Tag Archives: doctrine

Turning Away from the Gospel (Gal. 1:6-7)

The following sermon was delivered at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky on the 26th day of November 2017:

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Understanding Spiritual Riches (1 Cor. 1:4-6)

The following sermon was delivered at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, KY in September 2017:

4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you” (1 Corinthians 1:4-6, ESV)

Riches Beneath Our Feet

There is a large gold mine over in Queensland, Australia known as the Mount Morgan gold mine. Mount Morgan was a copper, gold and silver mine in Australia and it was the largest gold mine in the entire world at one time. To give you some perspective, they mined for copper, gold, and silver from 1882 until 1981—and during that time the mine yielded about 262 tons of gold, 37 tons of silver, and 387,000 tons of copper.

Before discovery of the gold mine, there were people who lived on the mountain’s barren surface. They were the original land owners, and they lived very poor lives. If you look at pictures of Mount Morgan you can clearly observe that, and see that whoever lived there obviously had a hard life of poverty—there isn’t a lot of good farm land, vegetation, or trees. And so for many years, the original land owners lived in deep poverty there. Even though the vast wealth of the gold mine was completely out of sight to them, it was beneath their feet the whole time.

If they had only discovered the wealth they already owned, they wouldn’t have lived impoverished and poor lives—instead they would have been wealthy, enriched, and supplied throughout the rest of their lives and the generations which would follow them. The only thing that separated them from living a rich life was their failure to discover the riches they already had in their possession.

And you know, I find that many of us as believers are in a similar situation. We are not living spiritually wealthy lives because we have failed to understand that God has made us spiritually rich in Christ. He who has ears to hear, let him hear that it is a serious mistake when we as believers fail to understand that we have been made spiritually rich.

Scripture teaches that God has given us a wealth and abundance of spiritual riches and resources to enable us to live the Christian life—to live lives which are spiritually wealthy to His glory. But often times, we are either completely unaware that God has done this for us, or we don’t believe it because it is so unheard of. When was the last time you heard a sermon on this? When was the last time you heard someone preach on how we have been given great spiritual riches to live a spiritually rich life?

Most of the time, we are struggling along in our Christian lives. Our devotional life, evangelism, discipleship, and church involvement would be more appropriately called poor than rich. But the truth is—God has made believers spiritually rich at conversion. He has given us everything we need to live a spiritually wealthy life. He has given us everything we need to be rich in pleasing Him, rich in glorifying Him, wealthy in magnifying His name. Christ did say, “How hard it is for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God” (Matt. 19:23), but it is just as true that those who are in the kingdom of God are very wealthy spiritually. The only problem is, we often fail to discover the spiritual riches which are beneath our feet—spiritual riches which God has given to us that we therefore have in our possession.

Spiritual riches, if you don’t know, are good things which God has given to us through Christ which either affect who we are or how we live. There are spiritual riches pertaining to who we are—our identity; and there our spiritual riches pertaining to how we live—things which God gives us to obey Him in this life. There are spiritual riches or blessings concerning who we are (Ephesians 1:3-13), and there are spiritual riches or blessings concerning how we live (2 Peter 1:3).

Paul speaks of the spiritual riches which concern our identity in Ephesians 1 saying, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (v. 3, emphasis mine). Paul goes on to mention several of these spiritual blessings as they relate to who we are. Believers are chosen by God, adopted, blessed, redeemed, forgiven, recipients of His grace, and sealed for eternity (vv. 4-14).

The apostle Peter best captures the idea of spiritual riches which concern our living in 2 Peter 1 saying, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (v. 3). The power of God has given us everything which pertain to our lives and our godliness. We have all spiritual riches we need to live obediently for the Lord. And those riches—those good things which God has given to believers to enable them to live the Christian life—these are precisely Paul’s concern in this passage. It is clear that Paul wants the Corinthians to understand that God has made them spiritually rich at conversion. After describing the fundamental truths to which they needed to return (1:1-3), he now calls them to understand yet another fundamental truth—namely, that they are made spiritually rich.

The Corinthians certainly thought themselves to be rich—but in the wrong sense of the word. They considered themselves self-sufficient, rich in worldly things—and certainly they were. They were wealthy, no doubt—wealthy in sin, disorganization, division, strife, and disunity—they were wealthy in sin and poor in obedience. And so in this passage, Paul calls them to understand and comprehend once again how God has made them spiritually rich. They needed to understand this and we need to understand today that we have been made spiritually rich at conversion. We will spend all of our time together here discovering, believing, defending, and applying that truth. And we will see in this passage:

I. The Source of Spiritual Riches (v. 4)
II. The Content of Spiritual Riches (v. 5)
III. The Proof of Spiritual Riches (v. 6)

Let us discover this morning how exactly God has made us spiritually rich.

I. The Source of Spiritual Riches (v. 4)

If the Bible states clearly that we have been spiritually enriched, then how have we been spiritually enriched? Where do spiritual riches come from and how do they come to us? Clearly, everything has an origin. If the Bible is true in saying that we have been “blessed [in] Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3), and here that we have been “enriched in him,” then where does “every spiritual blessing” come from? How have we been made so rich in spiritual things? According to Paul, the answer is the grace of God. This is the first thing we need to comprehend—we need to understand the source of spiritual riches—the grace of God. Every spiritual blessing we have, and every spiritual possession we own is owing completely to the grace and kindness of God which comes to us through Jesus Christ. That’s the first thing Paul says in the passage—it’s clear that he first wants the Corinthians to understand that the grace of God is the source of all their spiritual riches and blessings, and also that this very grace has been given to them as well.

