The following blog post was originally published on August 12, 2015. —ed.
I am convinced that the most dangerous lie is the one that is almost true. The regenerate believer can usually see through most pseudo-Christian scams, whether they be online, on TV, or in the pulpit. But Satan doesn’t always deploy his deceptions through shallow charlatans—he also carefully cloaks them in the garb of orthodox Christianity.
More and more false teachers conceal their heresies in the Trojan horse of sound doctrine. And like termites ravaging a house, the signs of trouble are evident only after the damage is done.
We need razor-sharp biblical discernment as our frontline defense against the stealth invasions of theological error. Paul and Silas encountered that type of discernment on their missionary travels when they ministered to the Jews in Berea. Luke reported on their ministry there and described the Berean Jews as: “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” (Acts 17:11–12).
The Berean’s familiarity with the Old Testament Scripture equipped them for embracing the new teaching they were hearing from Paul. They weren’t gullible, but neither were they incapable of learning something new—provided it could be corroborated by God’s Word. John MacArthur describes it this way:
The Bereans received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether the things preached by Paul were so. They were open to the truth and searched their scrolls for themselves. No wonder Luke describes them as more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica.
Examining is from anakrinō, a word sometimes used of a judicial investigation. The noble Bereans carefully sifted the evidence and concluded that the gospel Paul proclaimed was the truth that fulfilled Old Testament promise. John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Acts 13–28 Chicago: Moody Press, 1994, 121.
Scripture clearly held the highest possible authority among the Bereans. It was the final arbiter on their evaluation of Paul’s preaching and, as such, they were able to weigh Paul’s words on the scales of their thorough biblical analysis.
Scripture was the Bereans’ accurate and effective filter for receiving truth and rejecting error. The fact that they read Scripture “daily” also points to a high degree of biblical literacy. They didn’t merely dip their toes in the reading of favorite stories and the memorization of “life-verses.” They were fully immersed in God’s Word and studied it as a collective whole, being able to identify the story of Christ woven throughout the Old Testament.
It is also telling that there is no mention of the Bereans consulting with any sources other than Scripture. Their belief in the sufficiency of Scripture is evident by their use of it as the sole, necessary plumb line of truth.
The church in Berea may no longer be in existence but their legacy ought to live on in the church as we carefully examine Scripture in discerning truth from error. Modern wolves now roam among God’s flock in sophisticated sheep-skins. The seriousness of such a threat demands that we be present-day Bereans, and develop the necessary discernment to intercept these wolves at the point of entry into our churches.
To naively assume that these threats don’t apply in your church context is to buy into the lie that the enemy wants to sell you. In the words of John MacArthur,
Christians are not supposed to be gullible. We are not to turn a blind eye to the danger. We are not to have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather expose them (Ephesians 5:11). We simply cannot be all-embracing without allowing false teachers to infiltrate and be destructive. John MacArthur, The Truth War (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007), 174.
In the days ahead we’ll lay out a more detailed biblical battle plan to emerge victorious in the war for truth.