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. (Act 17:10-12)
We thank the Lord that He has brought us into a new year 2012. Its the beginning of the year again and many are disappointed with themselves over their conduct this last year. We all want to be better than we were last year – in terms of the way we have managed our time, family, finances. We want to be better spiritually in our relationship with God. I hope you have come to the church to hear how you can make your life better in light of the fact that you have eternal destiny ahead of you. By God’s grace, I have some resolutions that will make you a better Christian – that you will make you a noble Christian. There is no question that God wants thorough bread Christians – based on the standards He has set in His Word.
It is not that I have some newly invented teaching to bring to you, but some fresh things from God’s Word that can shape your destiny. God wants your mind transformed so that your attitude to the Word of God is changed. The manner in which you handle, interpret and divide the inspired and authoritative Word of God is the most important aspect of your Christian faith. You realize that your faith is what connects you with Christ and He connects you with god. The Bible is brings us knowledge about God, our human nature and the ultimate destiny of every individual.
Turning to our passage, the name Berea is well known in Christian circles as standing for those who put their efforts into learning what God has to say in His Word, refusing to take someone’s explanation of a Scripture at face value but putting all the effort to examine and investigate the exposition to see whether it is true to the Biblical text. The Bereans are people who have a lot of respect for Scripture. This is the spirit in which reformation of the 16th century began. The believers of the time said, ‘Sola Scriptura’ meaning Scriptures alone. They refused the traditions of men. They wanted their consciences bound only to God’s Word. And so the famous quotation by Martin Luther before the Diet of Worms remains in the records of Christianity – that,
“unless I am convinced by the testimonies of Scriptures or by clear arguments that I am in error – for popes and councils have often erred and contradicted themselves – I cannot withdraw, for I am subject to the Scriptures I have quoted; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. It is unsafe and dangerous to do anything against one’s conscience. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. So help me God.”
Would you say that your conscience is captive to the Scriptures? I would like us to began this year with this spirit and attitude to the Word of God. So that you would be branded by the Bible to be of Nobler mind.
1. RESOLVE TO BE NOBLER
What does it mean be nobler (v11)? What does it mean to be women and men of a high standing? (v12). The Jews in the synagogue at Berea were better disposed to receive the gospel than the Jews in the synagogue at Thessalonica; they were not prejudiced against it, not so ill-natured – they were more noble, The word translated primarily means better bred, a person of higher rank or born from families of higher standing – this is the way Calvin takes it from the Vulgate Translation. However many more interpreters are unanimous to have taken it to mean that they were being compared to the Thessalonians who had ejected Paul from their city and so very few had heeded his message. Therefore the Bereans were far better. From the church in we know Sopater who accompanied Paul to Macedonia in Acts 20:4.
It means one who is open-mindedness – willingness to learn. The problem with many people who are living in our day is that they have a disposition which is opposed to the Scripture – it is a phenomenon called neo-orthodoxy and post-moderninism also comes with it. We have what is called higher-criticism that is very opposed to the Bible being inspired of God. They would not accept the Biblical authority. They think that the Bible is not inerrant or infallible and so they can do whatever they want with the Bible. Some have therefore gone on to say that the Bible contradicts itself, like for example Moses did not write Deuteronomy because there is no way he could have written about his own death!
This is not what the Bible would call being noble. It is not being noble when a person is wise in his own eyes. It is wisdom when a person has the wisdom of God. Wisdom must always be drawn from God – through his Word. God has said, “Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right,” (Pro 8:6). This is because, “The fool will no more be called noble, nor the scoundrel said to be honorable.” And again “But he who is noble plans noble things, and on noble things he stands. (Isa 32:5, 8)
Wisdom is heeding the Word of God because how can God speak and you are not respond? How can you be noble when God has given the way in which we may go to Him and yet people refuse it?
If you would be noble then it is in reference to the serious attention that you give to the Word of God. Let our nobility be not because of our family backgrounds or anything of this world, but let it be in the manner in which we deal with the spiritual things. It does not matter to God where you are from or what you own – what is of the uttermost important is the way you have taken up the responsibility that He has given you.
Very practically, then you need to ask yourself how open-minded you are, in order to know and improve on your spiritual life as well as to edify others. If you are going to have the Word of God central in your life, central in the manner that you deal with other people, beginning with your own family, then God would regard you as nobility.
Let our love be for the Word of God. Let us hide the Word of God in our hearts that we might not sin against Him (Psalm 119:11). Let our delight be on the Law of the Lord as the blessed man in Psalm 1. May our cry be that God might make us to know and understand His Word. May we yearn to cling to the Word of God so that our souls are consumed with longing for it day and night. May we never be tired of talking about the joy and the happiness that is in the Word because it sweeter than honey and honeycomb. I am exhorting everyone here to be consumed in the Word of God. This way you may know His will for you and seek to please Him. May this be what you resolve in the whole of your heart and there is nothing else on earth that you desire more than this.
