Theology is the study of God. If God is truly the Creator, the Sustainer, the Savior, and Sovereign, why wouldn’t we want to study theology? Who wouldn’t want to know everything they could about the One in ultimate control over everything?
There are people who do not understand why we should study God. How do we answer these people? What do we say when someone asks us why we study the Bible?
“Every Christian must be a theologian…So I tell my church what I don’t mean. When I say every Christian must be a theologian, I don’t mean that every Christian must be an academic or that every Christian must be a scholar or that every Christian must work hard at giving the impression of being a know-it-all. We all basically understand what is meant in the biblical warning that “knowledge puffs up” (1 Cor. 8:1). Nobody likes an egghead.
“But the answer to formal scholasticism or dry intellectualism is not a neglect of theological study. Laypeople have no biblical warrant to leave the duty of doctrine up to pastors and professors alone.” (Wilson)
Here are eleven reasons we should study theology.
1. Studying theology helps us to know God more perfectly.Studying theology helps us to know God more perfectly. Click To Tweet
“[People] may love a God of their own imaginations, when they are far from loving such a God as reigns in heaven.” ~ Jonathan Edwards
“Having formed in their minds such a god as suits them, and thinking God to be such a one as favors and agrees with them, [people] may like him very well…when they are far from loving the true God.” ~ Jonathan Edwards
If we do not have the right information about God, we do not have the right god and, therefore, we have no god at all. The Bible is about God. It is how God has chosen to tell us about Himself. If our idea of God deviates from what He has described of Himself, we have created an idol.
“Often, this ignorance of God demonstrates itself in idolatry—not the ugly and obvious idolatry of statues and shrines by the subtle idolatry of refashioning the true God into an image that fits our lives. In other words, we may profess to know the God of the Bible. but in fact we know only a god of our imagination.” (Snyder, p. 32)
Jesus says in Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
There will be many on Judgement Day who will have believed they had the right God all along. They fully believe that all the works they did were in the name of God but the god they serve is not Yahweh. He will cast them into the Lake of Fire for eternity.
Knowing the right God is vital. Where you spend eternity rests on having the right God. Do you know that you have the right God?
“Knowing the right information about God is just one way we authenticate our Christianity. Intentionally or consistently err in the vital facts about God, and you jeopardize the veracity of your claim truly to know God.” (Wilson)
2. Studying theology helps us know what and why we believe and how to defend those beliefs.Studying theology helps us know what and why we believe and how to defend those beliefs. Click To Tweet
“Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” (1 Peter 3:14b-16)
God’s Word instructs us to be able to answer people for the reason we have the hope of Christ. We cannot just give any old answer. This answer must be one in which we will have a “good conscience” that our answer and the way we answer aligns with a “good behavior in Christ.”
If our answer is based on how we feel about something or what we think, it may not align with what Scripture teaches. If our answer is not the truth or is not something we have actually determined for ourselves through the study of Scripture, we cannot claim to be acting in “good conscience” or with a “good behavior in Christ.” In order to answer in “good conscience” and with a behavior that Christ would be pleased with, we must study what His Word has said.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God[b] may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (1 Timothy 3:16-17)
There are many great preachers, teachers, and books that are full of wonderful wisdom and are beneficial in helping us understand Scripture. However, Scripture the only infallible, inerrant, completely sufficient source of Truth. Use other books to help you understand but the Bible must be your plumb line by which you judge all others teachings.
“Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord,
your salvation according to your promise;
then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me,
for I trust in your word.
“I will also speak of your testimonies before kings
and shall not be put to shame,” (Psalm 119:41-42, 46)
3. Studying theology makes us more humble.Studying theology makes us more humble. Click To Tweet
“You see the infinite distance between his power and your weakness, between his holiness and your sinfulness, between his unchangeable nature and your fickleness. And as you see it, you are humbled. You cannot see God and be proud. You cannot know God and be arrogant.” (Challies)
When we really study the true God of the Bible, we quickly realize that we are not actually the center of the universe. We realize that the Bible isn’t actually about us. We soon discover how absolutely wretched we are; how bad our sin really is. In studying theology we actually learn what the true definition of grace, mercy, love, justice, sin, and other words we misuse every day.
“The more we read, study, meditate on, and prayerfully apply the word of God, the more we will find ourselves in awe of Him. Like a great ship on the horizon, the closer we get, the larger He looms.” (Wilson)
When we study that attributes of God, scales on our eyes start to fall away. We feel as though we are seeing God for the first time. We didn’t realize how childish and worldly our previous idea of God was. Learning about God’s omnipotence, His omniscience, His omnipresence, His mercy, His grace, His sovereignty brings us to our knees. We realize how small we really are and realize how impossible it is to fathom how big He really is. Humbled is the only word that comes close to describing it but it hardly seems an accurate statement.
