Acts 17:1-15 Test The Word of God for Yourself

Reader, men may dislike the doctrine of private judgment, but there is no doubt that it is continually taught in the Word of God. This is the principle laid down in the eighth chapter of Isaiah, 19th verse…. They were written at a time when there were men upon earth who had direct revelations from God. Yet what does Isaiah say? “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light or truth in them.” If this be not private judgment what is?

This again is the principle laid down by our Lord Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount. Remember what He says: “Beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. You shall know them by their fruit.” (Matt. 7:15.) How is it possible that men shall know these false prophets, except they exercise their private judgment as to what their fruits are?

This is the practice you find commended in the Bereans, in the Acts of the Apostles. They did not take the Apostle Paul’s word for granted, when he came to preach to them. You are told, that they searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so,” and “therefore,” it is said, “many of them believed.” (Acts 17:11, 12.) What was this again but private judgment?

“The people of God are called to test the truth, to judge between true and false, between light and darkness. God has made them the promise of His Spirit, and has left unto them His Word. The Christians of Berea, when they heard the preaching of Paul, searched the Scriptures daily, to ascertain whether those things which Paul taught were true. So must you. Give heed to instruction–and yet do not receive any teachings without proof and trial that they are the wholesome doctrine of the Word of God” (Jewell).

Reader, whatever men may say against private judgment, you may be sure that it cannot be neglected without immense danger to your soul. You may not like it, but you never know what you may come to, if you refuse to use it! No man can say into what depths of false doctrine you may be drawn—if you will not do what God requires of you, and “Prove all things.”

Reader, I warn you above all things not to be moved by the specious argument, that it is humility to disallow private judgment, that it is humility to have no opinion of your own, that it is the part of a true Christian not to think for himself! I tell you that such humility is a false humility, a humility which does not deserve that blessed name. Call it rather laziness! Call it rather idleness. Call it rather sloth. It makes a man strip himself of all his responsibility, and throw the whole burden of his soul into the hands of the minister and the Church!

Reader, as long as you live—resolve that you will read for yourself; think for yourself, judge of the Bible for yourself; in the great matters of your soul. Have an opinion of your own. Never be ashamed of saying, “I think that this is right—because I find it in the Bible,” and “I think that this is wrong—because I do not find it in the Bible.” “Prove all things,” and prove them by the Word of God. As long as you live, beware of the blindfold system, which many commend in the present day—the system of following a leader, and having no opinion of their own—the system which practically says, “Only keep your Church, only receive the sacraments, only believe what the ordained ministers who are set over you tell you—and then all shall be well.”

I warn you, that this will not do. I warn you that if you are content with this kind of religion, you are periling your immortal soul. Let the Bible, and not any Church upon earth, or any minister upon earth, be your rule of faith.

J.C. Ryle

Heart Preparation
Read Acts 17:1-15. Consider the Bereans’ diligence to study the preaching they heard from Paul. What is the importance of this study? Where can you grow in your personal study of the Word?

Posted on: January 16, 2014 - 10:00PM

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