for which we have been redeemed (Eph. 2.10).
Biblical theology primary
Biblical theology is the study of God’s Word in Scripture, both in whole and in part, as it develops and as it has been received. Biblical theology is primary to all other theological study, just as it is primary to knowing the Lord and growing in Him.
Throughout, the Scriptures—Old Testament and New—declare the Word of God to be the ground of all being, source of all life, and fount of all hope and blessedness. We observed this from Solomon’s testimony in Ecclesiastes 12, which was the subject of Volume 10, Number 1 of The InVerse Theology Project:
You may read many books to understand
your plight and calm your fears. There is no end
to making many books. You’ll fill your hand
with them until you’re weary. Let us, then,
consider the conclusion to what I
have learned is true and proper for all men:
Fear God—fear Him until the day you die,
and walk in His commandments. This is what
it means to be a human being.
The Scriptures provide the foundation, cornerstone, and goal of all theological study. They are the mine from which minerals and precious gems are derived to help us in strengthening and adorning our lives as the image-bearers of Christ. This is so because the Scriptures reveal Jesus, point to Jesus, enlarge on Jesus, and present Jesus as our Foundation, Cornerstone, and Goal. He is the Treasury of all wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2.2, 3), and all of Scripture leads us to Him (Jn. 5.39). We must begin with the Scriptures, and with the eyes of our heart set on seeing Jesus, if we are to make any progress whatsoever in knowing, loving, and serving God.
In Volume 1, Number 4 of our Project, we cited the Westminster Confession of Faith on the importance of submitting to the authority of Scripture, not only for theological study, but for all of life:
The Scriptures have authority, and ought
to be believed and followed. We are taught
to trust them, not by testimony of
mere men, or of the church; instead, above
these, God (Who is the truth itself), by His
authority persuades us, for He is
the Author of the Scriptures. We receive
them therefore as His Word; and we believe,
obey, and hide them deep within our heart,
because they are God’s Word, in whole and part.
Scripture has authority in all things, including the work of theology. So we need to make sure that we have a solid foundation and a growing understanding of Scripture as we take up the work of any theological discipline to know, love, and serve our God.
Disciplines of Biblical theology
Biblical theology approaches the study of Scripture both in whole and in part. It regards Scripture as a single, organic whole, with one overall Author Who inspired human writers to carry out His task. Biblical theology wants to gain a proper overall understanding of the Bible and the narrative of redemption and renewal it unfolds; and it seeks to gain an understanding of all the “moving parts” of Scripture—the sections, books, key players, and primary subjects—and to discover all the ways these work together to tell the story of Jesus.
Holding all of Scripture together is God’s covenant, that unassailable, irrevocable, unchangeable divine plan for saving a people unto Himself through whom He will be glorified and all things will be made new. God’s covenant binds the whole of Scripture together by great and precious promises which are all fulfilled in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 1.20). So powerful a concept is God’s covenant that it protects us from hopelessness and shields us against the wiles of the devil. In all our work in Biblical theology we are simply examining the strength, beauty, and saving power of God, expressed and carried out through His gracious eternal covenant.
It's no wonder the devil wants nothing more than for us to minimize this great supporting structure of the Word, and to leave us hanging by threads of Scripture, here and there, twisting in his storm of doubts, fears, uncertainties, and best guesses. Satan hates God’s covenant, as we heard him testify in Volume 3, Number 6:
He took away the hapless race of men
from me by force of flood, preserving eight
to save the creatures and to populate
the earth again. And it was during this
defeat that first the word that makes me hiss
and shriek was spoken: covenant. That word
to me is like a fearsome two-edged sword;
it forms a shield against my stealth and guile
and brings to naught my every wit and wile.
I knew then I would loathe this word, and set
my mind on making sure that men forget,
ignore, or violate this covenant,
and so consign themselves to woe and want.
All our study of Scripture unfolds within God’s covenant and by that covenant takes us to Jesus, in Whom all the promises of God are “Yes” and “Amen” (2 Cor. 1.20). Within the framework of this covenant, we see how the grace of God works to reveal Him and His will, lead His people forward into His favor and rule, shape and discipline us according to the demands of righteousness, and help us, by His Spirit, to understand all that is necessary for salvation, faith, and life.
The disciplines we use in the work of Biblical theology are reading, meditation, study, comparative Scriptural study, conversation with our fellow believers—present and past—and waiting on the Lord in prayer. Our desire in The InVerse Theology Project is to help you learn and master the disciplines that will help you in getting at the Word, into the Word, and with the Word in all your walk with and work for the Lord. Biblical theology is that starting-place, touchstone, and key for all other theological study.
Let us seek the Lord to increase our hunger for His Word and our delight in feeding on it day by day (Jer. 15.16). This is the project which Biblical theology pursues.
Visit our bookstore to find additional resources to help you in learning and mastering the disciplines of Biblical theology. You can order or download the following resources free of charge:
I Will Be Your God—A study of God’s covenant.
God’s Covenant—A workbook tracing the development of God’s covenant throughout Scripture.
The Joy and Rejoicing of My Heart—A basic handbook for making the best use of Scripture.
Support for The InVerse Theology Project comes from our faithful and generous God, who moves our readers to share financially in our work. If this article was helpful, please give Him thanks and praise.
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