“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
Some days I don’t think it will ever end. Everything becomes a clue, a mystery, a puzzle to be solved. Why does our neighbor live by himself in that huge old house? What do you suppose are stored in those extra bedrooms? Why is his driveway gated? It is the Nancy Drew phase and as it looks right now, my son will one day be a private investigator!
I know you understand just what I am talking about, those days when one of your children has an interest that hasn’t yet been satisfied and everyone in the family gets drawn in to the madness just because we live in the same household. We have survived many of these phases….dinosaurs, World War 2 aircraft, Star Wars and outer space mania, the films of Bela Lugosi, the Titanic, etc. However, as annoying as the never-ending details might be to the rest of us, the good that comes of it all is that my children have become great researchers. They do not just accept something at face value, but rather, they want to know all they possibly can about a subject and they won’t stop until they are satisfied. In truth, they are all Nancy Drew.
In the book of Acts, we are told that the Jewish believers from Berea where “of more noble character” than those from Thessalonica because they did three things: they were eager learners of God’s Word, they thoroughly researched and examined all they were taught and held it up to the light of Scripture, and they especially questioned Paul, the one who was teaching them about God and His word.
But what do we know about the Thessalonians? 1 Thessalonians 1:6-9 says that they were imitators of Paul, they persevered in spite of their sufferings, they welcomed the teachings they received with joy in the Holy Spirit, and Paul even considered them to be models for other Christ followers. The passage goes on to tell us that they had a solid testimony not just in their own home town but everywhere and that testimony conveyed that they had turned away from their idol worship to serve and honor the one true God. These were commendable believers and Paul found no fault with them.
However, as praiseworthy as the Thessalonians were, we are told in the book of Acts that the Bereans were even more noble because they did not just accept all they heard from Paul, but they researched and tested what they were being taught.
The Strong’s Concordance says that this word “examine” means to “judge, investigate, inquire into, scrutinize, sift, question, specifically in a forensic sense, to interrogate, to determine the excellence or defects of any person or thing.” The Bereans were Nancy Drew Christians. They would leave no stone unturned until they found the truth in what they were hearing.
I believe that, besides the example of their diligent research, there are two lessons for us in the few verses the Bible actually records about the Berean believers.
First of all, those who are teaching the Word of God ought to welcome questions about their teachings and about who they are. Paul obviously welcomed being held accountable because he commended them for doing so!
In our day, the words of teachers are not just found on their lips, whether it is in sermons they preach or in conference presentations they make to homeschoolers, but in their books and on their blogs as well. All of those places are where we begin as we examine them, according to the example given to us in Acts.
True Berean teachers will not be afraid of opposing views, and will open their blogs to comments, not deleting or censoring those who question or challenge them. And, as they present to us their applications of God’s Word, it is even more important that they differentiate between the commands of Scripture and their own preferences as they instruct so as not to confuse other believers, placing heavy burdens of behavior on them that are not based purely on the Word of God.
Which brings me to my second point. I wonder if, perhaps, the Bereans examined Paul because of some of the things he believed and forced on others back in his days as a Pharisee. At that time, he strictly followed the letter of the Mosaic Law. He separated himself from anyone or anything that might contaminate him. In fact, he was so zealous that he persecuted Christians who didn’t follow his example, those who trusted only in Christ for their salvation. Maybe the Bereans were skeptical because they knew the dangers of being drug into a legalistic way of life and they wanted no part of it. Afterall, they were Christians who had experienced the joy of the Lord and His grace and mercy, which stood in stark contrast to the ways taught by the Pharisees.
How crucial this process is for homeschooling moms, perhaps more than anyone else involved in discipleship and evangelism, because the stakes are so high! Our children will learn by our example how to be noble Christians. They will see what we question and what we accept without asking questions. And they will become Nancy Drew Christians only when they see that we are also super sleuths when it comes to the Word of God.