30 Days in the Bible, Day 26: Acts 17:10-12
Personal Bible study and corporate Bible study are both important parts of our discipleship journey. We need to spend time in the Word ourselves, and we need to spend time learning from qualified teachers. There is a balance we need to strike between these two elements of discipleship, and there also seems to be a little tension between the two.
On the one hand, we want to find those who have been gifted by the Holy Spirit to guide us along with the Spirit in understanding and applying the Word to our lives. If we sit under teachers and just pick them apart, using our own judgment to decide when we agree with them and when we don’t, we will not benefit from their teaching. We need to trust the pastors and teachers we have found to be faithfully and reliably grounded in God’s Word. They may tell us things we don’t want to hear, but which we may need to hear for our spiritual growth.
On the other hand, the responsibility for our spiritual growth from a human perspective rests with each one of us. We need to examine what our teachers say in light of the Bible to ensure that what they are teaching is what God is saying. While the Bible clearly teaches that those who teach are held responsible for what they teach, each Christian is responsible for what they have learned and how it is put into practice.
Ronal Reagan used to use the phrase “Trust, but verify” of those with whom he dealt on a political level. While discipleship involves spiritual rather than political concepts, it’s not a bad way to think about how we approach the teaching we receive. Once we have found pastors and teachers we have sounded out and found to be good, we need to have a level of trust that what they are presenting is what the Word of God teaches. However, we also need to dig into the Word to verify that they are remaining true to the Lord and His Word.
The fact they we may find disagreements between teachers, or between teachers and ourselves, doesn’t mean that one or the other is unfaithful to the Lord. There are many teachings in the Bible on which Christians disagree while remaining true to a commitment to follow Jesus Christ. There are two things we should look at when we find a disagreement. First, is this on a fundamental truth that is at the core of our Christian faith, like the Trinity, the person and work of Jesus Christ, and salvation through faith in Jesus alone? Second, is what is being taught backed by a thorough and careful study of the Bible and based on what the Word says? We want our teachers to be true to Jesus Christ and to the basic truths of our faith, and we want them to base all of their Christian teaching on God’s revealed Word.
I hope that as you have been studying along with these devotionals that you have made sure that what I write has been consistent with the Word. A teacher who feels they are above examination is a teacher who isn’t worthy of trust. Find a teacher who follows Jesus, is led by the Spirit, and teaches from God’s Word, and you’ll find a teacher who can help you grow more like Jesus as you make your discipleship journey.