The first two foundations were the gospel and the truth. Today we will discuss a third. I have adapted these from Susan Hunt's list of foundations for women's ministry as described in her must-read book Women's Ministry in the Local Church. Before we jump in, however, I want to emphasize what may have been assumed yet not clearly stated in the first post in this series: in Bible study it is essential that we study THE BIBLE. We see God's Word as authoritative and sufficient and therefore all other motivations spring from this one fundamental conviction. As author Kathleen Nielson writes in the workbook we are using to facilitate our study, Psalms: Songs Along the Way,
The point is to grapple with the text, not with what others have said about the text. The goal is to know, increasingly, the joy and reward of digging into the Scriptures, God's breathed-out words which are not only able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus but also profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness, so that each of us may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:15-17). (emphasis mine)
So, as I talk about the gospel and truth and these other foundational motivations, at the heart of each of these aspects is a commitment to the study of Scripture and a desire to submit to its authority and instruction.
FOUNDATIONS FOR BIBLE STUDY
1. The Gospel
3. Sound Doctrine
Closely related to truth is our pursuit of the study of sound doctrine. Many, women in particular I think, get a little squirmy at the mention of theology and doctrine; yet theology is at its essence the study of God. Doctrine is then the specific teaching of our theology on various aspects: salvation, for example, or God's attributes. I've made the claim before here in this space: we are all theologians in the sense that how we live reflects our understanding of God, our theology if you will. A false understanding of who God is and how He works in the lives of His people profoundly affects our day to day lives. If I strive and strain and struggle to reach some standard of perfection, convinced that I must achieve and accomplish to gain God's approval, I am essentially denying Him as a God of redemption and mercy and my theology falsely reflects His true nature of grace and the work of Jesus' imputed righteousness and the provision of the Holy Spirit to work in us according to His will.
So, then, sound doctrine is the antitote for error. If we would guard ourselves against the enemies of truth, we will do so by holding firm to sound doctrine, the right teaching of the things of God found in the Bible (Titus 1:9). Paul instructs women in Titus 2:3-5,
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. (v. 3-5)
Now, we're not here to be offended by Paul's use of the phrase "older women," nor to debate who among us rightly deserves the title, but rather to emphasize his point that women are to be about teaching other women "what is good." What is good? We see it in the first verse of that same chapter: it is what accords with sound doctrine. I love John Piper's statement that "Wimpy theology makes for wimpy women." I want to be a strong woman of God, yet from the Garden of Eden the enemy has effectively used deception, that lie that we can be in control and "like God," to cause us to question both God's authority and His lovingkindness. As I've already stated, we are all theologians and what we believe about God, Jesus, the Spirit, and His Word is reflected in our marriages, in our homes, how we parent, and every other aspect of our lives. In fact, at the very core of how we view our identities as women is how we view the Word of God. Therefore, it is critical we emphasize sound doctrine. Consider what Susan Hunt says in her book Spiritual Mothering: The Titus 2 Model for Women Mentoring Women,
Sound doctrine is essential for right thinking…sound doctrine will keep [us] from being “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14). A well-defined system of doctrine protects us from false teaching. It also helps us maintain balance in the application of faith into life. Sound doctrine keeps us on track and helps us avoid rigid legalism and loose liberalism.
As we gather for Bible study every Thursday morning, this is part of our desire: to grow in the knowledge of sound doctrine through a careful and diligent study of God's Word. We want to know what it teaches us about theology, about God Himself and His character and ways, about Jesus and His work on the cross, about ourselves and our sinful, hopeless depravity apart from His redeeming work in us. We do not want to settle for fluff and froth; rather we seek to press on to the deep things of the Lord, unafraid of difficult issues and heavy questions. Will we have an answer for all that perplexes us? Perhaps not, but as we apply ourselves to the knowledge of God, we have His promise that we will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God for the Lord gives wisdom and from Him come knowledge and understanding (Prov. 2:1-8)! We don't want to be weak women weighted down with a weak and empty theology; we want to be strong women, growing in confidence and stability as we grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We earnestly desire that the Truth of who He is transforms our real, regular, ordinary lives.
There's one more primary emphasis we have decided would frame our Bible study; look for further discussion in a future post.