Not many of us think for ourselves when it comes to matters of religion. Most of us are what we are religiously because of the way our parents reared us and have never questioned whether we were right or wrong. We prefer to leave religious subjects and Bible issues to those supposedly trained and skilled in this field—the priest, theologians, pastors and preachers. Sometimes, we even get the idea that the Bible cannot be understood by common people. Some of the religious leaders even teach and encourage this view.
Does the Bible say anything about the ability and responsibility of the average person to understand its message? Most certainly it does. To the Christians in Ephesus, Paul wrote, “Therefore, do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17). Surely God does not require of man that which is beyond his ability, Paul had said earlier: “. . . as I wrote before in a few words, whereby when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ” (Eph. 3:3,4).
The Jews of Berea were commended in the New Testament as being “more noble than those in Thessalonica because they received the word with all readiness of mind and searched the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). These people were not famous, nor were they rich or powerful. In fact, they were somewhat obscure. Their excellency was in their readiness to receive and investigate, to study and search for themselves whether the new teaching was or was not in accordance with the Will of God. Certainly, the Bereans could not be called professional theologians. They were simply people of honest hearts and open minds—moreover, a people with a profound respect for the authority of the sacred Scriptures. Unfortunately, this attitude of the Bereans—the spirit of independent, personal investigation—does not prevail among religious people in the twenty-first century. Man is in a pitiable state when he does not possess the spiritual interest to study the Word of God for himself.
It is shocking to discover how many “religious” people have never read the Bible. It is the duty of every man to test all new doctrines by the teaching of the Divine Word. We are, as the Bereans, to search the Scriptures whether these things are so or not. There is no excuse for failing to do this. God has placed His Word well within reach of us all. It is printed in our language (no book has been put into more translations than the Bible) and can be purchased for a small sum. God has so formed us and so written His Book that it is in the level of our understanding. He has given us the necessary mental faculties to comprehend it, and He has made the substance of it so simple and plain that the wayfaring man can read and understand it. It is not the mystical utterance which some writings are.
The New Testament abounds with evidence that harmonizes with the attitude of the noble Bereans. The apostle Peter insisted that Christians should know what they believe and why they believe it, “be ready always to give an answer to every man who asks you for a reason of the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). The apostle John places the responsibility directly upon every Christian to follow the pattern of the Bereans and prove every teaching to be sure it is from God “because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
It is not only our right, but our duty to listen to all and to try all: to judge for ourselves what is right (Luke 12:57). It is God’s plain Will that we should all bring what we hear to the Standard of His own revealed Will in His Word. Members of God’s family today are simply trying to reproduce faithfully the church of our Lord as it existed in the first century—the same in doctrine, worship, name, organization, service, life and work. The Bible clearly teaches that the seed of the gospel—the Word of God—will produce after its kind, pure and undenominational Christianity. The first century church was founded upon the basis of the Word of God. It follows that the same Word must serve as the blueprint for the twenty-first century church.