By T. Doy Moyer
There always stands a challenge for the child of God to manifest a correct attitude toward truth. Sometimes it is difficult because we are used to certain things being the way they are, and despise any thought of change. Then there are others who do not like tradition of any kind, and they would always like to see “new things.” However, when we look at teachings or practices in terms of “old” or “new,” we miss the point. Acceptance of any practice or teaching ought not to be on the grounds of “old” or “new,” but whether or not it be true! Consider these three attitudes found in Acts 17.
Shortly after Paul and Silas were preaching in Philippi, they came to Thessalonica where, as usual, they stirred up the crowds. Many of the Jews became jealous and began to seek Paul and Silas. Notice what they said in v. 6, “These men who have upset the world have come here also” (NAS). It does not seem like it occurred to the Jews to think about why they turned the world upside down. They weren’t very interested in considering Jesus. To them, He was “new” and they wanted to stick with “the old paths.” They did not want to see change at all. If only they would have “searched the scriptures,” they would have found that Jesus was not “new.” In fact, he had been prophesied about hundreds of years before!
Unhappily, this very same attitude characterizes many today. When something “new” is introduced, they immediately move into an uproar and condemn anything that moves. If only they would take the time to search the Scriptures, perhaps they would find that a particular “new” concept really isn’t “new after all. Perhaps we have just neglected something for all these years (perish the thought). Or many will disguise it all by saying, “We’ve already tried that!” and keep others from trying. Let’s be careful to search for truth and not for “tradition” (Col. 2:8).
Then, there is the other extreme. Later in Acts 17, we find Paul in Athens where he was provoked to preach to these idolaters. Evidently, it was not too difficult at first because we find them saying, “May we know what this new teaching is, which is spoken by thee” (ASV). Then, Luke records in v. 21, “now all the Athenians and the strangers sojourning there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell or to hear some new thing.” This is an extremely dangerous attitude! They only cared to hear something if it was new. If it had any hint of “tradition” to it, they did not want it.
Is this not reminiscent Of those today who are “carried to and fro by every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:14)? They are unstable, without enough faith to keep anchored (cf. Jas. 1:6); and this puts one in a perilous position because of the likelihood that he will teach error (2 Pet. 3:16). They oppose tradition of any kind and therefore are constantly trying to introduce “new things.” People like this are not content to stay within the doctrine of Christ. They want to progress to keep up with the times. Thus, they come up with their “accommodative religion.” Brethren, let us keep from adopting this attitude wherein we become unstable and carried by “new things.” (Read Proverbs 24:21-22.)
We have seen two extremes that are still quite common today; and, as is so often the case, truth lies in the balance between the extremes. Let us examine the correct attitude. After Paul and Silas left Thessalonica, they went to Berea. Notice the first observation concerning the Bereans, “Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, examining the scriptures daily, whether these things were so” (Acts 17: 11). They did not accept the truth because it was new or old, nor because the “preacher said so.” They searched for themselves and asked the question, “is it true?” This is the way we must think! Yes, times change and people change, but the truth never changes! What was truth in the first century is still truth today. We must hold on to the traditions delivered by God (2 Thess. 2:15; 3:6). It does not matter how “old” they are. And if we find some truth that we have neglected, we need to obey it, regardless of how “new” it might be to us (Jas. 4:17). Let us not go to either extreme. Examine everything “old” or “new” to find out if it is true. If it is, let’s do it; if it’s not, let’s cast it away so that our life and worship will not be vain. Which attitude most characterizes you?
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 18, p. 553
September 17, 1987