Hear Preaching In A More Noble Way
On his second missionary journey, Paul encountered people in two different cities in which his preaching of the scriptures was received quite differently. At first glance, the first city Paul visited might seem like the better of the two concerning how they handled the Word of God. However, take a closer look and see that a closer look made all the difference.
The Bible is Worthy to be Heard
This first city Pual visited, that is, in the section of his journey we are highlighting, was Thessalonica. Luke, Pauls companion, recorded that after Paul had preached to the Thessalonians from the scriptures, some were persuaded (Acts 17:1–4). Paul later addressed a letter to the Thessalonians in which he wrote,
And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
Because some of the Thessalonians accepted the Word as inspired from God, Paul was greatly encouraged. Likewise, I am encouraged many reading this post are convinced that the Bible indeed is the inspired revelation of God. I trust the Gospel message within its pages has permeated your life, and that evidence of Grace are multiplying daily. George Müller succinctly states the significance of Scripture in the Christian life when he writes,
The vigor of our spiritual life will be in exact proportion to the place held by the Bible in our life and thoughts.
What a thought provoking and sobering statement!
The Bible is Worthy to be Studied
With the scene above in Thessalonica in mind consider the significance of what happens in a neighboring town. Immediately after Paul leaves Thessalonica, he travels to Berea, just down the road (Acts 17). As he began to minister to the people, something fantastic happened. The people did not immediately believe! The people did not immediately accept his teaching, and Paul was encouraged, more encouraged than he was by the Thessalonians. The people who had received the Scriptures as the very words of God!
Paul was not only encouraged by the Bereans response to his teaching of the scriptures; he and his companions even credited their character. About the Bereans Luke records, Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica… (Acts 17:11a) Nobler! What made the Bereans more noble than the Thessalonians? What made the difference? Luke continues, …they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so (Acts 17:11b).
The Bereans were not nobler because they were cynical skeptics but because they dealt with the scriptures responsibly. They received the Word of God eagerly and then examined it. If we Pay attention to three aspects of how the Bereans approached and engaged Pauls teaching of the scriptures, we can learn to approach and engage scripture better ourselves – particularly via preaching.
1. Receive The Word
Are you consistently found in environments where the Word of God is studied? Many churches emphasize life tips and self-help quips over gaining an understanding of the scriptures. John Piper writes, “The God of the universe, has spoken to us through a book.” If this is true, and I believe it is, then should we not receive and weigh each word, sentence, paragraph, theme, and thought patterns within the scriptures?
2. Receive The Word Eagerly
Receiving the Word begrudgingly and with much difficulty may describe you better. If that is so, and you want that to change, you must cultivate a love for Gods Word. Start with memorizing Psalms 1 and follow it up with meditating on Psalms 119. Consistency in the scriptures is key. You will cherish what you chase (I am probably ripping that off from someone). Don’t wait for a love of Gods Word to ignite within you, fan the flame, and pretty soon you will be behaving like a Berean – eagerly receiving the Word of God.
3. Examine The Word
Are the scriptures inconsistent? Is the Rapture real? Does God want us to have our best life now? Can I do all things through Christ who strengthens me? Or does being a good person impact my salvation? Is church membership biblical? Does God bless us to make us a blessing to others? Etc.
Previous interpretation assumptions and our cultural baggage often keep us from a responsible examination of the scriptures. However, the church is “a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15) and for the truth of scripture to prevail, and for the church to advance that truth we must consistently and responsibly examine the scriptures.
The result of a Berean approach to the teaching of scripture will produce spiritual robustness, intellectual integrity, and a noble character. Many unfortunately listen to bible-less preaching, but I pray you find yourselves in environments where the Word of God is held in high regard. My desire for us is to make it down the road from Thessalonica to a place like Berea, nobler. A place where we consistently and eagerly receive the Word of God, examining it daily. We must not be afraid to probe the scriptures and what’s more we should anticipate the Holy Spirits probe into our lives through the scriptures.
My next post will serve as an introduction guide to studying the scriptures responsibly.