“Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11)
The Jews in question here were from the city of Berea. Paul and Silas have been sent there because of the trouble that they had suffered in Thessalonica. When Paul and his band of fellow ministers entered Thessalonica they found the city’s synagogue and reasoned with those in attendance from the Scriptures for the next three Saturdays (Jewish Sabbath) proving that Jesus was in fact the Christ (Acts 17:2-3). The result of his preaching bore much fruit as some Jews and a larger number of Greeks were saved, including some important women (Acts 17:4). Not everyone was pleased, for a large number of Jews who became jealous (more than likely at the conversion/inclusion of Gentiles into the family of God) began to stir up the people with their words. They got other like-minded people to side with them, formed a mob, setting the city in an uproar, all in order to attack those who had been preaching Jesus (Acts 17:5). Their claim to the civil authorities was that, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also…and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king, Jesus” (Acts 17:6b-7).
After this Paul and Silas were sent away out of concern for their safety, and the place where they stopped was Berea. Most people, I would imagine, would take the cues from the populace and remain quiet. Or at least do their preaching behind the scenes, in private, in order to stay safe. However, the first place they went was the Jewish synagogue (see Acts 17:11 at top of page). Paul and those with him attested to the same message. In fact, everywhere they went this was the message that Paul sought to convince the people of, and he would continually argue with the people from the Word of God that Jesus is Christ (Messiah; King).
The question, I want to pose to you today is this: “Why were the Bereans considered to be more noble than the Thessalonians?” “What was it that marked them as different?” “How were they special?” Notice that when Paul preached they received the “word with all eagerness,” and they “examined the Scriptures daily” to check him. When Paul taught, he taught from the Old Testament Scriptures (Torah). His message was an accurate reflection of God’s message.
Paul’s claim would have been just as radical to his 1st century’s audience’s ears, as our own. And yet, the Bereans were hungry for what he had to say, and they tested his words with the Bible. Let those last few words sink in a bit. “They tested his words with the Bible; with the Word of God.” You say, “Why is that important? Why should that matter?” Over the past few weeks I have touched on worldviews and the foundation stones of those views. At base every person has an ultimate standard from which they judge, test, or measure all other truth claims. All people in their heart of hearts, have one supreme standard by which they make sense of the world around them. The same way in which a foundation holds up a house, or a pair of crutches keeps the person with a broken leg from hitting the ground, our ultimate standard upholds our thinking. As I’ve said on another occasion, this standard governs the way we think, the way we act, the way we see and interpret the world around us.
For the Bereans that standard was God’s Word. True, the Apostle Paul preached and taught with a lot of passion. No doubt, his voice was full of passion and zeal. However, the Bereans did not trust in what they were experiencing. They were not convinced by his words because of some burning in their bosom, or the conviction found in his mannerisms. No, when it came to know the truth from the lie, they trusted the Scriptures above all else. My point, if you have not got it yet, is that they trust God’s revealed, inspired, breathed-out Word over and above anything this Apostle of Christ had to say.
In case you are tempted to believe that this was not/is not expected of all people, listen to the Apostle Peter: “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty…And [yet] we have more firm the prophetic word, to which we do well giving heed, as to a lamp shining in a dark place….” (2Pet 1.16; ESV; 19a; YLT). Peter is saying to his readers, it is true that we did not teach you myths or fables, for we were eyewitnesses to the things that came to pass; however, something more reliable, something more perfect is given, so that you may know the truth—the prophetic Word; the Word of God.
Each and every person on this earth, regardless of their ethnicity, is God’s creation (see Acts 17:26). All people bear the mark of having been made in the Image of God (Gen 1:26-27). God’s intent is for His creatures to reflect him to the world around him. We are like shadows made to mimic our Creators thoughts and actions. This is only possible, however, if our final standard of appeal is His revealed Word; The Holy Bible, both Old and New Testaments.
Not only is the Bible our final standard of appeal when weighing truth statements, but it is naturally—as our ultimate standard—our starting point. For the Bereans of Paul’s day this was true, and we too may share in the Holy Spirit’s obvious nod of approval, if we likewise start with and end with Scripture. What my fellow construction workers called getting an “adda-boy” from the boss. While, God is so much more than just a boss to us, the truth remains that He does reward faithfulness to the standard for which He has set, and shall judge all men by.
In short, remember this, God created you for a purpose and that purpose is not your own. He created you to bear His Image to all creation, to reflect His way of thinking and acting. Although the necessary prerequisite is true faith in Christ alone, those that profess to be Christians need to learn to walk as He walked (cf. 1John 2:6). This is only possible when God’s Word is our Ultimate Standard for all things. That is what it means to truly be a Berean. Even better yet, a true Christian.
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