Midwestern Seminary partnered with 9Marks to host “A Conference on Biblical Theology” on Feb. 12-13 in Kanas City, Mo., with sessions aimed at exploring how biblical theology shapes individual lives as well as the life of the local church,
Keynote speakers Jason Allen, Ligon Duncan, Trip Lee, Zach Schlegel, Owen Strachan, and Jonathan Leeman brought lectures and messages revolving around the theory and practical application of biblical theology. Following each main session, further exploration of that specific topic was offered in a panel discussions.
“Offering conferences such as this provide opportunities to interact with pastors and ministry leaders from around the nation and world through a deeper study of God’s word, and specifically in this case about the topic of biblical theology,” said Allen, who has served as Midwestern Seminary’s president for six years. “We are grateful to partner with 9Marks in such an endeavor.”
“Through such events, we also desire these pastors and ministry leaders to know that they can trust Midwestern Seminary to provide unparalleled theological education for not only themselves, but those called into the ministry from their churches. They can come to Kansas City, learn from and be mentored by our world-class faculty, then leave prepared to fulfill a lifetime of gospel ministry.”
How Biblical and Systematic Theology Relate
Duncan, the chancellor of Reformed Theological Seminary, led the conference’s first session on the necessity of biblical and systematic theology co-existing in a pastor’s study of God’s word.
Systematic theology studies the Bible topically and attempts to tie the topics to one another, Duncan said. While biblical theology traces the whole plan of God’s work in redemptive history throughout the entirety of the Bible. The bottom line, Duncan said, is that both systematic and biblical theology are necessary for solid expositional preaching.
“The most important thing in your Bible is God…. Systematic theologians are as interested in deriving thoughts from Scripture as biblical theologians are; and if God is the author of Scripture, shouldn’t we start all of our theological study thinking about God? So, both methods are right. You can’t separate them from each other. Both methods express a concern for the Bible to have the last word about our thinking.”
Biblical Theology and Hermeneutics
The conference’s second message was delivered by Strachan, Midwestern Seminary associate professor of Christian theology, who was tasked with exploring “Biblical Theology and Hermeneutics.”
To rightly divide the Word, Strachan said that a pastor must have a curious mind, an obedient will, and a worshipful heart. Additionally, to interpret the Bible from a biblical theology standpoint, the goal is to do so in a Christ-centered manner.
“By urging on you a Christ-centered hermeneutic, I mean that the Old Testament as a whole, and in its parts, points to Christ; and it can only be understood fully when Christ is seen as the center of Scripture…Ultimately, to appropriately interpret Scripture from a biblically theological standpoint, one must ask the question, ‘Where does this text stand in relation to Christ?’ That is the most important question you can ask when studying any biblical text.”
How Biblical Theology Shapes Pastoral Counseling
Schlegel, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Upper Marlboro, brought a message concerning how pastors can encourage their congregations through biblical theology and Christian counseling.
Noting that the Bible is a single, unified work, Schlegel explained that its main intention is to reveal the truth about God to his people. Unfortunately, many people read it as a fragmented document; thus, it is not as effective in assisting them in their lives.
If one understands the nature of God’s story, Schlegel said, it can significantly assist in living out his or her story.
“God’s story involves us…and the Bible stands in authority over us,” Schlegel said. “However, we approach life as if we’re writing our own story, and in doing so we make a mess of our lives and a mess of our world.
“As pastors we attempt to counsel others and help them understand both the biblical story and the person’s story. Our goal, then, is to entrust ourselves, and that person, to God and for him to edit and shape our lives according to his story.”
Schlegel said the key to counseling others biblically is to understand where the fears of mankind begin and where mankind finds its source of value. Ultimately, God provides pastors, in Scripture, a toolbox for helping people on an individual basis.
Teaching Biblical Theology to Church Members
Lee, who is a hip-hop artist, author, and pastor, wrapped up the first day of the conference by sharing how a pastor can teach biblical theology to his church members.
In teaching church members about biblical theology, Lee said the first step for pastors is to overcome what is intimidating to them, and that teaching biblical theology doesn’t need to be intimidating.
The solution, Lee explained, is to use common sense. “If Scripture is unified, then it demands we teach it as one book. If we ignore the Old Testament, it’s like hanging up on half of God’s phone calls. The Word is how God speaks to us, and we should listen to all of it.”
Lee said that when teaching biblical theology, show the congregation who the main character is – Jesus, and then show them our role in the story.
“When we look at who we really are in Scripture, we’re really rebellious…Seeing the big picture enables us to see our roles clearly. Hopefully, the next generation won’t repeat the mistakes of the past.”
However, God is perfect and never changes – God’s love endures forever, and there is a great story of redemption playing throughout Scripture. It benefits the church to hear of his great works, and that in the end, Jesus prevails over sin, death, and evil.
Biblical Theology and the Church’s Mission
Opening the conference’s second day was Leeman, editorial director of 9Marks, who explored biblical theology and the mission of the church.
Leeman noted that there is a narrow and broad view of the church’s mission, and there exists some tension as to how both function. Narrowly, the church’s most urgent mission need is proclaiming salvation in Jesus Christ and explaining people’s great need to be saved from sin.
However, more broadly, individual church members are tasked to make disciples – presenting the church as a model society and to live as witnesses in word and deed.
Leeman stated that it is critical to keep the narrow and broad views distinct, and that fulfilling the broad mission is dependent upon fulfilling the narrow mission.
“You have to share the gospel so someone gets saved,” Leeman said. “Yet you also have to properly identify them through church membership and the ordinances so that people will know now that their lives speak for Jesus.
“Ultimately, the Bible story of salvation calls for both the broad and narrow view of the mission within the church, but there is special attention paid to the most urgent need for the church to fulfill – proclaiming the gospel to the lost.”
Biblical Theology and Preaching
In the conference’s final session, Allen provided insight into the topic of biblical theology and preaching, particularly with a focus on Christ-centered preaching.
Allen noted that preaching sermons in the current culture and spiritual climate involves a very special type of message.
“We must strive for sermons that are thoroughly biblical in content, unflinchingly courageous in delivery, and robustly Christ-centered in focus,” he said. “We should point to Jesus at every opportunity to every crowd that will listen from every text to the best of our ability.”
In seeking to explain how preaching and biblical theology intertwine, Allen said the most important aspect is to preach Christ, and him crucified.
“Biblical theology is given to tracing the predominant themes of the Bible from their earliest overtures to their latter revelatory culmination,” Allen said. “Additionally, a Christ-centered biblical theology seeks to synthesize the grand story of Scripture into a condensed summation that centers upon the person and work of Jesus Christ.
“As gospel preachers, we are ministers of the New Covenant, and we should preach Christ-centered sermons accordingly. Biblical theology helps us to do this, and to do it well.”
To view all sessions of the “9Marks Conference on Biblical Theology,” visit mbts.edu/9marks19