Paul and Silas in Berea. (Acts 17:10-12)
“The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men.”
I am currently in a sad mood because friends are following the false teachings of a growing Charismatic church in my area. I had a conversation with someone, who answered with emotional arguments and completely rejected all scripture I’d offered. Though I’d tried hard in showing the biblical stance through scripture, I’ve been thinking long and hard about why and how a professed Christian can reject the bible as authoritative and refuse to submit to its teachings.
The classic reference as to the nobility of those who search the scriptures is well-known. The Bereans relied on scripture to check what Paul was saying, as quoted above. I usually focus on the latter part of the key verse, “searched the scriptures daily”. But today I’d like to focus on the former part, “received the word with all eagerness.”
We think, ‘of course they received the word with eagerness! Who wouldn’t want to check what you are learning against the word?’ But it goes a bit deeper than that. Paul and Silas ministered in Berea in about 54 AD. We have the advantage of 2000 years of history, culture, and theology and a completed canon of a revealed word of God on which to stand while making that statement. The Jews & Greeks in Berea hadn’t. They had about 20 years.
First, many were Jews, and Paul was teaching in the synagogue. Jews had a nearly two thousand year tradition of intimacy with God since Abraham. Judaism was the world’s only monotheistic religion. The Jewish temple, rituals, holidays and laws were literally embedded in the Jews via DNA and having become a peculiar race of people.
“For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.” (Deuteronomy 14:2)
Second, Paul and Silas were teaching the opposite of everything every Jew had ever learned. They had to hear hard sayings. They heard Paul preach that the Messiah had come, and His peculiar people had rejected Him. They listened to teaching that His salvific gaze was no longer on the Jews but on the pagans until the time of the Gentiles was fulfilled. That He died and rose again- without having established the promised kingdom (yet). That pagans (Greeks) were now included in the bosom of the Lord as peculiar people- people a Jew had been taught to revile. That the Messiah had fulfilled all the law and there no longer needed to be feasts and Jewish holy days. That salvation only required belief in these hard sayings- faith in the dead and resurrected Jesus. And more.
How would you react if you heard hard sayings? Many who had just seen Jesus feed the five thousand rejected Him when they heard him speak hard things. And those were pagans with no history of a relationship with God. (John 6:53-56). I know that I get irritated when people email me to say that a certain interpretation I’d labored over was wrong. Or a pet teacher or preacher is no good. But I look into these things as a dutiful Christian to confirm what I am hearing, or to confidently reject it on the basis of revealed truth.
But the Bereans “received the word with all eagerness“. They listened, and then they checked. But the first part is that they listened and received the word. Their love for the Holy God of Israel was above any personal interpretation they held. It was higher than any value they laid upon the word. They wanted to know the truth, and it was obvious that these men were of God. Something was happening in the religious arena, exciting, troublesome, wondrous.
The only way they could begin to examine the scriptures was to compare what Paul and Silas were saying against it. So they listened.
Many Charismatics do not love Jesus more than their own experience. They do not love the word more than their own pet theory. They do not examine the scriptures to see if it is so. They reject the best this world has to offer, the sterling and true word of God.
|Do they get angry,
or do they receive with eagerness?
If you are engaged in a discussion with someone who answers emotionally and refuses to listen to the scriptures you are sharing, they are not a Berean. They do not receive the word with all eagerness. And as long as they do not listen to hard sayings and verses from the bible, they can’t see if it is true. WHich is exactly satan’s point.
Then they can and do go on their way, experiencing and encountering and lifting ‘holy hands’ and singing and falling down in tongues and having a happy ‘worship time’ until the Lord returns and says “I never knew you.”
Third, what was the result of the Bereans receiving the word with eagerness, and then searching to see if it was so? Belief. It stands to reason that the opposite will be true also. Refusing to listen and search and confirm results in unbelief.
You see, He has revealed Himself in the word. Paul saw Him personally, all the apostles did. But we in the new millennium cannot see him, “for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7)
Do we rely on tongues and miracles and signs? No. We rely on the word.
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)
And why do we rely on the word and not on signs and sight and earthly works as ‘manifestations of the Spirit?’
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Mark 3:31)
The Bereans knew that when God speaks, you listen, and do so eagerly.
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” (Hebrews 1:1-2)
God spoke to us! He speaks! The holy God who dwells in heaven, parted the veil, and took over a thousand years to put together a holy book by His Spirit for our benefit. Who are we to ignore it? Who are we to place a higher value on our supposed experience than His Son, the Word?
To conclude, remember that the verse regarding the noble Bereans has two parts, receiving the word eagerly and checking for themselves to see if what they hear is true. A sign you are dealing with someone who is seriously adrift is if that person refuses to address the scriptures you share. A sign you are dealing with someone who loves the Lord, even if they are getting irritated, is if they hang in there and stick to a scriptural talk.
I said to the person I was speaking with about Charismatic manifestations, that I cannot do any better than offer the word of God. There is nothing higher, more true, or more absolute to place on the table as common ground in any discussion. All else is just opinion. And we know what Proverbs 18:2 says about opinions,
“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”