Everything is a theological issue.
What do I mean by this?
The context of this thought comes from 2 Corinthians 10:4, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” And Ephesians 6:11-18 about wearing the armour of God.
We quote these verses all the time and even do numerous Bible studies on them and listen to many sermons on them, but I wonder if we truly acknowledge the seriousness of these realities. Both times, Paul uses warfare language, and he uses it for a reason. As a U.S. Army veteran, I pay special attention to these words.
We’re at war, folks. If you’re Christian, you’re on the winning side because Christ already won the victory and because you’re on the winning side, you’re also going to be attacked the most, whether directly or indirectly. Because we’re being constantly attacked, we have to constantly be on our guard. We are told several times in Scripture to be alert and on our guard, two examples of which include 1 Peter 5:8 and 1 Corinthians 16:13. Therefore, we must never take off the armour of God. Never lay down your sword (God’s Word) and shield (your faith). The Devil is a conniving, insidious, clever master of deceit and dark influence. I say all the time that God is always there especially when we fail to recognise His presence. When we’re facing troubles, God is present and at work to help us endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13). And when our jobs are going well and we are in good health and live safely, God is present. Conversely, when we are being self-righteous, ignorant, prideful, vengeful, envious, and other works of the flesh, Satan is present. (God is still present, for He is omnipresent and thus enables us by His Spirit to forsake these wicked works, but in the moment of these works of the flesh, Satan is using our flesh to reject the Spirit.)
A lot of the times we fail to recognise when we are being wicked, and we often live in denial of it, especially when someone points it out to us. For example, after trying to reason with someone’s error and he failed to listen, I told him he was being self-righteous not as an insult but to show where his error lied. He got angry with me and accused me of judging him (which I was, but the difference was righteous judgement since I, too, have been self-righteous—and we are commanded to judge righteously; see John 7:24 and compare with Matthew 7:1-5). He proceeded to list multiple reasons to justify his behaviour. If it weren’t true, he would not have gotten so defensive and felt the need to justify himself. Sometimes our own self-defence proves our guilt.
The only way we can defeat such works of the flesh is with the Word of God, especially via the fruit of the Spirit, which is the complete antithesis of these works (see Galatians 5:19-23). Everything is always a theological issue because we are constantly at war against the flesh. The word theology is a combination of two Greek words: Θεός and λόγος (Theos and logos), which mean “God” and “word” respectively. Theology, then, is literally the study of God’s Word. Whenever we study something, we learn how to apply it to our lives, which is something every responsible Christian does—a responsible and serious Christian studies theology (God’s Word), particularly what God has to say about us as sinners, our free justification in Christ by faith, and how we live in response to this grace.
Relating to theology is doctrine. I’ve had a disturbing number of Christians tell me we don’t need doctrine. They only say this because they misunderstand what theology and doctrine are. To say Christians don’t need doctrine is to say Christians don’t need Jesus’ teachings. “Doctrine” is the English transliteration of the Greek word διδαχή (didache), which means “teaching.” Jesus did a lot of didache—teaching. Ergo, by doctrine, we simply mean teachings, particularly those of Jesus Christ on which the Apostles expounded by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit “for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16), and the teachings of which Jesus commanded us to teach and to observe (Matthew 28:20). The same goes for theology, which I have shown is the study of God’s Word. God’s Word contains the doctrines of Jesus which come from God the Father, which is why theology and doctrine go hand-in-hand. The first chapter of John’s gospel reveals Jesus is the Word, who is also God. Furthermore, theology is merely the scholarly term used for studying Jesus Christ—both His person and work. So it is ostensible, then, that knowing doctrine and studying theology are all the more necessary if we want to know Jesus Christ on deeper levels as our Lord and Saviour. Doctrine and theology are not merely academic understandings; they are the physical elements of language by which God reveals Himself to us so we may know how to live in relationship with Him and others. How else can we know who the Father is without the teachings of Christ (doctrine) and knowing Christ (theology)? “Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father… The Father who dwells in Me does His works” (John 14:9, 10b).
But I digress. Everything is a theological issue because theology—God’s Word—not only tells us whom salvation comes from and how He gives it to us, but it also tells us how to live, and specifically as God intends us to live holy and righteous lives, which is exactly what the flesh does not strive to do. Neither is it a way of life Satan desires us to live. After we become Christian, all Satan has left to attack is our lifestyle and our thoughts, both of which form our actions. It ranges from our sexuality to other various actions, such as how we treat others. Satan attacks the very heart of these things because he figures if he can attack the way we live and think—the foundation for which we often place our identity—then he has us in his control.
C.S. Lewis had it right when he wrote in Mere Christianity that the world we live in is “enemy-occupied territory.” I’m going to make a video game reference, so if you’re unfamiliar with the video game, please bear with the metaphor. In the gaming franchise called Halo, there’s a specialised corp of Marine soldiers called Orbital Drop Shock Troopers (ODSTs), and they were given the nickname Helljumpers. They were given this nickname because of what their job entailed: dropping behind enemy lines and fighting their way through the enemy front to gain a tactical advantage. Every mission is essentially a suicide mission, so the mortality rate of Helljumpers is extremely high. It’s a poetic nomenclature, for they jumped into hell to save humanity.
Similarly, Jesus jumped behind enemy lines to save us and actually descended into Hell to proclaim His victory (Ephesians 4:9; Acts 2:24; Hosea 13:14, and others). We have been living in enemy-occupied territory ever since the Fall, and as Christians we continue to live in Satan’s territory. And because we’re winning (and already have won in Christ), he attacks us even more because there’s nothing else he can do. This is why Paul uses warfare language and urges us to perpetually wear the armour of God because we are behind enemy-occupied territory in the middle of a spiritual war, and the commander of sin seeks to devour us.
So, Satan uses his clever tactics to make us miserable and uses that to try and lead us astray. Therefore, everything is a theological issue. “The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil” (Matthew 12:35). How I respond to adversity says a lot about what’s in my heart, which is a theological issue. How I decide to give to the poor says a lot about what’s in my heart, which is a theological issue. The same goes for how I judge people, how I respond when I’m angry or impatient, what my Facebook and Twitter posts consist of, how I respond to my enemies, how I respond to advice and admonishment, how I love or fail to love my neighbour, and so on. These are all theological issues because theology—God’s Word—tells us not only how to live in our vertical relationship to God, but also how to live in our horizontal relationship to people. Satan also uses all these things and more in our lives to cause us to engage in the works of the flesh to bring us farther away from the fruit of the Spirit because he knows he’s lost the war. Even though we’ve already won in Christ, we must not let Satan win any battles because theology—God’s Word—calls and commands we live otherwise in order that we let our “light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).