When I first started thinking on what I was going to teach in Sunday School the next couple weeks, it was going to be on what the Bible teaches (doctrine) about salvation. In a lot of ways when we are saved, we often look at it as one big thing. But the Bible uses the word salvation in many different ways. It talks about salvation in a past tense: Ephesians 2:8-9 reads “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” As Christians we have assurance that we have already been saved.
A present tense: 1 Corinthians 1:18 we read “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” The process of salvation is ongoing so that it is a present reality as much as it is a past reality.
And a future tense: Romans 5:9 tells us that “having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” More than just the past and present, salvation points forward to the future. And the Bible talks about the many different aspects to salvation; predestination, election, calling, regeneration, justification, positional sanctification, adoption, progressive sanctification, perseverance, and eventually glorification. There is a lot going on in salvation. To us, much of it can seem to happen all at once. For instance, many people say that regeneration, or being born again, same thing, happens before faith, and it is what causes or awakens our faith, and other people say that being born again is a result of faith. How can that be? Maybe because in our experience there is no way to tell the difference. The two things seem to happen almost simultaneously. Our faith, and our new found awakened desire for Jesus, which happens first. Is it our desire, or is it our faith? It’s hard to tell. But if we take a look and slow things down… almost like using a slow motion button to analyze a car crash, you know like those car crash scene dummy things We can see the various different aspects, and how everything happened. Now, when they do that with cars it is with the purpose of improving the car. Well, we can’t improve upon our salvation. But we can glory in it and delight in it, in ever increasing ways. And that’s what theology is, and why we do it. We analyze the Bible so that we can delight in the God of the Bible We slow the Bible texts down per se within their context and analyzing them. We look at them, and look at them and look at them again. We ask the text questions. We see how the text fit together with other text. And we do this over and over. And so I was going to do that this week with you, with two key aspects of salvation: Regeneration and justification. Regeneration this week and justification next week.
But the more I got to preparing. The more the Study began to take shape. And I almost feel like God was telling me I need to get back to square one and look at the reason why we even study this stuff to begin with. Why does this stuff even matter? What’s the need for Bible study? What’s the need for theology? Why? It all just seems so useless. Well, I hope I can begin to help you see if it is your opinion that it is useless, that it is in fact not useless.
So what we are going to be talking about is week and next week is, “What theology is and why we do it?. Next week we will get to more practical stuff. Though I hope it is all practical. Ok, so how many times have you heard or maybe even said things like? “I don’t need theology. Just give me Jesus!” “No creed but Christ.” Christianity is about a relationship, not all that doctrine stuff. These are common things people say, but are they biblical? My contention, and my goal for today is to show you that they are not biblical. Even the statement, no creed but Christ is a creed in itself. The creed would be, no creed but Christ. Or even the statement, I don’t need theology, just give me Jesus is self refuting and contradictory. Because what you would be saying is, I want Jesus, but I don’t want to have to think about him, or seek to understand him, or seek to learn from him. I just want him. That doesn’t make sense. What do you want about him? And as I will seek to point out, the moment, you start to try and answer that question, you are doing theology. And that is a good thing. You should seek to know what you want about Jesus. And you should do this based on who Jesus really is, not on how you declare him to be. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, probably one of the greatest known expositors of the 20th century had this to say about studying doctrine: “I am not doing this in order to get you some intellectual knowledge or information that you did not have before. God forbid that I should attempt to do that, or that anybody should think of what we are doing in that way. Knowledge, says Paul, “puffeth up, but charity edifieth. (1 Corinthians 8:1) . . . We are concerned with God to know Him. It is worship. Any consideration of the Bible is worship and to me there is nothing so dangerous as to approach the Bible and its teaching as you approach any other text book . . . The doctrines of the Bible are not a subject to be studied; rather we should desire to know them in order that, having known them, we may not be puffed up with knowledge, and excited about our information, but may draw nearer to God in worship, praise, and adoration because we have seen, in a fuller way [than] we have ever seen before, the glory of our wondrous God. May He give us cause to do this, and grant that as a result of these doctrines, we may all come to know Him, the only true and living God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent and as a result may all be revived . . . .” So when we think about being deficient in our knowing of doctrine, what we are deficient in, is knowing a person, knowing God the Father, knowing Jesus Christ, knowing God the Holy Spirit - not that we are just deficient in knowing information, but we are deficient in knowing God. And at the same time there is a way to know a lot about God and not know him either. We want both. It is a false scenario to say you have to choose one over the other. We want to know God personally and that means we want to know him for who he really is. A recent survey from Ligonier Ministries and Lifeway Research found in interviewing a group of people, around 5000 or so, that called themselves Christian, for whatever reason, denied, some of the most fundamental christian truths. The survey found out things like, 11% of professing believers strongly agreed that Jesus was the first creature created by God, or 17% believe that the Father is “more divine” than Jesus, or 35% believe the Holy Spirit to be a spiritual force rather than a personal being. These things are not only not biblical, they are anti-biblical. And it’s doubtful those doing the survey even realized the problem with their beliefs. Besides as we will see, it is all practical. Christianity in a lot of ways is more about believing than anything else. Christianity is not about our will, and our ideas, it is about believing God’s will and believing what he has reveled to us in his word, the Bible. Let me show you this. Turn to Romans 10:8, “But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” The word of faith that we proclaim. “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved…. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” You see that, “faith, believe, believe and believe” Why is that important? How many of you know things you should be doing or shouldn't be doing, and that has not stopped you from doing them or caused you to do them? If you don't have your hand up right now, you're a liar. To believe is to be moved upon toward action. When you believe something … it’s deep rooted … it’s conviction What we see here is we are creatures primarily driven by our loves. You do what you love. You are driven by your affections.
