“The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 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. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men”. Acts 17:10-12 (ESV)
The word “noble” normally referred to a person’s family lineage. In this passage however, it is referring to their character not to their lineage. In other words, regardless of their parentage they were noble because of their character and actions.
What was it about the Berean’s character that made them more noble than the Thessalonians? It was the way the responded to Paul’s preaching. I want to show you how to develop the kind of nobility that the Berean’s had.
Be Willing To Be Wrong
The Bible says that the Berean’s “…received the word with all eagerness…” This implies that they gave what Paul and Silas were teaching a fair hearing. They really listened to what Paul and Silas had to say, despite the fact that what they were teaching was contrary to what they already believed.
The Berean’s that listened to Paul and Silas were one of three things. Some were Jews who were living in Berea. Others may have been Greek converts to Judaism. If they were either of these, then Paul’s teaching about Jesus being the Messiah was contrary to what the religious leaders were pushing. Then there were some that were plain ole Greeks. If they were plain ole Greeks, they were almost assuredly idolaters. This would make Paul’s teaching very contrary to what they were used to hearing.
They were one of those three and despite the fact that Paul taught contrary to what they already believed, they listed and were willing to be wrong. They gave Paul and Silas a fair hearing and didn’t dismiss what they were saying out of hand.
If we are going to have the kind of noble character that the Berean’s had, then we must be willing to be wrong. We must accept that we may not have a lock on everything. We must be willing to give a fair hearing to something, even if it goes against what we already believe, and not dismiss it out of hand with a “Sorry, I just don’t believe like that.” This is a hard thing to do. As I thought about this I became more and more convinced that there are a couple of reasons we have to be willing to be wrong about things.
First, I think that to be totally unwilling to ever listen to something different and be wrong is really little more than prideful stubbornness. Now I’m not suggesting we should change with every wind of doctrine. But to assume that you have it all locked up and could not possibly be wrong is pride. To be unwilling to admit when you are proven wrong is stubborn. Put them together and you get prideful stubbornness.
Secondly, I am convinced that when we become unwilling to admit we could be wrong and we stop listening to things that challenge us we stop growing. Some of the greatest times of growth in my life came when I was challenged about issues I was already fairly convinced about. When I was challenged about these issues, decided that I could be wrong about them and searched them out for myself, I grew far more than I would have by dismissing them.
Search The Scriptures For Yourself
The Berean’s not only listened to Paul’s teaching with a willingness to be wrong, but they also didn’t blindly accept what he said as the truth. They examined the Scriptures daily to see if what Paul was saying was correct.
This is such a critical thing for us to do. Someone told me once, “I don’t like to study the Bible on my own. I like to come to church and have the preacher tell me what it means and what I should do about it.” In other words, they want to be told what to believe and how to live. That is dangerous. This is how cults start and have such enormous influence over the lives of their people.
Never, never, never, take anybodies word for what the Bible says and how it should be lived out without searching the Scriptures out daily for yourself. My desire is that everything I write, teach and preach will be Biblically accurate and the application will flow accurately out of the Scriptures. However, don’t take my word for it. Search the Scriptures for yourself.
Why is this so important? One reason is the priesthood of every believer (1 Peter 2:9). Part of what this means is that no one person is more important than any other person is. It also means that each one of us has the right to interpret the Scriptures for themselves. As Christians, each one of us has the right, privilege and I believe the responsibility to search the Scriptures for ourselves.
Secondly, the Bible is the absolute and final authority for all things. Always check what someone says/teaches against what God has said in His Word. If what they are saying is different than what God has said, they are wrong. Of course, we do want to keep in mind the difference between primary and secondary doctrines but we even want to study out secondary issues for ourselves. It is perfectly acceptable to tell someone, “I believe the Bible is infallible. But I do not believe that your interpretations necessarily are.”
Live What You Learn To Be True
The Berean’s genuinely listened to what Paul had to say. They then searched the Scriptures for themselves to see if his teaching was true. In doing this, they determined that what he said was accurate. This resulted in them living out what they learned to be true. We are told that many of them believed. In other words, they took what Paul preached and put it into practice in their lives. They lived what they learned.
One of the most important things for us to remember is that the Bible is to lived out not just listened to. James makes it clear that hearing the Bible isn’t enough. We have to take it, apply to our lives and live it out on a daily basis (James 1:21-25).
It’s not as much about how much Scripture we know, it’s about how much Scripture we live. A prayer we see prayed frequently in Scripture is for a deeper understanding of God’s Word. We see this prayer often in Psalm 119. The Psalmist prayed to better understand God’s Word so that he could better live God’s Word.
“Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes, And I shall keep it to the end. Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart. Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, For I delight in it.” Psalm 119:33-35 (NKJV) Teach me so that I can follow. Give me understanding so that I can obey. I will put in into practice with all my heart.
Rather than reject Paul out of hand or blindly accept what he had to say, the Berean’s searched the Scriptures for themselves. When they determined that Paul was preaching the truth, they believed Scripture and began to live Scripture. In our day of counterfeit Bible teachers, it is important that instead of drinking the Kool-Aid we learn to search the Scriptures for ourselves and then live out what we learn to be true.
Heavenly Father, help us to have the noble character of the Berean’s. Let us genuinely listen to Your Word as it is taught. Help us to understand Your Word as we search the Scriptures for ourselves. Give us the courage to live out what we learn to be true. Amen