The Noble Conduct of the Bereans!
William Nicholson, 1862
"The Bereans were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, to see whether those things were so." Acts 17:11
"Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." Acts 17:11
It is a great blessing to have the Scriptures. It is very interesting to trace the progress of the Gospel as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. Here we see genuine Christianity, without the aid of secular power, extending its benignant influence all around. It is true that it encountered much opposition; but still the Gospel had free course, etc. It was successful at Thessalonica to some extent; but more especially so at Berea. From the former place the Apostles were driven by the unbelieving Jews, verse 5. The Apostles were then conducted by the Thessalonian believers to Berea, where they were well received.
The Bereans heard their message with calm, discriminating, and unprejudiced attention. The consequence was their reception of the Gospel, and saving faith in Christ, verse 12.
I. The Character and Conduct of the Bereans.
1. The Gospel was preached to them by Paul and Silas, "For how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?" That Gospel, and that manner of preaching it, as described, verse 2, 3. The Gospel must be exhibited as that which man absolutely needs, and it must be preached as true, bearing the impress of Heaven.
2. The courteous conduct of the Bereans was favorable to the influence of the Gospel preached. "These were more noble than those in Thessalonica" — they were of a better race, extraction, or birth, than those at Thessalonica.
The Jews at Berea had been educated in the same prejudices — yet the conduct of the two forms a striking contrast. The Thessalonian Jews were filled with bigotry, intolerance, and aversion to truth; they shut their ears against it; they banished the Apostles from their city, and pursued them with persecuting bigotry, even to Berea, verse 13.
But the Bereans were "more noble," or "better born," having a better and more agreeable organization of mind; they manifested a more dignified conduct. They possessed a more sincere, candid, liberal, and teachable disposition than those at Thessalonica.
OBSERVE: This verse refers more to their conduct, as a proof of their better disposition — than to their birth, or any peculiar lineal nobility. The Bereans manifested this nobility, for
(1.) They heard the Gospel attentively, and in this they differed from the Thessalonians.
They permitted the Apostles to preach. They heard them with respect. The Thessalonians would have consulted their prejudices, and shut their ears against them. The Bereans gave them a fair hearing, without passion or partiality.
(2.) They manifested a laudable spirit of inquiry in reference to the truths of Christianity.
They probably had heard of Christianity — it was placed in juxtaposition with Judaism — it was extending — it was bidding fair to supplant Judaism — it was attended by miraculous agency. It therefore demanded their inquiry, and was worthy of it. They were anxious to understand it, and were willing to investigate its claims. They were "more noble."
(3.) They received the word with all readiness of mind. They were glad to have it preached to them. If Christianity was a better system, they would willingly part with Judaism.
When the evidence of its truth appeared to them sufficiently convincing, they had too much dignity of mind to refuse their assent, and too much ingenuousness to conceal their approbation. They did not quarrel with the Word, nor find fault, nor criticize censoriously the preachers of it; but approved of all that was said. They received the word with joy. It became glad tidings to them; for they, by the teaching of the Spirit, readily apprehended its joyful import. Hence they were "more noble".
(4.) Their acknowledgment and reception of the truth was the result of diligent investigation. "They searched the Scriptures daily," etc. They did not take things upon trust, or "swallow them upon an implicit faith." As the Apostle reasoned out of the Scriptures, and referred them to the Old Testament to corroborate the truth of his statements — they had recourse to their Bibles, to see whether those things were so.
They searched them daily — the subject to them was so important.
They manifested great deference to the authority of the Sacred Writings. They were convinced of their inspiration, and in them they expected to find the principles of true religion. Hence they read and compared, in order to see whether the promises and types corresponded with the alleged fulfillment in the person, works, and sufferings of Jesus Christ.
They examined the doctrines to see if they were reasonable and of God.
