4. We Must Approach the Bible With Eager Expectation
The Bereans received the word with all eagerness. That was their posture to the word—readiness and expectation. Whether in a conversation or in an audience, your posture says something. It indicates whether you are leaning forward, ready to listen, ready to learn, or whether you are bored and distracted. The Bereans had good posture. They were at the edge of their seat—ready to receive the word, ready to believe.
Are you eager to come to the word? Are you eager to take advantage of opportunities to hear more of God’s word? Have you thought about trying Sunday school again, or a small group, or a Bible study, or Sunday evening, or a conference, or picking up a good book? I know we cannot say yes to every opportunity, but we should ask ourselves: Am I indifferent to these opportunities or am I eager for more of them?
There is no movement of the Spirit in the history of revival, and no genuine movement of the Spirit in the human heart, that does not result in a new hunger for God’s word. I’ve seen it many times. You probably have too, maybe in your life. When God grabs a hold of someone’s life, you can see in his newfound eagerness for the word. He is excited to read, to study, to learn, and to grow, ready to get into the word whenever he can.
5. Be Prepared to Study the Word Deeply
The Bereans examined the Scriptures. The word “examined” can refer to a legal process, like a trial. Acts 17:11, therefore, speaks of an in depth, detailed, intelligent examination of the Scriptures. Many of us work so hard in so many other areas. We work hard to learn a language, get a degree, practice an instrument, study for our boards, or train for sports. But how hard do we work to understand and examine the Scriptures?
You don’t have to be the smartest person. It does not say that the Bereans were more noble because they were all 4.0 students. It is not about being smarter, but about digging deeper.
There is a unique confidence that is acquired when you see something in the Scriptures for yourself. Not simply that you’ve heard this or somebody told you that, but you’ve seen it for yourself. You saw the connection in the word. You looked up the cross references. You checked your concordance. You thought it through. You prayed about it. You took notes. There is a new confidence that comes because you are not just accepting things secondhand, but (often with the aid of good teachers) you see it right in front of you in the pages of Scripture.
At the most basic level, anyone can do what pastors do. It requires hard work and training, but it does not require the world’s leading intellect. Normally, when I read through my text for the first few times I think “What in the world am I going to say?” It only comes through studying and searching and praying and reading that you begin to see things you hadn’t seen before. I need to study the word deeply as a pastor. And every church member need to do the same.
6. Be Confident That You Are Able to Study the Bible and Discover the Truth of God’s Word
There are things in the Bible that are hard to understand. We must be diligent with means. We need to learn good habits of study and exegesis. We need to learn from gifted teachers God puts in our midst. But none of this means the word of God is inaccessible to “ordinary” people. Far from it. The Bereans were Jews, so they would have been well steeped in the Scriptures—whereas we often have Biblical illiteracy to overcome—but just in terms of sheer education, opportunities, books read, and studies done, there is just no comparison. We are among the most highly educated people in this history of the planet. We have an embarrassment of riches at our disposal. Most people reading this blog are not lacking in the tools to think critically and search the Scriptures for themselves.
And yet, we can too easily give up.
One of the reasons we give up is because we think we will never be able to discover the truth because so many smart people disagree about what is true. You may think, “There are PhD’s over here that say one thing about a verse and another group that say just the opposite. What chance do I possible have to figure this out?” Don’t give up. If you get three PhD’s in a room you are bound to have fifteen opinions. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about the Bible or history or economics or entomology, you are going to get very smart people who see things differently. If we are going to toss up our hands every time a really smart person disagree, we are not going to know anything about anything.
The Bereans were ordinary people, two millennium ago, who believed they could hear what Paul said and discern whether or not his words were true to the Scripture. We can discover the truth. Don’t give up on it just because there are many ways to look at things.
7. Recognize That Some Things Which Claim to Be From the Bible Are Not
You have to admire the zeal of the Bereans. When they heard this new teaching from Paul, they undoubtedly understood that he was making his case about the Messiah from the Bible. They could see that he was reasoning from the Scriptures, but still they wanted to determine if what Paul was saying about the Bible actually came from the Bible.
Almost everyone who has ever cared about Christian theology or Christian ethics has claimed Scriptural warrant for their positions. Everyone in the church professes a desire to be biblical. And yet, we need to be like the Bereans and recognize that some ideas that come with a Bible verse attached may not actually be from the Bible. It is terribly frustrating to see churches, institutions, and denominations refuse to put certain teaching outside the pale, just because the teaching claims to be biblical. All the major heresies in the history of the church have claimed some Biblical support. When Augustine was arguing with Pelagius about the nature of grace and human inability, they were arguing about texts of Scripture. But only one of them was true to Scripture.
I understand that the Bible is not equally clear on every issue but on essential matters we have to simply say, “Look, I know you have a verse there that you think supports this position, but that is not what that verse means.” The Scriptures teach us that there are false teachings that false teachers try to peddle out of the Scriptures themselves. False teachers always have Bible verses, so we have to be discerning. That is what the Bereans were searching. They heard Paul argue from the Scriptures, but they needed to make sure for themselves the passage meant what Paul said it did.