The Bible Is Practical And Theological
The Bible is often treated in one of two ways. Some treat it as a sanctified self-help manual that gives them all of the best tips and life hacks on how to be a better person. The phrase, “doctrine divides” is used frequently in their vocabulary to dissuade people from a rigorous study of its contents. Their concordance is well worn and their prooftexts are often cited to explain why their actions are biblically verified.
Others treat the Bible as a glorified religious textbook. They claim inspiration, authority, sufficiency, and much more about the Bible, and they take it seriously! They use the -isms, -ologies, -ousias, and other sophisticated jargon to explain the Bible and the deep truths that are found within it. Their study notes are well-read—sometimes more than the Scripture itself in order to explain why their doctrinal stances are biblical indeed.
Charles Octavius Boothe shows how both theology and practice meet when we study the Word of God in order to know Him and live Him as our reasonable service (Romans 12:1-2). Rather than a self-help manual or a theological treatise, Boothe reminds us that “the Bible is given to us to teach us how to make the most of the short lives we are to spend in this world”. We are not our own, so we must take our cues from the God who made us by “doing promptly, diligently, and faithfully” what God wants us to do.
The Obedient Christian Life
Boothe has already shown that good works can’t get us into the fold of God. We don’t become children of God through obedience. Rather, through faith, we become united with Christ and the Holy Spirit begins to transform us. What are some of the most important ways the Spirit teaches us obedience in the Christian life? Boothe shows us several:
We ought to get baptized without long delay, for this is the example found throughout the book of Acts. As baptism points to our burial and resurrection with Christ, we ought to “go down into the water” through full immersion when able.
The Local Church
Acts 2:41-42 don’t picture isolated saints—neither does Jesus’ high priestly prayer (John 17). Spiritual gifts are given to edify the body of Christ (1 Cor. 14:12).This is vital, for “by unity the saints are strengthened, comforted, instructed, and edified”.
As a part of the local church, Christians should partake of the Lord’s Supper to commemorate the death of Christ (Matthew 26:26-29; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). This practice was “handed down by the apostles”, but Boothe doesn’t belabor the specific points of agreement or disagreement often found in churches. He simply calls for the faithful observance of this God-given ordinance.
Building up the saints
The church is often pictured as a building (Matthew 16:18, Ephesians 4:7,8,11,12) and every Christian has gifts to help “promote growth in Christian wisdom, affection, grace, virtue, holiness, [and] blessedness”. It is our great privilege to partake in this great work among other saints.
The Great Commission
Jesus left us with this message: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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 obey all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20).
This commission is for every Christian, not just pastors, evangelists, or super-Christians (if there is such a thing!). Remember, saint, “a thing may seem to be little, but in the course of time it may lead on to very great results”. God gives the growth, but He calls us to sow the seeds (1 Corinthians 3:5-9). We need to be intentional and search for opportunities to share Christ with the lost.
As we see the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, we are reminded of how powerfully a “pure and spotless” life can impact the world around us. This begins on the inside through a work of the gospel and manifests itself through our actions. They don’t perform for the praise of men, but they do let their light shine so that God gets the glory (Matthew 5:16). In this section, Boothe gives an excellent, though brief, exposition of the beatitudes.
Praying For Missions
When Jesus saw a full harvest with few laborers, He called His disciples to pray for more laborers to do the work of the gospel (Matthew 9:36-38; John 4:35-36). The disciples prayed for this in the upper room, and shortly after praying, the answer came to them at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-12).
Boothe exhorts us, saying, “The gracious Lord who answered their prayer is ready to answer similar requests from all his obedient servants”. Thousands of converts were made and the gospel burst into the world with unstoppable power in Acts 2. This ought to give us a hunger for missional praying!
When people hear of giving these days, Creflo Dollar and Joel Osteen come to mind. However, Scripture is clear that we are to give for the advancement of the gospel (Proverbs 3:9-10, 1 Corinthians 16:1-2). For some of us, that means being generous with our time and our lives on the local or foreign mission fields.
For others, this means supporting missionaries with their time, talents, and treasures from where we are right now. If we don’t do this, Boothe says, “it goes directly to show that [we] have not His Spirit”. Boothe asks a jarring question:
"who but the churches shall send and publish this word of reconciliation to souls still in rebellion?"
Boothe is correct in saying that “it is to be feared that the cultivation of love in the heart does not command as it should the earnest and constant efforts of the followers of Christ”. Paul shows that love is a “more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:3; Romans 12:9-10; Romans 13:8-10). Jesus even called the commandment to love as He loved a “new commandment” and followed that up by saying, “if you love me, keep my commandments” (John 13:34-35; John 14:15,21-24; John 15:9-19; Mark 12:28-34).
Peter call us to love one another fervently above all (1 Peter 1:22-23; 1 Peter 4:8; 2 Peter 1:5-11). This love toward God and one another grow together as we become more like Christ. When we fervently love God and others, the world will be rocked by what God is doing in us! Let Boothe’s words resound in your heart as you read them:
“What a power the believers in Christ will be in this world, where such multitudes are hateful and hating one another, when they all come to abound in deep, pure, fervent love to God and to their neighbors!”
Which of these areas have you neglected in your walk? Maybe you’re neglecting the local church and can’t partake in the celebrations of baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and building up the local church. Maybe for you holy living has been put on the back burner because you’re too busy or are walking in active sin. There’s not a single one of us who can honestly say we are living a sinless and spotless life. Perhaps, like me, you’re convicted by your lack of praying for global missions. Are you hoarding all of the gifts God has given you? Have you, like the Ephesian church, left the love you had at first (Revelation 2:4)?
Whatever it is, don’t buy the lie that you can just try harder and do better. Apart from grace, you’ll be a failure. You’ll be hopeless. Worse, you may prove that you’ve never actually trusted in Christ. Just as we started the race of the faith by trusting in Jesu and laying our burdens down (Matthew 11:28), we grow and continue in the same way. Pursue obedience with fervency and zeal, but never fail to do it in the power of Christ.
If you're reading through, let me know what you think!
Be sure to check out the rest of the series here! I highly recommend that you purchase a copy of the book* and work through it slowly, prayerfully, and meditatively. It’s a short volume and perfect to read in small chunks throughout the month.
*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Image Credit: Amazon