“If you do not truly know God, it is because you are enamored with your inflated views of yourself and refuse to humble yourself and seek Him.” (Snyder, p22)
4. Studying theology teaches us how to properly read, interpret, and understand God’s Word.Studying theology teaches us how to properly read, interpret, and understand God’s Word. Click To Tweet
“Open my eyes, that I may behold
wondrous things out of your law.” (Psalm 119:8)
“Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
and observe it with my whole heart.” (Psalm 119:34)
“Your hands have made and fashioned me;
give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.
Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice,
because I have hoped in your word.” (Psalm 119:73-74)
There are many preachers/teachers in this world that twist Scripture in order to support their argument. There is also a practice called eisegesis. It means to read into Scripture what you want it to be saying. For example, how many times have you heard a sermon on David and Goliath only to be told that this passage is about fighting the “giants” in our lives? Is that really why God chose to include this event in His Word?
An opposite practice to eisegesis is exegesis which means to read out of Scripture what it is saying. This is to read a passage, in context and practicing proper hermeneutics to determine what the passage is actually stating.
Hermeneutics is the science of proper interpretation. It takes into account context, an understanding of the culture of when and where a passage was written, to whom the passage was written, by whom the passage was written, what type of literature the passage is, and the original languages.
The most important tool we have in properly understanding and interpreting Scripture is to read the passage in context.
“We do want to progress in our knowledge and growth in our understanding, but we have to be careful not to be lured into the temptation to come up with something new just to be novel.” (Sproul, p.10)
5. Having a fuller, more correct theology leads to a fuller and more correct doxology.Having a fuller, more correct theology leads to a fuller and more correct doxology. Click To Tweet
“Purposeful theological study of God, as an expression of love for God, cannot help but deepen our love for God.” (Wilson)
Doxology is a fancy word for praising God. The better we understand who God is, the more pure and true our worship of the Creator will become.
“But theological study goes deeper than simply authenticating our worship as true and godly—it also fuels this worship. We must remember what Jesus explained to the Samaritan woman at the well: ‘True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ (John 4:23–24)” (Wilson)
Studying theology will also drive us to be more correct in the way we worship. Many people claim to worship God and show great sincerity in their worship but it is not enough to just go through the motions or be sincere but we must do so in the ways God has outlined in His Word. Worshiping God in the way we want to is not really worshiping God but rather worshiping our experience.
“Doctrine is meant to amaze you with the sheer power and magnitude of God. It amazes you with the sheer sinfulness of mankind. It bewilders you with your own insignificance before God, and yet your sheer significance in his plan of redemption. It moves you with the incredible mercy of God as expressed in sending his Son to die for you. The more you know of God, the more you can worship God and the more you will want to worship God. What you learn of God should always motivate your worship. And again, the more you know of God, the warmer the heart behind your worship and the deeper the expression of your worship.” (Challies)
I will praise you with an upright heart,
when I learn your righteous rules.” (Psalm 119:7)
6. Studying theology puts our life into a correct perspective.Studying theology puts our life into a correct perspective. Click To Tweet
“Remember your word to your servant,
in which you have made me hope.
This is my comfort in my affliction,
that your promise gives me life.
The insolent utterly deride me,
but I do not turn away from your law.
When I think of your rules from of old,
I take comfort, O Lord.
Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked,
who forsake your law.
Your statutes have been my songs
in the house of my sojourning.
I remember your name in the night, O Lord,
and keep your law.
This blessing has fallen to me,
that I have kept your precepts.” (Psalm 119:49-56)
“It is good for me that I was afflicted,
that I might learn your statutes.
The law of your mouth is better to me
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.” (Psalm 119:71-72)
Without a proper understanding of who God is, it is impossible to properly understand life and our life experiences.
We may ask or say things like: “Why would God allow this to happen to me?” “What is the purpose of life?” “Why does God let bad things happen to good people?” “At least I am not as bad as her?” “I need to be in control.” These are genuine and understandable questions/statements. However, when we begin to really understand sin, God’s sovereignty, justice, who we are in Christ, etc we start to see how such questions are not the right questions/statements to be making.
7. Studying theology helps us to know who and when to properly unite and divide.Studying theology helps us to know who and when to properly unite and divide. Click To Tweet
“Churches are bound together by the beliefs they share. Of course there will be certain minor variances in a church on lesser matters, but the greater the shared beliefs on the essentials, and the greater the emphasis on the essentials, the greater the degree of unity.” (Challies)
The more we understand theology the better we become as understanding what we can and cannot unite with. It also strengthens the bonds of those who are united under proper theology.
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:11-16)
The stronger our theology grows, the stronger the unity within Christ’s Bride grows.The stronger our theology grows, the stronger the unity within Christ’s Bride grows. Click To Tweet
“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols?” (2 Corinthians 6:14-16a)
“‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.’” (Matthew 10:34-39)
We should seek unity with other brothers and sisters in Christ but there comes a time when we must divide from those who teach a false theology. False theology is not of God and must not be associated with by those who claim to be the Bride of Christ. There are many who teach false theology today within the professing church. Many teach we should unify with these false teachers but this is in opposition to what God’s Word teaches. We must unify over true theology or we must divide. If we do not study theology, we will not know where we are to unite and where we are to divide.
