Jesus commanded His disciples and now commands us in Matt. 28:19-20,
Matt. 28-19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
We have seen the rise of an unhealthy and unnatural division between evangelism and theology. One cannot do evangelism properly without good theology and one cannot possess good theology without a passion for evangelism. A further dichotomy between the subjects of evangelism and missions complicates any discussion of the Great Commission. Starting wherever God places us, we must evangelize to the ends of the earth with a personal plan for participating in reaching the nations with the Gospel and with teaching them all that we have been commanded.
We have not completed the Great Commission until we have taught “all nations” to observe all that God commanded us. How do you teach all that God commanded if you do not know what God commanded? Systematic Theology allows us to understand so that we can teach others the commands of God.
Think about it like an arrow. Most people in society would be able to identify an arrow if you asked them what it was. But the unknowing person may overlook many intricacies of an arrow. A typical arrow has cresting, fletching, a nock, and a tip. All of these may vary from arrow to arrow for a specific purpose. Understanding the details of an arrow allows you to teach someone else more than just that it is an arrow.
- Cresting can be seen on the shaft of an arrow. In days gone by, the cresting allowed someone to identify the arrow as theirs should they find it in a field. In modern times, it functions as an advertisement for its manufacturer.
- The fletching (some may refer to as feathers) sit at the back of the arrow and affect its flight. The bigger the tip or the greater the natural bend in the shaft, the heavier the fletching needed to keep the arrow straight. Some arrows have fletching for hunting birds so that it does not fly too far and others have fletching for penetrating large animals like deer or bear.
- The nock allows the arrow to be situated properly upon the string and to keep the arrow in place until released. Without a proper nock, the arrow cannot be released accurately.
- The tip must be designed for the right purpose. A field tip is used for practice because you don’t want to dull your hunting tips while shooting at targets. A broadhead has razor sharp edges and comes with varying diameters of cutting patterns to harvest larger animals. Some archers use spring loaded or mechanical blades so that the arrow will shoot more like the field point they practiced with, and other archers like fixed blades so that they don’t have to worry about the blades opening properly upon penetration.
My point in all of this is to demonstrate to you that an arrow is not just an arrow. Much needs to be learned by someone who wants to demonstrate knowledge about arrows or to teach others about arrows, and I don’t consider myself an expert in this field.
The same holds true with the Gospel. It is simple enough for a child to understand it and complicated enough that a theologian will never completely explain it. Somewhere between the child and the theologian lie the rest of us who must do our best to learn all we can and then share that truth to the ends of the earth. We must study Systematic Theology for others.
Editor’s Note: This is the fifth article in the series “Why You Should Study Systematic Theology” by Thomas White, vice president for student services and communications at Southwestern.