When we read the Bible, how do we get to theology? Should we read the Bible as the word of God for the church, as an artifact of history, or as the material for systematic theology? The term biblical theology has been used to describe all of these perspectives.
So, what is biblical theology? Some would describe it is a theology that is biblical, theology that is grounded in Christian Scripture. Others might insist that biblical theology is only the theology contained in the Bible, that is, descriptively the theology of the Bible itself. In Mark Elliott’s The Heart of Biblical Theology, reading the Bible theologically demands both notions of biblical theology above. Elliott’s book argues for the undervalued role of providence in understanding how biblical theology must be both constructive theology grounded in Scripture and rigorously descriptive of the theology of the Bible itself.
Over the past three years I have had the privilege of serving as a part-time pastor in a local church here in Southern California. Though I’ve been in ministry for several years and have even spent significant time in ministry overseas, these past few years have constituted a re-education in the gospel. Here is what I mean:
“The gospel” is a phrase that Christians often use without fully understanding its significance. We speak the language of the gospel, but we rarely apply the gospel to every aspect of our lives. Yet this is exactly what God wants for us. The gospel is nothing less than “the power of God” (Rom. 1:16). In Colossians 1:6, the apostle Paul commends the Colossian church because the gospel has been “bearing fruit and growing...among [them] since the day [they] heard it.” The apostle Peter teaches that a lack of ongoing transformation in our lives comes from forgetting what God has done for us in the gospel (2 Peter 1:3–9). If we are to grow into maturity in Christ, we must deepen and enlarge our understanding of the gospel as the way God transforms us.