8. Studying theology matures us in the faith.Studying theology matures us in the faith. Click To Tweet
“The purpose of theology is not to tickle our intellects but to instruct us in the ways of God, so that we can grow up into maturity and fullness of obedience to Him. That is why we engage in theology.” (Sproul, p. 13)
Sanctification is another word for growing or maturing in the faith. God sanctifies us through His Word. In John 17, Jesus is praying for Christians. He says in John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” We cannot mature in the faith without studying God’s Word and learning about who He is.
“Our continued growth in the grace of God, our perseverance as saints, is vitally connected to our pursuit of the knowledge of God’s character and God’s works as revealed in God’s Word. Contrary to the way some idolaters of doubt would have you believe, the Christian faith is founded on facts. Hebrews 11:1 reminds us that for the Christian, faith is not some leap into the dark. Instead, it is inextricably connected to assurance and conviction. It stands to reason that the more theological facts we feast on in the Word, the more assurance and conviction—and thus the more faith—we will cultivate.” (Wilson)
9. Studying theology matures our discernment and protects us from being deceived.Studying theology matures our discernment and protects us from being deceived. Click To Tweet
“Paul tells his young protégé Timothy, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:16). He is reminding Timothy that the sanctification resulting in continual discipleship to Christ necessarily includes intense study of God’s Word.” (Wilson)
In Acts 17, Luke describes a time when Paul and Silas visited Berea. They were preaching to the people and they were intrigued by what they were hearing. Luke describes these people as being more noble than those in Thesalonica because they were studying the Scripture to judge whether Paul and Silas were teaching what was in accord to the God’s Word.
God’s Word instructs us to “judge all things” (1 Corinthians 2:15-16), judge with a right judgment (John 7:24), and to judge teachers/preachers on their doctrinal “fruit” (Matthew 7:15-20). We cannot rightly judge doctrinal fruit unless we know what good doctrinal fruit is. We must study theology to know what is good fruit and what is bad.
“When you know doctrine, you are able to rebuke anyone who wanders from it, and you are responsible for doing so. When you know doctrine, you are able to defend your church from those who would want to lead it astray. A church that cares little for doctrine, and a church without people who know and love doctrine, is a church that will necessarily be blown and swayed by every wind and wave of doctrine.” (Challies)
God has warned us many times that there would be false teachers rise up in the professing church.
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)
“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.” (2 Peter 2:1-2)
“For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.” (Matthew 24:24)
The fact that there are and will continue to be false teachers within the professing church is an undeniable fact.
The Bible not only warns us of false teachers rising up in the church but also instructs us in what to do when we see/hear of false teaching/teachers.
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”(2 Timothy 4:1-5)
We are to preach the word, be ready, and reprove, rebuke, and exhort. Unless we study theology, we are unable to do this duty and are weak to stand against false teaching.
“Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
10. Studying theology teaches us how to love others completely.Studying theology teaches us how to love others completely. Click To Tweet
The more clearly we understand who God really is and how man is truly fallen; our hearts gush with desire to see all men saved. Our love for God increases our love for man. As we grow to fear God more than we fear man we also grow to fear for man’s soul more and take every opportunity to share with everyone the Good New of Christ’s atoning work.
“To know God is to know love; to know God is to equip yourself to act in love. Your love for God is limited by your knowledge of him, so that you can really only love him as far as you know him. As the depth of your knowledge grows, so too does the depth of your love. This is why the study of doctrine cannot be the pursuit of dry facts, but facts that lead to living knowledge of God and growing love for God. When you know doctrine, you prepare yourself to live in ways that express love to him and to others.” (Challies)
11. Studying theology is a Biblical command.Studying theology is a Biblical command. Click To Tweet
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)
As Christians, God expects us to study His Word to know Him more fully. We are expected to handle His Word rightly. He has given us His Word to sanctify us and make us stronger in the faith. This is not an option for a Child of God but our marching orders.
“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment.” Matthew 22:37-38
“Loving God with all of our minds certainly means more than theological study, but it certainly does not mean less than that.” (Wilson)
- Challies, Tim. 6 Great Reasons To Study Doctrine. 6 October 2014. Web. 18 February 2015. http://www.challies.com/articles/6-great-reasons-to-study-doctrine.
- Snyder, John. (2013). Behold Your God: Rethinking God Biblically. United States: Media Gratiae.
- Sproul, RC. (2014). Everyone’s A Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology. United States: Reformation Trust Publishing.
- Wilson, Jared. Why Theological Study is for Everyone. Ligonier. 1 April 2014. Web. 18 February 2015. http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/why-theological-study-everyone/.