A Weighty and Wonderful Responsibility
Pastors have the weighty and wonderful responsibility of preaching Christ from all the Scriptures. Biblical theology, therefore, is a vital help for pastors to faithfully declare the glorious truth that Jesus is the main point of the whole Bible. How do we know this? Because he tells us so.
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:44–49)
Jesus explains two things in this text. First, he makes the shocking statement that all of the Old Testament—from the Pentateuch to the Prophets to the Psalms—was actually written about him. In other words, Jesus identifies himself as the promised Messiah. Second, he says that his followers will be witnesses of these things to all nations, that is, to all peoples in all places. Simply put, you won’t understand the story of the Bible unless you see that it’s all about Jesus.
Christ himself, the promised King, is the one who holds everything together (Colossians 1:17), including the grand story of Scripture itself. The Old Testament points forward and prepares the way for the coming of the King. The New Testament proclaims the arrival of the King and his mission to all nations. But to read the Bible faithfully, we need the proper tools. The discipline of biblical theology is one of those helpful tools. Biblical theology, therefore, is a way of reading all of Scripture as the story of God’s King and his glorious plan to rescue and redeem for himself a people for his praise.
How Good Theology Serves the Church
Keeping Luke 24 in mind, let’s briefly consider four ways biblical theology can serve pastors in their teaching ministries in the local church.
From Genesis to Revelation, Jesus is the hero and the point of the story.
1. Biblical theology helps us read, understand, and teach the Bible the way Jesus said we should.
Jesus himself says in Luke 24 that he is Scripture’s interpretive key. So if we fail to read and understand Scripture in a way that leads us to Jesus, then we will miss the point of the Bible, and as a result we will teach others to commit the same error. The bottom line is this: missing the point of the Bible’s story produces false gospels and false churches. What we need now is a framework for understanding the whole Bible. Biblical theology provides that framework because it guides our reading of the Bible and therefore guards against bad interpretation. Biblical theology is an approach to reading the whole story of the Bible while keeping our focus on the main point of Scripture: Jesus Christ. In other words, biblical theology is the scriptural road map that leads us to Jesus.
2. Biblical theology helps clarify the Bible’s main purpose.
Some people approach God’s Word as if it were a collection of independent stories, or an assortment of advice and counsel, or even a universal cookbook with recipes for “the good life” scattered across its sixty-six books. But these approaches fail to bring to light the central purpose of Scripture. In the Bible, the triune God explains who he is and what he is like and how he’s at work throughout history by his Spirit and in his Son, Jesus Christ the King, and how we ought to glorify him in this world. Biblical theology helps us to grasp this main purpose by looking at each passage of Scripture in light of the whole Bible so that we understand how every part of Scripture is related to Jesus.
From Genesis to Revelation, Jesus is the hero and the point of the story. What’s more, you won’t understand who Jesus is unless you understand the larger story that’s all about him. Jesus is the interpretative key to the Bible, which means a careful Bible reader will find him in the beginning, middle, and end of this story. God has revealed for us in the Bible the King’s purposes, the King’s plans, and the King’s promises. As they’re worked out in history, we need to pay attention to this story and read it as Jesus says we should. God’s story is a grand story—the grandest of them all, in fact—and it’s centered on his plan of redemption in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
3. Biblical theology helps us in our evangelistic outreach.
Sharing the good news with those who are unfamiliar with Christianity requires explaining much more than “four spiritual laws” or the “Romans road.” People first need to grasp that the Christian worldview accompanies a total transformation of mind-set. In our evangelism, we must start with God and creation to see what’s gone wrong. From there, we’re able to follow what God has been doing throughout history, which will help us discover why he sent Jesus and why that matters today. Not until we rightly understand these past events in their proper contexts will we be equipped to uncover what God is doing right now and what he’ll do in the future.
4. Biblical theology helps guard and guide the church.
Reading Scripture rightly means knowing where each book fits into its overarching narrative. And knowing the overarching narrative helps us read and understand accurately each event, character, or lesson that’s been given to us as part of God’s progressively revealed Word. Understanding the whole story of Scripture clarifies who Jesus Christ is and what his gospel is. God has promised to rescue a people from every tribe and nation and tongue for his own glory through his Son and by his Spirit. These redeemed people are members of Christ’s body, the church.
What is the church of Jesus Christ supposed to be and supposed to do? Jesus said to his followers—those who’ve repented of their sins and trusted in him alone—that the Scriptures testify “repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). So the proclamation of Jesus Christ ought to be at the heart of the church’s mission to disciple the nations. In this way, biblical theology guards the church from the deadly error of proclaiming a false gospel and guides the church toward keeping the proclamation of the true gospel as the centerpiece of its mission to the world for the praise of God’s glory.
May all of Christ’s shepherds feed the flock of God by proclaiming the glories of the Chief Shepherd from all the Scriptures until he comes.
A concise summary of how three respected biblical scholars—Geerhardus Vos, D. A. Carson, and Stephen J. Wellum—each define biblical theology.
The Bible tells us one story about our Creator God, who made all things and rules over all.
One of the great advances in evangelical biblical scholarship over the past few generations has been the recovery of biblical theology.