I once heard it said that if Starbucks can get people to say "Venti Carmel Macchiato", it's not too much for us to ask that people learn (and appreciate!) some multi-syllabic, worthwhile theological words. And if Starbucks can jolt you awake or into focus, these five words - and lots of others I could have included - can be an espresso shot energizing your faith and worship!
Just to be clear, when I use this word I'm not referring to the final book of the New Testament, but to the belief that God reveals Himself - most ultimately in Scripture. God has spoken! God has taken the initiative to let us in on who He is, how we can live in right relationship with Him, and what He's doing in the world. Read that last sentence again and let it sink in (really, do it). Since that is the case, we should be doing everything we can to get into God's Book - the Bible - so we can better know God Himself, and live in the way(s) He's designed us to live.
A key passage that underlines the value of revelation is 2 Timothy 3:16-17:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Atonement is a significant doctrine that addresses how our sins are dealt with. Wrapped up with atonement, then, is an understanding of the weight of sin - sin can't be ignored; something must be done about it. This idea of sin needing to be dealt with is behind the sacrificial system of the Old Testament (check out the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16), and - ultimately - the sending and sacrifice of Jesus Christ "to take away the sins of the world" (John 1:29). Atonement doesn't just deal with sin, though. Biblically, it also opens up a new relationship with God the Father. Through Christ's atoning sacrifice, we who were once enemies of God because of sin can now be reconciled - or put in right relationship - with Him.
A key passage that spotlights Christ's atoning work is Romans 3:21-26:
But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justifiedI freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished--he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
Justification means "to be declared righteous by God." Because of Christ's atoning work (see above), we can be justified (or declared righteous) by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). In other words, God no longer treats us as our sins deserve! Rather, He treats us as men and women who have become "the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21). When God looks at those who have been justified, He sees Jesus (or, to give this a bit more nuance, He sees the righteousness of Jesus imputed to the believer). Understanding justification leads to great confidence as we consider our relationship with God. Also, understanding of justification should never lead us to abuse the grace extended to us. A right understanding of justification should lead us to be transformed in practical ways by this grace that has been shown to us, and is at work in those who are justified.
A key passage that highlights Christ's justifying work and what is accomplishes is Romans 4:25-5:2:
Jesus Christ was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.
The meaning most commonly attached to sanctification is "the lifelong process of growing in godliness." To appreciate the importance of this doctrine, we need to remind ourselves that we're (all of us) always becoming something. More of this, less of that, etc. As followers of Jesus Christ, what should we be growing into? What mindset, virtues, and actions should characterize us? These are exactly the sort of questions that the category of sanctification deals with as it points us in the direction of "growing in godliness."
A key passage that sheds light on the sanctification we should be pursuing is 2 Peter 1:3-11:
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Eschatology literally means "the study of the last things." And too often this category of theology gets a bad rap because it is reduced and twisted to refer especially to end-times speculation - a mindset that (in my opinion) too often fuels division and majoring on the minors. But when we take a broader (and still thoroughly biblical) view of eschatology, we learn that God isn't done with His creation yet! He's working to resolve sin and suffering in a tremendous ending where He gets the glory and everything is as-it-should-be. Eschatology should fuel hope! And mission! And trust!
One key passage that underlines the current implications of Christ's future coming is 1 John 3:2-3:
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
I'd love to hear from you: How have these "worthwhile theological words" fueled your faith, worship, and/or mission? What are 1-2 other "worthwhile theological words" you would add to this list?
Christian. Husband. Father. Pastor. Learner. Contributor. Reader.