We have had a heavy week here at Faithful Stewardship. A few posts blew completely past our intended word limit. I hope that in the future I can do some better planning to keep these posts from getting so long. Today I just want to leave you with an encouragement for this weekend. Some might take this as a challenge of sorts.
This weekend, whether you attend church worship service on Saturday or Sunday, whether you also participate in a Bible study or home/small group study, I’d like to encourage you to be like the Jews in Berea, who Paul described as more noble than the Jews in Thessalonica. Before I break down what I am indeed encouraging each of your to do this weekend, let us first begin by reading the short passage in Acts.
Acts 17:1-15 (ESV)
17 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. 5 But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. 6 And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, 7 and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” 8 And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. 9 And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.
10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. 14 Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there. 15 Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.
Think for just a moment about the first underlined portion. Paul’s method of evangelism was to seek out the synagogue of the Jews first and reason with the Jews from the Scriptures explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and die. Remember the Jews were expecting the Messiah, the Son of David, to be a conquering King to re-establish the Throne of David on Earth. Paul reasoned from the Scriptures pointing first to the true purpose that the Messiah would come to fulfill, and then Paul proclaimed that Jesus, who suffered and died according to the Scriptures, is indeed the Messiah, the Christ. You know what I find really cool? Paul reasoned from the Scriptures they had in the Jewish Synagogue… the Law and the Prophets, what we call the “Old Testament”. Paul preached the Gospel from the Law and the Prophets. Today we have been blessed with the New Testament writings to better understand the Law and the Prophets and how they point to and are fulfilled by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This should equip us all-the-more to preach the Gospel from nearly any portion of the Bible with faithfulness to the Word of God.
Some of the Jews, and a great many of devout Greeks were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, and the jealousy of the Jews lead them to act dishonorably. Notice that they couldn’t find fault with them according to the Law of Moses; rather, they appealed to Caesar, the government to take action against Paul and Silas. The brothers sent them away by night to Berea. Here, we see Paul doing the same thing, seeking out the synagogue. Since Luke (the author of Acts) has already told us how Paul preached, we know that Paul was reasoning from the Law and the Prophets. These Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica, they eagerly received the word and examined the Scriptures daily to see if what Paul’s testimony* was true. As a result of this testing of the Scriptures many believed. Paul isn’t saying they were more Noble because they believed. Not all in Berea believed, and there were some who believed in Thessalonica. They were more noble because they eagerly searched the scriptures daily, to see if what Paul said was true. The Jews of Thessalonica pursued Paul and Silas in Berea, still unable to refute their testimony, and riled up the mob to persecute them. The brothers, again, sent Paul and Silas on their way.
Be Like Noble Bereans
This weekend, while sitting in a pew, sanctuary, or auditorium, have your Bible with you. I recommend having your Bible there in a form you are able to make notes in. Sure, you might have a cell phone app that allows you to read the Bible, but can you take notes in it? It’s good to take notes so that the next time you open up to this passage, you can see that you had been there once before and you can see what was on your heart at that time. The point here is that we need to be eager to receive the word spoken by the pastor/elder/teacher while faithfully examining the Scriptures to see if the word spoken is true.
- What is being preached? Not every sermon these days is preached from a passage of Scripture. Too often, they are preached from popular books sold in local “Christian Bookstores”. If the sermon is being preached from a book, you’ll have to take every assertion, every assumption, every prescription, and every declaration to the Scriptures to see if they are sound. That is tedious work, and hopefully the pastor/elder/teacher is doing it from the pulpit with you… then again, if it can be preached from the Word, it should be. If the sermon is being preached from a passage of scripture, be sure to read the portion before the text and continue reading beyond the text. In most cases, there should be a natural break in theme, or thought, or subject. If not, then you’ll need to examine why the text being preached is only a portion of the natural subject. It could just be a part of a series of sermons, or it could be an indication that the portion of scripture is being preached out of its natural context.
