Doctrine & Theology are Important

Doctrine. Theology. The very mention of those two small words may cause you thoughts of anxiety, intimidation, boredom, or an awful combination of all three. Throw in “exegesis,” “hermeneutics,” “concordance,” or “original language” and the average Christian is probably thinking that a Novocain-free root canal sounds more appealing. However, having a correct understanding of what the Bible actually says is vitally important to your relationship with God and others, and you may be surprised to learn that it doesn’t take a trip to seminary to get the tools you need to dig down deep into the truths of God’s word.

“But wait,” you may say, “isn’t that why I go to church!? So my pastor can tell me what the Bible really says?” Yes and no. Your pastor is absolutely used by God to break down the scriptures and to help you understand what you are reading and how you can apply biblical truth to your life. However, any pastor would do backflips if he knew that you planned to go home and do an in-depth study of the scripture from his Sunday sermon for yourself.

In church, you may hear things that you don’t understand, that seem confusing, or that you don’t seem to fully agree with. At that moment you have a choice to make. You can say, “Well the pastor said it so it must be true,” and go on about your merry way allowing someone else to do your thinking for you. The problem is, when you experience personal doubt on that particular subject, or when someone questions you about it, you will experience a crisis of faith. The wise choice to make in moments of biblical uncertainty is to open the Bible for yourself, turn to time-tested resources to help you understand what you are reading, and gain a true understanding and confidence of what the Bible actually says and why you believe what you believe.

An Existing Foundation
The good news is this: thankfully, people have been studying, interpreting and dissecting the Bible for thousands of years and have done most of the heavy lifting for us. For example, if you take one of Jesus’ statements and see that the Apostle Paul, Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon and John MacArthur have all studied that statement and come out with the same conclusion of what he actually meant, it’s pretty safe to say that’s what Jesus actually meant. These men have looked at the Bible in the original language, done the historical research, looked at the context – all with the assistance of the Holy Spirit in the unique context of their own day and time – and have come to a clear and accurate understanding of the true meaning as a result. Find trusted and respected pillars of the faith, like the men listed above, and turn to their writings, books and commentaries to help you gain wisdom and clarity on any particular scriptural topic or passage that you are wrestling to understand for yourself.

Context is Critical
When looking at any area of scripture, one of the single most important things to remember is that we must interpret the small piece we are reading in the context of the big picture of the Bible as a whole. We must take into account when the passage was written, for whom it was written and, most importantly, why the Bible was given to man in the first place. The whole of scripture from beginning to end points to Jesus; his coming, life, death, resurrection and future return. For instance, the story of Noah and his family being saved from the flood points to God offering salvation through Jesus. The story of Moses delivering his people from Egypt points to the day when Jesus would deliver God’s people from slavery and death through his sacrifice on the cross. The New Testament commands on how Christians are to live all point back to the redemptive, sanctifying work of Jesus as the basis for a believer’s changed heart and behavior. When we take scripture out of context and divorce it from the overall gospel narrative, we can end up making misleading and dangerous interpretations and claims that do not accurately represent God’s heart towards His people.

The Benefit of Modern Technology
Up until recent years, this type of intensive study required poring over huge libraries of hard copy books, concordances, commentaries and cassette tapes. The blessing of today’s technology is that you have a wealth of doctrinal and theological information at your fingertips with just a few clicks of your keyboard and mouse. Even better, most of this information is offered completely free. For example, if you decide that you want to know more about the doctrine of justification – what it is, what it means and why you should care — with just a few clicks you can download multiple sermons on justification, do a word search for scriptures that talk about it, read commentaries on those scriptures, purchase eBooks on Amazon on the topic – the possibilities are virtually endless.

Gaining an ever-growing understanding what the Bible says and means will have a profound impact on your relationship with God. Having a proper understanding of who God is, who you are in Christ, and how your standing as a child of God affects your earthly relationships really helps to put everything in proper perspective. In reading and studying scripture for yourself, don’t be surprised to find that you may have developed an idea of God – as well as of yourself and others – that is just plain wrong. Take the time to read, study, learn, grow and share what you are learning with others. Do this and your love for a God who has extravagantly loved you first is sure to grow and to spill over into every area of your life and relationships.

Justin Young is the Staff Writer for the Good News. Follow him on Twitter at @thejustinyoung.

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