You are ever wonder why sometimes people who deny the existence of God sometimes say and think the goofiest things? they will say things like there is no truth, there is no absolute truth … your truth is your truth and my truth is my truth…. but think about it. All you have to do is ask them is that true? Are you sure about that? How do they have the right to make a truth claim that there is no truth and call that true when there is no truth. Or even the big bang theory. That there was a big bang and everything proceeded froth from that. But seriously even to show how absurd it is … if the world did start with a big bang … In order for their to be a big bang… wouldn’t there have to be a banger. Bangs don’t bang themselves.
So it isn't about knowing because it’s idiotic to say that something come from nothing. Seriously, isn't it. To say there is a creation but no creator. Who thinks that? When I look at all the nice clothes you all are wearing, the first thing I think to myself is not, "wow … it is pretty neat how all those random threads just put themselves together and arranged themselves on your bodies. So you see, you have to deny a lot of common sense things to come to those kind of conclusions…. but why do people go through all that work to deny the truths of God … well in a sense they don’t … they are just following after what they love. The Bible says in John 3:19-20, “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.” Why do people reject Jesus, and by implication so reject that God even exist? It is because they love their sin. If there was a God they would have to be accountable to him. If God sent his son to die for their sins, they would have to turn from their sins, and turn to him to be saved. And they don’t want to do that. They love their sin. So they deny their is a God. My point in bringing that up, is just to show that we are creatures driven by what we love. Believing is powerful. Believing is heart language. Believing is what moves why we do something. Believing is knowing something and actually loving what you know. You can know something to be true, but actually hate that truth. Like if the Green Bay Packers win the super bowl this year but you hate the Packers, that will not move you to any rejoicing. But if you love the Packers… that is your team. Look out TV… your getting yelled at. Or take for instance the Devil. Do you think there is a lot he knows about God? I mean after all, he was at one time, as far as we know… a perfectly beautiful Angel … who dwelled in heaven in the presence of God before pride rose up inside of him and caused him to rebel. I mean we know he knows that God exist. He knows God in that sense at least. He probably even knows a lot about God. Maybe even more than we do. But what’s at least one major difference between him and say a born again believer? I would have to say it is this. Everything that Satan knows about God he hates. Everything. From whatever knowledge of God’s plans that he has, to God’s character, to God’s attributes, to his role in creation… everything … Satan hates all of it. But a Christian on the other hand … everything a Christian knows about God he loves … and it causes him to worship and adore him. That’s the big difference. Knowledge is important… because that’s the way it get’s into us. In order to get to our heart, it has to go through our head first. But once it gets to our heart. The heart is what makes all the difference in the world. Knowledge. Yes, we need it. But knowledge without affections is useless. It’s the reason I believe the Apostles Creed starts out with, "I believe" and not "I know" “I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.” I believe, the idea of believing is anchored in the gospel. All other moral religions say, "Here's the standard. Good luck. Here's the standard; if you can get to it." All of the other world's moral religions, even philosophies of living, are, "Here's the standard; measure up to it."
Not Christianity. The Bible says, “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” …. it’s not do this and you will be saved. It’s believe this. So like I said, in a lot of ways, Christianity is way more about believing than anything else. It’s roots our sunk down into belief. Right belief always comes before right actions. This is where it all starts. Yes, there needs to be actions as necessary fruit of right belief. But it’s the right belief that produces the right fruit, not the other way around. And if you have right actions but they are stemming from wrong the wrong kind of belief. It doesn’t really matter. Believing matters. It matters most. And if believing on Jesus Christ in the right way is a matter of most importance for salvation, don’t you think right belief would be a matter of most significance for growing as a Christian? I contend it does. You see, Christianity is first and foremost about truth. Truth that leads to worship. Without the God of the Bible there is no such thing as truth. And without truth there is no such thing as Christianity. Doctrine and theology my friends is mainly about truth and it is at the heart of the Christian faith. Our faith, our belief, is not a blind faith, it is faith built on truth. And then God takes that truth and implants it in our hearts. Theology is not dead and lifeless. Don’t let any of today’s common misconceptions lead you astray. Theology is truth that transforms. It’s about truth for believing, and understanding, and apprehending which results in truth for living. Theology is alive and invigorating, because it is the God of our salvation we are studying. As Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” That’s what Theology is. It’s a path to life. Full of Joy, and Pleasures forevermore. LEt’s pray!