Studying Scripture and Theology for the Right Reasons

In the introduction to Marriage to a Difficult Man, John Piper writes,

Edwards made it plain in his preaching and in his living that he believed great thoughts about God without great love towards people are sure evidences of hypocrisy and the pathway to hell.  For Edwards there was no separating high views of God and the demands of husband and father.  The link was Edwards’ grasp of the religious affections.  For him feeling and thinking were inseparable because God’s glory was only half-reflected in right thinking.  The other half shone in right feeling.  Therefore, Edwards measured holiness, especially his own, with attention to the humble emotions and not just high thoughts.  This had profound affect on his relationships.

This is one great thing I want to learn from Edwards.  I desire that all theology I embrace make me a better husband and a better father” (xiv).

O how I need to learn from this!  I don’t want to consume myself with study and high thoughts about God without love toward Christ and mankind!  My studying should make me a better husband, a better friend, a better employee, a better churchman, a better son, brother and uncle. Iain Murray, in Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography helps me with his insight into Edward’s private life:

Study and writing were not ends in themselves.  They were for the service of the gospel.  This brings us to what is most important of all in any understanding of Edwards private hours.  His view of his public work as a calling to speak to men in the name of God was inseparable from his conviction that the first demand in such a calling was that his own knowledge of of God should be personal and first hand” (142).

It changes everything when a shepherd of people studies with true love in his heart for the good of others and with an affection for God and Christ.  When I go to study with a desire to know Christ, not merely with my intellect, but with my heart as well, it has a tremendously positive impact on my whole life.  In fact, we learn from experience that love in our hearts is the only way to truly profit from studying.  Richard Sibbes, in the Bruised Reed, aptly observes,

And because knowledge and affection mutually help one another, it is good to keep up our affections of love and delight by all sweet inducements and divine encouragments; for what the heart likes best, the mind studies most.  Those that can bring their hearts to delight in Christ know most of his ways (103).

So when we open our books, let us make sure that our hearts are engaged along with our minds so that we might, through our growth in knowledge, love God and love people better.

Photo: Aaron Burden

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