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Why Should You Spend Your Life Studying Christian Theology - part a

See the Apologetics Podcasts for an mp3 download of this study.

O God, You have taught me from my youth;
And to this day I declare Your wondrous works. 
Now also when I am old and grayheaded,
O God, do not forsake me,
Until I declare Your strength to this generation,
Your power to everyone who is to come.
Psalms 71:17-18

Introduction Questions:
  • How do people within the modern church view Christian theology today?
  • How big is the theology section of our local "Christian" book store?  What is the biggest section called?
  • How do people outside the church view Christian Theology?
  • Who should be concerned with Christian theology?
  • How does Ps. 71:17-18 explain how the Christian should view Christian theology?
Reymond offers 5 reasons why Christian theology deserves the church's and the world's highest interest and respect.  By Christian theology, we mean the study of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments by means of the historical, grammatical and theological approach.
  1. The example of Jesus' own theological method
  2. Christ's mandate to the church to disciple and teach all nations
  3. The apostolic model
  4. The example and activity of the New Testament church
  5. The very nature of Holy Scripture and the revealed Word of God

1 - The Example of Jesus' Own Theological Method

Jesus Regarded the Old Testament As Historical

Jesus regarded the old testament as historically accurate.  Just using Matthew's gospel alone as an example, Jesus refers to the following Old Testament events.  In each case, He represents these events as historically true and accurate.
  • Matt. 19:4-5 - creation of Adam & Eve
  • Matt. 23:35 - murder of Abel
  • Matt. 24:37 - the times of Noah and the Genesis flood
  • Matt. 10:15 - the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah
  • Matt. 22:31-32 - the Word of God coming to Moses
  • Matt. 12:3-4 - David's eating the bread of the presence
  • Matt. 23:35 - the stoning of Zechariah
  • Matt. 12:40 - the swallowing of Jonah by the great fish
  • Matt. 12:41 - Jonah's preaching and Ninevah's repentance
  • Matt. 8:11; 13:14; 15:7-8; 24:15 - allusions to other Old Testament characters such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Isaiah, and Daniel

Jesus Regarded the Old Testamament  As Inspired

There are also several passages in Matthew that show that Jesus regarded the Old Testament Scriptures as the very words of God.

And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? - Matt 19:4-5
Notice that Jesus attributes the words from Genesis 2:24 as coming from "He who made them at the beginning" (God).

But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying,  “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’ ? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” - Matt. 22:31-32
In this passage, Jesus attributes the words of Exodus 3:6 as being "spoken to you by God".  He regarded these words as being spoken to Moses and to His own contemporaries (and therefore even to us).  Moreover, Jesus even hung his argument on the present tense verb "I am", showing that Abraham was still alive and would be resurrected someday from death.  This is amazing.  This shows that Jesus believed that the words of Scripture were so carefully superintended by the Holy Spirit that even a particular verb tense, being without error, could be trusted to support a Christian doctrine.

He said to them, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying:
    ‘Sit at My right hand,
    Till I make Your enemies Your footstool’ ”?
If David then calls Him “Lord,’ how is He his Son?” - Matt. 22:43-45
In the above passage, Jesus bases His argument that He is the Son of God on Psalms 110.  He tells us that David was superintended by the Holy Spirit ("in the Spirit").  He also hangs his entire argument on David's use of the word 'adon' (lord).

We could examine many other such texts within the Gospels that show that Jesus regarded the Old Testament as inspired scripture.  But we will stop here.

Does the Old Testament Demand the Killing of Other Human Beings for Religious Reasons?

Whenever we examine Jesus's endorsement of the historicity of the Old Testament, the following question will often arise.  Did the God of the Old Testament demand people to kill other people for religious reasons.  Examples of this can be found in Deut. 2:34 "We took all his cities at that time, and we utterly destroyed the men, women, and little ones of every city; we left none remaining.", Deut. 3:6 "And we utterly destroyed them, as we did to Sihon king of Heshbon, utterly destroying the men, women, and children of every city."  Also, some will quote the "imprecatory" (invoking a curse from God) Psalms in Ps. 5:10;10:15;55:15;69:22-25; 109:9-13).  Do these not show that the Old Testament condones the same kind of violence that many find repulsive in the radical Islamic terrorism of today.  There are many examples in scripture where God calls on Israel to destroy its enemies.  Would Jesus agree with such practices?

As Christian's we must be able to provide an answer to our culture, which today often prides itself with being tolerant.  The following are reasons why God at times commanded the killing of other human beings within the Old Testament for religious reasons, and why Jesus has commanded us to "love your enemies" (Matt 5:44, Luke 6:27,35)
  • The Old Testament also forbids all forms of personal vengeance and commands us to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Lev. 19:17-18)
  • The Old and New Testaments are in harmony in declaring that vengeance belongs to the Lord alone.  "Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord." - Romans 12:19 (also see Deut. 32:35)
  • The "imprecatory" Psalms are all prayers in which the psalmist commits His problems to God and leaves it up to God to take vengeance.  They show the psalmist' obedient faith towards God and non-retaliatory intent toward man, expressing indignation regarding his enemies flaunting of God's holy name.  The psalmist main concern is the vindication of God's name and therefore an expression of a perfect hatred (Ps. 139:21-22).
  • Jesus and the apostles also pronounced curses towards their enemies (see Matt. 23:13; Gal. 1:8; Rev. 19:1-5)
  • The destruction of those who wished to harm Israel was necessary for preserving the seed of the Messiah.  For example, when Sihon the Kind of the Amorites "gathered all his people together and went out against Israel in the wilderness, and he came to Jahaz and fought against Israel." (Num 21:23), the Amorites posed a threat to the continuation of the people of God and the fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise.
  • Deut. 9:4 is very clear that God ordered the destruction of the Canaanites because of their own wickedness, "Do not think in your heart, after the LORD your God has cast them out before you, saying, ‘Because of my righteousness the LORD has brought me in to possess this land’; but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out from before you." - Deut. 9:4  This principle of the destruction of the wicked is also displayed in the world wide flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  The new testament is in full agreement with setting forth these events as examples for us today, that if we do not turn and repent towards God, we will likewise suffer His everlasting wrath.
For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment;  and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly;  and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; - 2 Peter 2:4-6

But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.  And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.  - Jude 5-7