In recent years it seems as though fewer and fewer Christians are studying theology. It is often thought of as the work of pastors and professors. The truth is though every follower of Christ should be studying theology for five very important reasons.
Now, I’m not just talking about looking up a few verses for when you need encouragement, or what the Bible says about prosperity or punishment. When I refer to theology I am really talking about some of the deeper topics such as the trinity, the infallibility of scripture, understanding God’s character as he presents himself in scripture, the deeper image of the church and the bride, and more.
So let’s start by defining exactly what theology is. One of the main focuses I want to zero in on concerning theology is systematizing it, or what is known as systematic theology. In his book Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem defines it as answering the question, “What does the whole Bible teach us today about any given topic?”
With that definition in mind, here are the five reasons every Christian should study theology.
To Not Be Tossed Like The Waves
As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ – Ephesians 4:14-15
Your responsibility in your Christian walk is to grow up in Christ. Paul gives us the illustration of meat and milk. Part of this growing up involves understanding theology and doctrines (meat) so you don’t get tossed around like waves of the sea every time you hear something new. Stop drinking the milk, of simple understandings of Christ, move on to meat.
You also have a responsibility to know when even your pastor is misinterpreting a scripture. They were never meant to be placed on pedestals so don’t put them there thinking their theology is immaculate.
Your responsibility to study theology is both personal and communal. As the body of Christ you look out for deceptive teachers and doctrines, not only for yourself, but also for the body of Christ as a whole.
To Edify The Body
Therefore encourage one another and build up one another just as you also are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Paul instructed the Thessalonians to encourage one another, and some versions use the term “edify one another” instead of build up. When you and the other parts of the body study theology you will be able to edify one another in a greater capacity.
You learn, they learn, you edify each other when you come together. In order for the whole body to be healthy, everyone must do their part.
To Have A Greater Understanding Of Topics
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. – 2 Timothy 2:15
Often times I see people quote a scripture about a topic. The problem is they only quote one scripture, and it’s typically the one that best supports their argument or stance.
I know I am guilty of doing that at times myself. Studying theology helps you and I to look at all of the relevant scriptures concerning a specific topic so we do not take something out of context.
It’s easy to cherry pick one or two scriptures to build a supporting argument, but when you understand what the Bible says as a whole about it, you will not be tossed about like a wave in the sea.
To expand on this I would say the greater your understanding about what scripture says allows you to show God in the various realms of life that you will encounter people in.
As Christians our argument often becomes invalid because we only use scripture to people who do not value scripture. If you understand theology and the world around you, you can show Christ in every area of life.
To Always Be Able To Give An Account For The Hope You Have
but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence – 1 Peter 3:15
As a follower of Christ you should always be prepared to answer those that have questions about your faith. When you live on a diet of spiritual milk you stand unable to provide seeking hearts with greater truth about Christ.
You have a responsibility as a follower of Christ to always be ready. The greater capacity you have to explain Christ in plain and practical terms the better you will be able to speak in to the life of the one who is asking questions.
In a world that is continually rejecting God and His word, believers must stand ready to give an account and defend their faith.
The better we understand scripture, the better we can apply scripture
Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You. – Psalm 119:11
Some versions translate “treasured” as “hidden.” You hide scripture in your heart by studying it. To hide it means it becomes implanted and a part of you like a second nature. The Bible provides you with an understanding of God’s character, his desires, his will, and his eternal purpose.
The better you understand scripture through studying systematic theology, the better you can apply it to your life. When the word and the Word (The Logos, Jesus) are hidden in your heart, the flesh is weakened and the Spirit made stronger.
The purpose of all theology and study of scripture is so you can understand Christ, and know him better. The study of theology itself should never take the place of knowing Christ experientially.
Your life in Christ is lived out in flesh and blood, through the Spirit, not through your frontal lobe. Your frontal lobe learning and studying merely enhances your relationship with Christ.
Resources To Get Started
When you get started in your study of theology I recommend Wayne Grudem’s book Systematic Theology. It is a behemoth looking of a book, but it is easy to read and digest. Grudem covers a number of topics and breaks them down carefully to help you understand them.
If your budget allows, I would also recommend getting some version of the Logos Bible Software. It is the crème de le crème of Bible study software, and they just came out with their newest version Logos 7. They have numerous levels available, as well as a monthly membership option.
Finally, another affordable option is NT Wright Online. NT Wright is the former Bishop of Durham in the Church of England and one of the world’s leading Bible scholars. He is now serving as the chair of New Testament and Early Christianity at the School of Divinity at the University of St. Andrews. For twenty years, Wright taught New Testament studies at Cambridge, McGill, and Oxford Universities.
He offers courses online without the need to go to a school. The classes are typically less than $100 and offer lectures, quizzes, discussion sections, and more.
My hope and prayer is that you will see the importance for every believer to study theology. I pray you will take the necessary steps to further your knowledge of God and his Word, so you can deepen your relationship with Christ.