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Paul: What does it mean to be a Berean?

By Elizabeth Prata

“In Berea”

As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 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. Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.(Acts 17:10-12).

How many times have we heard some celebrity caught in a traffic stop or in an indiscretion and when called to account on it, says “Don’t you know who I am?” They balk and they yell and they squirm and try to escape accountability due to their position. Quite often, their ego is inflated to a large enough degree that they never expect they’ll be asked to support their views or explain their mistake. Even more often, the person calling them to account are seen as the ones with the problem. “Don’t you know who that is?” they are told. “Don’t ask him to explain himself!” as if there ever comes a point when someone is above the law.

If any person on the planet had cause to balk and say to those who questioned him, “Don’t you know who I am??” it was Apostle Paul. Paul was a cold legalist who persecuted Christians, but was instantly transformed into a hot believer on the road to Damascus. After Damascus, Paul went to Arabia for three years, and there the record is fairly silent on what he was doing, except that at some point in his life, probably then Jesus taught him. (Galatians 1:12). He usually met with those in the synagogues to preach so he could have preached while in Arabia. He may have begun his missionary journey in Arabia but nothing is recorded in the Bible on that so we don’t know for sure. What we do know is that he learned the Gospel.

But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1:11-12).

But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.” (Galatians 1:15-17).

When Paul and Silas taught the Bereans, they searched the scriptures to see if the things they were being taught were true. Though they were being taught by a couple of famous luminaries in the blossoming Christian faith, the Bereans did not take what was bring taught on their authority alone but checked the ultimate authority to see if it was so. Though the Jews he taught knew had been a Pharisee and a son of a Pharisee (Acts 23:6) and therefore knew the scriptures backward and forward, and though his conversion was dramatic and instant, and though his rhetoric skills were well-known, the Bereans were not swayed by any of it. They searched the scriptures, period.

Checking Paul’s teaching against the scriptures doesn’t mean the Bereans weren’t also excited. They respected Paul, we know because “they received” the teaching and they did so with “eagerness.” But they did not check their brains at the door. They went back home and consulted the most authoritative thing they knew- the scriptures themselves.

On Paul’s side, Paul’s response was not an ego-inflated, insecure, blurting, flesh ridden response of  “Don’t you know who I am? I was taught by Jesus himself!” but instead, he commended them!

The lesson tonight is two-fold. If you are receiving a teaching from anyone from a big-time Christian luminary, to a small-time layman, don’t just accept what they teach you. Search the scriptures to see if the things they are telling you are true. Their responsibility is to teach you rightly divided word. Your responsibility is to check to see if they are actually doing that. Sadly many people who teach these days, aren’t

You see the rest of the story in the remaining part of the verse I opened with: “Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.” The Word, either taught, or received and verified by checking, is powerful. I urge us in these waning days where deception abounds and false or casual teachers of the Bible permeate the faith from top to bottom, to have a noble character and an open mind, check the teaching, and then prepare to be moved and transformed by the Word!


Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.

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