Arminian Today

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Never Confuse Knowing Theology With Knowing Christ

Jesus rebuked the Pharisees by pointing out that they studied the Scriptures but missed Him.  John 5:39 reads, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.”

These were men who studied the Scriptures.  They were regarded as experts in the Law of God.  Yet Jesus said that they missed God in the process.  He didn’t rebuke them for studying the Scriptures but for missing Him while doing so.

I pray that is not me.  I met a man a while back who has a deep knowledge of the Word.  He has studied at some of the finest universities in the United States and his goal in life is to teach theology and Greek at a seminary level (which he is now doing).  Yet as I talked with this man, I realized that his whole view of the Christian life was one of theology.  He looked at things through the lenses of his theology.  When I spoke with him about witnessing, he begin to talk about the various methods of evangelism and which he felt was more sound.  When I asked him about his prayer life, he looked offended and told me that prayer was between him and God and it was none of my business how much time he spent in prayer.  After all, he reasoned with me, time proves nothing.  Of course I agreed but merely wanted to know how his prayer life was.

What saddened me about this encounter was the fact that this man knew theology.  He knew much about God.  Yet in my speaking with him, I never detected a deep love for God.  He could tell me facts about the Bible and could explain to me aspects of theology but he didn’t seem to have any passion for the gospel itself.  I challenged him to come witnessing with us sometime and he just stared at me with a blank look.  I told him that we could use his intellect when we go evangelizing on college campuses but he said that he would be very busy with his theological studies and teaching.

I love theology.  I have enjoyed reading theology books for many years.  I am not on the level as this man above.  I would never say that I am an expert on theology nor do I feel qualified to teach on a seminary campus but I do love theology but I love theology because of where it leads me: to Jesus.  I want to know Jesus more and more.  I want to love Him more and more.  I have so far to go.

Paul the Apostle was a major theologian both before his conversion to Christ and afterwards.  One cannot read the book of Romans and not see that Paul was a theologian.  Yet in Philippians 3:2-11 he wrote this:

2 Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Paul showed that in his former way of life, he was very religious indeed.  He studied under Gamaliel who was one of the leading theologians of his day (Acts 22:3).  Paul writes in Philippians 3:6 that he was blameless under the law.  Yet he considered all that loss to knowing Christ.  Paul was willing to trade his theology for knowing Christ.  And yet he was still a great theologian as his New Testament letters prove!  Paul went from loving theology to loving God.  He learned that Christ is not found in a book.  He is found in reality.

I pray that my own theological studies drive me toward Jesus, toward holiness, toward worship, toward prayer, toward evangelism.  I don’t want to have a head knowledge relationship with Christ but a true relationship with Him.  I don’t want my love for Jesus to be based just on what I know.  I want to show my love for Jesus in what I do (John 14:15).  It is easy to confuse theological knowledge with a relationship with Jesus but I want to demonstrate my love for Jesus not just in my studies but in my actual obedience to the gospel (1 John 2:3-6).

My fear is that we are educated beyond our level of obedience.  We know much about God but do little for His kingdom.  We can preach a fine sermon on prayer but do we pray?  I think of the Jews Paul rebuked in Romans 2:17-24 by pointing out their hypocrisy.  Is that me?  Do I know many facts about the gospel but don’t really love Christ from the heart?  Do I study the Word of God but fail to obey His Word in the process?  Do I study God but fail to stand in awe of Him in worship and prayer?  Can I debate a theological position but never share my faith with the lost?  How easy it is to sit in a room and open the Greek New Testament and do word studies but never leave that room to go into the world with the light of the gospel (Matthew 5:13-16).

The balance is to study theology but to obey.  Obedience to the Word that the Holy Spirit teaches us is the best way, the disciple’s way.  Jesus, no doubt, was the greatest theologian ever to live since He was God incarnate (John 1:14).  Yet the Word of God in flesh (John 1:1) spent time with normal men and He taught them using normal means.  Jesus could have taught His disciples the attributes of God (and we should study that) but instead He often taught them about practical obedience to Himself (Matthew 7:24-27).  Obviously, all of Scripture is breathed out by God (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and Jesus gave us theology in the New Testament letters but Jesus Himself focused on helping His own disciples obey the gospel more than upon theologically explaining it.

I pray that I have that balance.  Let me teach theology but let me also teach people how to obey the gospel by the grace of God that He has given us in His Son (Titus 2:11-14).  We are saved to obey (Ephesians 2:8-10).

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Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/22/2013 at 10:40 AM

3 Responses

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  1. Reblogged this on Word of Promise Ministries' Blog and commented:
    Very insightful and a great reminder what studying God’s word is all about.

    Dennis Tolar

    09/22/2013 at 1:06 PM

  2. Wonderful article. We must stay focused on Him!

    Dennis Tolar

    09/22/2013 at 1:08 PM

  3. Amen! I too want my life to manifest a heart knowledge as well as a head knowledge of Christ.

    Bob Hunter

    09/22/2013 at 1:52 PM


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