The Noble Bereans

by David Padfield

In the sixteenth chapter of Acts, we find Paul at the city of Troas in what is now western Turkey (Acts 16:6-10). He had thought of preaching in Asia, but was forbidden by the Holy Spirit. He wanted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit him. It is possible that Paul went to God in prayer to inquire about what God had in mind for him, for Paul saw a vision of a man of Macedonia who stood and pleaded with Paul, "Come over to Macedonia and help us."

In New Testament times what is known to us today as "Greece" was two Roman provinces, Macedonia in the north, and Achaia in the south. The door of faith was opened to Paul and he was about to take the gospel from Asia to Europe. Leaving Troas by boat Paul sailed to the northwest and came to Neapolis, known today as Kavala, in Greece. Neapolis was the regular landing place for those who desired to travel by the Egnatian Way, the great Roman military highway, stretching some 490 miles across Macedonia, linking the Adriatic with the Aegean Sea.

Leaving the seaport of Neapolis he traveled 12 miles north to Philippi, a Roman colony, and it was in this city that Paul first preached the gospel on European soil. The gospel was shared first with Lydia and her household, and then the Philippian jailer and his family.

Funerary relief Archeological Museum in BereaLuke tells us Paul left Philippi and traveled west through Amphipolis and Apollonia, and then to Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-4). After an uproar in Thessalonica, Paul traveled about 50 miles southwest to Berea, the most ancient city in Macedonia (Acts 17:10-15). During Roman times, the city prospered and for that reason Roman Emperors often visited it in order to attend the ceremonies held to honor them.

The Archeological Museum in Berea contains many artifacts from the ancient parts of the city, including many elaborate grave markers. The city also has a monument they call The Altar of the Apostle Paul, which was dedicated to remind us of the place where the apostle preached. The monument is located on the site of the Church of the Megas Theologos (Great Theologian). Murals on the monument depict Paul preaching to the Bereans, and of him receiving the Macedonian call.

Luke credits the Bereans with being "fair-minded" (NKJV) people (Acts 17:11). The phrase "fair-minded" is rendered "noble" in other translations, and signifies "of more noble character." What was it about the Bereans that made them such "fair-minded" or "noble" people?

They Received The Word With All Readiness

The Bereans were among a small group of Paul's Jewish kinsmen who were eager to receive the message Paul preached, and therefore the salvation he offered to them in Christ. They listened attentively and eagerly to the gospel. They were open-minded and ready to hear more and more of what God had to say to them. The conduct of these Jews cannot be too highly commended, or too closely imitated. A common sin of men today is a refusal to examine candidly and patiently the claims of the gospel.

The parable of the sower reveals that one's attitude of heart is a good predictor of how the seed of the kingdom will prosper in their lives (Luke 8:4-8, 11-15). The Jews on the day of Pentecost were "cut to the heart" and 3,000 of them obeyed the gospel of Christ that same day (Acts 2:37-41). The Jews in Stephen's audience were also "cut to the heart," but they killed the messenger (Acts 7:54, 57-58). In both cases, the conscience was pricked by the message preached, but the hearers reacted differently because of different attitudes of heart.

Think of how David received the news about his sin. When Nathan rebuked David for his adultery, David humbly said, "I have sinned against the Lord." (2 Sam. 12:13). He did not attempt to blame Bathsheba, nor did he rebuke Nathan -- he received the God's word in a way that would bring him back into conformity with the will of God.

How do you receive the word of God when it challenges your life? How do you react when someone points out that your behavior is not becoming for a child of the King? When someone shows that your attitude is carnal and not befitting children of righteousness? Do you want to fire the preacher, or kill the messenger? Will that save your soul, or just anesthetize your guilty conscience?

I have lived long enough to learn that not all who call themselves Christians are noble-minded people. Some will receive the word of God with all readiness of mind, providing it does not apply to them and their sins. However, when you point out sin and error in their lives, they will sit and pout about it, or hold a grudge against the messenger.

Noble and fair-minded people want to know what the Scriptures teach, regardless of how it might affect their lives. Such noble-minded people are not always easy to find, even in some local churches.

They Searched The Scriptures Daily

The Scriptures they studied were the Old Testament books. Either these people had copies of the scrolls in their homes where they could examine what Paul preached, or else they went to the synagogue to study the rolls of the Scriptures kept there. The fact that this was done daily implies that Paul spent some time there. Apparently, Paul followed the same pattern he used at Thessalonica, where, as his custom was, He "went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, 'This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.'" (Acts 17:3-4).

Why did the Bereans study the Scriptures "daily"? Hadn't an apostle of Christ preached to them? Yes, but they wanted to see it for themselves. As Paul would tell the saints in Rome, "Let God be true but every man a liar" (Rom. 3:4).

Becoming a Christian involves establishing a new set of habits or patterns in your life, including the "putting off" of the old man of sin, and the "putting on" of the new man (Eph. 4:20-32). One of the best habits you can develop as a Christian is a daily study of the Scriptures. Once this habit is developed and nurtured, you will be on your way to a greater knowledge of God and His will. Not only that, your daily study of the Scripture will give you boldness in the face of opposition and make you far more effective in teaching others -- you will be able to "save both yourself and those who hear you" (1 Tim. 4:16).

Your daily study of the Scriptures will draw you closer to God, give you peace of mind in this life and prepare you for the world to come. Your life will be blessed as you study and meditate on the word of God (Psa. 1:1-6; 19:7-11).

Many Of Them Believed

As a result, of hearing the gospel and of studying the Scriptures, they were led to become converts to the message Paul preached. In many cities, the majority of converts were of Gentile background. At Berea it is different -- "many" Jewish people became Christians! But this is only natural -- they had carefully listened to the message preached and examined the Scriptures daily -- I would expect such people to render obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ, for "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17).

In every case of conversion recorded in the book of Acts, the gospel was preached by men to men (cf. Acts 8:12; 14:1; 18:8). There is not a single example of someone obeying the gospel without first having heard the message of the cross. Since faith comes by hearing, your faith will be increased as you read, study and search the Scriptures! The more I study the Old Testament the stronger my faith is in God and His providential care for His children (Rom. 15:4). The examples of faith from the Old Testament give me hope (1 Cor. 10:1-13).

Grace and peace come through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord (2 Pet. 1:2-4).

Conclusion

"The Jews in Berea applied seriously to the study of the word preached unto them. They not only heard Paul preach on the Sabbath, but daily searched the Scriptures, and compared what they read with the facts related to them. The doctrine of Christ does not fear inquiry; advocates for His cause desire no more than that people will fully and fairly examine whether things are so or not. Those are truly noble, and likely to be more and more so, who make the Scriptures their rule, and consult them accordingly. May all the hearers of the gospel become like those of Berea, receiving the word with readiness of mind, and searching the Scriptures daily, whether the things preached to them are so." (Matthew Henry).

Do you have a spirit as worthy as the noble Bereans?