Thursday, August 16, 2018

On Being Berean

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Acts 17:11

I have a confession. I love Acts 17:11. I do. The Berean Jews listened or "received" the message with great eagerness. But their great eagerness was not divorced from judgment or discernment. They listened, but they didn't blindly or naively accept. Their minds were not so open that they let everything or just anything in. They were eager to learn. They showed some zeal for knowledge. But the authority in their lives was not in man or man's words. They didn't just accept a preacher or teacher's words as being rock solid truth. Man's words were not enough to convince them. Nor did they place their faith in what felt right or sounded right to them. Where did they go for the truth? Where did they look for authority? The Scriptures. With the same eagerness--great eagerness--that they used to listen or receive teaching or preaching they also examined the Scriptures. They examined the Scriptures every day

The Berean Jews were practiced in reading, studying, meditating on, examining the Scriptures. Relying solely on one's memory of past studies--past examinations if you will--would not do.

The Scriptures are to be taken daily, digested daily. 

Does a past memory of a meal satisfy your body's needs today? Does remembering what a baked potato tastes like give you the calories you need today? No matter how wonderful the baked potato tasted; no matter how good your recall is. Your belly would still be empty if you didn't feed it today. 

I also love how the verse ends. It doesn't say they examined the Scriptures to prove themselves right and Paul wrong. It doesn't say that they examined the Scriptures to prove Paul right and Paul's persecutors wrong. It wasn't about "winning" an argument or "being on the right side." What mattered was the truth. The truth--plain and simple. They wanted the truth no matter the cost. And potentially it could cost. It might cost them their traditions, their beliefs, and convictions. It might cost them their pride. It might cost them relationships and status. Following Jesus--committing yourself to the one who is the way, the truth, the life--costs. It just does. 

So, in a way, they did listen and read with an agenda--but out of all agendas to have it was a good one: they were truth-seekers, truth-lovers. 

Does this preacher, does this teacher speak the truth as revealed in Scripture? It is also important to keep in mind that verse numbers did not exist. So they weren't looking for specific verses pulled out of context to prove anything one way or another. Context then and now matters. And it isn't just context of paragraphs, chapters, or even books. the Bible is a cohesive book.

  • Does the way I "understand" this verse line up with what the chapter teaches?
  • Does the way I understand this chapter line up with what the book teaches?
  • Does the way I understand this book line up with what this writer teaches?
  • How does the way I understand this doctrine line up with the gospel? line up with words of Christ? 
  • Does the way I understand this book line up with the Bible's teaching as a whole?
  • Is there more than one way this could be understood or interpreted?
  • How do other theologians interpret this? 
  • How has this doctrine been understood and taught in the past?
Scripture is to interpret Scripture. And we are to pray for the Spirit to teach, guide, and interpret for us as we read. We are to be Spirit-filled readers of the Word. We are to read with our hearts and minds. We are also to be humble in that we acknowledge we may never understand fully on this side of eternity many things of Scripture.  

For example, IF your quoting one verse of Paul--or Peter or John--does your understanding of that verse--or paragraph--line up with Paul says in the whole chapter, whole, book, in other books he's also written. Or does it blatantly or subtly contradict it? 

It is important to realize that there can be hypocrisy in context-proclaimers too. Just because a preacher claims that it is important to only interpret verses in context doesn't necessarily mean that they are practicing what they preach. 

Other verses on discernment:
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9-11
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 2 Timothy 4:1-4

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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