The Noble Bereans
Loving God, I bring You my certainties and my doubts. I pray that You’ll move me to a deeper faith today.
Read ACTS 17:1–15
When Paul and his companions had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. 2 As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said. 4 Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women.
5 But other Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. 6 But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, 7 and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” 8 When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. 9 Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go.
10 As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.
13 But when the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, some of them went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up. 14 The believers immediately sent Paul to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed at Berea. 15 Those who escorted Paul brought him to Athens and then left with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible.
New International Version (NIV)
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“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Phil. 4:8).
I remember being amused and confused to learn at a young age that I should be “a good Berean.” This passage explains what this rather strange phrase actually means. After Paul has been led into the region of Macedonia and dramatically released from prison in Philippi (Acts 2), he arrives to preach in the city of Thessalonica. While a number of people respond positively, the city ends up erupting in a violent mob, protesting that Paul’s message leads people to worship “another king, one called Jesus,” instead of Caesar (7).
Paul and Silas escape to Berea. The response there to the Gospel message is in stark contrast to that of the Thessalonians: “The Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (11).
This episode challenges us to emulate the example of the noble Bereans in at least three specific ways. Their character is “noble” or “fair-minded.” The Greek word eugenesteroi originally meant “well born” and implied nobility, but it came to mean a generous spirit and an open mind towards truth, not prejudiced or suspicious of others but giving others a fair hearing. They also received the message with “great eagerness.” This is prothumos, denoting enthusiasm and zeal, such as that of a ravenously hungry man devouring the food set before him. Finally, they examined the Scriptures (the Old Testament) daily, to ascertain the truth. They were deeply grounded in God’s Word, but they were open to experiencing new revelation and teaching, which re-established God’s truth among them in an ongoing and relevant way.
In a complicated world of politics, philosophies and competing truth claims, how can you follow the Bereans and fix your mind on the true ways of God found in Scripture?
Lord, what an example the Bereans set before me. I need the challenge of approaching the Scriptures with integrity and care.