I want to close by emphasizing the necessity of theology proper. Brethren, this is our bread and butter. This is the doctrine that differentiates us as Christians from non-Christians as opposed to our performance, conduct, or virtue. Our religion is about our God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Now, certainly, we should have conduct consistent with that true and living God, and especially the redemptive work of His Son that brings us forgiveness and salvation. We should live in light of that, but brethren, the knowledge of God is absolutely crucial. We ought to be longing to understand who this God is. Certainly, the Bible is filled with all kinds of good lessons and help for life in this present world. In fact, Ephesians 5 and 6 has a great emphasis on ethics within Christian life for individuals, families, employers, and employees alike. Brethren, I am not suggesting we shouldn’t study those passages. But it seems to me that the church has hastened to study those passages while bypassing the glory of Ephesians 1:3-14.
Paul, the apostle, does not start with “Husbands, love your wives,” but he starts with “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing” (Eph. 1:3a). He starts and ends with God, and discusses God throughout – why? Because it is the knowledge of God Most High that not only differentiates us as His people, but it gives us encouragement, strength, and wherewithal to get out of bed each and every day and to persevere onto that heavenly kingdom. Because of who God is, it enables the people of God to continue to faithfully go forward. If we don’t know this God, if we don’t understand the system of grace, if we don’t understand the benevolence of God’s will, we’ll always be on this sort of mercenary footing, asking God “Am I OK with you today, Father?” One of my grandsons asked his father, “Are you happy, Daddy?” “I’m happy.” He likes to test the waters as a people pleaser who wants everybody around him to be happy. Sometimes, I think we treat God that way. “Are you OK with me, God? Have I sinned my way out of your covenants and Kingdom? Have I broken that covenant in such a way that I’ve got to sort of curry my favor back with you?” That’s not the God of holy writ! “In Him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to – what? – the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7a).
See, brethren, this isn’t just some sort of sideline note. When we get that concept down that “all that is in God is God” and that “God is His perfections,” we will see that God’s love, grace, and mercy are infinite. We can never “overuse” the resources that God has or exhaust and out-sin God’s grace. I am not suggesting we try to do this, but we cannot do it when it’s “according to the riches of His grace”! Where does the psalmist go when he’s musing on the chaos that oftentimes obtains in the world around us? He goes to God! In Psalm 46:10, he writes, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth.” The comfort for God’s people is the God of the people: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each of whom we have communion with, yet not three Gods, but one most glorious, most wondrous, most loving God. These are things predicated of this God because this is what the Bible teaches. Accordingly, the doctrine of theology proper, as the study of who God is, is necessary to differentiate and encourage us.
It is also necessary as something we should want to do. In Psalm 111, the psalmist presents a pattern that we should employ relative to theology proper. In Psalm 111:2, we read, “The works of the Lord are great, studied by all who have pleasure in them.” It is good to study creation including the scientific investigation of the created order. We ought to study providence so we can be aware of how, even in the midst of the chaos, God is over all – it is His “chaos,” it is for His purposes, and it is ultimately for His glory. I hope that understanding providence would put us in a proper place in terms of our humility before God. And then, we should appreciate redemption. It is just, legitimate, and necessary for those conquered by sovereign grace to want to understand their God, to want to know about the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, and to take passages like Ephesians 1:3-14 seriously in blessing God for who He is, what He does, His triunity, and His wisdom as displayed in the salvation of His people.
Brethren, you’re saved – isn’t that the best thing you’ve ever heard? We were justly liable to God’s wrath and curse, both in this life and that which is to come. We deserve hell, separation from God, and outer darkness wherein there is weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. But God has saved us! Is it a stretch then to think that Peter’s losing his mind when calling us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ” in 2 Peter 3:18? Brethren, I don’t want to say this is a duty and you better start studying the Trinity; but brethren, it is your duty and you better start studying the Trinity and having a clear understanding. In this internet age, there is no shortage of heresy. There is no shortage of Arianism, Sabellianism, or other ways that the professing people of God can go astray with old ancient heresies that have been brought back anew, baptized afresh, and employed against the living and true God. But when we understand that glory of Christ, and the blessing and power of redemption, it’s an impetus to us to go and tell sinners about Christ. Perhaps we’re not better at “making disciples” (Matt. 28:18-20) because we’re not fully committed to the God we’re proclaiming. But when we understand who God is, it melts the heart, wins the soul, causes conquest, and makes us want to serve and glorify Him.
Transcribed and edited excerpt from sermon preached on April 24, 2022.