(This is a response to some comments Bill made on another post. To see his comments in context, click here. This exchange is similar to one I recently had with William17, which you can find above Bill’s and here.)
When you mention seminaries like Covenant and Fuller, teaching ministries like Ligonier, and teachers past and present like Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, R. C. Sproul, John MacArthur, Joel Beeke, and Sinclair Ferguson you think about how much I differ with them. By contrast, when I think of those same names, I think about how much I’m in agreement with them. For example, here are just a few of the beliefs we all share (which I also mentioned in an earlier comment to William17):
- Jesus is Lord.
- The Bible is the word of God
- We are to love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength.
- We are to love our neighbors as ourselves.
- We are to overcome evil with good.
- We are to trust God and obey Him.
- We are to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
- We are to know Christ and make Him known.
That’s a lot! And these are not minor issues. They are all important, life-directing views. They distinguish us radically from the world which has become so anti-Christ in our day. That Jesus is Lord and the Bible is the word of God, especially, is surely a cry to which you, they, and I would all enthusiastically rally.
That said, yes, I do believe some things that they don’t…but the things about which we would disagree are not more important than the things about which we agree.
Since we would all agree that the Scriptures are the final court of appeal on all these matters, how are readers of this blog to decide whether I am right or wrong about the things I write – things with which you disagree (e.g. everyone is going heaven and Jesus has already come again)? I hope they will be like the Jews in Berea and not like the Jews in Thessalonica.
You know the story to which I’m referring. It is recorded in Acts 17:1-14. The Jews in both those cities believed that Messiah was coming and they also believed that there would one day be a resurrection of the dead. I say this because such views were common to Jews in those days. However, they did not expect that their Messiah would be crucified. In fact, they expected something quite different. That is, they expected Messiah to lead Israel to victory against the Romans and all foreign powers just as King David had subdued all Israel’s enemies a millennium before. Therefore, the news that Paul brought the Jews in Thessalonica and Berea – that Messiah had been cruelly rejected by Israel’s leaders, executed by the Romans, and individually raised from the dead as a first fruit of the general resurrection created a dilemma. Who was right – this traveling preacher from the city of Tarsus or all those rabbis who had been teaching the traditional expectations which they held?
The Thessalonian Jews rejected Paul’s message out of hand. It was too different, too radical, too unexpected for them to even consider. The Berean Jews, by contrast, “examined the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” You and William17 are reacting as the Thessalonian Jews. My prayer is that you – and if not you, at least the readers of our interactions – will react like the Bereans. Since I give chapter and verse for the things I proclaim, I make things easier for people to examine the Scriptures themselves on all these issues.
Paul is famous to us, but he wasn’t famous to the people of Thessalonica and Berea. He was just an itinerant preacher coming through town. They certainly knew rabbis who were more famous and had better reputations than Paul. And there were surely a lot more Jewish rabbis who disagreed with Paul than who agreed with him. Those Jews who believed Paul did so not because he was better known than other teachers or because he outnumbered other teachers, but rather because they found in the Scriptures the truth of what he was saying.
There are many Bible teachers in the world – famous and unknown, living and deceased. The only way to properly judge the rightness or wrongness of their respective teachings is comparison with the Scriptures. To say “Let’s pay attention to the more famous ones,” or to say “Let’s pay attention to those in good standing with respected seminaries,” or to say “Let’s pay attention to what the majority of them say” are all attitudes consistent with the attitudes of the Jews in Thessalonica, which were ignoble when compared to the attitudes of the Jews in Berea.
The Scriptures remain the final court of appeal. May anyone who stumbles across this blog be noble-minded enough to resolve their dilemmas there.