But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers.Acts 15:1–3 (ESV)
The principle is simple really: what we love, we seek to know; what we know, we know how to love.
Unfortunately, the idea of “theology” intimidates many, but theology is merely the study of God. Or, more simply put, the pursuit of knowing God.
Every believer wants to know God. Even many unbelievers have an interest in God. Whenever we seek answers to questions about God — who He is, how He works, what He requires, etc. — we are doing theology.
Church, we must do more theology. We must love theology because we love God, and we want to know those we love.
As we look at the controversy of Acts, chapter 15, we see the importance and nature of theology.
(1) We see that theology is an important discipline.
This is what we have already said. If we value God and love Him and want to know Him, please Him, serve Him, and share Him with others, then we must engage in theology.
When we put God at the center of theology (which, oddly enough, is not a universal approach), we also discover that our interest and focus in the Bible changes. We discover that the Bible is not merely (or even primarily) a handbook for doing life, but the roadmap for knowing God. We must understand the Bible as revelation before we can apply its instruction.
(2) Theology is a joyful discipline.
If our theology does not produce doxology, then we are doing it wrong!
This element of theology only appears in passing as we look at the text, but it is a life-giving aspect of theology that is too often overlooked. They were sharing with one another testimony of what God was doing and how God was working, and it “brought great joy to all the brothers.”
Theology prompts doxology.
(3) Theology is a community discipline.
The early church did not sweep this theological issue aside or brush it off. They did not dismiss it as unimportant or downplay the issue for the sake of a perceived “unity.” They dealt with it, and they dealt with it together. They all sought counsel together, they came and reasoned together. The church is a gospel community, that makes us a theological community.
Theology – if we let it – will produce humility, deepen respect, cultivate community, teach us to listen and consider others. We will learn submission, gain perspective, , connect us to history (the greatest benefit to studying church history is a knowledge of heresy and battles for theological integrity).
(4) Finally, Theology is a biblical discipline.
James, the head of the Jerusalem church, after listening to testimony and argument, evaluates and summarizes the entire issue by looking into the Scriptures.
James models what we must never forget: Scripture is the final authority. All experience, all testimony, every idea and philosophy must be shaped by Scripture. Our experiences, our culture, our favorite authors, even our traditions must yield to Scripture.
When was the last time Scripture overcame an impulse, or clarified an experience, or shaped – or reshaped – an opinion?
We gain stability, avoid error, increase joy, build fellowship, learn humility, and testify to the goodness of God when we spend time and give attention to knowing our God.
What you love you study and what you study holds your attention and captures your imagination. Church, let’s give the Lord our attention and let’s allow His greatness to capture our imagination. Let’s cultivate a love for theology.