Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Doctrine and Life

"I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally" (Colossians 2:1)

The history of the church displays various theories of preaching. One view is that the preacher should never let his personality show, but should present with dispassionate objectivity the facts of the text before him. The argument is that the preacher in the pulpit represents Christ, not his own person. His robe helps remind him and his hearers of this.

Paul’s letters force us to modify this view. Paul frequently bares his own soul and expresses his personal concerns. In so doing, Paul shows the pastoral heart of a man who is being renewed after the image of Christ, and thereby displays an aspect of Christ to the people. With Paul as our example, we should not try to remove the personality of the preacher too far from the sermon.

Paul is popularly regarded as a cerebral, intellectual theologian. He was probably “hard to know,” people think. Maybe this was true of Paul the Pharisee, but it was not true of Paul the apostle. Years of suffering with people, as well as his “thorn in the flesh,” had made Paul into a “people person” as well as the greatest theologian of all time.

Modern Pauline scholars sometimes say that Paul was not really a systematic theologian but a “task theologian.” They point out that none of his letters, not even Romans, is set out as a systematic theology. Rather, every letter addresses a particular church in her own intimate and particular circumstances with her own particular problems. The book of Romans, though full of theology, is largely devoted to a discussion of the relationship of Jew and Gentile.

We must say, though, that God in His providence brought precisely those problems into the early churches that would cause Paul to develop biblical theology properly. In other words, the problems that Paul addressed were not accidental and were not side issues. Rather, the problems God set before him were precisely those central issues that systematic theology deals with.

When Paul dealt with them, he never did so in an abstract or impersonal manner. He always addressed real human needs and conflicts, and showed how the Gospel answered them. In this, he is the model for pastors, and for all of us.

People often seek to drive a wedge between the “personal” element of the faith and the theological. Paul demonstrates the foolishness of this in all his epistles. How we relate to people is intensely theological, and theology impacts how we relate to people. Seek balance to be a thinking person and a people person.