1 Peter 3:18 says to “grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” Every once in awhile every faithful gospel preacher who defends and stands up for the Truth in the Bible is going to be accused of thinking he knows everything. We should understand that one doesn’t really have anything else he can say when he knows you are right, although one should also know that studying the Bible to know the difference between God’s righteousness and self-righteousness doesn’t make one arrogant. It makes one wise to the tricks of Satan. One should also understand that it is when a person won’t study the Bible, or quits studying the Bible, that he/she thinks he/she knows everything, and that is when that person quits growing “in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
Acts 17:11 says the Bereans who Paul and Silas were teaching “were more fair - minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” It is absolutely necessary for one searching for God’s way to keep an open mind when studying the Bible. All of us need to be willing to make changes in our beliefs and practices, and in our lives when the changes are called for by God in His Word. That is what it means to “repent”. And that is what it means to “grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ”. Sometimes we have to be willing to admit we are wrong.
I had a college professor who used to tell us, “Always keep an open mind when studying the Bible with people, but not so open that your brain gets fogged up.” The Lord Jesus Christ wants you to expect book, chapter, and verse from whoever you are studying with to know whether these things that they are teaching are so. Many times they are wrong. You will never help them if you are only trying to be popular with them. That isn’t how Jesus, the “Master Teacher”, taught people. Read His “sermon on the mount” (Matt. 5-7). They need to be open minded also, or they aren’t going to learn.
One can be too open minded if he isn’t determined to keep the Bible as his standard for what’s right and wrong, but he can also be too closed minded so he stops growing spiritually. I added a line to the quote from my college professor: “Don’t be so closed minded that your brain dies from a lack of oxygen”.
Many people today are being blinded by tradition and pride. In Matt. 15:3 Jesus said to the scribes and Pharisees, “Why do you transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?” Jesus knew these people weren't really sincere and weren’t there because they cared so much for the souls of His disciples, but He took advantage of the opportunity they provided for Hm to teach those who are sincere. Tradition can be a beautiful thing when it aids us in keeping God’s commandments. However, when the tradition becomes as important, or even more important than the Lord’s commandments, it becomes dangerous. Many times it will defeat its own purpose and divide the brethren.
It is so important for the elders of the Lord’s churches to recognize the difference between the traditions of our fathers and the commandments bound on us by the Lord and His apostles. Use those traditions to protect and carry out the Lord’s commands, but don’t defeat the purpose of those traditions, and make the traditions more important than the commandments by making the traditions a test of fellowship.
It is also so important for the church to recognize the authority that God has given the elders (Acts 20:28; Heb. 13:7). There must be respect and cooperation when they have to make a stand in order to keep the church pure. Decisions about such things as dress codes, how to use the church building to expedite the Lord’s purpose for us, keeping the worship service decent and orderly, etc. should all be honored and respected as long as the decisions are in compliance with Scripture.
Study the Bible with an open mind. Make the changes God calls for in your life, and grow in grace and knowledge. Never close your mind to learning all the Bible, and work together for the unity that comes from knowing and practicing what it says.
Timothy A. Sundlie
Preacher / Evangelist for the La Crosse church of Christ