The people of the Book
The Quran, the holy book of Muslims, refers to the Christians as “the people of the Book.” That is a very appropriate and accurate description of who Christians are really—the people of the Book. But are we really men and women of the Bible?
January is the National Bible Month. Specifically, Jan. 25-31 is also known as the National Bible Week. Since 1982, people from all over the country have been celebrating the importance of the Bible in nation-building during this time of the year.
In Acts 17:11, we find a group of people who took the Word of God seriously: “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (New International Version)
In here we will find three characteristics of the Bereans as far as the word of God is concerned that we need to emulate as 21st-century Christians. These characteristics have one thing in common—they all begin with the letter “e.” How did they respond to the preaching of the Apostle Paul and receive the word of God?
First, with eagerness. Webster’s Dictionary defines eagerness as “characterized by keen or enthusiastic desire or interest.” They were excited by what they heard. And not only with a sense of eagerness; the text says with “great eagerness.”
In 1996, I was able to attend a World Alliance Fellowship conference in Seoul, South Korea. Part of the conference schedule was to attend a local Korean worship service. When the worship leader announced the biblical text to be read, you could audibly hear the rustling of the pages (whish). That could mean only either of two things—many brought their Bibles with them, and were eagerly waiting to read the Word. Or they didn’t know how to locate the passage, so they had to turn and turn the pages.
Let’s learn from the Bereans. They received the message with great eagerness.
The next characteristic is, they examined the Scriptures. They did not only read, they examined. They searched the Scriptures diligently. They wanted to know if what Paul said was true. Paul is regarded as the theologian par excellence of the New Testament. The Bereans rightly recognized that the final authority rested in the Scriptures and was not vested on any person, no matter how high and respected he was in the church hierarchy.
Lastly, how frequently did they examine the Scriptures? Every day. The Bereans read the Word of God in a consistent manner. And during their time, it was hard to do that. They didn’t have individual Bibles like we have now.
They would only have parchments, and these were lodged in the synagogue. And yet that didn’t stop them from examining the Scriptures every day. We all have our Bibles—hard copies or in our phones and tablets. And yet in spite of the profusion and the different versions available, I have a feeling that we don’t read it as much as we should.
My conversion was in the context of a quiet time. I was a first-year college student when I was shared the four spiritual laws by a classmate who was with inter-varsity. I was a Catholic and I was entertaining the idea of entering the seminary and become a priest. During my high school days in the Catholic school of Don Bosco, I would sense during our annual retreats that God was calling me to serve him full-time. But I didn’t do anything about it. So when college came, I found myself still nursing that desire.
I didn’t want to offend my classmate. Even if I thought I was already a Christian (I wanted to be a priest—what could be more Christian than that, I told myself), I accepted Jesus into my life. Then my classmate introduced me to the concept of quiet time—spending time alone with God. He gave me my first copy of the New Testament and a quiet time guide, Our Daily Bread. And from that day on, I have been regularly observing my quiet time.
It was during one of those devotional sessions, about two months later, that God spoke through his Word. The assigned passage was Isaiah 64:5: “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” I realized that particular morning that I was a sinner and there was absolutely nothing I could do to earn my salvation. I was doomed to hell. Right there and then, I tearfully accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. So I became a Christian through my quiet time.
Let’s not take our Bibles for granted. Because it is readily available, many of us take it for granted. There are countries where Bibles are a precious commodity.
Are we reading His word with eagerness, examining the Scriptures, and doing it everyday? May He find us faithful in doing this. Happy National Bible Week!
Jose Silvestre C. Gonzales is a fellow of the Institute of Studies for Asian Church and Culture (ISACC). He finished AB Journalism at UP in 1976.
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