The grace of God is where it begins—the grace of God is the fountain from which every other gift of God to us flows. The grace of God to us is like a waterfall where a great amount of valuable treasures were dropped. Like a man in a forest who follows the upward path of a stream in the morning, finding valuable gold and silver, as he walks for miles towards the source of the stream, filling up his pockets as he goes. The stream carries the treasures downward, as they get caught on the bank where the man can pick them up—but they are all coming from the waterfall where all the treasures were dropped. If the man is wise, he will not only collect all he can possibly contain in his pockets, but he will travel onward until he finds the source of the treasures floating downstream. So it is with spiritual blessings and riches. We too will be wise to discover where they are coming from, while at the same time appreciating the ones we have picked up along the way. So where do spiritual riches and blessings come from? Paul says, “the grace of God in Christ,” which itself has also been given to believers. Let’s see how this idea is developed in this verse—let’s read it one more time: “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus” (v. 4).

First, observe here that Paul gives continual thanks to God for the Corinthians. Paul begins this passage by expressing thanksgiving to God, and this is his usual pattern—he does this in just about every letter. It’s really a matter of perspective—before Paul deals with problems in the churches to whom he is writing, and before he gives them instructions, he thanks God for them. They are believers just like he is, no matter their problems or issues, and so Paul gives thanks for at least that reason. And he says here, “I give thanks to my God always for you.” Also, gratitude is not just an attitude here—thanks is actually something which Paul gives. He says, “I give thanks.” Thankfulness and gratitude is something that he gives to someone—who is that someone? He says, “to my God.” Paul gives thanks to God—not to the Corinthians. His thanksgiving is directed towards his God, not towards the Corinthians or anyone else. And notice also the frequency of Paul’s giving of thanks towards God.  He gives thanks, “always for you.” He is continually thankful to God for them.

But how can Paul possibly be thankful for such a twisted church? I mean, the whole letter itself is a correctional epistle written to a church that was in urgent and dire need of correction. They were divided over leaders, sexually immoral, misunderstanding marriage, mistreating the Lord’s Supper, failing to comprehend the fullness of Christ’s resurrection, and a whole host of other problems! What reason could there possibly be in Paul’s mind to give thanks to God for this Corinthian church? Because “of the grace of God that was given [them] in Christ Jesus.” That’s the reason why Paul gives thanks, found in the last part of v. 4 here. Paul gives thanks to God for the Corinthians, not because they are living right or because of anything they have done, but because of what God has done. And what God has done is give them His grace in Christ. He states here that the grace of God has been given to them in Christ Jesus—that is, the saving and sustaining grace of God. This grace has been given to them—they have received it. Also note that it is the grace of God in Christ Jesus, that which is because of Jesus, for Jesus, and through Jesus. This grace is in Christ. And since there is nothing but time separating us from the Corinthians, we can be sure that this grace of God in Christ has also been given to us. We too have received the grace of God in Christ, because He has made it accessible to us. The Spirit enables us to receive grace daily to obey God, and it is because of Jesus, and for the purpose of serving Jesus.

That which we and the Corinthians have received is the grace of God. That’s the reason Paul is thankful—because the “grace of God” has been given to believers. The word “grace,” here in the Greek means the favor and kindness of God. It is the undeserved kindness of God toward us. It is the outpouring of the mercy of God through Christ toward the undeserving. This grace is of God—it is related to God in every way conceivable. It is of God He alone is the only possessor of it, and it is of God because it comes from Him. Probably the best way for us to understand the grace of God is to look for a second at how Paul describes the grace of God in this passage as a whole. In this passage, he describes the grace of God not as an abstract object which sits by itself, but something which does. For Paul, the grace of God does things in the lives of believers. This grace of God saves, sustains, and secures.

The grace of God saves. Clearly, this is the emphasis in the passage we are considering (vv. 4-6). All of these things in the passage are past tense, implying that Paul is talking about a past act of God’s grace—which would be salvation. Notice, the grace of God has been “given,” it is through that grace that the Corinthians “were” enriched, and proof of that enrichment is that they received the gospel—the testimony about Christ was “confirmed among them.” When you are saved from the penalty of sin, and regenerated to new life, it is because God saves you by His grace (Eph. 2:8-9).

The grace of God sustains. It is also by this same grace that you continue to be saved. God saves you daily from the presence and power of sin by His grace—it is the kind act of God to give you His Spirit to be obedient to Him and overcome sin. This is what the Bible calls sanctification. The grace of God ensures and enables your obedience as you continue to live as a Christian. The grace of God supplies you with everything you need to continue being saved. You have everything you need through His grace, as you are waiting on the next big event in redemptive history: “you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 7).

The grace of God secures. The grace of God secures you for eternity. It is by this same grace that you are saved, sustained, and secured for an eternity with God. Paul says that Jesus “will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 8). He will keep you to the end—you will persevere because of the grace of God.

Knowing that the grace of God exists is enough reason to get excited and praise God, but even more, Paul says that we have been given this grace. “I [thank my God] because of the grace of God that was given you.” Even though the grace of God itself is the source of all spiritual riches and blessings, even this grace itself has been given to believers. Again, we are certain that Paul is referring to salvation here, considering the past-tense language here. This grace was given. “Was,” used as a reference to a time in the past, and “given,” the past-tense rendering of the verb “give,” or “to give.” Paul is recalling the Corinthians’ conversion and regeneration—when they came to faith in Jesus Christ. Even more to that point, how this grace was given to believers is explained in the last part of this verse.

This grace was given in Christ Jesus. The way in which God’s grace is both expressed and received is in Jesus Christ. God expresses and shows His kindness towards us “in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8), but we also receive God’s grace in Jesus because He made it available to us, and secured it to us as well. In God’s giving of His Son Jesus as the atonement for our sins, He gives us His grace. By giving us Jesus, He has given us His grace.

