As Paul and Silas traveled in Paul’s second missionary journey, they passed from Thessalonica (Acts 17) to the city of Berea. While in Thessalonica, Paul taught the Jews that Jesus was the promised Messiah, reasoning with them “from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead” (17:2-3). Paul knew that as the Jews were heavily invested in their Bibles (our Old Testament), he needed to show clearly that Jesus was that Savior.
Paul had some degree of success in Thessalonica among Jews and Gentiles but the Jews, as a bloc, were jealous (notice their reaction was not grounded in Scripture nor reasoning) and wound up driving Paul and Silas out of town. At which point they came to Berea.
Luke writes that the Jews in Berea were more “noble-minded” than the Jews in Thessalonica. The verb translated “noble-minded” means a “willingness to learn and evaluate something fairly” (Louw-Nida). I presume that Paul did in Berea the same thing he did in Thessalonica (verses 2-3). But in Berea, the Jews were willing to open their Bibles “with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (vs 11).
Incidentally, if we, as preachers, want our congregations to have the same noble-mindedness, then we need to encourage, allow, train and insist that they search the Scriptures to see if what we are saying is true. In other words, don’t speak so fast that the audience cannot take down appropriate notes from our lessons. Don’t quote Scripture to such a degree that our audience cannot follow that we are appropriately interpreting the text within its context. Have them open the Scriptures in your sermons and allow them to see and read the text for themselves.
Why? Because the Bible teaches, as the Jews and Paul illustrate, that it has the final word on any given religious or spiritual subject. Kevin DeYoung, in his book Taking God at His Word, writes that the Bereans were more noble because “they were utterly submissive to the Scriptures. They would accept something new – if it could be supported in the Scriptures. They would believe something controversial – if it were based in Scripture. They were willing to follow Christ for the rest of their lives, provided they were, in the process, following the Scriptures” (pg 75). What a remarkable point to make and so relevant for us today.
There is a considerable degree of disunity and disharmony among professing Christians today. You have Catholics and Orthodox, liberal Protestants and so-called evangelical (conservative) Protestants. Then you have Christians who just follow the New Testament. The fundamental difference among them is their belief in and approach to the finality of Scripture. Where is your authority? Is it the Pope? The Patriarch? Modern culture? Respective creeds? Or just the New Testament of Jesus Christ?
The Word of God is just that, the word of God. How can we ignore it? Add to it? Alter it? Diminish it? It is by the word of Christ that we will be judged (John 12:48) and that is final!