How Biblical Theology Guards and Guides the Church

Biblical theology is a way of reading the Bible. It is a hermeneutic. It assumes that Scripture’s many authors and many books are telling one story by one divine author—about Christ.

Sound slightly academic? It is, but…

The discipline of biblical theology is essential to guarding and guiding your church. It guards churches against false stories and wrong paths. It guides the church toward better preaching, better practices, better paths.


Think, for instance, of theological liberalism. It recasts the narrative of salvation as God’s work to overcome, say, economic injustice or the self-centered political conscience. Such redemptive storylines may not be all wrong, but they remind me of how one of my daughters will narrate a fight with her sister. She will speak truth, but she will also omit details, redistribute emphases, make tenuous interpretive connections. So it is with the narratives of liberalism and the Bible’s gospel storyline.

And so it is with Roman Catholicism, where the priests and sacraments play a mediatorial role that smacks heavily of the old covenant.

Or with the prosperity gospel, which also imports elements of the old covenant into the new, only it’s talk of blessing.

Other groups don’t bring the redemptive past into the present, they bring the redemptive future into the now. Once upon a time it was the perfectionist Anabaptists who thought they could bring heaven to earth right quick. The progressive liberals tried this a century ago. Now it is those who are hopped-up on transforming culture that offer subtle re-narrations. 

The list is long, whether we are thinking of “Christian” cults like Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses, or movements within churches such as the social gospel, liberation theology, American messianism, or some forms of fundamentalist separatism. Some better, some worse.

The point is, imbalanced (or false) gospels and imbalanced (or false) churches are built either on narratively-mindless “proof texts” or on whole stories gone awry. Either they wrongly connect the Bible’s major covenants; or they have too much continuity or too much discontinuity; or they fail to distinguish type from antitype; or they under-realize or over-realize their eschatology. Maybe they promise heaven on earth now; maybe they disembody the spiritual life now.

In each case, bad or imbalanced biblical theologies proclaim a bad or imbalanced gospel, and such gospels build bad or imbalanced churches.

Meanwhile, good biblical theology guards the gospel and guards a church. “A robust biblical theology tends to safeguard Christians against the most egregious reductionisms,” says D. A. Carson.

That means it’s a pastors job (i) to know good biblical theology and (ii) have some sense of the bad biblical theologies that impact people walking into his church. Today, many of those folk have been weaned on some version of the prosperity gospel. Can you explain why that milk is bad? (For help, see here and especially here.) 


But biblical theology is not just a guard, it’s a guide—a guide to good preaching, good outreach and engagement, good corporate worship, good church structures, and the healthy Christian life.   

A Guide to Good Preaching

When you sit down to study a text and prepare a sermon, biblical theology keeps you from proof texting or telling an imbalanced story of redemption. 

It places each text in the right canonical context, and helps you to see what your text has to do with the person and work of Christ. It wards off moralism so that one preaches Christian sermons. It rightly relates indicative and imperative, and faith and works. It teaches evangelistic exposition. It ensures that every sermon is part of the big story.

In short, pastor, you need biblical theology to do the most important thing in your job: preach and teach God’s Word. For more on this, see Jeramie Rinne’s “Biblical Theology and Gospel Proclamation.”

A Guide to Good Outreach and Engagement

Turning to think about a church’s outreach and engagement with the world outside, biblical theology rightly balances our expectations between expecting too much (over-realized eschatology) or demanding too little (cheap grace, easy-believism, belonging-before-believing, not preaching the imperative).

Good biblical theology will not promise our best life now (whether that means health and wealth, transforming the city, winning the favor of the elite, or retaking America). But nor does it shy away from engaging culture and seeking the good of the city in deed ministry for the sake of love and justice.

It makes word outreach (evangelism and missions) primary, but it does not falsely separate word and deed. These are inseparable for the church’s witness and mission, as the storyline from Adam to Abraham to Israel to David to Christ to church makes clear.