Paul wanted the Corinthians to understand that they have been given the very source of all spiritual riches and blessings—and we need to understand this as well. We have not only collected treasures along the stream, but we have been given the waterfall from where all treasures flow. This means that we have everything we need to be pleasing to God. Do you believe that today? Do you understand that you have everything you need in the Christian life because of God’s grace? Are you rejoicing in that truth this day? Every time you do something good for God, remember that it’s because you have been given the source of everything good—God’s grace. It is all owing to His grace. It is splendidly explained in 2 Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”

We need to understand the source of spiritual riches, the grace of God—which we have been given in Christ.

II. The Content of Spiritual Riches (v. 5)

If the grace of God is how we have obtained spiritual riches, then what spiritual riches have we actually obtained? If we have found and claimed great treasures at the waterfall of God’s grace, then what are they? In what ways have we been spiritually enriched?

In v. 5, Paul explains this. We have been spiritually enriched both generally and specifically. He says that we have been spiritually enriched in every way, but specifically in our speech and knowledge. There are ways that God has enriched and supplied all of us, and there are ways that God has enriched and supplied some of us. This too is something we need to contemplate—we need to understand the content of spiritual riches. In this verse, Paul deals with what we’ve been spiritually enriched with.

He unfolds exactly what ways the grace of God has been manifested among the Corinthian believers. This is fitting, because the grace of God does more than save, it supplies. This is what the grace of God does when it is given to believers. You are not just saved, regenerated, and given new life at conversion. You are also supplied with spiritual riches to live the Christian life—God gifts you in various ways to bring Him glory in your Christian life. Paul says, “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, [in] that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and knowledge” (vv. 4-5). The Corinthians were made rich in general ways and specific ways to be obedient to God, and so it is true of us as well.

First, they were made rich generally. The first way that we and the Corinthians have been made spiritually rich –  generally. Paul says, “in every way you were enriched in him,” denoting a general enrichment. And in the last half of the verse he spells out some specific ways, “in all speech and in all knowledge.” In the first part of v. 5, he says that believers have been enriched in every way. In everything believers are enriched. There isn’t one area of our lives that God has left in spiritual poverty. God has made us spiritually rich exhaustively—He has given us everything we need to be spiritually wealthy in everything. And again, this has already occurred – “you were” enriched in him. In every way and in everything, we were at one time in the past enriched. The word enriched here means “to be made rich.” There are only three occurrences of it in the NT, this being one of them—it was not a term Paul used often. One example is in 2 Corinthians 9, “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way” (2 Cor. 9:11). Paul speaking there of how God will enable the church to give financially to God’s work (see also 2 Cor. 6:10).

So generally speaking, every believer has everything he needs to be obedient to God—all believers everywhere have been made rich in Christ. We have all we need in Him. But also, there are some ways that God has specifically made believers rich—ways in which God has enriched believers as individuals—ways we may or may not have in common. The second way that we and the Corinthians have been made spiritually rich is specifically. This is definitely something the Corinthians misunderstood—for Paul deals with specific spiritual gifts at length in this letter. And here he notes two ways that the Corinthians have been specifically enriched. Paul likely chose to point out these two precise gifts because these were precisely the cause of some of the issues they had in the church. They misunderstood and misapplied these gifts, resulting in problems, and Paul is calling them back to understand the true purpose of them.

First, in their speaking they were enriched. They were able to prophesy, speak in tongues, and do many other miraculous things through their words. Again, they clearly abused this gift or Paul wouldn’t have dealt so much with clarifying its use and nature in chapter 14. Second, in their understanding they were enriched. They were a wise people, discerning, able to understand great truths. They were able to tell forth the truth (in all speech) and to grasp/understand the truth (knowledge). We too have been made spiritually rich in ways applicable to all, and in ways applicable to some. Paul speaks of those specific ways in chapter 12,

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone” (1 Cor. 12:4-6).

I read a story a few years back that may help us understand this truth further. It’s told by Dr. John MacArthur about a wealthy London businessman who lost his son. This man was your typical London business man—drinking hot tea, making deals, carrying around a suitcase, and making lots of money. But one day his son left him for a fuller life—and he had been searching for many years after his runaway son. One afternoon this father was preparing to board a train to London when he spotted a man in ragged, dirty clothing begging for money from passengers along the station platform. His first impulse was to avoid the beggar, but there was something strangely familiar about him.

When the beggar approached and asked if the man could spare a few shillings, the businessman realized he had found his long-lost son. With tears in his eyes and joy in his voice he embraced his son, crying, “A few shillings? You are my son—everything I have is yours!”

How foolish this son was to live like he was poor—he had a wealthy father who wanted to give him everything he had. And how foolish we are to live lives which are spiritually poor, considering that we have a heavenly Father who has said the same to us! There is no fuller life than a life of spiritual wealth—where our life’s greatest pursuit is being rich in obedience to God. We need to understand that we are like this runaway son at times, starving what could be a well-fed spiritual life, but often living as though we have nothing, when we possess everything that matters!

And that is the center of this passage—this is the key thing Paul wants us to understand. You have been made spiritually rich in Christ, given everything you need to glorify God—you should therefore have no excuse for living in spiritual poverty! If we have everything we need, but we live as though we are still in need—what’s the problem? Most of the time it is because we are not accessing it or acknowledging it. We need to access the spiritual resources and riches God has already given us, and we need to know that they exist! And how else do you know you have been made rich in Christ, other than by discovering it in the Bible? Find out from Scripture what kind of riches you have! Ignoring what Scripture says about how you’ve been made spiritually wealthy is like having five million dollars in the bank account, but not knowing it because you never went there to see if you had it! You have everything you need for obedience to God and joy in Christ, but you may not know it because you’ve never went to the Bible to see if you have it! Rest in this promise—you don’t come up with what it takes to be obedient to God, you just use what God has already given you and find out more from Scripture.

