Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sopater, Son of Pyrrhus of Berea, Was a Companion of Paul

By Akin Ojumu

A few days ago, on a flight back home from a visit to the Northeast, a friend and I were engaged in a heated dialogue – well actually I was the one on heat – about Christian beliefs and doctrines. After much huffing and puffing, in an effort to diffuse the heat, my friend concluded with the following words…well nearly exact words:

“…..I take everything by faith and don’t question the origin of my beliefs….”

Those are very disarming words aren’t they? They kind of cut to the chase and put everything in perspective. Isn’t Christianity all about faith? So why question why we do what we do and how we do it. Simply have faith and that’s it.

Right?

Well not so for me. I’ve come to a point in my Christian journey where it’s not just enough to simply take everything and anything we do – hook line and sinker – in the name of faith.

“The Pastor said it, so it must be so” just won’t cut it for me…not anymore. I do not find satisfaction in simply gulping down every word that is dished out by our men of God. There’s restlessness within me, a hunger for the truth, and a thirst to test every word I hear that it conforms to scriptures.

I’m in a place I hate to be in and it scares the living daylight out of me at times. I get scared that I do not become a peddler of false doctrine. Understanding that these are perilous times and knowing the whole shebang that comes with these times of peril:

“..Forever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth...”

You’ll understand my trepidation as I traverse this middle earth phase of my spiritual journey.

But before you begin to question whether or not I’ve gone over the deep edge already let me remind you that,

Sopater, son of Pyrrhus of Berea, was a companion of Paul.

You’re probably thinking, non sequitor. Relax okay! I’ve not at all gone meshugaas and I still do have all my faculties intact.

The Bereans were good people. Paul even described them in such glowing terms in Acts 17:11, as being

…more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so…

According to Strong’s concordance, the word “searched” in Greek is “Anakrino”. Here’s the entry:

Anakrino

1) Examine or judge

a) To investigate, examine, enquire into, scrutinize, sift, question

1) Specifically in a forensic sense of a judge to hold an investigation

2) To interrogate, examine the accused or witnesses

b) To judge of, estimate, determine (the excellence or defects of any person or thing

These guys respectfully listened to all Paul had to say, and with an open mind, engaged him in heated discussions. They questioned this “new and strange doctrine” he was preaching – which was contrary to what they’d always known, believed and practiced. They challenged Paul forcefully and sincerely, but they heard him out all the same and did not run him out of town – or label him as these that have turned the world upside down.

Afterwards the people of Berea went home, searched the scriptures, to verify the veracity of all that Paul told them. Unlike the folks in Thessalonica, who ranted and raged against Paul, the Bereans were polite. Those of them that were not convinced – after due and diligent search of the scriptures – chose to disagree without being disagreeable. Sopater was one of the Bereans who believed. He not only believed, he went on to join Paul in his itinerary – traveling with him, from city to city, to spread the Gospel to all men. This was a guy, Sopater, who challenged and questioned Paul – a man of God – yet Paul saw him as a man of integrity who would not be easily swayed by every wind of doctrine or sleight of man.

We fail as Christians if all we do is soak in whatever is told us. It’s hard to imagine how we’ll ever live up to our God-given potentials if we don’t challenge our own beliefs, customs, and traditions. As long as we remain of lazy of minds and profoundly incurious – the earnest expectation of the creature will have to wait a long while yet for the manifestation of the sons of God.

The near total spiritual incuriosity I see in many believers scares me. It’s even more frightening in that it’s all covered up in a cloak of “walking by faith”. Brothers and Sisters it’s not a sin to think. God wants us to use our minds – that’s why He gave us our brains. If it were not so Paul wouldn’t have challenged Timothy to:

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

So go on, don’t be scared, think for a change.

4 comments:

john said...

Few people want to discover that what they've always believed is wrong. The thought of finding out that one has been wrong all along is scary. Rather than try we simply ride along.....

felix said...

Akin,
your write up is brilliant, pertinent and eloquently articulated.
Reminds me of a saying commonly attributed to Albert Einstein "the most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. it is the fundermental emotion that lies at the cradle of all true art, and all true scince. Whoever does not know, and can no longer wonder, and can no longer marvel is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
The bottomline on all our enquiries and investigations in life has to be an unwavering persuation and Conviction, that God's word is the Truth and the final arbiter in all debates. Iam glad to see you embrace thace that fact. That, is what made the Bereans 'more nobler' so that as long as Paul taught out of the Scriptures, they received the word (not Paul!) and went back to daily re-examine and prove his 'strange' interpretations of it. A Christian whose delibrations stray outside the boundaries of God's revelation is riding a speedboat in the middle of the sea, headed straight for an iceberg.
Afolabi.
Omaha, NE.

amma said...

Ican relate to your feelings greatly. I once was of those group of people who thought it sacrilegeous to question what is said from the pulpit or by a man of God.Afterall what claim to anointing did i have? However recently i have noticed a quiet stirring within me, a discontent with the status quo, and that has lead me to start reading the bible , i mean study the bible for myself to see if this things be so. I want to know if all i have been taught really is of God , or certain men's interpretation. I believe in this days of false prophets our personal study and understanding of the scriptures will keep us safe and help us relate one with the other without schisms and strife.

Anonymous said...

There's a joke i once read a rather sad one and i can remember not laughing cos it sobered me up and it goes thus, a certain man who needed a brain transplant specifically asked to be given a christian's brain. Doctors were trying to make him realise that the brain is just an organ and thus has no religious persuasions but the man stuck to his request. When it was inquired of him why the insistence, he said "because a christian's brain is most likely the least used brain". This write up has re-affirmed the painful truth that christians are too lazy to think for themselves. May God help us all
Ema