One of the things that first drew me to Bible Study years ago was a desire to understand what any particular verse really was saying, not just what I thought it meant – or was told it meant. For the first time in my life, I questioned the Christian precepts I’d grown up with…not in disbelief, but in a desire to have a more discerning spirit. I asked myself why I believe the things I believe. I asked myself where in the Bible we get our perspective on each part of doctrine. I wanted to see the pieces of God’s word fit together. In many respects, I often felt (and still feel) like I’m mining for gold when I study. 🙂
God took that desire and challenged me through a Sunday School teacher who once told us never to take her word for anything just because she taught it. If anything she said did not line up with scripture, she expected us to call her on it.
She was emphasizing the importance of basing sound doctrine on the context of the word of God itself, rather than trying to fit it to jive with what any human being said.
So in driving home this point, my post today will be the first in a series of three on the subject of Bible literacy, a subject I am passionate about and one that I believe is one of the most needed in the church today. It is a quality that we find illustrated when the Apostle Paul visited the city of Berea, recorded in Acts 17:13:
“Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true”
(picture by Google images)
The passage states that these Bereans were of noble character in the way they listened to Paul for a couple of specific reasons:
- They received the message with great eagerness – They had a hunger for the truth. If Paul could fit all his audiences in a classroom, I would describe them as front row students! This was a far cry from the Thessalonians, who had just enticed a mob to seize Paul and Silas earlier. (Acts 17:5)
- They examined the scriptures – The Greek word for “examined” in this passage is “anakrino”, meaning to sift, judge, distinguish, separate out so as to investigate. In the present tense, it indicates a continual and careful research as in legal processes.
As if in a court of law, they put aside their biases to objectively double-check what they heard from Paul. They didn’t tell Paul how entertaining his teaching was, how well he spoke, or any other surface comment. They simply wanted to know if what he was saying was true. The final verdict was based solely on what was in the examined, poured over, well-read word of God.
They were level-headed, neither blindly accepting his teaching nor rejecting it. They didn’t run him off nor did they run to him as the end all, be all. They were strong-minded enough to stand on their own (Spirit-guided) conclusion.
Are we anything like the Bereans?
I have to ask myself that question a lot. Do I have the same spirit? Do I have a tendency to accept a doctrine or teaching because it came from my favorite teacher or because it matches a belief I have always had?
If the Bereans held even the Apostle Paul himself up to such scrutiny, how much more should we be careful in our teaching and discerning messages today?
Now, I’m not saying we should be ready to pounce with an “ah-ha gotta!” moment anytime a teacher may be a little off on a point. Especially if it isn’t a “hill to die on”. That’s not the attitude the Bereans had. They had open hearts, yet had caution and intellect. Sounds like noble character to me.
But don’t take my word for it…see for yourself!
How about you? Do you believe that worshipping and knowing God involves our minds as well as our hearts? Can you base this belief on specific scriptures?