From the earliest days of the Church, theology (the study of God) has been a really big deal. And so it should be! As followers of Jesus we need to know what we believe and why we believe it. Therefore, men of every age have tried to articulate the fundamentals of the Christian faith in the language of their day.
This has led to a few different types of theology. The most popular is probably systematic theology. Systematic theology seeks to lay out in orderly fashion the principle teachings of the Christian faith, using passages from all over the Bible. Another type of theology is biblical theology. This form of theology examines the various books of the sacred text to discover what they teach on various topics. Both systematic and biblical theology have their place and can make for a very interesting study.
Another form of theology that has gotten a lot of air time lately is known as narrative theology. Narrative theology looks at the grand scope of the biblical story in order to gain an understanding of God and His work in Christ. I believe this particular form of theology has some solid biblical backing. I hope you will read on and allow me to explain why.
Another Look at Luke
Luke, the writer of the third Gospel, was a physician and a traveling companion of the apostle Paul (Colossians 4:14, Philemon 1:23 – 24). At some point, Luke became acquainted with an individual named Theoplilus. Although no one really knows who this person was, Luke was concerned about his spiritual progress. The result of Luke’s concern is the book we now call The Gospel According to Luke.
I want us to look closely at the opening paragraph of Luke’s book and see his stated purpose for writing it.
1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. Luke 1:1 – 4 (italics added)
Luke wanted Theophilus to be absolutely certain about the things he had been taught. I find it interesting that Luke didn’t write a book of systematic theology in order to help Theophilus become established in his Christian faith. Neither did Luke point to the Hebrew Scriptures and what they taught regarding the coming Messiah. In stead of all that, he simply told Theophilus the story of Jesus.
Rooted in History
Luke wanted Theophilus to know that what he had been taught was not simply more Greek mythology. The events that Luke related were solidly rooted in history, and Luke made sure he pointed this out. Look at the way he opens the story.
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Luke 1:5 (Italics added)
He makes it very clear that what he is about to relate happened during the reign of Herod. The birth of Jesus was also tied to a historical event.
1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. Luke 2:1 – 5 (italics added)
He also reveals what the circumstances were when John the Baptist and Jesus began their ministries.
1In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. Luke 3:1 – 2 (italics added)
By giving all this background data, Luke is assuring Theophilus that the story of Jesus Christ did not happen a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. The events that make up the life and ministry of Jesus Christ happened at a definable place during a definable time in history. And, again, this was to help Theophilus have certainty about the things he had been taught regarding Jesus of Nazareth.
Acts for Application
Apparently one story was not enough, so Luke wrote a follow-up story. This story was a continuation of the previous one that centered around the lives of those who had followed Jesus Christ. This story became known as The Book of Acts.
In my humble estimation, the Book of Acts is the first book of applied theology. We observe in this narrative how the early disciples interpreted the story of Jesus Christ into their own stories. It serves as an example of how the life and teaching of Jesus was incorporated into the lives and teachings of people just like you and me.
Narrative Theology at Its Finest
All of this is narrative theology at its finest. Through Luke’s narrative, as well as the other Gospel narratives, we meet our God as He acts and speaks through His Son, Jesus Christ. The Old Testament stories point forward to what we find in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The apostolic letters interpret what happened in the story, as well as reveal of how the story will one day end. Regardless where you look, it all comes back to the central story that focuses on Jesus Christ. If Theophilus needed to be established in the story, what about us? Becoming established in the story of Jesus will go a long way toward equipping us for living in the Reign.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.