I did not grow up in a Bible-believing church. Bringing a Bible along to worship, much less my own Bible, was completely foreign to me. But that changed in the spring of 1984 through the ministry of a home Bible study group that was studying the Gospel of John. As I walked to the second floor apartment where we were meeting, I brought the only Bible I had ever owned, and never read—the one I’d been required to purchase for Confirmation Class. After the Holy Spirit opened my spiritual eyes to the truth of the Gospel, which had been hidden from me for nineteen years, I became convinced of the absolute authority and reliability of God’s Word. It also birthed in me the firm conviction that no one should be told to believe certain doctrines unless he can be honestly shown from the Bible that they are worthy of his faith. If a church’s doctrine is not taught from the Bible itself, I’d discovered, then that church is calling its people to a faith that is blind. Worse than that, it is calling people to place their faith in the words of men, not the words of God. If churchgoing people would follow the example of the Berean Jews, there would be far fewer blind people being led by blind leaders headed straight for the pit (Matt 15:14). Here is what set them apart:
Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men. (Acts 17:10–12)
These were not “Berean Christians,” as many call them. They were unbelieving Jews who became Christians after days of comparing the apostles’ preaching to the Old Testament Scriptures. In doing so, Luke says, they were “more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica,” since the Jews in that city didn’t even welcome the preaching long enough to check it out (see Acts 17:1–9). The Bereans, however, were discerning because they ran the teachings of men through the filter of Scripture to determine their accuracy. Whatever was screened out was thrown out. Whatever passed the test was worth holding fast to. Their diligence in this area undoubtedly continued after they were converted to Christ; certainly they tested every spirit (1 Jn 4:1), and, examined everything carefully so that they were able to “hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thess 5:21).
What would happen if every believer in Christ practiced this kind of discernment whenever listening to sermons, reading books, blogs, etc? The result would be less ignorance, less blind faith and more biblical faith, less embracing of distorted gospels and more affection for the one and only true one. Maybe you think I’m just skeptical because of my upbringing, but nineteen years of spiritual ignorance taught me at least one thing: don’t place blind trust in any man. God wants us to renew our minds through Bible-saturation (Rom 12:2). Let’s take Him up on this offer of education in righteousness, rather than be content with ignorance. Let us be diligent to study our Bibles, listen to sound teaching, and pray for the Holy Spirit’s ministry of illumination and understanding so that we may indeed prove all things. As a result, we will grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ and faithfully counsel one another in truth.