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Studying Theology Benefits and Blessings of Sound Doctrine

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Benefits and Blessings of Studying Theology

We can identify many benefits of pursuing, developing, and maintaining sound doctrine as a result of studying theology:

Theology is required for salvation

A certain amount of knowledge is required for salvation.  Check out the parable of the seeds:

Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed.  As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up… (Mt 13:3-4).  “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart.  This is the seed sown along the path” (Mt 13:18-19).

Paul writes for, Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?  And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?  And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? (Romans 10:13-14).  Paul also wrote to Timothy that the holy Scriptures are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (2Tim 3:15).

It is very important to note here that, no amount of theological study will qualify us for salvation.  We can study Jesus our entire life without knowing Him as our Savior.  It is only by God's revelation through the Holy Spirit that we can confess Him as Lord (1Cor 12:3).  Many of us have known people that have never heard of Jesus or the Bible, yet they came to repentance after hearing a short plan of salvation, but this only happens because the Spirit has opened their heart and given them a knowledge of the truth.  This begs the question,  “How much knowledge does one need in order to be saved?”  This is difficult to answer precisely, but I think we can say that, at a minimum, the Spirit must impart knowledge of our true sinful condition (our need for a Savior), that Jesus is the Son of God who also existed as a real historical person, that our salvation is based upon His works, and that our reception of Him as Lord and Savior is based on saving faith.

Theology increases our faith

After our conversion, we continue to increase our knowledge, which in turn, increases our faith by believing God's Word.  However, we cannot believe the Bible unless we understand what the Bible says.  If we base our faith on our own experiences and feelings, who's to say that our experience is any more valid than a cult member's; but when our faith is based on the Word of God, we're building our lives on the solid foundation of the Truth, a power infinitely higher than ourselves. 

...faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17).

Theology leads to discipleship and godliness

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (Jn 8:31-32).

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments…  They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” (Jn 14:15,21 NRSV).

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness; a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time... (Titus 1:1-2).

Theology guarantees answers to our prayers

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. (Jn 15:7)

The Greek word used for remain is meno, which means “to stay (in a given place, state, relation or expectancy) - continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand, tarry” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance).  It is used in the aorist tense, which is similar to the English past tense, only stronger, indicating something (an event) that happened at a particular point in time that has continuing results.  I believe this event is our salvation, so this promise is for true believers only.

Another requirement for answered prayer is to pray according to Jesus' will (Jn 14:14).  Our Lord has spoken to us through the entirety of Scripture, so we must know and obey it in order to claim this promise.

Theology gives us a sound Biblical foundation and protects us from false doctrine

Sound doctrine protects us from false prophets, false teachers, and various forms of satanic deception.

My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments (Col 2:2-4).

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ (Eph 4:14-15).

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel-- which is really no gospel at all.  Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!  As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! (Gal 1:6-9).

Does this sound like Paul took theology (doctrine) lightly?

Theology helps us build a proper Christian world-view

This will allow us to properly interpret all aspects of life and culture, learning to think God’s thoughts after Him, aligning our will to His.  All teaching that we hear will be filtered through our world-view.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ (Col 2:8).

Theology helps keep us on the right path (discernment)

Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path (Ps 119:105).

Many modernists say that they don’t need scripture.  They say they merely need to just let the Holy Spirit be their guide.  What does the Scriptures say about this?

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world (1Jn 4:1).

Since there are false spirits, we need an absolute source in order properly to “test the spirits” rather than employing our own fallible human reasoning. The late Harry Ironside used to give this illustration about remaining on the correct pathd.  He imagined the believer as a locomotive engine, filled with the propelling steam (the Holy Spirit).  This engine, thus equipped, becomes a source of terrible destruction if it veers off the tracks.  The tracks are the Word of God.  This illustration reminds me of the Paul’s statement about the Jews:

For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.  Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness (Rom 10:2-3).

We are most certainly to avail ourselves of the prompting and leading of the Holy Spirit, but we must also keep in mind that the Holy Spirit is the author of the scriptures.  Being immutable, the Spirit will not reveal anything to us that is contradictory to the scriptures.

