They discovered what Scripture said for themselves in their community context and had stronger conviction as a result. Paul gives no indication of being threatened by that – the authority for his message came from the Scriptures and he the other apostles had gone through the same process in forming their convictions about God’s story and where Jesus fit into it (eg Lk 24:25-27, Lk 24:44-49, Jn 2:22, Acts 17:2, 18:28).
If we share the Berean conviction that the Word is the ultimately reliable source of our knowledge about who God is and how to relate to Him, then we will always be searching, learning and growing – there is always more of God to know, and He is always drawing us deeper into relationship and ‘partnership’ with Him.
We can learn a lot from each others’ different perspectives and experiences, but the Word is our common and objective plumbline. Though there are other ways He communicates and reveals Himself (eg Romans 1:20, 1 Corinthians 11:4-11), the Bible is how God has chosen to objectively make Himself and His story known to the world.
If we are serious about empowering others (& ourselves!) to discover and know God we need to measure everything else against what He has and is saying through the Bible.Jesus’ comments in Jn 6:44-45 are consistent with the emphasis across the narrative of Scripture – God wants us to know Him, listen to Him and interact with Him.
When we (people) teach, no matter how gifted we are we will always have our own limitations and our own personal set of filters. These can reveal God to our audience in unique ways, and also obscure Him to our audience in unique ways.
Yes, God uses human teaching to speak to us – we’ve all experienced that, even if He uses the preacher to say something to us that has nothing to do with the actual sermon. But when God teaches directly it’s even more powerful. When God writes something on our hearts, it’s always tailored perfectly to our situation and we never forget it.
If we help people start their journey with the Word (and in community rather than as isolated individuals), they can build an objectively reliable picture of who He is, what He is like, what He is inviting them into, and where they fit into His overarching story. This better equips them to recognise and respond to the Spirit when He speaks and leads independently of Scripture, and helps them better discern what is God’s voice, what is a human voice and what is Satan’s voice.
This also reduces the likelihood of static or filters from a human teacher, because God tailors what He says directly to the group and their context without a different culture getting in the way. God knows us and our context perfectly, and speaks directly to both those things. He will never tell a group that they need to wear collars or long trousers to worship Him together.
Please hear me clearly – I am affirming two things:
1) Is there a place for human teaching in the discipleship journey? Absolutely!
2) Should Word and Spirit be the foundation of our discipleship journey? Absolutely!
The most empowering and reliable, replicable skill for life-long spiritual growth is learning who God is, and how to hear Him speak to them through His Word. Look at how the Bereans responded to Paul. Look how Paul discipled others. Even Jesus instructed His disciples post-resurrection based on the authority of Scripture rather than His own authority as the Risen Messiah (Lk 24:44-45). The Bereans got it.
If we’re serious about the great commission, we simply must help people do this.