We need to understand the content of spiritual riches—that we have been made rich generally and specifically.

III. The Proof of Spiritual Riches (v. 6)

We have seen the source of spiritual riches (v. 4), and the content of spiritual riches (v. 5), now I want you to notice in v. 6, the proof of spiritual riches. I’ll be honest with you—I have really struggled in preparing this message, and I’ll tell you why. First of all, the idea of being spiritually rich, having everything we need to live an obedient life—that is not something we speak of very often, is it? I was questioning whether or not I was in the right in preaching such a matter—considering that it is not something we talk about very often. And secondly, look at the majority of our Christian lives. Does it look like we are living rich spiritual lives? Our devotional lives—are they rich and wealthy? Our evangelism and discipleship—is it rich, fruitful, and wealthy? Our churches—are they spiritually rich and abounding with spiritual growth and maturity? The answer is more often no than yes.

With all of these things in mind, it makes a little difficult to believe that we have actually been spiritually enriched at all. With an observant look at how little this idea is taught and preached, and how spiritual poverty seems to be more prevalent than spiritual prosperity—have we really been made spiritually rich? It would seem not. Is there any way we can be sure that we enriched? Can we be assured without even the lightest breeze of doubt blowing upon our hearts that we have been enriched in Christ? Is there any concrete evidence or proof that we have obtained spiritual riches?

Certainly the Corinthians would have had trouble believing they were made rich in Christ. They lived wealthy lives, make no mistake—but not spiritually wealthy lives. They were rich in sin and poor in obedience. So is there any proof that we have been spiritually enriched? There is, and it’s what Paul explains in v. 6. To eradicate any doubt that might be in their mind or ours, Paul presents the impenetrable, solid, and concrete evidence that we and the Corinthians have been spiritually enriched. So to what does Paul direct our attention as the absolute proof that we have been enriched? The fact that we have believed and received the gospel! The way we can be absolutely sure we have been made rich for obedience to God is to reach back into our past and see if we believed the gospel and see if from His precious hand we received salvation. If we have believed the gospel, then we have been given spiritual riches. That is how we know we have been spiritually enriched. Paul says, “[I give thanks to God for His grace given to you in Christ, namely in that you were enriched both generally and specifically] even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you.” Paul points to their reception of the gospel as the proof that they have been enriched for spiritual living. If they are saved, they are spiritually rich—it’s as simple as that.

This word testimony in the Greek is similar to the word martyr—someone who dies because they have testified about Jesus, because they have proclaimed Him. This word testimony means witness, this is the witness about Christ—the gospel of Christ—the witness and testimony about Him. The eyewitness account of who He is and what He has done—it is the gospel, the message about Christ. That is what is meant by the phrase testimony about Christ. When you believed the gospel and were saved, you believed the testimony or witness about Christ. So was true of the Corinthians, which is why Paul says secondly that this testimony was “confirmed among [them].” It was confirmed, established, and believed among them. This testimony about Christ wasn’t rejected and it hadn’t hit the surface and moved on—it penetrated their souls, thus enabling them to believe. It was established among them.

When a lawyer wants to prove his point to the jury and to the judge, often times he will call a witness to the stand. You hear and see it all the time: “I’d like to call Johnny Big to the stand, your Honor.” This witness can then testify to the events he saw or the things he experienced, and thus be convincing proof that what the lawyer is saying is true. And Paul in this passage is trying to get the Corinthians and us to understand that we have been made spiritually rich in Christ—and the witness that he calls to the stand is our conversion through the gospel. Paul is saying, “You Corinthians act like spiritual paupers, living like God has withdrawn every spiritual blessing from you, rather than living spiritually rich. Don’t believe me when I say that you have been enriched in Him in every way? Look at what you did when I preached the gospel to you! You believed it and it was confirmed among you—this testimony about Christ was established among you. If you weren’t made spiritually rich, you never would have believed the gospel in the first place! But because you believed the gospel, and God doesn’t leave you like you are, He has enriched you in every way to bring Him glory to the maximum degree in this life!”

If you have believed the gospel, God has made you spiritually rich. Conversely, if God has not made you spiritually rich, perhaps you haven’t believed the gospel. We need to understand the proof of spiritual riches—our receiving of the gospel. If you know at least that much about your Christian life—then that’s all the assurance you need to know that you have been spiritually enriched. Because that’s what God does for Christians—that’s His business.

Conclusion

We are standing on a gold mine folks—let’s dig in. We are basking in a waterfall of treasures—let’s pick them up one by one. We have a wealthy Father who says to us, “Son, everything I have is yours.” The great Scottish Bible expositor Alexander MacLaren once wrote, “We may have as much of God as we will. Christ puts the key to the treasure-chamber into our hand, and bids us take all that we want. If a man is admitted into the bullion vault of a bank and told to help himself, and comes out with one cent, whose fault is it that he is poor?” Let me just ask you today: If God has made us spiritually rich at conversion, then whose fault is it if we live spiritually poor?

The source of all our spiritual riches is the grace of God, and we have also received this grace. Do you understand that you have everything you need in the Christian life because of God’s grace? The content of our spiritual riches consists in being made spiritually rich both generally and specifically. Are you accessing the spiritual riches you already have, such as the Holy Spirit, prayer, and the Scripture? And are you acknowledging the many other spiritual riches yet to be discovered in the Bible? Additionally, we have absolute proof that, at the moment of our conversion, these spiritual riches were secured to us. Do you believe it?

By God’s grace in Christ, may we understand truly that we have been made spiritually rich.

The Need for Studying Theology, a Guest Post by Michael Chadwick

Before I dive into the subject of why theological study is crucial for the Christian, I would really like to address something important. When you read the title of this post, you may have had certain doubts. You might have had one of these reactions: Theology? I don’t want to lose the simplicity of faith! Won’t I substitute thought for action? I mean, theology has caused divisions – theology uses big words, and it just complicates communication. Isn’t theology all based on speculation, and doesn’t theology major on minor truths? 

