Articles

Articles

Seek to Find

Seek to Find

By Jamey Hinds

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now,
not only as in my presence but much more in my absence,
work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God
who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

(Philippians 2:12-13)

Back when I was in college, I was part of a group of young men called The Sowers Club. Part of what we did was debate on biblical topics.

I don’t recall what we were exactly debating this one time—we would sometimes discuss such things as the Scriptural necessity for a congregation to build a place to meet (considering Acts 7:48-50)—but our faculty sponsor interrupted us by essentially asking: “Don’t you think others have thought about and wrestled with these issues? You don’t always have to reinvent the wheel.” Of course he was and is right. But, quite frankly, there are times it is very helpful to “reinvent the wheel”—as the apostle John wrote, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

Every generation comes along assuming certain practices or doctrines to be so, and therefore right, without necessarily examining the Scriptures and testing these things for themselves. For example, we accept the format of worship services to be whatever we become familiar with (two songs, a prayer, a song, etc.). We may then come across a congregation that chooses to do it differently; and the surprise may be more about our reaction to the differences than anything wrong (there needs to be order when we come together to worship—1 Corinthians 14:40—but the exact order in which various parts of worship happen is an expediency and not directly commanded).

Too often we ask the wrong question about our practices: “What’s wrong with doing it this way?” The better question is: “What makes our doing it this way right?” The latter question assumes authority outside its own preconceived notions; the former question assumes it’s right despite its ignorance of God’s thoughts and ways.

The Berean Spirit

“Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men” (Acts 17:11-12).

It is interesting that these Berean Jews had the apostle Paul standing before them, teaching them, and yet they still had the boldness to examine the Scriptures against what they were being told. To them it was extremely important to test the teachings of this man against what they could find had been already revealed by God. Sometimes we are distracted by the one teaching (for good or bad) rather than getting into the word for ourselves, thinking for ourselves, and coming to our own convictions (see Luke 12:57).

Sometimes people are deceived into practicing those things contrary to God’s revealed will because they have not been diligent in searching the Scriptures for themselves. Instead, they trust what someone else teaches.

It’s not to say that teachers do not have their God-given places in the body—the apostle Paul affirmed teachers in Ephesians 4:11-16; also, the writer of Hebrews rebukes his audience for not maturing in their spiritual growth: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. …” (Hebrews 5:12).

Truth Should Be Investigated

Maybe we’re afraid to search for the truth because we might actually find the truth! And why might we fear the truth? Because we may find that we’re not in fellowship with it (John 3:19-21; Matthew 7:7-8), and therefore, not in fellowship with God. Would we not rather suffer embarrassment than be condemned to hell? Search the Bible for yourself—“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

The opening passage of our article is Philippians 2:12-13 in which the apostle Paul writes, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” A.T. Robertson commented on this, “Paul has no sympathy with a cold and dead orthodoxy or formalism that knows nothing of struggle and growth. … Paul makes no attempt to reconcile divine sovereignty and human free agency, but boldly proclaims both” (Word Pictures of the New Testament, IV:446).

Ultimately, God is holding each one of us accountable (Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:9-11). We have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).