That’s a popular golfing proverb with more than a grain of truth to it. You can have every other technical detail locked down. But if you can’t master the basics and complete the fundamental goal, the rest of your proficiency is wasted and irrelevant. And that’s not just a problem for golfers—it’s a serious fault with many theologians today.
Plenty of celebrated theologians can wax eloquent about doctrinal fine points, but they can’t simply explain how a person can have his or her sins forgiven. They may be proficient in Hebrew and Greek, able to decipher the timing of Daniel’s seventieth week, and even know all the finer points of second-temple Judaism. But the clarity and simplicity of the gospel message eludes them—it’s lost in a sea of caveats and qualifiers.
We’ve devoted plenty of time on this blog to the immense dangers of gospel minimization and oversimplification. But overcomplicating the message of salvation is no less dangerous.
We recently asked John MacArthur about theological overcomplication and the need to keep the gospel pure and clear. His response points us to an outstanding theologian who displayed rare expertise. Surprisingly, this great Christian thinker didn’t go to seminary. In fact, he probably never went to school at all.
We should never complicate a message that’s meant to be clear and accessible to all people. The repentant thief, who spoke with Jesus while the two hung side by side at Calvary, provides a powerful biblical example of uncomplicated excellence in the theology of salvation.
His brief conversation with Jesus—just four verses (Luke 23:40–43)—reveals that this criminal was a theologian of the highest order when it came to matters of first importance. He clearly understood the essentials of theology, anthropology, eschatology, Christology, and soteriology.
Please join us in the days ahead as we examine “The Theology of the Thief.”
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