For some time now I’ve regularly written and spoken about the need to trust the Holy Spirit to give us understanding of scripture instead of turning to commentaries, study bibles and similar sources to find out what scripture “really means”.
My suggestion hasn’t often been received willingly, and some people have seen me as being opposed to the idea of teachers within the church – and since scripture clearly legitimizes the ministry of teachers, I’m obviously in the wrong.
But I am not opposed to the role of teachers when they are given their rightful place. There is an important need for genuine teachers of the word, especially to help new believers to mature in their faith, but also to inspire the mature believer to seek more understanding
So what is the problem? How SHOULD we respond to teachers, and how does this compare to the way that we DO respond to teachers?
The Bereans are often held up as the example we should follow, but how close do we follow what they did? And why were they so “noble” or “fair-minded”?
Firstly they listened to what was said, not rejecting it out of hand
Secondly they searched the scriptures daily to test the teaching.
How does this compare to today’s common practice?
What is the usual place currently given to teaching?
I’d suggest there has been a kind of reversal of authority. Where the Bereans heard the teaching and then turned to scripture for clarification and legitimisation of a teaching, it is more common today to turn to teachers to tell us what scripture (really) means – even to the extent of searching the teachers until we find one that gives an answer we want to hear.
That can take the following forms:
1) People never address scripture themselves, their main contact with scripture is via the teaching. In the past I fit this category. I was quite proficient at quoting texts to “prove” my doctrinal point, however, I later came to realise that I’d learned the texts from sermons from my favoured teachers and not from personal study of scripture. At “best” a hearer will use a bible to read the proof texts a preacher quotes , but will rarely look deeply enough into those texts to consider their biblical context. In my case, my knowledge of scripture came with the context given by the teaching and NOT its legitimate biblical context.
2) People DO address scripture, but have a bible in one hand and a commentary in the other. Or even worse, they read from a “study bible”, paying more attention to the “explanatory” notes than to the actual biblical text. Instead of trusting the Holy Spirit to give understanding, He is ignored and replaced by man’s writings.
1) The Bereans turned to scripture to test the teaching.
2) Today many turn to teachers to “interpret” scripture.