Inaugural Lecture - Center for Classical Theology - REGISTER
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Knowledge of God in Practice (part 2)

Now that we’ve answered the questions, “What is theology?” and “How do I engage in theology?” we turn to the question, “Why is theology for all of life?” It’s a question of equal importance, but not less than the other questions. Theology is not only intellectual at its best; it is rigorous in its precision and articulation of biblical truth. Even so, theology is eminently practical, and at the same time, theological. Practical does not diminish the reality of theology, but fuels and empowers the practice of theology.

Theology is for the Worship of God

The very act of worshipping the Lord is theological. Jesus states in John 4:24 that the kind of worship that He finds acceptable is worship that is in spirit and truth. Whatever takes supreme priority in our lives reveals our theology. For example, if we esteem sports over the regular gathering of the people of God on Sunday, then that reveals something of our theology of worship. If we fail to love our spouse intentionally and faithfully, that reveals something of what we think about the Bible’s teaching on marriage. What our worship reveals ultimately about us is how we view the revealed character of God in the Word of God. When God’s people gather to worship together, they are doing the very thing they are created to do, which is to worship Him. Theology deepens worship, which is why worship is practical, and relevant to all of life as we live is Coram Deo.

Theology is for Service

Theology is for loving God and others, and serving them with the love of God. Local churches are to be careful what they teach from the Word of God because what we believe and how it relates to the people of God is critical. Theology is for the church, and that means to remain faithful to the Word. We must not only have the right theology from the Word but implement right practices from the Word. Theology is a servant to be used as a vehicle that carries people from one place to the next to grow in grace. Theology, in this way, is a vehicle that enables pastors and ministry leaders to and equip and serve the people of God. Theology deepens worship, which is why worship is practical, and relevant to all of life as we live is Coram Deo. Click To Tweet

We use theology to encourage one another. Encouragement itself is theological, as is all communication. When we encourage someone, we are noticing the Lord’s work in that person and specifically drawing attention to it. In this way, encouragement is theological but also practical. The theology drives the encouragement, not encouragement driving theology. Theology is fueled by the right convictions from the Word, which enables the right practice of encouraging one another.

Theology Helps Christians Mature in Christ

Theology is critical because it helps Christians to grow in maturity in Christ. Theological maturity, according to Paul (Galatians 5:22-23) and Peter (2 Peter 1:5-10), is understanding whose we are in Christ, our identity in Him, and our growth in Him. Paul’s point with the fruits of the Spirit is that these character qualities are to increase in our lives as we grow in the grace of God. 2 Peter 3:18 says this, But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” This isn’t a suggestion by Peter; it is a command. We are to grow in grace because we are united to Christ by faith and therefore are in communion with Him. 2 Peter 1:5-10 fleshes out what growing in grace looks like over a lifetime. Peter wants Christians to increasingly have our character conformed to Christ throughout our lifetime so we won’t be ineffective servants of the Lord Jesus. Still, to be diligent, he says in 2 Peter 1:10, is to practice and grow in these qualities, which requires intentionally grace-filled effort.

Peter and Paul are not saying to coast into heaven but that these qualities in our lives are to increasingly shape our lives and character because we are in Christ. We are His, and He is ours. We don’t grow in the fruits of the Spirit because of our effort alone, but because of the fuel of grace of God and the identity we have now in Him as adopted sons and daughters of God.

Christians grow deeper in Christ by recognizing our new identity in Christ, and from there, we grow in our convictions and confidence in the gospel. A tree has a root structure, and those roots need water to go down deep into the ground. In the same way, the Christian’s roots go down deep into Christ Himself. But for depth in maturity to occur, Christians need to understand our identity in Christ. We need to understand we have something greater than a root structure in a tree that goes down deep into the soil of the ground. Christians have the infinite, unchanging, holy, and fully Son of God and fully Son of Man Jesus, who has united us to Himself by faith in His finished and sufficient work.

We are His, and He is ours. Christians can grow in Him being rooted and grounded in Him and engage in grace-filled effort, not only resting in but being diligent as 2 Peter 1:10 says to practice these qualities because of who we are in Christ.

Theology Is for All of Life Transformation

I say all the time to my wife: I love her. My wife is my best friend and the love of my life. I know my wife, and she knows and loves me. Over the years of marriage, we’ve gotten close in our friendship, and I’m so thankful for that. But I also have friends I know that know me, and I know them, but our friendship is at more or less a surface level. We appreciate each other, but we don’t know each other that well. Then I have a group of very close friends who I can share very openly and honestly with about the frustration of life. These friends pray for me and encourage me, but neither they nor my wife meets my absolute daily need for the grace of God.

What I’m describing here is the different ways we know others in our lives from our spouse to our various friends and how we know them. But supremely, there is the Lord God who cuts across all of these boundaries and into our lives. He knows us through and through, and there is no faking Him out or minimizing His role in our lives because He knows the hairs on our head (Matthew 10:30; Luke 12:7), searches hearts (Jeremiah 17:10), and knows the thoughts we think before we think them (Psalm 94:11; 139:4; Isaiah 40:28).

It’s a theological statement to say, “I love my wife,” but it is equally a theological statement to say, “I love God” because such statements arise from Scripture itself (Matthew 22:37-40; Ephesians 5). Sometimes we may not always see the direct connections between specific conviction statements (the procession of the Spirit) or specific practices (feeding hungry people). Nevetheless, theology is eminently practical because it is grounded in and shaped by the Word of God to affect our practice.

Dave Jenkins

Dave Jenkins (MAR, MDiv, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary) is the executive director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the executive editor of Theology for Life Magazine, and the host of the Equipping You in Grace Podcast and Warriors of Grace Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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