Bereanism: Bible study, and seminaries

By | 30 August 2012

In Acts 17, we are introduced to the Bereans:

The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.  Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men. {17:10-12}

In when Paul writes his second letter to Timothy, he tells him:

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. {3:16-17}

If scripture – God’s holy, inspired word – is profitable, and it makes one “adequate” for the worship of God and for “every good work”, does it not behoove us to study it?

Yet when you look at the curriculum outlines and descriptions for most seminaries, you’ll see they have a variety of classes and topics that are not – at least directly – “examining the Scriptures”. While there are, certainly, valid “non-scripture” classes you can take in the path of studying the Bible (biblical Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic, or public speaking, for example), the main focus of all disciples of Christ should be His Word as recorded in the Bible.

But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body. {Ecclesiastes 12:12}

There is an over-focus on credentials and education in modern society – but it is displayed most detrimentally in the church. Churches who base their criteria of hiring or calling a pastor based on their education are missing the boat: the point of being a pastor is not education. The point of being a pastor is to lead Jesus’ sheep in this world, help them come to a deeper understanding of and relationship with Him, and try to reach the lost.

I think the concept of a seminary is a good one – a place to train men to serve in churches and give them an opportunity to focus their time and energy on studying the Word is excellent.

The implementation of seminaries, though, has some serious deficiencies when compared to how Jesus trained His disciples, and how they trained the next generation, etc.

Jesus taught His disciples daily – mentoring them into those he could “apostle” (send out) into the world. He did not give them ministry classes, worship techniques, etc: He gave them Himself and His Word, which He expected to be sufficient for them to go into the world.

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.” {Matthew 10:16-20}

Why do we feel the need in modern society to go beyond what Jesus Himself gave His disciples when we prepare future pastors? I cannot answer why Christendom as a whole has this felt need, but I can say that straying too far from God’s Word is dangerous.

You older children of the faith – mentor the younger:

“Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity.” {1 Timothy 5:1-2}

and

“But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance. Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.” {Titus 2:1-8}

If the more mature in the faith were to mentor the less mature, we would see a swell of Godly activity in the church: it is His normal way of acting, and we should be participating in that means by all means!

Give us the meat of Your Word, God – not merely the milk.

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