Why Study Biblical Theology?

In our previous post, “What is Biblical Theology?” we defined biblical theology, and specifically noted how it differs from systematic theology. We said the general aim of biblical theology is

…to trace out the development of major narrative themes within Scripture (e.g. Priesthood, Kingdom, Messiah, etc.) in order to see how the Bible fits together as a single, unified story across its diverse periods and genres.

This week we examine three benefits that arise when we engage in biblical theology:  1) it enriches our study of Scripture, 2) teaches us our spiritual heritage, and 3) leads us to worship. 

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. In biblical theology, we first recognize the major biblical themes present within a given passage — Scripture’s narrative ligaments. Then we study how these themes have developed to this point in Scripture and how they continue to develop. Only then do we see how these “ligaments” are a part of the whole “body” — we understand how the passage fits into the larger redemption story and how it functions in the story.  

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 passages.

It Teaches Us Our Spiritual Heritage

If we are unfamiliar with Scripture, we may think Jesus’s proclamation to “repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2)  comes at us from out of nowhere. But the Old Testament is full of major events, traditions, and prophecies that anticipate this Kingdom, and many other salvation events recorded in the New Testament.

When we commit to study biblical theology, to look at the overarching redemption story in the Bible, we see the roots of our faith in a fresh way. As we learn more about how everything fits together, we gain a richer understanding of the Christian faith by recognizing where it arises from. 

It Leads to Worship

Because biblical theology insists on viewing the entire Bible as a single, unified story, it moves us to acknowledge the one Author whose voice is recognized behind and beneath each human writer through whom he tells his story. The more we see and appreciate the unity of Scripture, the more we stand in awe of the infinite and infallible wisdom and power of God whose plan of redemption spans across all history. We see how he always gets to the destination he intended, even if this final destination was hidden from those of earlier generations.

Biblical theology reveals how God accomplishes his redemptive purpose. We see that apparent setbacks and interruptions are what God used to bring about his purpose. Furthermore, it spotlights the faithfulness of God who displays his unchanging character in all of his interactions with his people at every stage of the redemption story that Scripture tells.

Next time, we will examine one final benefit of studying biblical theology: seeing Christ and the gospel throughout all Scripture. We will also provide some tips on how to begin studying and benefitting from biblical theology.

Tristan McGrath