Rev. Slopsema is pastor of First Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed.
Acts 17:10-12 Oh, to be more like the Bereans!
Paul was on his second missionary journey. In Thessalonica he and Silas preached the gospel of Jesus Christ first in the Jewish synagogue, as was their custom. Some of the synagogue believed. Soon, however, the unbelieving Jews of the city caused an uproar so that Paul and Silas had to flee. The brethren immediately sent them away unto Berea.
In Berea they found the members of the synagogue more noble than those of Thessalonica. This was evident in that the Bereans received the Word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures, whether these things were so.
The Bereans are an example for the brethren today. We do well to be more like the Bereans.
The nobility of the Bereans!
Nobility characterizes one who by reason of birth finds himself among the rich and powerful. Because of his birth and the privilege of birth, he is also well educated and well mannered.
In like manner were the Bereans noble. No, the synagogue of Berea was not the gathering of the cultured, the educated, and the powerful of Berea, for their nobility was not earthly or physical. Their nobility was spiritual. Their nobility consisted in the spiritual virtues they possessed. They were highly educated and cultured in true virtue. This came to them from their birth. The term “noble” means “well born.” The Bereans were well born in that they were born again by the grace of God. By a great work of grace God had transformed them, delivering them from the depravity into which all mankind is born and making them to be new creatures. Through this spiritual rebirth they became the sons and daughters of God, who reflected in their lives the virtues of God Himself. They had spiritual nobility.
Not only were the members of the synagogue of Berea noble, they were more noble than those of Thessalonica. This means that the fruits of the new birth were more evident and developed in the Bereans than in the Thessalonians. Certainly the fruits of the new birth were evident with the Thessa—lonians. But these excellent virtues were more developed and in greater evidence among the Bereans. Spiritually the synagogue of Berea far excelled that of Thessalonica.
This difference is explained by grace.
Also today we see different levels of spiritual nobility in individual saints as well as in churches. It is God’s grace that makes one to differ from another in this regard. The one has a richer measure of God’s grace than another.
But bear in mind that God’s grace is found and enjoyed only in connection with the Word. Except for the first workings of grace in our hearts, the grace of God always comes to us through means. And the chief means is the Word of God. God also uses the sacraments, prayer, and the fellowship of the saints to work His grace in us. But He uses primarily His Word. The conclusion is simple. The more we use the Word of God, the more we grow in grace and in spiritual nobility. In turn, when the Word is neglected, the level of nobility we attain is greatly diminished.
The great nobility of the Bereans is also explained by their faithful use of the Word of God. Mention is made of their searching the Scriptures. This indicates a familiarity with the Word and a long-standing practice of using the Word of God. The synagogue of Berea was a synagogue in which the Word of God was diligently preached, discussed, and taught to the children.
They searched the Scriptures, whether those things were so.
Many, when confronted with teachings and ideas of others, do not consult the Scriptures at all. Some evaluate what they hear solely on the basis of tradition. Others evaluate what they hear on the basis of the opinion of others or of the majority. Still others use as their basis of evaluation either their own reason or their feelings.
The Scriptures are the sole rule for doctrine and life. This is true because the Scriptures are the sole revelation of God to us. God will tell us what to believe and how to live. God has revealed this to us in the Scriptures and nowhere else. And so it is that we must judge all things according to the standard of the Scriptures. What is important is not the opinion of others, not what seems reasonable to us, not what makes us feel good, but what God has to say in the Scriptures.
The great nobility of the Bereans is seen in that they searched the Scriptures. They did not accept uncritically what Paul and Silas proclaimed to them about Jesus Christ. Nor did they reject Paul’s teaching simply because he came with some new thing. Rather they searched the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.
The nobility of the Bereans was also evident in that they received the word of Paul and Silas with all readiness of mind.
It is often the case that when people discover what the Scriptures teach on something, they will reject it, sometimes with hostility, for the Scriptures teach contrary to their ideals or desires. Or perhaps it is that the Scriptures require of them something they do not want to do.
But the Bereans were different. As they searched the Scriptures day by day and came to understand that what Paul brought them was in harmony with the Scriptures, they received the Word with readiness of mind. This means that they embraced the teaching of Paul with great enthusiasm. They did so even though the gospel of Jesus Christ was vehemently rejected by others, even though their embracing of the gospel of Jesus Christ would bring persecution to them.
And receiving the teaching of Paul, they believed in Jesus Christ.
This is the evidence of true spiritual nobility. To respond this way to the Word of God shows that one is well born, born of God.
How do you compare to the Bereans?
The Scriptures here make a comparison between the synagogue of Thessalonica and that of Berea. Those of the synagogue of Thessalonica were noble. But those of Berea were more noble.
How do you compare?
All those born again in Jesus Christ have spiritual nobility.
But how noble are you?
Do you look to the Scriptures to determine what you believe and how you live? Or do you tend to make tradition, or feelings, or reason, or the opinion of others the standard?
And what is your reaction to the Word of God? Do you receive it with readiness of mind? Or do you repudiate the Word of God when it tells you things that you do not particularly like to hear?
Our calling is to be like the Bereans. We are to excel in true spiritual nobility and show that by receiving the Word of God with all readiness of mind.
But that requires that we be busy with the Word. One excels in spiritual nobility only by diligent use of the Word.
The Word of God is neglected today. This is not only sad, but also ironic. The Bereans lived at a time when there was a low rate of literacy and scarcity of Bibles. Nevertheless they busied themselves with the Scriptures. Today the church is literate and has a glut of Bibles. Who in the church today doesn’t have many copies available to him? Yet the Scriptures are seldom studied or searched.
Let us busy ourselves in the Word. Attend the preaching of the Word. Children, hear the Word of God brought to you in Catechism. Study and search the Scriptures at home. Attend the Bible classes in your church, where you can learn the Scriptures in the fellowship of the saints.
The fruit will be the nobility of the Bereans, a nobility that will lead you to judge all things according to the standard of the Scriptures and to receive the Word of God with all readiness of mind.