When Our Theology Gets in the Way of Meaning


If I’m not careful, there are times when my semi-sound theology gets in the way of discovering the meaning of a preaching portion. For instance, in Luke 18:18 “a ruler” asks Jesus, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

In my earlier years I would have followed many preachers I had heard and said something like, “Obviously, the ruler didn’t understand the Gospel because he asks, ‘what must I do…’ You don’t do anything. You can’t do anything!” However, jumping to that conclusion sends you away from Jesus’ teaching. Actually, Jesus doesn’t quarrel with this ruler’s wording at all.

In v. 22 Jesus proceeds to give the ruler one more thing to do, something he refused to do: “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor…and come, follow me.”

So, if, because of your theology, you jump to the conclusion that the ruler asked Jesus the wrong question, you will have a difficult time with Luke 18:18-27. If you are going to jump to a conclusion, try this one: What Jesus told the ruler to do could not earn eternal life, but was a vital part of inheriting it. Like all good works, they are proof of genuine saving faith. Had the ruler said “yes” to Jesus’ instructions, he would have displayed evidence of being saved by grace and placing His faith in Jesus.

Before Sunday, see if your theology might be causing you to jump to conclusions that might be hurting your chances of discovering the meaning of your preaching portion. Is there any place where you might say, “God can’t be saying that because I know that (fill in the blank with the particular theology that seemingly cancels out the slice of meaning in question)”? It is risky because there may be times when I have to adjust my theology to the Bible. Imagine that!

Preach well for God’s glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus (Eph. 3:21).


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Your thoughts?

2 thoughts on “When Our Theology Gets in the Way of Meaning

    • Benjamin, thank you for taking time to read the post. I find it difficult to know the balance of allowing the Text to speak, but also having a sound theology that helps guide interpretation. I trust you are enjoying our Lord and His work.