Why Study Biblical Theology?
Why Study Biblical Theology?
In our previous post, “What is Biblical Theology?” we attempted to provide a general description of biblical theology in distinction from systematic theology. In this context, we asserted that the general aim of biblical theology is:
…to carefully study and trace out the chronological development of major narrative themes within Scripture (e.g. Priesthood, Kingdom, Messiah, etc.) with an aim toward seeing the Bible’s interconnectedness with greater clarity and being equipped to more readily recognize it as the telling of a single, unified story across its many diverse periods and genres
This week we examine a few of the spiritually enriching, practical benefits that arise when we begin to give some of our attention to this discipline. Listed below are three wonderful outcomes of studying biblical theology.
It Enriches our Study of Scripture
Biblical theology provides us with fresh insight into parts of Scripture that might otherwise seem confusing and foreign to us. By first recognizing the major biblical themes present within a given passage—Scripture’s narrative ligaments—and by possessing an awareness of how these themes have developed to this point in Scripture and how they will develop further in subsequent portions of Scripture, we are then better equipped to understand how the passage fits into the larger redemption story and to further understand its precise significance in this relation.
A familiarity with biblical theology enables us to better interpret Scripture in light of Scripture thereby protecting us from interpretive error and deepening our understanding of each passage in view of other, related passages.
It Teaches us our Spiritual Heritage
One of the classic tenets of reformed theology is the view that Christ’s church stands as the rightful inheritor of all of God’s promises to Israel, even to say that the church of God’s elect, which was revealed at Christ’s coming, is true Israel, those about whom the nation state of Israel in the Old Testament formed a kind of anticipatory, prophetic shadow. In other words, the story of Israel in the OT is our story, the story of our spiritual roots.
By helping us to learn more about the overarching redemption story that all of Scripture recounts, biblical theology enables us to see that Christian salvation did not emerge from out of nowhere, but that every aspect of it is ultimately derived from, and further informed by, words and events recorded in the OT. As we grow in our awareness of all of the different ways in which the OT anticipated the salvation events recorded in the NT—the aim of biblical theology—we come to possess a deeper, richer understanding and appreciation of our own faith.
It Inevitably Leads to Worship
The insistence of biblical theology on viewing the entire Bible as a single, unified story leads us to acknowledge the one Author whose voice is recognized behind and beneath each of the sovereignly inspired human writers through whom he tells his story. The more we see and appreciate the unity and coherence of Scripture, the more we stand in awe of the infinite and infallible wisdom and power of God whose plan of redemption spans across millennia of human history moving inevitably and unfailingly toward the exact destination he intended, even as this final destination remained hidden from those of earlier generations.
Biblical theology reveals the manner in which God accomplishes his redemptive purpose, not despite apparent setbacks and interruptions, but instrumentally through them. Furthermore, it places a spotlight on the faithfulness of God whose unchanging character is repeatedly displayed in all of his interactions with his people at every stage of the redemption story that Scripture recounts.
Next week, we will examine one final, practical benefit of studying biblical theology regarding Christ and the gospel (don’t miss it!) and will seek to provide some practical tips on how to begin studying and benefitting from biblical theology.