Read: Acts 17: 1 – 34
Focus: Acts 17: 11 – 12
11 And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. 12 As a result, many Jews believed, as did many of the prominent Greek women and men.
The Bereans have always fascinated me. Who were these Bereans that Luke is writing about? What makes them different from the other Jews that Paul preached to (Paul preached to both Gentiles and his fellow Jews)? One characteristic that makes them stand apart is the initial description that Luke uses of the Bereans. In the NLT translation and some others, that word is “open-minded”. The description I am more used to seeing would be the one used in some other translations: “noble”. The Greek word used here for the descriptor is: eugenesteroi. According to Bibletools.org, it means of a generous spirit, open-minded toward truth, not prejudiced, hostile, or suspicious of others, but willing to give others a fair hearing. The Bereans are considered as noble because they listened to the preaching of the Gospel with open hearts as they pursued God and His whole truth.
A second description is that they listened eagerly to Paul’s message; I think it’s important to look at the word “eagerly” here. The Greek word used for “eagerly” is prothumos, which would indicate that they listened to Paul with enthusiasm, eagerness, and zeal. I like the description from Bibletools.org: “The Greek word prothumos paints a word-picture of a ravenously hungry man who devours the food set before him or an extremely thirsty man who is finally given something to drink.” So the Bereans were like a starving man and the Gospel was the life giving food.
Finally, the Bereans “searched the Scripture daily to see if Paul and Silas were telling the truth.” I think this is absolutely critical for us as Christians to remember. We can be bombarded on any given day with information to process including what various people are saying about Christianity and faith. But what’s the source of their preaching? I see quotes on places like Facebook all that claim to be Christian wisdom but when unwrapped really don’t convey a Biblical message. I hear people say that they heard something from God or they know God “thinks or feels” a certain way, but what they are offering isn’t Biblical. As a Christian, we really only have one primary source of truth, and it’s the same one the Bereans had two thousand years ago – God’s revealed Word to us, the Bible.
This is why the Bible warns us multiple times to test what we hear and read against the truth found in the Bible. For instance, in 1 John 4:1, we’re told: “Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.” In 1 Thessalonians 5:20 – 21 Paul tells us: “Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good.”
The Bereans were commended for reading Scripture daily and testing the teaching that Jesus was the Messiah against the truth found in the Bible. What many of the Bereans found in the Scripture convinced them that while the Gospel of Jesus Christ being taught by Paul and Silas differed from what they had previously believed, the Scripture actually supported it as truth, which led them to come to faith in Jesus.
I think these three characteristics/actions by the Bereans are approaches that we as Christians also need to emulate:
1. We need be open-minded towards the truth and generous in spirit, not hostile towards others.
2. We need to be eager in our approach to faith. Going to church on Sunday shouldn’t be a chore, but rather something we are eager to do and approach with zeal because it is an opportunity to worship our Lord, learn about Him, and be with other believers. When we serve others, we should do so with enthusiasm because, as Jesus tells us, what we do for the least of these we also do for Him.
3. We need to be able to test what we hear and what we read against the ultimate source of truth that we have as Christians – the Bible. In order to do this, we are responsible for spending time regularly reading the Word of God (if we don’t, we won’t have the wisdom or knowledge necessary for this). When we encounter a teaching or philosophy that is counter to the Bible, no matter how good or pleasing it may sound to our itching ears, we need to accept that it is counter to the truth God has revealed to us and should be dismissed because it isn’t God’s best for us. As Paul warned in 2 Timothy 4:3 “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”
Lord, thank You that You provide examples for us in Your word. Please help me follow the good examples You provide such as that of the Bereans. Please lead me in wisdom and help me to know You. Give me the courage and ability to dismiss teachings and philosophies that aren’t from You, and help me to do so with a loving and gentle manner that brings glory to You rather than to me. Where I lack zeal and eagerness in my pursuit of You, please continue filling me with Your Holy Spirit and make me enthusiastic to fulfill the purpose You have for me. In Jesus’ name… Amen