Bless the Lord, O my soul,   
And all that is within me,   
bless His holy name.   
Bless the Lord, O my soul,   
And forget none of His benefits.   
- Psalms 103:1-2   
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Achieving Our Own Religious Convictions

                Do we really, truly believe and follow through with scripture that we proclaim? We often hear quoted Acts 17:11 “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica in that they received the word with all readiness and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” (NKJV). The text reveals why the Bereans were more noble (fair minded) than the other Jews. We must notice that they were allowed and able to hear what was being proclaimed by Paul and Silas. We then find that they received the word with all readiness and secondly, they searched the scriptures to find out if the things which they received (heard) were so. The Jews at Thessalonica who didn’t want the matter to be heard by all set about to prevent Paul and Silas in their efforts of proclaiming to others so that the matter would not be presented for others to hear. The Jews even went so far as to follow Paul and Silas to Berea trying to prevent the people in Berea from hearing the matter (Acts 17:13). According to the text why did the Jews of Thessalonica not want others to hear of this matter? The reason scripture gives is that they were overtaken with envy (Acts 17:5). Paul had faced this obstacle before as recorded in Acts 13:45 “But when the Jews saw the multitude, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul.” Webster’s Dictionary defines envy as “resentful awareness of another’s advantages” and Strong’s defines as “tormented by another’s good fortune and is active and aggressive to diminish the good in another”. Why did envy raise its ugly head within the Jews? What prompted them to be so envious? They were losing their religious control or power over the people which caused them to lose their advantage. The common people looking up to the Jews as the source of knowledge in the scriptures was being eroded and they were losing that distinction. The fellow Jews who believed Paul were turning away from the Jews and the Jews were losing their prominence and standing with the people causing their ego to suffer and turning their actions into envy. The best way for the Jews to keep control over the people was to do everything to prevent the people from hearing the message from Paul and Silas. The Roman clergy did the same thing with the common layman in not allowing the Bible in the hands of the common man with only the clergy having the scripture. The common man had to look to and depend on the Roman clergy for what to believe religiously. We must be careful in quoting Acts 17:11 and then becoming guilty in not letting both sides of a matter to be heard so that people can study the matter for themselves. There must be readiness to let the people hear so that they can search the scriptures themselves. Shame is laid at the feet of the leadership who quote Acts 17:11 but will not allow both sides of a matter to be presented so that individuals can search the scriptures and reach their own religious conviction on the matter. You and I will stand before God to give an account of our own religious convictions and not the convictions of someone else (1 Thess. 5:21; Romans 14:22; 1 John 4:1 and Philippians 2:12). Let each individual hear both sides and let them reach their own convictions through their own studies. To not allow this is treating individuals as being not able to search for themselves, not being able to think for themselves and not being able to have their own religious convictions but that they must adopt someone else’s conviction as their conviction.

- Larry Bumgardner