Biblical theology without Biblical application well…it just sucks

by CJ McMurry on September 7, 2015

We could tackle this topic from many different angles, but for the sake of simplicity we’ll cut to the chase. Biblical theology is most easily defined as the Biblical approach to the study of God. So the more we dig into His Word (The Bible) the more we come to know about Him. And this is a good thing, isn’t it? Yes, maybe. One of my former pastors, who is still a treasured counselor and brother in the Lord to this day said this, “Right theology at least leads to the possibility of right living.” I wholeheartedly agree with this. Without a Biblical understanding of who God is and who we are we are left to guess, assume, dream, and ‘wing it” through life. So I am all for having and promoting good, sound theology. I take Paul’s charge in very seriously. Here’s what he says, “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.” So if I am saying theology does indeed matter, and I am, what am I getting at?
If right theology at least leads to the possibility of right living then getting right theology is a good place to start, right? Maybe, maybe not. J.I. Packer in his well known book Knowing God puts it this way, “If we pursue theological knowledge for its own sake, it is bound to go bad on us. It will make us proud and conceited. The very greatness of the subject matter will intoxicate us, and we shall come to think of ourselves as a cut above other Christians because of our interest in it and grasp of it; and we shall look down on those whose theological ideas seem to us crude and inadequate and dismiss them as very poor specimens. For, as Paul told the conceited Corinthians, “Knowledge puffs up…the man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know (1 Cor.8:1-2). To be preoccupied with getting theological knowledge as an end in itself, to approach Bible study with no higher motive than a desire to know all the answers, is the direct route to a self-satisfied self-deception. We need to guard our hearts against such an attitude, and pray to be kept from it.”
You see my issue is not with Biblical theology at all. My issue is really with the application of that Biblical theology, or lack thereof. Does what we know about God change how we respond to Him and His Word? Does it change how we do everyday life? James addresses this in one of my least favorite passages in the Bible. “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the Word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once he forgets what he was like.” Yes, you heard me correctly. These words consistently expose the hypocrisy that rears its ugly head in my heart. Most days this is a reality that I don’t like to face. I know I am saved and my salvation is a sealed deal, but I am daily reminded of my need for fresh gospel truths due to my fickle, prone to wander heart.
So now that I have hopefully convinced you that having your theological i’s dotted and t’s crossed won’t be enough to sustain you throughout your Christian lives let’s move along. Since James tells us we are to be doers of The Word and not hearers only this must mean we have to actually apply what we know about God and His Word to our lives. Wow! What a crazy, abstract idea. As my current Pastor says so often, “This is where the rubber meets the road.” Do we talk the talk and walk the walk, friends? Do we simply know about God or do we really know Him in such a way that His Holy Spirit is working in and through us as we grow in our knowledge of Him and His revealed will for us which is causing us to be doers of The Word? How would your spouse answer that? Your son or daughter? How about your co-workers?
As I bring things to a close I want you to know this blog has been my hardest one to write because it rubs me in ways I don’t like to be rubbed. At the same time I am thankful that our God is a faithful God that finishes the work He begins in us. It is my desire to be a doer of His Word and this is His will for us as His children. And as we take the message of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and broken world may we be a people that love it and live it! Martin Luther wisely said, “The world does not need a definition of religion as much as it needs a demonstration.”

4:1 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. (ESV)

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. (ESV)

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This post was written by CJ McMurry