2. RESOLVE TO RECEIVE THE WORD OF GOD WITH EAGERNESS
What sort of people were these Bereans people? What was so special that Luke recorded as He was instructed by the Holy Spirit that they were noble? Can we prove from the Scripture their nobility? Is there anything recorded to show how he arrived to the conclusion that they were noble? Thank God there is and this is an instruction for us to be the same, not just for 2012 but for all time.
They had a freer thought, and more open to conviction. These were people willing to listen to reason. They were eager to admit the force of the truth that they heard. They were eager to subscribe to that which they were convinced to be the truth, as much as it was contrary to their former sentiments. They listened to the preaching of the Gospel with great attention. Great or all eagerness – they treasured God’s Word.
This is not just receiving the Word of God as a form 1 receives the botanical names in Biology, it is embracing the truth like the manner in which a terminally ill patient receives the good news from his doctor about his progress in health. It is a delight to receive the news that your salary has been increased – because it impacts positively on your life. But lets us remember that the impact is short-lived, so how much more shall we embrace the good news that have eternal repercussions on your life? How much more shall we embrace the truth coming from God Himself? How much more joy shall we draw joy and satisfaction when we are hearing the announcement of good news from the Eternal God?
This is a careful reception of the truths of the gospel. It is giving oneself to an understanding the Word of God like Ezra, who had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel. (Ezra 7:10). This is not just diligence to study God’s word, it was more than that – it was a thorough study to show oneself approved of God – one who is able to rightly divide the Word of truth. This is more than study – it is study with great enthusiasm and eagerness.
This is what we are called to do as Christians – to receive the preaching of the gospel as it really is – the Word of God. Paul commends the church in Thessalonica, and thanks God that when they received the word of God, which they heard from them, they accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in all believers. (1Thess. 2:13)
If the gospel is going to bear in fruit in you, if you will be profited by it, then you must receive it. How many times do we are exhorted to that when we hear the Word of God we should not harden our hearts as the Israelites did? Many of you have heard the gospel thousands of times and yet you made your heart harder and harder, and so you remain where you are.
Many of you believers do not approach issues in a Christian way. For example, when a person offends you, do you go to him as the Bible says or you find it easier to go to someone else and talk about the offender in his absence? When you take a new job, do you ever step back and ask yourself what implications it might have on your spiritual life? Do you worry about offending God? This world view is all supposed to be a completely different from unbelievers. Your approach to conversations, courtship, marriage and money is all to be shaped by the Scriptures and the manner in which you have received them.
3. RESOLVE TO EXAMINE SCRIPTURES DAILY
What does it mean to examine Scriptures? What are some of the things that you need to examine the Scriptures? How long does it take to examine the Scriptures? Examining is giving an honest analysis. This is done not with scepticism like the way a prosecutor would examine a suspect but like a judge whose approach is innocent until proved otherwise. It is also like the way gold dealers will analyse a stone to find out whether it is genuine. The word used here is the same word used to talk about the examination that Pilate accorded Jesus. His own conscience was persuaded that Jesus was not guilty, yet to prove it to others he did it.
They searched the scriptures daily whether those things were so. Their readiness of mind to receive the word was not that they took things upon naive trust. It is not that they swallowed them upon an implicit faith: no. As Paul reasoned out of the scriptures, and referred them to the Old Testament for the proof of what he said, they had resorted to their Scrolls that they had invested so much to own – most likely there was only one of it in the Synagogue! Yet we own Bibles (I hope you all have got Bibles an dif not see me privately!) Therefore because we own bibles should we not turn to the places to which are referred? Yes we should, and try to read the context, and to consider the scope and drift of them, and to compare them with other places of Scripture. Yes we are to examine whether Paul's inferences from them were natural and genuine and his arguments upon them convincing, and determined accordingly.
Because examining Scriptures is hard work, this is why you need to gird up the loins of your minds to do it so that you may grow thereby. You will need the Holy Spirit to guide you to do it – but you must do it. The Holy Spirit of God is our Teacher and we must rely on Him to help us understand and apply the Word of God. We must pray earnestly to the Lord to help us in this process. As much as we are rational beings, yet our mental capacity without God is actually hostile to the spiritual things. We are to give all time to pray for the Lord to open up the eyes of our understanding so that we may have the genuine mind. We are to pray that we may be strengthened with power through His Spirit in our inner being so that we may comprehend the Word of God. These things are not so, until you have first, without prejudice and partiality, examined whether they be so or not.
You will need to apply your mental capacity to examine the Scriptures. This calls for Biblical discernment so that we are not fooled around by marauding wolves in sheepskin. The Lord has warned us that in the last days there will come those who have the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. There will be those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Thankfully they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men. (2Ti 3:9).
How is their folly going to be plain to all? It is because they will not meet the standards of Scripture. But then you must know what the Bible says for you to be able to use this standard of the Bible. The great problem in Kenya is that many people have not applied themselves to know the Bible. Sadly many pastors do not know what they teach – some even contradict themselves. But you must know your Bible that is why you have. Always compare what preachers tell you. Look at what the noble Bereans did – they examined Scriptures to see if the preaching of Paul accorded with God’s written Word.
How did they do this Scriptural examination? They did it daily – not hurriedly. Searching the Scriptures must be our daily work. