There are many times in life when mistakes are made because one has preconceived notions that prove to be false. People bring their own biases to the Bible when they read and study it. Perhaps they view it through the lens of Calvinism, Pentecostalism, or even atheism. Whatever it is, these people have preconceived biases or notions.
The same thing was true in biblical times. Throughout the Gospel accounts and Acts it can be seen that people had preconceived ideas of what the Messiah would be. Therefore, they read all the prophecies with that lens, expecting the prophecies to back up their biases.
That the Israelites expected an earthly king is obvious. Jesus refuted the idea by stating to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world…” (John 18:36). It was not just the common Jews or even the overly strict Pharisees that thought this. This view even permeated into Christ’s own chosen apostles! One would think that after three years of teaching, they would understand the nature of Christ’s kingdom, but still they did not! Even in the last moments of Christ’s time on earth before the ascension, they still expected an earthly kingdom. Acts 1:6 says, “they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” Even Jesus’ closest disciples had preconceived notions and biases. Can Christians today possibly be so bold and brash as to say they do not?
All throughout the first part of Acts, it is apparent that Peter and the other apostles had to deal with people’s preconceived notions. He proclaims, “Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know (Acts 2:22).” Peter was telling them: LOOK! This was happening right in front of you! God was showing His approval of Christ in that Jesus was working miracles through Him, and you saw it! In preaching to the crowd of onlookers, he said “Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you…which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began (Acts 3:20-21).” Peter is basically telling them: God has been telling you about the Christ since the beginning. You should have known Jesus was the One. Earlier in the chapter he acknowledges that they were ignorant of the true meaning of the scriptures (Acts 3:17-18). Peter convicted them, saying that their preconceived ideas kept them from recognizing that Jesus was the Christ.
Jesus is called “the stone which was set at naught of you builders, which is become head of the corner (Acts 4:11).” This is a reference to the Jews rejecting Jesus. It is strange that the Jews were looking forward so much to the Messiah that when He came, they didn’t recognize Him. The reason for this was that they had preconceived ideas of what He would be.
If they would have let the Scripture speak for itself, they would have known Jesus as the Christ from the beginning. Christians today also need to let the scriptures speak for themselves. There are many doctrines in the religious world that people assume (preconceived idea) are in the Bible. Ideas such as “faith only” and “once saved, always saved” are not found in the Bible. But when some read the scriptures, it is read through that lens. In doing so, the truth that is plain to see is missed. All should learn from the lesson of those Jews. Preconceived ideas should be left behind and the Holy Spirit should be allowed to plainly speak the truth to all through His Word.