Biblical Theology in Discipleship

Here’s why I believe biblical theology should be woven into the fabric of discipleship in the local church.

As someone who grew up having all of the answers in Sunday School, studying Bible in college, and a career in Christian publishing, as well as years spent in Bible Study Fellowship as an adult, when I began to hear preaching and teaching that was saturated in biblical theology, I realized needed to go back to kindergarten in terms of understanding the Bible. I wanted to understand it in the way Jesus taught it to his disciples when “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

 

A number of years ago I was teaching a study of Genesis in my church when one of the discussion group leaders, an older godly woman, came and sat down by me. “How come I’ve never been taught this before?” she said with tears in her eyes. She was beginning to recognize that, as many years as she had spent studying the Bible, she had never seen how the story of the Bible fit together in a way that is centered on the person and work of Christ from Genesis to Revelation. She was seeing and adoring Christ in new ways. Her tears were for all of the lost years of approaching the Bible in lesser ways. And I totally related to that. As someone who grew up having all of the answers in Sunday School, studying Bible in college, and a career in Christian publishing, as well as years spent in Bible Study Fellowship as an adult, when I began to hear preaching and teaching that was saturated in biblical theology, I realized needed to go back to kindergarten in terms of understanding the Bible. I wanted to understand it in the way Jesus taught it to his disciples when “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

Since then, I’ve been on a mission not only to understand the Bible this way myself but also to introduce and infiltrate Bible studies —especially women’s Bible studies in the local church—with biblical theology. I often look at church websites to see what studies are being offered to the women of the church or in adult Sunday School classes. And I am often disheartened to discover studies that are felt-needs driven, studies with little biblical or theological rigor, and studies oriented around self-improvement. I am thrilled when I see studies of particular books of the Bible, as that indicates an expectation that what we need most is God’s Word and that we can expect it will speak to us. But sometimes even these studies can be oriented to jumping too quickly from what the text says to personal application, untethered to the larger story the Bible is telling that is centered on Christ.

Here’s why I believe biblical theology should be woven into the fabric of discipleship in the local church:

Biblical theology keeps us from ignoring large chunks of the Bible. For most of my life I would have been unable to articulate the basic storyline of the Old Testament—the line of the patriarchs, slavery in Egypt, redemption from slavery, entering the land, establishment of the kingdom, division of the kingdom, exile of the northern ten tribes, exile of the southern two tribes, and return to the land. I just had a mishmash of people and battles and stories in my head with no real sense of how they fit together.

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