Biblical Theology in the Philippines

“Salvation history”, “redemption plan”, “all Scripture culminates to the purpose of God to save and the revelation of Christ as the Messiah” – all of these terms are usually heard in the pulpit of a Christ-believing church.

I grew up in a church as a pastor’s kid and never did I encounter the term Biblical Theology, or was consciously taught of it, until I went to a seminary school. This terminology is not generally used in Sunday preaching nor does other theological term because usage of these terms might cause some people to feel discriminated by not being able to grasp or even pronounce the complicated terms. Moreover, usage of complicated theological terms (especially if not specified directly in the Bible) does not necessarily make one’s preaching faithful to the Word of God. 

However, one should endeavor to study and understand that God has a very specific purpose in handing His Word to us: to reveal Himself and His will to men. All the books in the Bible and the narratives therein points to the ultimate revelation of God – Jesus Christ, our redemption through faith in Him and our future hope with Him. 

Charles Hodge said, “The Gospel is simple that children can understand it, and it is so profound that studies by the wisest theologians will never exhaust its riches”. Many Christian churches in the Philippines embraces Biblical Theology but might be oblivious of the term.

Can Someone Read the Bible and Miss the Point of God? 

Apparently, yes. While many Christ-believing churches are ignorant of Biblical theology and still embraces it in their approach of the Word of God, many churches misuses the Bible and do not get the point. If not careful, preachers can proof-text the passage of the Bible and twist it based on how the passage will serve what they want to say. 

What is Biblical Theology?

According to Drew Hunter, in his article 5 Myths of Biblical Theology, Biblical Theology is a “way of reading the Bible that focuses on the story of the whole Bible. It explores the unity of Scripture by focusing on how God progressively reveals himself and his Christ–centered plan for history.”

He further expanded it by laying down that, “the agenda of biblical theology isn’t driven by the questions we bring to the Bible, but by the focus of the Bible itself. We listen to the focus of the biblical authors—the categories and themes that they emphasize. As we do this, we learn that the Bible has a coherent and unified storyline…”

In 1 Corinthians 2:1-2, Paul wrote to the church of Corinth, “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” Paul’s intention in writing the mentioned verses was not to oversimplify his ministry. In fact, we can learn from Paul’s letter to Timothy on his firm belief that all Scripture is God-breathed but made sure that the point of Scripture is clear: 2 Timothy 3:15 “and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” 

In the same manner, Jesus Christ revealed the redemption plan of God in all Scripture to His disciples on the road to Emmaus:

“25 And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” Luke 24

Why do Churches Need to Embrace Biblical Theology?

One of the contemporary issue faced by the churches in the Philippines is the growing deviation to conservative orthodoxy driven by either modernism, post-modernism or both. Many approach the Bible based on how they feel or what it means to them. 

But we need to ask these questions seriously: Is the Bible given to us by God because He wants to reveal a concrete truth to us? Should the revelation and interpretation of the Word be coming from God Himself and not from us (devoid of our lenses and biases)?

The bigger problem in not approaching the Bible as God intended it to be is that our theology (how we know God and His will) defines what we become and do as Christians. Thus, wrong theology results to actions and applications that are actually far from what God intends for His church. Nick Roark and Robert Cline, in their book “Biblical Theology”, identified four false churches that are produced when we miss the point of the Holy Scripture: 

  1. Prosperity-Gospel Church
  2. Civil-Gospel Church
  3. Soup-Kitchen Church
  4. Immorality-Affirming Church

The leaders and the church is accountable to God to point each other to Christ, His finished work and the splendor of God’s holiness.

The challenge for all churches in this troubled time is to endure sound doctrine and to remind one another of the centrality of God in the Scriptures. Let us resist wanting ourselves to be tickled in the ears. Let us contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. Let us study what God is really revealing in His Word. Let us behold the beauty of the Lord. Let us be strong in the Lord and the power of His might. Let us be a faithful witness of Christ to a dying world. 

The Bible is for us but it is not about us. We are not at the center of it all. God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit claim the center, exclusively. – anonymous (online)

Thanksgiving: How Biblical Theology Shapes the Ministry

Knowledge on Biblical theology, as all divine revelation, is God’s grace. This is my 5th year of pastoral ministry at One Body Christian Ministries and God has been gracious to continue to use me as an instrument to walk our church and seminary school through the whole Scripture. This is an opportunity for me to teach Christ and the Gospel of Grace in all Scripture.

Right understanding of the Word also continues to shape our church’s mission. From the things to do, prayers to offer, the promises to embrace and the Gospel to proclaim as the all sufficient finish work of Christ: our church is able to continue to obey God’s mandate. To understand our God and His will, as revealed in the Scripture, allows us as His children to submit to Him in all things. This period of pandemic raised valid excuses not to continue pursuing the mandate of God to “go and make disciples…” and to just focus on ourselves. Praise be to God that this mandate was not given to us to be done by our strength but to always rely on the Lord and His sovereign plan. God has opened up many bible studies and mission outreaches for our church while the pandemic continues to post threat to many people.
At the end of the day, it is always humbling to find myself wanting more of God and seeing the beauty of God’s majesty in Christ and His Gospel. Grace indeed. I thank God for my family, my church and iDISCIPLE friends for always pointing me to Christ. All glory to Him alone.

Featured Photo by delfi de la Rua on Unsplash