A Guide to Good Corporate Worship

Is David’s naked ark-of-the-covenant dance normative for church gatherings? No? How about the incense used by Old Testament priests, or the use of instruments and choirs, or “making sacrifices” for various holidays, or the reading and explaining of the biblical text? A right biblical theology helps to answer what to bring into the new covenant era and what to leave in the old.

Much depends, again, on how one puts together the covenants, one’s approach to continuity and discontinuity, and one’s understanding of Christ’s work of fulfillment. It also depends on one’s understanding of what Christ’s gathered church has been authorized to do.

All this may sound academic, pastor, but your practices depend upon some biblical theology. The question is, have you thought through which?  

For more on this, see Bobby Jamieson’s article “Biblical Theology and Corporate Worship.”

A Guide to Good Church Structures

By the same token, the storyline of Scripture requires us to pay attention to matters of continuity and discontinuity for how we organize our churches. In terms of continuity, God’s people have always and an inside and an outside, which means we need to practice membership and discipline. In terms of discontinuity, the leaders of God’s people change dramatically from the old covenant to new. First, all of God’s people become priests. Second, God’s elders are undershepherds who feed the flock through the Word.

No doubt, the question of who can be a church member depends on biblical theology. Is membership just for believers, or believers and their children? It depends on the amount of continuity and discontinuity you see between circumcision and baptism.

A Guide to the Healthy Christian Life

Finally, it’s worth considering the significance of biblical theology for the healthy Christian life, and how that life connects to the local church.

In the story of the exodus, redemption was corporate. But in the New Testament, redemption is individual, right?

Well, it depends on how one understands the relationship between the old covenant and new, and what Christ accomplishes in the new. Might one not argue that the existence of a covenantal head requires a covenantal people (see Jer. 31:33; 1 Peter 2:10)? What’s more, Paul seems to argue that the dividing wall of partition between Jew and Gentile fell and that “one new man” was created in precisely the same moment that sinners were reconciled to God (Eph. 2:11-22; for more on the corporate aspects of conversion, see here).

If it’s true that salvation in the New Testament is directed toward a people every bit as much as in the Old, even if every individual’s experience of that salvation occurs at different times and not together as in the exodus, then it would seem that the Christian life is fundamentally corporate. And growth is corporate. And life in the faith is corporate. It was dad who adopted me, but he adopted me into a family, so that being his son or daughter means being their brother or sister.

Well, this corporate reality has countless implications for everything in a church’s teaching, fellowship, and culture. A primary goal for the existence of a local church—if this biblical theological account is correct—is simply to be a church. It’s to be this new family, new people, new nation, new culture, new body. So much of spiritual growth is not about what I do in my quiet times; it’s how I learn to take on the new identity as a family member.

On the other hand, it’s easy to imagine a biblical theology that overemphasizes the individual at the expense of the body (as some conservative theologies can do) or overemphasizes corporate and societal structures at the expense of individual culpability (as some liberal theologies do).

Furthermore, your understanding of that storyline helps you to know what to expect of your fellow members: how much righteousness, how much victory over sin, how much spiritual healing for the victim of injustice, how much restoration in broken relationships. The shape of the biblical storyline—as you understand it—will shape your approach to tragedy and evil and righteousness as you encounter it in your life and others. 

In other words, a right biblical theology leads to an already/not yet vision of the Christian life. It’s easy to err toward too much “already” or too much “not yet.”

Bottom line: a right biblical theology offers a trustworthy guide to the Christian life, particularly as that life relates to the local church. And it guards the church against wrong emphases, wrong expectations, and a wrong evangel.

Jonathan Leeman, an elder of Capitol Hill Baptist Church and the editorial director of 9Marks, is the author of several books on the local church. You can follow him on Twitter.


Google Android "Fake ID" Security Flaw Discovered: What You Need to Know

Bluebox Labs, the mobile security research team at BlueBox Security, announced the discovery of an Android flaw they have dubbed “Fake ID”. “Fake ID” exploits a device’s digital signature, which Android uses to verify that apps are who they say they are.

