I have never changed my own oil. But to heap shame upon shame, I need to also confess this: I don’t want to change my own oil.
That’s not to say I don’t think that skill is valuable; I do. Very much so in fact. But I have grown to accept that fact that I know some stuff about some stuff, and car maintenance isn’t really in that list. Fortunately for me, there are men and women out there in this specialized society we live in who have their own list of stuff that they know stuff about. And it’s okay with me that my list of stuff doesn’t intersect their list of stuff.
This works in almost any area of specialization. I don’t have to know how to plant a garden, build a retaining wall, or stitch a wound. There are people who are experts in each and every one of those fields I can lean on for that knowledge when I need to. But there is one area of knowledge that is encompassing. One area that pervasive. One area that cannot simply be assigned to “the experts.”
If you’re a Christian, you MUST be a theologian. There’s really no other choice.
The word “theology” simply means the study of God. And all of us, even if we are atheists, are students of God. We all have opinions. We all have thoughts. We all have, at one time or another, stared into the night sky and wondered, What’s it all about? Whether we recognize it or not, we are all God-thinkers. We are hard-wired to be so.
But for the Christian, this escalates to another level. We cannot simply be those people who “let the experts tell us.” We similarly cannot be those people who “just want to focus on the real life issues.” We MUST be theologians. And I turn to the Apostle Paul to tell us why, specifically in the book of Ephesians.
You find all kinds of relevant and practical stuff in Ephesians. In fact, Paul is going to tell you about being a husband, a wife, a daughter, a son, an employer, and an employee. He’s going to tell you how to resist common, everyday temptations like greed, lust, and anger. He’s even going to tell you something as practical as “don’t turn off the light when you’re still mad at your spouse” (Eph. 4:26, my translation). That’s all good, relevant stuff, right?
In fact, Paul gives a total of 41 commands in the book of Ephesians. That’s a lot of real life application, isn’t it? But here’s the thing: Of those 41 commands, of those 41 real life applications, 40 of them occur in chapters 4-6. In the first 3 chapters of Ephesians, there is only 1 command.
I suppose you could look at that and conclude that it’s simply chance that Paul waited until the end of this letter to get to the application part of it. I mean, that’s typically the way we structure our teaching in the church, right? Give them something to take out of here that they can do!
But look deeper, and you’ll see that he does this because he is vitally concerned that we don’t just obey the commands; he wants to make sure that we know the theology behind the commands.
In chapters 1-3, Paul is going to give us the big picture look at life and God. He’s going to remind us that we were dead in our sin until Christ rescued us because of His grace and love. He’s going to make sure we know that the church has a cosmic purpose in the universe. He’s going to show us how our unity reflects the power of the gospel. And he’s going to do all of that before he tells us not to go to bed angry.
When we approach the Bible just looking for what to do, we are cutting out the vital part of obedience: the why. And if all we ever do is simply look for some tips on how to live better, we will end up bitter and frustrated, anemic to the great purposes of God in the universe.
We MUST be theologians. All of us.