If you had a reaction similar to this, you’re not alone. You see, a large number of people in the church, unfortunately try to avoid theology and all that goes along with it like avoiding some plague. Most people have strong doubts about theology – but let me encourage you by saying that theology is not a bad thing. In fact, if theology is done with the right motive, it is a most glorious thing. With that said, let’s dive in deeper into why we should study theology and why it is definitely a good thing.

First of all, what is theology? Theology, in its literal translation is the study of God. The meaning of the word comes from two separate words: Theo (meaning God) and ology (meaning study). Essentially, theology is the study of God. Henry Clarence Thiessen gives us an even better way to understand the definition of theology, saying that “we may define theology as the science of God and His relations to the universe.”¹ Why is this? Why is theology the science of God and how He relates to the universe? Because in Christian theology, you have to include many different doctrines. Throughout years of study, we now include every Christian doctrine to this idea of theology. Doctrines such as:

  • the doctrine of revelation (the study of how God reveals Himself to us, etc.)
  • the doctrine of God (this includes His nature, His attributes, His decrees, His works, etc.)
  • the doctrine of humanity (this includes our nature, and our relationship to both sin and a holy God)
  • the doctrine of Christ (includes both the person and the work of Christ)
  • the doctrine of the Holy Spirit (includes both the person and the work of the Holy Spirit)
  • the doctrine of salvation (how it is that we are saved, what does that entail, etc.)
  • the doctrine of the church (how is the church to be led, what is the purpose of the church, etc.)
  • the doctrine of last things (consummation and what will happen when we die)

This was far from a complete list, but it definitely gives a good overview of what we consider to be theology today. It’s not just one idea, or a few scattered ideas – it is a science – the science of God. Theology is important because it deals with every day Christian life, as you can see clearly from the list above.

Why should we study theology? There are four main reasons why it should be important for Christians to study theology. So why should we sit down and enjoy studying theology?

1. Study Theology Because the Bible Teaches That Theology is Important

The first reason is because the Bible teaches us that theology is important. Look at Hosea 4:1-6:

“Listen to the word of the Lord, O sons of Israel, for the Lord has a case against the inhabitants of the land, because there is no faithfulness or kindness or knowledge of God in the land. There is swearing, deception, murder, stealing and adultery. They employ violence, so that bloodshed follows bloodshed. Therefore the land mourns, and everyone who lives in it languishes along with the beasts of the field and the birds of the sky, and also the fish of the sea disappear. Yet let no one find fault, and let none offer reproof; for you people are like those who contend with the priest. So you will stumble by day, and the prophet also will stumble with you by night; and I will destroy your mother. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest, since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children” (NASB).

In the beginning verse, God tells the people of Israel that there is a case against them – because on top of many other things, there was no knowledge of God in the land. And this is an essential part of theology. We as theological students try to learn more and more about our God. We need the right knowledge of God as Christians. This passage from Hosea calls us to pursue that knowledge, and it does so through one of its many warnings found in verse 6: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge, because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest, since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.” If God is unchangeable (which is one of His many attributes), then He can do the same thing to us. We can be spiritually destroyed and reap the consequences without knowledge of God. We as Christians, as God’s people, need to have knowledge about God. Also, similar instruction is found in Malachi 2:7, “for the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.” In the local church, your pastor(s), deacons, elders, Sunday school teachers, or any other persons in leadership roles should help you in your personal study of the knowledge of God. This study is what we call theology. So first we see that the Bible teaches that study of theology is important.

2. Study Theology Because Jesus Demonstrated That Theology is Important

Secondly, we should study theology because Jesus demonstrated that theology is important. Let us look at Matthew 16:13-16:

“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’” (NASB)

What is pictured in this passage is that they are walking in a line and Jesus goes to each disciple individually and asks these questions. When it says that Jesus was asking the disciples, it has the action of beginning to ask and kept asking. Finally, after he got through all of the disciples, he got to Peter. And Peter said that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah. The point: Jesus wanted to know what people were saying about Him. By doing this, He was demonstrating that theology is important to Him. If we cannot answer this fundamental question right, then we cannot dive further into theology, for if we have an answer any different than Peter’s, anything else we say is as flawed as the “wisdom” of this world.

3. Study Theology Because it is Important for Discipleship

Thirdly, to be a disciple we need to study theology. Remember, if we cannot answer who Jesus is correctly, we cannot begin to go anywhere else in Scripture. To be a true disciple of Christ, we have to know what Christ says, does, and thinks. The only way we can figure this out is by reading our Bibles and by studying theology. We need theology to help us in our walk with God. We need theology to be better ambassadors for Him. The Christian life may start out with a “blind” and simple faith, but God does not want us to stay there. God wants you and I to grow in our faith. God wants us to learn more about Him, and as we do we will be growing disciples.

4. Study Theology Because the Early Church Demonstrated That Theology is Important

Last, the early church demonstrated that theology is important. The early church had to rely on sound theology to safeguard against the all-too-frequent heresies that came about. Many of the major heresies really started after the apostle John died. Soon after his death was when Gnosticism was on its rise. This heresy affected people’s understanding of the doctrine of Christ, the doctrine of God, and the doctrine of humanity. If you ever decide to research Gnosticism, you will see that its impact was so sever that we are still trying to recover from this heresy. On a similar note, you even have to be careful when studying the heresies! Make sure you have a very solid foundation on the Bible before you work through those. There were many other heresies that came about that compelled the early Church to rely completely on sound theology. And that demonstrates the need for studying it.