The Gospel will bear scrutiny and examination. One part corresponds with another part. The New Testament does not contradict the Old — it is a key to the Old. Their correspondence in type and antitype, in prophecy and fulfillment — is a proof of the Divinity of the Gospel.
(5.) They "believed." They found the Gospel to be true. But it was not mere credence. Many credit the truths of the Gospel — yet they do not savingly believe. They reposed their souls, as guilty sinners, upon the mediation of Christ, the grand fundamental doctrine of the Gospel. They believed, and were saved from the guilt and condemnation of sin. They believed and followed Christ — engaged in his service, etc.
II. The Conduct of The Bereans is Worthy of Imitation.
1. The word of God is true, and therefore claims our attention.
If it were the mere invention of man, the promulgation of priestcraft, it would not be worthy of regard. But as it is inspired, as proved by abundant evidence, it must be recognized as the infallible Directory of the Christian.
2. We are deeply interested in the doctrines and precepts of which the word of God is the Repository. These solemn truths concern all men. They are not confined to ministers.
"Whether those things were so." The fall of man — his depravity — his condemnation by the law — his helplessness — the mission of Christ, his divinity, his humanity, sacrifice, death, resurrection, ascension, intercession — his supremacy in the Church — his second advent — the joy of Heaven, and the terrors of Hell — repentance, faith, love, the Spirit, etc. These are things which deeply concern us. As men, as sinners, as inhabitants of this world, and as heirs of immortality — we have a solemn interest in the truths announced by the voice which speaks to us from Heaven.
3. In order to understand these things aright, we must search the Scriptures as the Bereans did. So Christ commanded, John 5:39. "Eternal life" through Christ, that is the pearl we must search for in the mine of salvation. "What must I do to be saved?" For the solution of this weighty question we are to search the Scriptures. "Lord, what will you have me to do?" The Bible, the infallible directory, prescribes all your duty; it is a lamp unto your path, and a light unto your feet. As the traveler consults his map, and the mariner his chart — so consult you the word of God to guide you in a way you know not.
Search them daily. Not only in the synagogue on Sunday, but every day, as opportunity may permit. In matters of faith and practice, search them only.
Search them in preference to all other writings. "To the law and to the testimony, if they do not speak according this word, it is because there is no light in them."
Search the Scriptures as the Bereans did. They were "more noble." Guard against the illiberal conduct of the Thessalonians. Avoid a captious, envious, and persecuting spirit. Cultivate the more noble spirit of the Bereans. Take the Scriptures as the test of truth. Compare what you hear with them. Weigh every sentiment in the balance of the sanctuary. "Beloved, believe not every spirit — but test the spirits, to see whether they are from God." 1 John 4:1
Search the Scriptures with fervent prayer. The rules which many give for the study of the Bible often overlook one grand requisite, namely, that as it required supernatural aid to write it — so it does also to understand it. You must have the aid of the Spirit — or you open the word of God in vain. "The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."
III. Consider the Advantages of Following the Example of the Bereans.
1. We shall obtain accurate information respecting the doctrines of revealed truth, and realize a saving interest in them.
2. We shall receive ample instruction as to the performance of all personal, social, and religious duties.
3. We shall derive strong consolation under the difficulties and afflictions of life, and it will be the source of comfort and hope in death. The Bereans believed — that influenced all their life.
They believed, and for 1800 years have enjoyed the bliss of Heaven. No longer see through a glass darkly.
The advantages are everlasting!
1. See, from what has been said, who are the most noble and honorable. Not the rich, the great of this world — but those who resemble the Bereans. Those who search the Scriptures daily, have their minds filled with noble thoughts, fixed to noble principles, and formed for noble actions. Compare them with ignoble sinners.
2. Be thankful for the Scriptures, and for the free and uninterrupted use of them. Popery would snatch the Bible from your hand, if it could regain its former power.
3. Here we have a criterion by which we may judge how far we have been benefitted by the preaching of the Gospel. Have we received it with all readiness of mind?