In the first part of this discussion, we thought about how to evaluate what we are taught by others. So, what do we find if we take that same approach when we read the Bible? Who were those whom God inspired to write the Bible, to lead his chosen nation (Israel), and to lead the early church?
Spoiler alert: In general, these were ordinary people who God called to do great things for Him.
Consider Jesus’ disciples, as an example: Peter, Andrew, James, and John were fishermen (see Matthew 4:18-22). Collectively, Peter and John wrote 7 books of the New Testament, despite the seashore not normally being where one would look for authors of history-changing accounts.
Likewise, Matthew was a tax collector (see Mark 2:14). Philip and Nathanael were buddies (maybe just hanging out when Jesus showed up?), and Nathanael started out as something of a skeptic (see John 1:43-51). Still, these followers of Jesus were used by Him to change the world.
Most members of this group were unlikely to have the specific knowledge or skills that they demonstrated. When their past and present lives were examined, crediting God for what they accomplished was the rational conclusion (not that some irrational conclusions weren’t tried…and refuted: see Acts 2:12-21 and Acts 26:24-26, as well as Matthew 28:11-15). The evidence for their credibility wasn’t in their schooling, but in the evidence from their lives, and how God worked through them.
At an event that is considered to be the start of the church (about 7 weeks after Jesus’ resurrection), these “regular guys” – and other disciples – were gifted by God to do something pretty amazing:
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born?
Acts 2:4-8 NASB
Their lives had been changed by encounters with God, and with His help.
We could also cite Moses in Exodus 3:1-6, whose encounter with God resulted in the freedom of an entire people, despite Moses’ shortcomings (both real and perceived). Or, we could read about Saul (also called Paul) in Acts 9:1-6, whose encounter with God resulted in the spread of Christianity throughout many regions (even though Saul was actively seeking to imprison or kill Christians before this happened).
In every case, people noticed. See this example from the book of Acts:
Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.
Acts 4:13 NASB
These apostles were recognized as having spent time with Jesus. It became clear that they hadn’t gained certain skills from their own background. Rather, having spent time with Jesus had a tangible effect on them (even after Jesus had returned to Heaven, and sent the Holy Spirit to help his apostles).
Note that there isn’t anything wrong with having an educational background, also. Paul was “classically trained” to become a Jewish leader, and there is evidence that Luke had formal education (being a physician). These authors were used by God to write down His Word, but without God’s influence, their education wouldn’t have been enough, on its own.
In light of this example, as we learn more – both from study and from experience – about Jesus, may we be those whose lives serve as a testimony to Him. Rather than our own credentials, or formal education (if we pursued this), we can point to His life-changing influence upon us, as evidence that the truth of what we have learned from Him is greater than the sum of our experiences and our education.
That is, may those who evaluate our respective backgrounds – no matter where we started – see the change that only Jesus can make, and then listen to our words about Him intently.