Conclusion: Study Theology for the Glory of God

As I said in the introduction, if you study theology with the right motive, then it is a most glorious thing. Since we know why we should study theology, then we need to find out what the right motive is for studying theology. So what is this right motive? The answer to that is really the answer to why we do anything. We as Christians do everything to bring praise, honor, and glory to our sovereign King. That is always the end goal in everything that we do. Our motive for studying theology is no different. We study theology for God’s glory. If our motive is anything other than to learn more about our Creator, and to grow in our relationship with Him, then we are wrong and need to desperately repent. There are many who study theology so that they can answer all the questions, and be the smartest person in the room – quite plainly, that is wrong. They need to repent because it is clear that God is displeased with that. Truthfully, they would be better off not studying theology in the first place. So before starting to study theology, ask yourself why you are doing this. If the answer is not so that you can grow in order to glorify God, then wait until you can answer that way.


  1. Thiessen, Henry C. Lectures in Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006), 1-2.
13716047_10153790694491547_9032896755713306761_nMichael Chadwick is the pastor of Jensen Baptist Church in Pineville, Kentucky. He and his wife Kari live in Pineville, where they both study at the acclaimed Clear Creek Baptist Bible College.

QUESTION: How Often Should I Partake of the Lord’s Supper/Communion?

This is what we refer to as a “non-dogmatic” issue. Dogmatic, on the other hand, refers to something that is incontrovertibly true – something that cannot be negotiated, but must be accepted. So when we say that a teaching of the Bible is dogmatic, then it must be accepted and taught, no negotiations or beating around the bush, as they say. A few examples of something biblically dogmatic would be: the gospel, the inspiration of Scripture, the Trinity, the deity of Jesus Christ, and things like this that would radically change the message and validity of Christianity if they were altered even in the least.

But there are also plenty of non-dogmatic issues today. Some of these are: proper church attire, contemporary vs. traditional music in the church, eldership/deaconship, and others like these. Issues that fall into this category can alter and change depending on your local congregation – and they are no more or less biblical than the church that handles those issues differently.  For example, it is just fine if a church allows blue jeans and t-shirts in the worship service. There is no biblical command that says you must wear a suit and tie to worship. But there may be a more traditional church that says you should wear your “Sunday best.” That is also fine. Falling under this category of non-dogmatic is how frequently and individual or church should partake of the Lord’s Supper (or Communion).

The Bible doesn’t specify how often you should partake of the Lord’s Supper, it only specifies that you should partake of it, in a proper manner, and that you understand and apply its meaning. It doesn’t matter if you partake of it once a year, once a month, or once a week. What matters most is that you do it in remembrance of Jesus, understand its significance, and partake of it in the correct manner.

The instructions we have about the Lord’s Supper are found in 1 Corinthians 11, where Paul states: “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (vv. 23-26, emphasis mine).

Paul quotes Jesus in this passage, and as far as how often we should partake of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus only requires “as often as you drink it.” That is the only time frame we have. This assumes that we are partaking of the Lord’s Supper, and it implies that it should be done time and time again. The tone used in this part of the passage doesn’t indicate that it should only be done once, but it the tone in this passage also doesn’t indicate that it should be done constantly. Only “as often” as you do it.

The important thing to remember is that the Lord’s Supper is a sacred time to remember the Lord Jesus and the significance of His substitutionary death on the cross, and that we have received it. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the Lord’s Supper, referred by them as the Eucharist, actually becomes the body and blood of Christ. That might be a good example of when a non-dogmatic issue becomes a dogmatic issue. When something that is considered non-dogmatic is altered to the point where it conflicts with other Bible teachings, then it needs to be reexamined and reinterpreted in light of the other teachings of Scripture. Nowhere in Scripture does the Bible teach or even imply that the Lord’s Supper transfuses into the actual blood and body of Christ that we must receive for salvation. When something non-dogmatic conflicts with what is dogmatic, it is no longer a non-dogmatic issue.

The Lord’s Supper is a beautiful symbol, and a time of remembrance and thanksgiving. We eat the bread symbolizing that we have partaken of Jesus Himself, the Bread of Life (John 6:35), and we drink the juice (or wine) symbolizing that we have received His blood as atonement for our sins. Nothing in Scripture about the frequency of doing so, only “as often” as we do it.

The Healthy Church: Principles for True Ministry – Our Character (Titus 1:1a)

The following message was delivered at Ohio Valley Baptist Church, on the 25th day of January 2015:

Neglecting Health

There is perhaps nothing more important to the human body than its health. This is due mainly to the fact that good health is necessary to the human body. In fact, this is especially true in our own age. We find that there are more organic and wholesome foods sold today than ever before. Cigarette smoking is at its lowest percentage now among high school students.¹ Fast food restaurants are being questioned about their practices, the way they prepare their food, and what they put into it. This focus on health is evident even in my own life. I went on a search the other day to a few general stores because I was looking for coffee creamer. Sounds strange right? Not quite, if you’re a coffee drinker like myself. The reason I went on this search is because I was looking for coffee creamer that was actually made with real sugar. I never noticed this before, but more and more stores are carrying products that are sugar-free. Every store I went to, the label read, “Sugar-Free” on all the creamers. I was seriously making sure I hadn’t missed the Rapture, because it sure seemed like the start of the Great Tribulation.

So we have this emphasis on health today more than ever before, and there are certain principles we put into practice in order to maintain our own health (at least we’re supposed to). We eat right, we exercise, and I might add—we avoid sickness. Nobody enjoys being sick and unhealthy, expect maybe the guy whose job is to drain out Porta-Potties in the Summer and calls into work sick. Praise the Lord for his days off, right?

