Today we have multiple sources of theology written out for us, doctrines formulated and supporting verses compiled. But the early Christians didn’t have a written out theology yet. They had the Word of God, from which we get our theology, but it wasn’t neatly put together or defined yet. One of the benefits that we can gain from studying theology is to look at the history of how theology came about or how the particular doctrines that we hold to today were defined and articulated in the early church. The Trinity isn’t specifically mentioned in the Bible and this doctrine was hashed out in the early church and defined so that today we have a definition of the Trinity (even if we don’t fully understand it). Early heresies arose in the church over Jesus’ humanity and deity. Church councils were formed and creeds written to define theological truths that lined up with Scripture to refute these heresies. It can be a fascinating study to look at how these different doctrines were developed through the years of church history.
Church history books will touch on the subject of the history of theology, but for a more in-depth look, there are books that actually give the history of how theology came about. While not having read this fully myself, Gregg Allison’s Historical Theology is one of these. A long but detailed and fascinating book on the history of various doctrines is Gerald Bray’s God Has Spoken: A History of Christian Theology. There are others as well. In your study of theology, it can be a fun detour to study the history of the different doctrines, particularly on the doctrines of God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
William Cunningham’s Historical Theology (partial)
Sam Storms’ series on Historical Theology
Masters Seminary Historical Theology lectures
You have dealt well with your servant,
O Lord, according to your word.
Teach me good judgment and knowledge,
for I believe in your commandments.
Before I was afflicted I went astray,
but now I keep your word.
You are good and do good;
teach me your statutes.
The insolent smear me with lies,
but with my whole heart I keep your precepts;
their heart is unfeeling like fat,
but I delight in your law.
It is good for me that I was afflicted,
that I might learn your statutes.
The law of your mouth is better to me
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
Psalm 119:65-72 (ESV)
Taking a break from Ephesians this week to point you to another blogger who is currently doing a study on Colossians. Colossians and Ephesians are very similar in content. They were both written around the same time and by the same author, Paul. Here is the first post in the series with an overview of Colossians.
Take a look at what this blogger has shared so far in the study of the book of Colossians. See what similarities you see between it and the book of Ephesians.
Colossians 1:15-20, part 1
Colossians 1:15-20, part 2
You might want to subscribe to her blog to follow the rest of the series.
Here is a quiz to test your knowledge on the doctrine of the Bible – Challies.com. It also has some additional resources and some links to some other doctrine quizzes (such as one on the doctrine of Christ).
Let’s grow in our knowledge of the Bible and God!
The Lord is my portion;
I promise to keep your words.
I entreat your favor with all my heart;
be gracious to me according to your promise.
When I think on my ways,
I turn my feet to your testimonies;
I hasten and do not delay
to keep your commandments.
Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me,
I do not forget your law.
At midnight I rise to praise you,
because of your righteous rules.
I am a companion of all who fear you,
of those who keep your precepts.
The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love;
teach me your statutes!
Psalm 119:57-64 (ESV)
Ephesians 2:4 starts off with a contrast “But God”. Unlike us, wallowing in our passions and filth, God is rich in mercy and love. He made us alive when we were dead (another contrast). And not only did He make us alive, but He raised us up along with Christ and seated us with Christ in the heavens. This was so that His grace which is immeasurable could be displayed throughout the ages. Now obviously we are not literally seated with Christ now in the heavenly places. This passage is talking about spiritually and figuratively being raised and seated with Christ. Positionally we are in Christ so that our relationship to God is as though we were Christ. We have the benefits that Christ has. As chapter 1 told us, we are adopted as sons. When contrasted with how dead and passion-consumed we were at the beginning of this chapter, it is mind-blowing to realize what God has done for us. This is not something we could accomplish on our own, nor would we have had the desire for this without God intervening.
In verse 8 of chapter 2 we come to some of the most familiar verses in the Bible – “For by grace you have been saved through faith…” We are not saved by our works or our own doing, but rather by God’s grace through faith. Chapter 1 has just shown us the immeasurable riches of God’s grace towards us in Christ, and chapter 2 continues to sound the praises of God’s glory. Yet we are not just saved to be trophies on God’s shelf, but for “good works” which “God prepared beforehand”. Just as chapter 1 tells us that God chose us to be holy and blameless, chapter 2 tells us that we are saved not by works but for good works. This echoes what we are taught elsewhere in Scripture, such as James, that while salvation is not by the works we do, our salvation becomes evident through the works that we do as a result of our salvation.
Verse 11 starts off with “Therefore”, which we’ll tackle next time as Paul continues to talk about the contrast between what we were before salvation and what we are now in Christ.