What is theology? For most, theology is seen as a dry academic pursuit leading to wordy, intellectually philosophical conclusions which have no impact on real life. However, theology is the study of God, or studying the Word of God.
Let me give you a more easily understood definition of theology. Theology is friendship with God. Everyone, whether or not they admit it, has a relationship with God. Everyone either pursues Him or runs from Him. Everyone has an idea of whom or what God is. Even when people don’t think about God it is because of what they think of God. Christians, those who are identified with God through the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the guarantee of the Holy Spirit, spend their lives learning about God.
In Matthew 5 Jesus tells us the only way any become a citizen of the kingdom of heaven is for God to make them one. Our lives become the evidence of God’s work in us. God’s grace makes us a citizen. His grace does not absolve any of the demands and responsibilities of the citizen. We are required and inspired to obey the inner reality of His eternal law in our every action, motivation and attitude.
Grace is misunderstood by many and misapplied by all at some time. Grace is not receiving punishment due for crimes committed but being given eternal life. Eternal life is not earned. With eternal life are privileges and responsibilities. Grace is not being given death which is deserved and being given life which is not deserved.
God places a standard of excellence upon His citizens which reaches far beyond anything recognizable by the world. Though He has covered those who are His with the righteous blood of His Son, viewing us as righteous who are not, He also demands we conform to His standard of excellence. Our conforming to His standard, exemplified in Christ, is unattainable without His strength, direction and grace. At no time during our lives in the world, encumbered with the old, sinful self, does He expect us to attain perfection. He does expect us to work on and reach for holiness.
God expects His citizens to be teachable throughout their time in this world. He uses the world, the tugs and pulls of temptation to prepare us for eternity. If He were not going to use the world in such a way there would be no reason to leave any here. Too many fail, succumbing to the temptations and giving themselves permission to sin. We do not have permission to sin. Not even those who are unsaved have permission to sin.
When Jesus states He has not come to “abolish the Law or the Prophets” He is forcing us to acknowledge God’s Word to us is absolute, unbendable and unbreakable. When He says He has come to “fulfill them” He is stating we cannot, that He is the only One able to keep God’s Word. When He states “heaven and earth” will not “pass away” until “all in accomplished” He is telling us God’s Word is eternal. This Word, the Law and Prophets of God, impact every area, every thought, every emotion, every action, every piece of creation, every molecule of life.
We are made in His image to have a relationship with Him. Thus, obeying Him is never an obligation because it is integral to our deepest being. Being recreated in the likeness of Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit opens the battlefield of our souls to the war between righteousness and unrighteousness, between truth and lie, between purity of holiness and the blackness of sin.
Is it ever appropriate to set aside sound theology for the practical living? “Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” [Matthew 5:19 ESV]. Our answer has to be “never.”
Sound theology is practical living according to God’s standards of excellence, not according to the standards of the world in its rebellion against Him. There is a danger. Misinterpreting God’s truth and turning it into a lie and then following that lie which leads deeper into sin and away from truth. We do not have the right to determine our own righteousness. Jesus declares our righteousness must “exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees” or we “will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” There is only one standard we must meet. God’s standard. It is met in Jesus Christ.
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. [Matthew 5:17-20 ESV]