Life and doctrine. Character and content. Orthopraxy and orthodoxy. As a graduate school of theology in the Wesleyan tradition, Nazarene Theological Seminary is concerned with forming faithful and effective preachers, teachers, missionaries, and leaders who embody both deep spirituality and rigorous scholarship. Faithful and effective ministry demands authentic integration of life and doctrine.
Long before a systemized approach to educating, equipping, and deploying spiritual leaders developed, Paul wrote to young Timothy, “Keep a firm grasp on both your character and your teaching. Don’t be diverted. Just keep at it. Both you and those who hear you will experience salvation.” (I Tim 4:16 TM)
Paul was driven by the mission of God. He longed to see others experience salvation. Whatever image(s) we prefer – justification, regeneration, adoption, born again, becoming a follower of Jesus, getting saved, brought from death to life, reconciled to God, resurrected with Christ, renewed in the image of God, etc. – we are called to live and teach so that others will have opportunity to enter the Jesus-following life. How we live matters. What we teach matters.
A godly life with poor doctrine won’t cut it. Never has. From the first generation of Christians, it became evident that how we understand, and articulate theology really matters. Christology matters. Soteriology matters. Eschatology matters. Ecclesiology and missiology matter. How we define sin matters. How we interpret scripture matters. How we make disciples matters. How we approach ethics matters. What we believe about means of grace, motivations of the heart, the doctrine of the atonement, and how we engage “the world” – it all matters. In Paul’s letter to Timothy, these things matter because of their impact on whether or not the lost are found, the despairing find hope, the broken find healing, the dead are brought to life. How we preach, teach, and embody “doctrine” has a direct impact on the salvation of others. That’s one of the reasons it’s important that we get doctrine right.
Great doctrine with an ungodly life won’t cut it either. Never has. From the first generation of Christians, belief and behavior mattered. It’s why so many of the epistles address “life”. Real life. Things like marriage and parenting, business dealings and work ethic, honesty, compassion, kindness, stewardship, sacrifice, service, Kingdom citizenship and the supreme virtue of Christlike love. Embodying the fruit of the spirit is needed as much as having the mind of Christ. The message our lives preach matters because it has a direct impact on the salvation of others. That’s why it’s important that we get life right.
What Paul pressed upon Timothy is a good word for ministers in the making and for those of us who have been at it a long time. How we live matters. What we preach and teach matters. NTS exists because getting both of those right doesn’t just matter for us– it matters to those who will hear the message that is proclaimed through our life and doctrine. Let’s do our best to get it right!
Grace and Peace,
NTS Pastor in Residence