8. Test Difficult Doctrines Against the Scriptures Before Simply Discarding Them
Christians from a broad church background may have a hard time accepting unfamiliar doctrines that strike them as overly precise or controversial. Thinking through predestination, the roles of men and women, eternal punishment, or the uniqueness of Christ (to give but a few examples) can be challenging and confusing. But if we are like the Bereans we will not discard hard teachings just because they are hard. We will search the Scriptures to see if these things are so.
Be open to being surprised by the word of God. The Bereans must have been surprised to learn that the Christ would suffer, die, and be raised to life. But they accepted it because they saw it in the Bible. Don’t ditch difficult doctrines without testing them against the Scriptures.
9. Be Humble Enough To Take the Bible At Its Word No Matter Who You Are
If you read through the book of Acts you’ll notice that Luke often points out the high social standing of those who receive the word of God. We could be turned off by this, asking ourselves “Why is Luke making such a big deal about this? It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or famous.” And this is true. But part of what Luke is trying to show us (and Theophilus) is the humility of those in high standing who are humble enough to submit themselves to the word of God. He wants to underscore their complete submission to Scripture. Many of these individuals may have thought they were too important for the word. But real nobility, Luke reminds us, is being humble enough to listen to the word no matter who you are.
Calvin says, “We know how hardly men came down from their high degree, what a rare matter it is for those who are great in the world to undertake the reproach of the cross, laying away their pride, and rejoice in humility … And surely this is the first entrance into faith that we be ready to follow, and that abandoning the understanding and wisdom of the flesh, we submit ourselves to Christ, by him to be taught and to obey him.”
It is our pride that keeps us from believing. It is our pride that will not admit God’s word is the most important word we need to hear. It is our pride which imagines we know who we are and how to be saved and how to live apart from the Bible. It takes great humility to submit yourself unreservedly to the word of God.
10. Give the Bible the Final Say In Every Matter On Which It Means to Speak
I sometimes hear people say that Scripture is a conversation starter. And I suppose that’s true in one sense. There can be a lot of good conversations after you read the Bible or hear an expositional sermon. But if the Bible is a conversation starter, it is to start a conversation about the God of the Bible who has the final word in all our conversations. Let’s reason together. Let’s not be afraid of honest dialogue. And let’s be sure to test all our songs, our books, our creeds, our blogs, our lectures, our sermons, and our science against the Bible.
One of the reasons different professing Christians and different churches come to such wildly different understandings of the Christian faith is because we approach the Bible so differently. The question: What is our ultimate authority? Every Christian and every church will say, in some way, that our theology must accord with Scripture. But what is our ultimate authority? How do we make our closing arguments? Do we give the final word to reason and experience, to sacred Tradition, or to the holy Scriptures?
All religion rests on authority. For that matter, every academic discipline and every sphere of human inquiry rests on authority. Whether we realize it or not, we all give someone or something the last word. You may give it to your parents or to your culture or to your community or to your feelings or to the government or to peer review journals or to opinion polls or to a holy book. We all have someone or something we turn to as the final arbiter of truth claims. For Christians, that authority must be the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.
When interpreted correctly, the Bible is never wrong in what it affirms. It must never be marginalized as anything less than the last word of everything it means to say.