Essentially, the issue is that while Android checked that an app had the correct ID before granting it special privileges, it failed to check that the ID was in fact valid and not forged. As reported to the BBC, the researchers liken it to a visitor flashing his valid-looking badge to a security guard, but the guard failing to call the employer of that visitor to verify he is who he says he is. “Fake ID” is concerning because no action or approval is required of the device owner and any actions taken are hidden. In one example, the faked certification signature could be exploited by an app to impersonate Google Wallet to obtain payment data. The flaw is said to affect Android from the January 2010 release of 2.1 up to Android 4.3.

For in-depth technical details on how the exploits work, see Bluebox Lab’s post here.

Does this affect the LastPass Android app?

If you do not install apps from untrusted sources, you’re likely safe. Google has scanned all of the apps in the Google Play store, and confirmed they have not seen anyone attempt to exploit this flaw to date. Since the flaw has just been released, it is unlikely that any malware has been written to take advantage of it yet.

Because it can be used to exploit this flaw, we have disabled the Adobe Flash plugin from loading in the LastPass browser, and have issued an update to our app. This affects only Android 4.3 and earlier, since Android 4.4 and later does not include Flash, and is therefore not susceptible to this bug. Even if a malicious app were to gain control of the device, all it would be able to get from LastPass would be a highly encrypted, unusable blob of data. Disabling offline access in the LastPass app’s preferences would also prevent this blob from being stored locally.

Advice on actions to take:

While this flaw is serious, most Android users should be able to avoid being affected by:

  • Only downloading apps from the Google Play Store - apps downloaded from outside the store are not regulated by the app store policies.
  • Avoiding untrusted apps - only download apps published by companies you know and trust.
  • Removing unused or untrusted apps from your devices.
  • Updating your phone to the latest Android version available with this issue patched.
We remain vigilant of any security discoveries that may affect the LastPass community and will update our users if any other details come to light.

via The LastPass Blog

When God Loves Me Too Much

I saw it the other day. I saw that thing I want, that thing I am sure I need, that thing that holds the key to my happiness. With it I will be complete. Without it I will always be lacking.

And there it was, right before me. I saw it. I longed for it. I felt that longing, that desire, in my chest, or was it my stomach? Did my heart really skip a beat? There it was, so close, but it wasn’t mine. It was there, yet just out of reach.

In that very moment the thought flashed through my mind: If God really loved me, he would give it to me. God doesn’t love me enough to let me have it. And in the wake of the thought, a question: What can I do to make him love me enough? What can I do to make him love me enough to give it to me?

The insanity lasted all of a minute. Probably not even a minute. And then I knew. It’s not that God loves me too little to give it to me. He loves me too much. He loves me too much to give me that thing I am convinced I need. He loves me too much to give me something that will compete with him. He loves me too much to give me anything I may love more than I love him.

Whatever it is—an object, a person, a position, a recognition, an award—God expresses his love in withholding it from me. He knows me far better than I know myself. He knows what I need, and he knows what I don’t need. He knows what would soon step into that place he reserves for himself.

I can go my way content. I can go my way knowing that God has given all I need and withheld all I cannot handle. I am content with what God has given—it is for my good and his glory. I am content with what God has withheld—it, too, is for my good and his glory.

Crybaby image credit: Shutterstock

via - Informing the Reforming

Chromecast Is One Year Old, So Have Three Months Of Google Play Music All Access On The House

nexusae0_Crr_thumbHappy birthday, Chromecast. From your interesting but utilitarian beginnings you’ve turned into a streaming powerhouse, giving Android and Chrome users a ton of options for streaming music, video, and what have you. Just lately that also includes the super-cool capacity for transmitting mirrored audio and video from your phone or tablet right to your TV. It’s been a good year, and to celebrate, Google is giving each and every Chromecast owner a free three-month subscription to Play Music All Access.

Chromecast Is One Year Old, So Have Three Months Of Google Play Music All Access On The House was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

via Android Police - Android News, Apps, Games, Phones, Tablets
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