Friday, May 19, 2017

The fair-minded Christian

Bible study
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Acts 17:1-15

TO CHEW ON: "These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness and searched the scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so." Acts 17:11

"These" were the members of the Jewish synagogue in Berea. Though not necessarily believers (yet), they reacted differently to Paul's teaching than "those."

"Those" were a segment of the synagogue attenders in Thessalonica. Paul reasoned with them for three weeks using the Old Testament writings to prove that Jesus was the Christ—the Messiah. There were two reactions. Some were persuaded so that "…a great multitude of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women joined Paul and Silas" (Acts 17:4). Others—"those"—became jealous, sparked a riot and ran Paul and Silas out of town.

"These" Bereans, on the other hand, "received the word with all readiness." They probably followed along (if they had their own copies) and read the passages around those Paul quoted to make sure he was using them in context. Perhaps they asked questions. They didn't let personal insecurity, jealousy and fear interfere with how they read and understood scripture.

The Bereans are a good example for us to follow when we hear Bible teaching of any kind, but especially when it clashes with what we believe. J. Norton Sterrett in his book How To Understand Your Bible talks about  Bible study principles that can guide us as we interpret any passage of scripture.  (Below is his bare bones list; he devotes a chapter to each item.)

1. Interpret a passage in the light of its context - p. 49. This means to read the verses before and after the verse you're focusing on.

2. Interpret according to the correct meaning of the words - p. 55. This could include looking up a word in the dictionary, noting the word's context, and using a concordance and lexicon.

3. Interpret according to the grammar of the sentence … the form of words and the relationship of words - p. 61.

4. Interpret according to the author's purpose and plan. … The purpose of the author is the object he has in mind for writing (e.g. 1 John 5:13). … The plan of the author is the way he structures the writing in order to carry out his purpose - p. 71.

5. Interpret in the light of the historical, geographical, and cultural background as far as that can be known - p. 77.

6. Interpret each passage in the light of the Bible's teaching as a whole"- p. 85.
As we follow these principles, perhaps we'll also gain the reputation of being fair-minded ("better disposed and more noble" - Amplified) Christians.

Dear God, thank You for the Bible and those who teach it. Help me to dig into it in a fair-minded way for myself. Please teach me by Your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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