I recently made an embarrassing mistake, but it is little consolation to know that millions make the same mistake daily. Allow me to describe my failure briefly. I heard a couple of people talking about how they felt like they were overpaying for a particular service that I too purchase on a regular basis. One said to the other that the price they paid was more than what the company advertises on their website and they were going to call and demand a reason for the alleged fraud.
When I arrived home, I got my latest statement and compared it with the prices the company posted on their website and amazingly it seemed that I too was being defrauded. Since there was no customer service available via telephone, I sent an email to the address listed and aired my grievances over the injustice of paying more and getting less. After trying to find a reason for this inequity from a reputable company, I happened to turn over my bill and discovered that explained very clearly why I was paying the price on the statement and I was not being cheated whatsoever. About the time of this humiliating discovery, I received a kind email explaining what I had just learned was the policy of the company and they were not swindling me in any way. Sheepishly, I returned an email begging forgiveness and apologizing if I had been unkind in my previous false accusations to the customer service department. How does my experience have any application to your life or anyone else’s for that matter?
I listened to others and I assumed they were informed about the matter. I read only enough to find my new preconceived notion and I foolishly reacted to it without reflection or further research. Does this not sound very much like how many people do in religious matters? They simply hear someone they think is an expert because he is called preacher, pastor, priest, or some other religious title and swallow whatever they are told. If they read the Bible, they read to simply confirm what they already believe instead of reading and allowing Scripture to be the sole authority in what they believe and practice.
Let me give you a couple of examples. Many people when asked about what is necessary to receive salvation from sin will give the simple instruction: “Call upon the name of the Lord.” This was mentioned by Peter in his sermon in Acts 2:21, but what does it mean? Some think that it involves nothing more than crying out: “Lord, save me!” If you keep reading in Acts 2 it becomes clear that belief, repentance, and baptism is necessary to be saved as verses 38 to 41 teach.
Many look at the conversion of Saul in Acts 9 and assert that he was saved on the road to Damascus, but what happens if you keep reading? When Saul, who is better known as Paul, recounts this event he provides this important exchange in Acts 22:16: “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.” Ananias went on the instruction of the Lord and taught Paul the Gospel. Obeying the Gospel and receiving salvation included this climaxing admonition that was cited above and these are the same terms that people must comply with today to be saved. Additionally, notice that calling on the name of the Lord was accomplished when one was baptized to have their sins washed away. Sadly, some stop reading too soon.
One more example will suffice to illustrate the danger of stopping in your reading and not reading all Scripture has to teach. In Acts 16, we read of Paul and Silas imprisoned in Philippi. After a miraculous earthquake, the jailer begs the two Gospel servants: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved” (Acts 16:30)? They responded as recorded in verse 31: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Many stop right there and staunchly affirm that belief is all that is required for salvation, but what happens if you keep reading? After Paul and Silas speak the word of the Lord to the jailer and his household, Scripture records in Acts 16:33 that they were baptized that same hour of the night, which was likely two or three in the morning. Why would they have done this if they only needed to believe? Clearly, if you keep reading this chapter and if you read the entirety of the book of Acts you will discover that every account of people receiving salvation in the book of Acts find them hearing the Gospel, believing the Gospel, repenting of their sins, confessing belief in Jesus Christ, and being immersed or baptized in water to complete their obedience and to receive forgiveness of sins.
Learn from my foolish mistake: don’t listen to others, even if you think they are experts, and don’t stop reading too soon!