Coupled with the task of theology is the necessity of theology. When we break this down we’re essentially asking why we need theology, and specifically, why we need systematic theology. The blunt, horrifyingly honest answer is to continue to perpetuate salaries and institutions. When you read the Bible it isn’t written in a systematic structure. God never intended a systematic structure, and we’re all too Gentile in our ways of thinking to believe that He ordains and blesses it. God speaks in patterns and mysteries, which are ways in which the unconcerned and the one lacking the Spirit will never comprehend. The need for theology, says many, is to make it accessible and easy to memorize. We can understand the breadth of Bible dogma through concise systems, classes, subjects, or teachings.
Our need for theology stems instead from our need for each other. Theology is the study of God, and its task is the manifestation of heavenly protocol in the earth. How does that protocol manifest? Is it somehow through isolated vehicles of Jesus that sometimes collide in the night? No, rather we believe that we’re all of one Body built together through the Spirit, and jointly attached to our Head, Christ Jesus. As many members of the Body, we all have our own calling, function, and purposes. The whole point of theological endeavor is to engage the interconnection of the callings and functions, both for ourselves and for each other. If one is called to be apostolic, it is not for the sake of those who are also apostles. And if one is called to be an overseer, it is not for the sake of programs and events.
We are fit together as one Body, and it is through theology that we build one another up, being built up ourselves through our faith and engagement with the subject Himself. It says in Ephesians 3:10 that our whole purpose as the Church is to manifest the wisdom of God, and specifically make that display unto the principalities and powers of the air. While we have oft conceived of a fallen world that needs a savior, and considered missions to be about the souls of men, Paul seems to turn that idea on its head. Our primary function as a Body is unto this mystery, even the fellowship of this mystery, which was hidden in God from the beginning of the ages. This manifest demonstration of the wisdom of God is an eternal purpose, and we see the mystery being expressed in chapters 2-3 together.
Our one Head is Lord over what some have seen as two different peoples. What is the whole crux of Ephesians 2? Have you noticed that the whole chapter hinges upon verses 11-13? An inheritance is mentioned in the first chapter, which is then again taken up in the third chapter, but is explained to us in the second, as being something explicitly Israelite. We, as Gentiles, who were once under the power and influence of the principalities and powers of the air, the wisdom and course of this world, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, are no longer under that usurping agent of darkness. We have been brought out of that darkness and into marvelous light. Yet, we have been taught the darkness was sin, and here Paul is saying it is the very culture of Satan himself. Yes, sin is mentioned in Ephesians 2:1, but Paul doesn’t remain there. We have not only been brought out sin, but also out of a darkened kingdom that has its authority and power with the evil one.
Why the contrast between the course of this world, of which we used to walk, and that we’ve now been “raised up together” to sit together with Christ Jesus “in heavenly places”? We used to walk, but now we sit. We used to be of the earth, but now we dwell in heaven. We used to be dead in transgressions and sins, but now we’re “made alive” and “raised”. We used to conduct ourselves in the lusts of the flesh, but now we are created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has predestined. We were once Gentiles and uncircumcised, but now we’ve been brought into the commonwealth of Israel, and made to be a part of the “circumcision”. Do you see the thrust of the argument? We are no longer in the kingdom of darkness, which is the ways of the world, ruled by the principalities, which the Gentiles walk in without knowledge. We are now in the Kingdom of God, ruled by Christ Jesus, where the people of this Kingdom are called “Israel”.
Does that then negate the natural branches? I believe Paul would say, “God forbid that you would think that!” The chapter continues to show that God has broken down the hostility between Jew and Gentile in His own flesh, making of the two peoples one, just like you see of various characters in the Old Testament. Was Ruth an Israelite? Or Rahab? Or Bathsheba? And yet all of these women are mentioned in Matthew’s Gospel as being mothers of the Messiah. Not only were they considered Israelites, even though they were Gentiles in the midst of ethnic Israelites, but they were so honored by the God of Israel that they are in the lineage of Messiah.
It shouldn’t surprise us what the need of theology is. The need is expressed from the beginning unto the end. From the foundation of the world God has separated light from dark, and created more and more order, until He rested on the seventh day, in which we have our rest if we rest with Him, and in which we overcome the darkness and become the bearers of light if we allow the true Light to shine forth. What is it that manifests the wisdom of God unto the principalities and powers of the air? Is it not the very mystery expressed in Ephesians 2? We are one new man, and Israel, though they mostly stand in unbelief currently, is still under that Head with us, as our brethren, who shall have an inheritance at Christ’s coming, being the purchased possession that shall be redeemed, so that Gentiles might be “fellow heirs”, and not the sole heirs, of the same Body, and partakers of the promise in Christ through the Gospel,
What could more bring the principalities and powers to rage? What is it that manifests this wisdom and glory? It is a people who have been brought into their fullness, as Ephesians 2:19-22 expresses. We’ve been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, and we’re fitted together, growing into a holy temple in the Lord. What is Paul saying? Is it not the very thing that’s been expressed? In Ephesians 4 Paul will go into the fact that in his own day, when Paul is writing, there were apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. He has given some to be within each of these callings, which I believe many have misunderstood the functionality of each. And the giving of these calls is for the equipping of the saints, and for the edifying of the Body, till we all come to the unity of the faith and off the knowledge of the Son of God.
While it is true that I think we have a long way as the Gentile believers before we “all” come to that fullness, the truth is that Paul is also thinking of ethnic Israel. If Paul is including them from chapter 1 as the “purchased possession” that shall be redeemed, then it only logically concludes that he hasn’t forgotten about his brethren, his countrymen according to the flesh. We need theology, because we need fullness. Fullness comes through the outworking and wrestling together, listening to the apostles teaching, taking care for the prophetic oracles, accepting the message heralded (herald being an alternative word for evangelist), allowing the shepherds (pastors) to lead us, and finding the nourishment from the burrowing in of the rabbis (teachers). When the Spirit is given that kind of liberty, that each member of the Body might express itself in humility and love, we find that the wisdom of God is indeed being manifest. The wisdom of God is relationship, and apostolic authenticity is the only thing that the principalities are required to recognize. The supernatural is offensive to the principalities, and therefore to the worldly man, because man, who came from the dust of the earth, does not deserve (in their mind) spiritual fullness. But we are made in the image and likeness of God, which is a statement in itself against that mindset, and therefore we are able to perceive God, even as dust. We’re given the mind of Christ because we’re in Christ and Christ is in us. We are spiritual, and therefore supernatural. This is the need of theology – the connection of the two.