When I was in Bible College, a guest spoke in chapel and remarked, “One can visit the average minister’s study, glance at his library, and know what year his brain died.” Although he intended the line to be humorous, it has stayed with me all these years later. That day I determined to never reach the place where I thought I had “arrived” or reached the pinnacle of biblical knowledge. I wanted to be a lifelong learner.
One of the many traits to admire about the early leaders of the Restoration Movement is that they never stopped searching for a more accurate understanding of the Scriptures. It was this thirst for knowledge and hunger for truth that led them to challenge the traditions of their denominational upbringing. Even after determining to forsake sectarian names and be known as “Christians only” and follow the Bible only, they continued to modify, develop, and deepen their theological convictions as their understanding of God’s Word increased. For example, Alexander Campbell’s views of important issues like baptism, communion, and church polity were developed over a period of several years. Biblical truth did not change, but he did, as he consistently asked the question, “What does the Bible really teach about this particular doctrine?” Others asked the same question in their quest for truth. For 200 years, Restoration churches have been encouraging people to follow their example. When one asks that question, and seeks a truthful answer, a change of mind in sometimes in order.
The fact that lifelong learners sometimes change their convictions should come as no surprise. Biblical faith is more accurately described as a journey rather than a destination. New Testament teaching about discipleship and faith development commands believers with terms like grow and strive and add to your faith. Hebrews 6:1 says, “…let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity…” Some of the epistles were written with the purpose of correcting improper or incomplete beliefs about Christ and His church. Prominent biblical characters are shown that their thinking is not quite right about a given topic (e.g. Peter receiving a vision about God accepting the Gentiles in Acts 10; Apollos being taught more accurately about Christian baptism in Acts 18).
Those that want to go deeper in their walk with the Lord would do well to follow the example of the Berean Christians mentioned in Acts 17:11, “…they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” We must be willing to do the very thing that we encourage our religious friends and family members to do – look to the Bible for the answers. Lifelong learning is a challenge, but it is also a joy. And it is our responsibility: But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.
(2 Peter 3:18).