Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Long Way from Berea

One of the most remarkable passages of Scripture on the authority and use of the Scriptures in the life of the church is found in Acts 17:11.  The place was a town named "Berea."  Paul and Silas had come to Berea where they began preaching Christ at the local synagogue.  Verse 11 says,
"Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they (the Bereans) received the Word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so."
I have been amazed at this passage for many years.  Paul and Silas are preaching Jesus to these Jewish people, and the text says three important things about what the people were and did. They were noble-minded, they received the Word of God preached by Paul and Silas, and finally they checked with the Scriptures to see if the preaching they heard was true to the authoritative Scripture.  The Old Testament canon of Scripture had already been established by this time, and it was in use in the synagogues all over the empire.  These people knew the Scripture, they trusted the authority of the Scripture, and they knew how to use the Scripture in checking ideas that they heard.

If the American evangelical churches are to regain the spiritual and theological punch they once had, this ministry of the Word must be restored.  We must be willing, able, and ready to check out anything we read or hear with the Word of God.  This presupposes the following.  First, there is a body of biblical teachings that comprise the teachings of the Christian faith.  These are non-negotiables that need to be taught and embraced in the church.  Second, the laymen and laywomen in the church must be taught (and they must be willing to be taught) these biblical teachings.  And third, the people must be willing and able to be discerning about the teachings and ideas they hear by using the Bible as their guide.  This ministry of discernment is vital to the spiritual health and ministry of the church if it is to be what the Lord would have it to be.  Amen!

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