Theology helps us grow and mature

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ (Eph 4:14-15).

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn.  In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again.  You need milk, not solid food!  Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil (Heb 5:11-14).

Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity... (Heb 6:1).

Theology helps us defend the Faith

Guard the Christian faith that was “once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  (1Pe 3:15)

Theology fuels worship

If we don't know who God is and what He is like, how can we worship Him?  John Piper offers this analogy for worship.  The furnace of worship is our heart.  The fuel of worship is the truth we know about God.  The one who ignites the fire in our hearts is the Holy Spirit.  And the resulting heat of our affections is the worship.  The more fuel of truth that we have in our hearts, the greater fire of affections we will have for worship!  So build up lots of fuel in your heart for worship!

Theology is the foundation of hope, joy and peace

If we don’t understand theology, we are missing out on the hope, joy and peace that comes from  beholding what a great God we serve.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Php 4:4,6-7).

Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. They give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God's promises (Rom 15:4).

Theology fuels obedience

If we have a great view of God and deep joy in Him, we will have strong motivation to obey Him.  For example, striving to be holy because God is holy is a much stronger motive for obedience than simply “it’s the right thing to do.”  As we saw earlier, a major part of theology is knowing the commands God has given us.  If we do not know them, we cannot do them.  The apostle Peter writes that everything we need to have a strong faith and to lead holy lives is found in the knowledge God has revealed of Himself (Biblical doctrine is sufficient):

God’s divine power has given us everything we need to live a truly religious life through our knowledge of the one who called us to share in his own glory and goodness (2Pe 1:3 GNT).

Theology unites Christians

There is powerful fellowship and unity among a group of believers that share the same vision and beliefs.  It provides great encouragement that is hard to find elsewhere.

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Eph 4:11-13).

As we said earlier, theology can also divide us.  I think one of the major attributes of spiritual maturity is knowing which doctrines to “agree to disagree” (predestination, free will etc) and which doctrines that we can’t afford to compromise (sovereignty of God, deity of Christ, salvation by grace. inerrancy of the Bible etc).

Theology strengthens the Church

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God (Col 3:16).

The church of God is in great danger today through the neglect of our minds.  William Lane Craig once said, “Our churches are filled with Christians who are idling in intellectual neutral.  As Christians, their minds are going to waste.  One result of this is an immature, superficial faith.  People who simply ride the roller coaster of emotional experience are cheating themselves out of a deeper and richer Christian faith by neglecting the intellectual side of that faith.”

The church today seems to be lacking much of the power and holiness it ought to have.  I think that one reason for this is the neglect of theology.  There is certainly the case in which a church may be teaching sound doctrine, but many members simply fail to consistently live their lives in accord with the sound teachings.  In our modern times however, it is much more common to find churches teaching a watered-down, man-centered, seeker-friendly, non-accountable religion that attempts to synchronize with, rather than transforming the world.  Not surprisingly in this case, we usually find almost all members living consistently with these false teachings.

I’d like to interject a personal opinion here.  Study after study seems to indicate that the churches that teach sound doctrine over the long haul are the ones that steadily grow.  I think starting a seeker-friendly church may be the best short term growth strategy, but there will be much larger turnover.  After all, what do you say to a member, who after hearing prosperity sermons week after week, runs into trials and tribulations.  These churches also seem to be loaded with marketing strategies and gimmicks.  The problem with that is, another church always has a better gimmick.  “My church has a Starbucks” – “Oh yeah, so does ours and we’re getting an Applebee’s next month” – “Sounds great, I think I’ll change my membership.”  A pastor friend once showed me the mountain of marketing mail he gets each week on “how to build a mega-church” (before tossing them in the trash).  Didn’t Jesus say “I will build My Church”? (Mt 16:8).  We should be open to the leading of the Spirit regarding new ways of reaching out to a diverse populace, but we must never compromise our foundations.

We need less church leaders using clever marketing schemes trying to bring their church into the twenty-first century, and more leaders taking the church back to the first century when it was built on the Word of God!

So, we see that the study of theology can bring many benefits and blessings, not only in this temporary life, but in our eternal life to come.

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