- Who is being preached? We see that Paul entered the Synagogues and reasoned from the Scriptures pointing to Christ. If anyone could have been justified to preach of himself it could be argued that Paul could have. He was a Jew of Jews, a Pharisee of Pharisees, who persecuted the church until Jesus Christ confronted him physically on the road to Damascus. He was a witness to the resurrected Christ. Yet, we see none of this mentioned here. In fact, when we do see Paul speak of himself, he does so sarcastically pointing out the error in listening to self-proclaimed apostles (or super apostles). Now, in some topical sermons, there is room for a pastor/elder/teacher to share some personal stories, but our personal anecdotes are not a replacement for Scripture, nor do they add weight to them (it is the Scripture that adds weight to our anecdotes). It is a means of expressing or relating only so far as it is in keeping with the Truth of God’s Word.
- Context, context, context. Did the pastor/elder/teacher just throw out a churchy-saying or was he quoting Scripture? Not sure? Look it up. I keep my smartphone handy with the Bible Gateway App specifically for this purpose. I will not hesitate to search a phrase uttered in a sermon in an attempt to find a Scriptural basis. Especially when it comes out in King James English… I don’t read scripture in dated English language, I prefer ESV and NASB. Was what I heard an actual quote or a proof text? What that means is, did the speaker quote a verse or even a complete thought or was it just a portion of the verse or passage? You’d be surprised how the most commonly quoted proof texts are generally taken out of context to validate a point that cannot be plainly taught from a passage of scripture.
We’ve looked a some of those here in CTT posts of the past:
- What are the caveats? I can appreciate if on occasion the speaker caveats something he is preaching as something “he’s struggling with” or “just a thought I had and wanted to share” or even “I was really inspired by this so I wanted to share”. Those are fine and I rarely take issue with those caveats unless what is shared is actually in poor taste or scripturally unsound. I so struggle when a sermon starts with repeated appeals to direct-revelation rather than to Scripture. If the speaker starts a sermon with “the Lord showed me” then he should say it once and stand and be tested as a prophet of the Lord God. If he keeps using the caveat, it rings less of a prophetic call and more of a diversion or a deflection of responsibility for what it is he is preaching. The implication is, “hey, this isn’t me talking, it’s the very Word of God; therefore, if you reject what I’m saying you reject Him”. In today’s church, very few would make that statement, and most would appeal to how they were brought up in the church, or that they truly believe that the Holy Spirit is the one who prompted the pastor/elder/teacher to write the message. Here is the problem with such a bold assertion (the Holy Spirit showed me), if in your message you go on to mishandle the Word of God then either the spirit who showed you this message was NOT of God, or you weren’t really hearing from any spirit it was just a thought born of your flesh. In either case, you’ve taken the Name of God in vain. We are told to Preach the Word of God. So do it, knowing that all scripture is God-Breathed.
- Be willing to ask or even question the pastor/elder/teacher. He is charged of God to shepherd His flock. You must do so in humility and love, don’t ever let anyone dissuade you from asking for clarification, questioning, or even challenging the pastor/elder/teacher on his use of Scripture or on his doctrine. Now, you need to be willing to be corrected, taught, trained, and even rebuked for any sin on your part, but that doesn’t absolve the pastor/elder/teacher of the responsibility to teach and to preach only that which accords with sound doctrine. I recommend going privately first. If you feel the pastor/elder/teacher is in sin, then you must not levy a charge except on the word of two or more witnesses. Hey, sometimes the speaker just makes a mistake. In such cases confession and forgiveness should be a simple fix, and the bond of brotherhood should actually be strengthened by such interaction.
Above all else, do your homework and study God’s word. It’s all well and good if you are a proud Lutheran, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, or Baptist… that’s great that you feel so connected to a denomination of man. But if all you have going into a discussion or confrontation is your church’s doctrine or how your favorite “church father” explained it better than their “church father” did… you’re wrong. Sola Scriptura, if it means anything, means Scripture Alone. The Bereans didn’t search their traditions daily, they sought the Scriptures daily. Let us do likewise, in the bonds of brotherly (and sisterly) love. From time to time, we should all examine the scriptures to see if our church doctrine is true.
Romans 12:1-2 (ESV)
1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
May the Lord bless and keep you,