But in the area where health should be regarded as infinitely important is where it is nearly totally neglected, in fact I would say, nearly entirely lost—and that is in the church. The church, more than a human body, needs health to have a beating heart. It needs to have health in order for its hands and feet to actually be the hands and feet of Jesus. Simply put, there are certain things that must be done in order to maintain the health and life of the local church.

That’s what Paul’s letter to Titus is all about. It’s all about what we should do in order to have a healthy church, what we should do in order to have healthy, biblical families, and what we should do to have a bold witness before a watching world. All of that is influenced by a healthy church. Those are the three themes in this letter: the church, the family, and our witness before the world. In this epistle, Paul talks about:

1.) Doctrine and duty in the local church (1:5-16)

2.) Doctrine and duty in the Christian home (2:1-15)

3.) Doctrine and duty in the world (3:1-11)

This epistle to Titus is really a bargain book—you get more for less. It is theologically jam-packed, and it goes to show the magnificence of God in inspiring Scripture because He can say so much in just a few words. Paul begins this letter by talking about how we can maintain the health of our ministry here: ministry to one another, and ministry to our community and the world. We will see how Paul put certain principles into practice in order to maintain effectiveness in his own ministry. He begins this letter by talking about his own character, the purpose for his ministry, his message, his proclamation, and then his power.

The Text: Titus 1:1-4, ESV

“Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, 2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began 3 and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;

4 To Titus, my true child in a common faith:

Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.”

I. Principles for Ministry

Notice first how formal and drawn-out Paul’s introduction is here. It is the longest of Paul’s introductions in the pastoral letters, and the second longest in all of his letters (Romans being the longest). This passage itself is one long, elegant sentence in the original Greek—in fact, it is just one sentence in the English translation, too. The question we should be asking is this: Why such a long introduction for a letter to a friend in ministry? Was it because Paul had a distant relationship with Titus and had to remind him of who he was as an apostle? Not likely.

Paul had a unique relationship with Titus. Paul traveled with him to do missionary work: “Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me” (Gal. 2:1). Also, Titus worked with Paul to relieve the problems of the church at Corinth. He is mentioned nine times in 2 Corinthians (2:13; 7:6, 13, 14; 8:6, 16, 23; 12:18, 18). Paul calls him in those places his “brother,” and “partner and fellow worker.”

Paul didn’t write out such a formal introduction because his relationship with Titus was distant. But did he perhaps, write such a long introduction to introduce themes he would talk about in the letter? Not necessarily. Now, the themes of the introduction, like salvation, and knowledge leading to godliness are clearly picked up in later sections of this letter (2:11-14; 3:3-7); and Paul does this often times, mentioning a few things in the introduction(s) that he will talk about later (Paul’s introduction in Romans and Galatians are excellent examples).

It seems that Paul has written such a lengthy introduction here to give unchanging, objective, external principles to guide his own ministry. Paul used these principles in his own ministry, and he was expecting Titus to do the same. Because Titus had an important task: to strengthen the churches in a pagan region of the world. He needed biblical principles for his own ministry that would stand the test of time. Paul was aging and he would soon die, and these principles he lays down for Titus’ ministry could be, and should be used even after Titus passes on. Why? Because these are eternal principles—unchanging, and biblical. These churches still needed a lot of work ( v. 5), they had to work through the bugs—these churches weren’t established Southern Baptist churches with orders of service and Lottie Moon mission offerings. In fact, they were likely the opposite—in need of sound doctrine, elders who would lead biblically, and the proper perspective for Christian families, and a proper perspective of the world. And it begins with the principles he would use for the ministry of the local church. Ministry can’t be done effectively, biblically or even purposefully without scriptural principles guiding, leading, and directing Paul, Titus, and us today on our journey of faith. As we see them, we need to ask ourselves if we have these individual principles in our own lives, and in the life of our local church.

II. Our Character (1:1a)

Paul begins with his own name—characteristic of all of his letters. That is one main reason why Paul is rejected as the author of Hebrews, because his name is absent. In all of Paul’s letters, his name is present at the beginning—it is the first word penned before anything else. When we write letters today, we usually sign our names at the bottom of the page, but in Paul’s day it was the exact opposite. You began letters by identifying who you were. Sometimes the letters were still signed for authenticity reasons (2 Thess. 3:17). And we see that Paul begins this letter by identifying himself in two significant ways: 1) “a servant of God,” 2) “an apostle of Jesus Christ.”

1. A Servant (δοῦλος) of God

Notice first that Paul says he is a “servant of God.” Now, Paul does not casually call himself a “servant of God” here. First of all, this phrase occurs only here in Paul’s introduction to this letter. Never does Paul refer to himself this way except here. Paul sometimes calls himself a “servant of Jesus Christ” (as in Romans 1:1, and with Timothy in Philippians 1:1). Usually, in his introductions he refers to himself as simply, “An apostle of Christ Jesus . . .” On every occasion (with the exceptions of 1 and 2 Thessalonians and Philemon), Paul always calls himself “an apostle of Christ Jesus.” If we are going to be good interpreters, this should cause us to ask why he deviates here, when his normal self-identification is “an apostle.” Every word in the Bible counts, so there’s a significant reason why he does this.

I believe we find our answer in the Old Testament, for the expression “servant of the Lord” is an explicit OT expression. In defining his relationship with God in this way, he draws on the Old Testament pattern established by Moses, David, and other prophets who stood in the special position of those who had received revelations from God. Typically, God’s chosen prophets were described as “servants.” Let’s see a few examples:

“Moses the servant of the LORD” (Deut. 34:5).

“. . . my servant David” (God to Nathan in 2 Sam. 7:5).

“For the LORD GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).

And in Jeremiah 7, God says that he gave the Israelites His commandments, but they did not obey. And in an attempt to get them to obey, here’s what God did:

“From the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt to this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day. Yet they did not listen to me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers” (Jer. 7:25-26).

