The Diligent Bible Study of the Bereans
Tonight we are talking about the topic of diligent Bible study. And for many who have studied the Bible, you cannot think about being diligent with the Scriptures without thinking about the Jews in Berea. In fact, many Bible study groups are called “The Bereans” for this reason. The Bereans are a shining example of faithfulness to the Word of God and give us great inspiration on how we should treat the Scriptures.
There are only five verses in Scripture dedicated to the Bereans. They have a minor role in the whole of the Bible but their testimony is dynamite. Let’s examine and see what their role is and hopefully gain some insights on how we should study and treat the Word of God. The account of the Bereans can be found in Acts 17:10-15.
As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue.
Before we continue with what took place in Berea it would be worth the time for us to understand what happened leading up to this event. Paul and Silas had been visiting and preaching the Gospel in the city of Thessalonica. However, their message was not met with enthusiasm from the Jews in the city. In Acts 17:5 it says:
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.
The Jews were upset and jealous because they were losing the religious war that was going on between them and the Christians. This was not a literal physical war, but a war of ideas which led to the persecution of the Christians. If you recall, until his conversion, Paul was one of those Jewish persecutors. It must have been even more infuriating to the Jews that he was now proclaiming the very Gospel that he had sought to destroy. So they got some “bad characters” as the NIV puts it. The New American Standard is more forceful and says that these were wicked men, the New King James says they were evil men. These men were morally worthless and they were now after Paul and Silas so they had to get out of Thessalonica as quickly as possible. In verses 9 and 10 we see that the believers were able to post bond and they got Paul and Silas out of the city.
Why would the Jews be so upset about Paul preaching the Gospel of Christ?
Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go. As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue.
One thing to note is that regularly Paul’s first stop in a new city was the synagogue. This was not to agitate the Jews, though that certainly was a result, but rather, Paul, who was a Jew himself, felt the need to reach out to God’s chosen people and his own people primarily. His heart burned for the Jews to see them come to Christ after his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus. We need to stop here for a moment and ask ourselves a couple of questions. Do we have this kind of love and burning desire for those that grow up around us? Do we have this desire for the lost in America?
Why did Paul feel a profound need to spread the Gospel to the Jews?
Why did Paul and Silas flee to Berea in the first place?
A Different Kind of Jew
A Different Kind of Jew
The passage tells us something very interesting about the Jews in Berea and explained that there was a stark contrast from the Jews there versus the Jews in Thessalonica.
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. As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.
Note that Berea was about 45 miles from Thessalonica to the southwest. They were neighbors to the Jews in Thessalonica but the passage states that the Berean Jews were of more noble character than their neighboring Jews in Thessalonica.
What do you think it means to be of more noble character?
The Jews in Thessalonica did not want to hear what Paul and Silas had to say. They shut them out before they even began. But in Berea they were noble or open-minded to the Gospel. They had a higher character. It says that they received the message with a great eagerness. In other words, they were happy to listen to what Paul had to say, they were excited about it, they wanted to hear what this highly trained man of the Scriptures, and Paul was as highly trained as they come, had to say about the possibility that their Messiah had actually come.
What does it mean to be eager about hearing the word?
Why would they especially want to hear what Paul had to say?
But even with this enthusiasm and this eagerness and this excited longing to hear what Paul had to say, they did not take what he said for granted. They did not just sit there, check their watch, and hope that the service was almost over thinking about what they had to do that afternoon. In fact, what they had to do that afternoon wasn’t even a thought because they went back and examined the Scriptures to see if what Paul was telling them was true. To examine something means to scrutinize, to give a detailed analysis, to discover the essential meaning and the core of what was being said and to find the truth.
What does it mean to examine the Scriptures?
They didn’t just hear the word that Paul gave and accept it like mindless sponges. They took it seriously. This was something that was too big to just believe at first word just because it sounded good. They did not just want something that sounded good, they wanted the truth and they wanted to be sure what was being told to them was truth. They did not want to be misled and worship a false Messiah. Remember, to the Jews, if they followed a false Messiah that would be the largest betrayal of God that they could have. They had to be sure that this was true. The Jews were serious about the study of Scripture. Remember, these people come to the study of Scriptures taking to heart passages like Psalm chapter one:
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.
They delighted in the law of the Lord and meditated on it every day. This was the standard practice for the Jews. In fact the Jewish Talmud states:
“As the child must satisfy its hunger day by day, so must the grown man busy himself with the Torah each hour” (Yer. Ber. ch. ix.).
What would it mean for the Jews if Paul was not telling the truth and they followed him mindlessly?
And verse 12 of our text gives us what they found, what Paul said was true. Because of this, many of them believed. It says that not only did the Jews come to know Christ and believe but so did some prominent Greek men and women. We don’t know who exactly the Greek men and women were but we know they were important people, people of a notable position. They examined the Scriptures, they thoroughly checked their sources, and verified what Paul was telling them. Jesus was their Messiah.
Study the Scriptures Daily
Study the Scriptures Daily
But notice again what it says in the middle part of verse 11:
and examined the Scriptures every day
They examined the Scriptures every day. In fact, I really like the way the Living Bible puts this.
But the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and gladly listened to the message. They searched the Scriptures day by day to check up on Paul and Silas’ statements to see if they were really so.
This wasn’t just something that they did when they wanted to find out. It wasn’t just something they did if it was assigned to them or if there was a Sunday School (obviously they didn’t have Sunday School then) lesson to be taught. This was something they did every day to find the truth. They wanted to know the truth. They wanted to know God. They wanted to know their Messiah and their Savior. It took daily diligent study to accomplish this. This was their top priority.
If we follow the Berean’s example, how often should we study the Scriptures?
Do you have trouble spending daily time in God’s word? Why or why not?
The Truth Brings Trouble
The Truth Brings Trouble
The truth had been found in Berea, but as happens so many times, the truth brought trouble.
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. The believers immediately sent Paul to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed at Berea. Those who escorted Paul brought him to Athens and then left with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible.
The Jews in Thessalonica just couldn’t be silent, remember they were wicked and evil men. They heard that the Gospel was now being preached by Paul just a little ways away in Berea and they wanted to put it to a stop but once again, Paul slipped through their fingers. The believers took care of Paul and sent him on his way to Athens.
Often the truth will bring trouble. The entire ministry of Christ, as well as the apostles, show this. It often leads to persecution. Paul knew this but thought it was worth the cost. In Philippians he said:
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Paul understood the costs of the truth, as did the Bereans, and he was willing to pay that cost so that the truth would be proclaimed.
What are the dangers of proclaiming truth?
So, what are we to take away from this? What can we learn from the example of the Bereans?
How often do we let things get in the way of our time in the Word of God? Do we diligently search the Scriptures for truth or do we just take whatever the speaker we are listening to for granted? Do we verify what they say?
Tonight, are you hearing what I say and just assuming it is true? I will admit that I would never intend to misinterpret or make a mistake in my Bible teaching but that does not mean I am not capable of doing so. All men make mistakes. We are fallible and prone to error. For this reason, you should never take what I say or what any speaker says for granted without checking the Scripture yourself to see that it is true.
We should be in the Word daily. Not because it is something that we are supposed to be doing but because it is something that we are excited to do. We should have a love for the Word of God that drives us to live daily in the Word of God.
Do you have that kind of love and respect for the Bible? Is that something you can say you honestly strive for? If the answer is no, and I’m talking to myself as much as anyone, I think you need to ask yourself why not and pray that God gives you that desire and love for His Word. Let us pray.