The Gospel doesn’t need you. You need the Gospel.
So don’t misunderstand me. We don’t study because the Gospel is weak. We study because we have been commanded to defend the Gospel. When presented in the power of the Holy Spirit, the Gospel is powerful. Consider our responsibility in Jude 3-4:
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Jude compares the ungodly people to “hidden reefs.” Very few items would strike fear into the heart of a sailor than a hidden reef lying just below the surface with the ability to shipwreck.
I like to fish at Benbrook Lake. It has many trees that extend four to five feet above the water. I remember taking the boat out one day when the water level covered the trees. I knew that the trees lied just below the surface of the water even though I could not see them. I eased the boat through this area standing instead of sitting looking as closely as I could and remembering from past experience where the trees usually stood above the water.
I was terrified. Knowing that trees hidden just under the water could destroy the boat and leave me swimming to shore in the frigid waters of March. I took great care to avoid the hidden trees, and Jude reminds us that ungodly people creeping into our churches pose just such a spiritual danger. We must be on watch, and we cannot do so without understanding proper theology.
Ungodly people will, not may, but will creep into our midst. Pastors must protect congregations, fathers and husbands must protect their families, and we all must guard our hearts against perversions of the Gospel—the ungodly functioning as hidden reefs waiting to shipwreck our churches, our families, and our lives. Galatians 1 states:
Gal. 1:6-10 ” I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
We study Systematic Theology so that we can understand and can properly contend for the Gospel. Consider also 1 Peter 3:15,
1 Peter 3:15, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,
We must prepare to make a defense for our hope. This defense comes with an organized presentation of the truths of Scripture. Such an organized presentation is Systematic Theology.
Editor’s Note: This is the eighth article in the series “Why You Should Study Systematic Theology” by Thomas White, vice president for student services and communications at Southwestern.