It seems that Paul is aligning himself with obedient servants of God who preceded him as recipients of divine revelation. Just as the towering figures of the Old Testament were obedient servants of God and received God’s revelations, so was the same of Paul. By describing himself this way, Paul anchor’s his ministry in the story of the covenant God of the Old Testament. Those great characters of the Old Testament served God’s people, His elect (and notice later in this verse that he says that his purpose as an apostle was the exact same purpose for all of the Old Testament prophets).

If this is true of Paul, his authority and obedience to God are not to be questioned. This was important for the Cretan culture that Titus ministered in. They had discounted the teaching of the gospel of Jesus and had devoted themselves to “Jewish myths,” (1:14) and they were an untrustworthy, lying culture that was proud to admit it, too (1:12). So while they would have been taught that Judaism in its various forms was superior to Christianity, Paul was saying that he received revelations from God just as the prophets of old.

But there’s another important reason why he says this. The Greek word for “servant” here is doulos, meaning one who gives himself up wholly to another’s will. This is literally translated “bondservant,” which in this case is someone who has no rights of his own, no will of his own—but his sole desire is to do the will of his master. If anyone in the Bible could say this of himself, it was Paul. In the passage where Paul lists all of his credentials and spiritual accomplishments, what does he say concerning them all? “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” (Phil. 3:8). Also recall in Acts 22 where he recounts his conversion and he notes that he inquired of the Lord, “What shall I do, Lord?” (22:10). Paul was a doulos of God—he had no will of his own, no agenda of his own. Paul’s will was to do God’s will and God’s agenda.

And he is laying this down as a principle for Titus, too. If Titus is going to be a successful pastor of his church, a leader of his own home, and a witness in his pagan culture—he must be a servant of God. How would he expect his church to be servants if he wasn’t a servant? How would he expect his family and the families of his church to be servants if he didn’t model it for them by being a servant? And how would he expect for a lost world to be a servant and follow Christ if he wasn’t being a servant?

The same applies to us. If we’re going to be effective in the ministry of our own local church—it begins with this: we must be servants of God—submitting our wills completely and entirely to God. If we want health in our church, we must be servants of God. If we want health in our homes, we must be servants of God. If we want a healthy, bold witness to our world, we must be servants of God. The Bible already says we are slaves of God, we just need to act like it. For instance, Paul in Romans 6 says, “But now [you] have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God . . .” (v. 22). We just need to become what we are already—slaves of God. What about you? Are you a slave of God? If you want a healthy church, here’s where it starts. This is where it started for Titus, and this is where it must start for us.

Most of the time, our plans are rarely God’s plans, but Paul was someone whose whole life was changed because of submission to God’s will. Living in submission to God’s will is perhaps the greatest thing on this present earth for a ChristianGod wants us to be His servants, and He will give us strength and grace daily if we will only surrender. This is so important because not only was being a servant characteristic of Paul, but of our own Savior—in Philippians 2 Paul says that Jesus “emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men . . .and [became] obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (vv. 7-8). And Peter, speaking in Solomon’s portico, defending the messianic Jesus before the peoples, says this: “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him” (Acts 3:13). Jesus is our supreme example—He was a servant of God. Paul was a servant of God, and this must characterize us as individuals and us as a local church. If we can’t honestly say that we are servants of God, maybe we need to get our hands dirty and out into the action, pull up our bootstraps and get to work—empowered and motivated by a passion to serve God because of who He is and what He’s done for us in the gospel. Motivated not because we want God to love us—but motivated because He already does love us. We need Paul’s attitude: “What do you want me to do?”

2. Messenger/Apostle of Jesus Christ

We’ve seen the first way that Paul identifies himself, as a doulos of God, and as we expect from Paul, he defines himself secondly as his usual designation, “an apostle of Jesus Christ.” To further confirm his authority as an apostle, not only is he in the spiritual line of prophets who received revelation from God, but he was a special messenger of Jesus Christ Himself. That’s what it means to be an apostle. The word apostle literally means a messenger, a representative, or envoy. This is the usual way he describes himself, because that’s what he was.

During Paul’s conversion, the Lord Jesus says of him, “[He] is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). He was Christ’s instrument. In Romans, Paul says in introducing himself, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God” (Rom. 1:1). And Paul defends his apostleship in Galatians:

“But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles . . .” (Gal. 1:15-16a)

But I just want to make you aware of something at this point. We have really elevated the term apostle in our language. Yes, Paul being an apostle meant that he was given revelation from the Lord and of course, penned 13 letters of our New Testaments. But the word apostle is really nothing lofty—it just means to be a messenger. Someone is an apostle simply because they carry a message. If I have a message I need to send to someone, say across the street, and I get someone to take it for me, then they would be my apostle—my messenger.

The same is true of us. We are ambassadors for Christ, we are His messengers—and having a healthy church starts here too. We must realize that we are His messengers in this world. I love Paul’s description of this in 2 Corinthians 5:20, where he says, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” We may not have the gifts Paul had, and we certainly will not be agents of divine revelation—but we have a responsibility to be messengers.

True ministry begins with our character—we must understand who we are; slaves of God and messengers of God. It is our birthright; when we become believers, we have the responsibility to live every day in these ways.

Let me add something in closing. Being servants of God and being His messengers are not simply things we need to be, but they are things we can be. This is not legalism; God has all the empowering, motivating grace we need to be servants and messengers. To reinforce this point, what does Paul crave for Titus in v. 4? He says, “Grace and peace to you from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.” Paul couldn’t be a servant or messenger without the grace of God, Titus couldn’t either, and neither can we. Without the grace of God, we are powerless, lifeless, and useless. But because He has “lavished upon us” the “riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7, 8).


1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cigarette Smoking Among U.S. High School Students at Lowest Level in 22 YearsJune 2014.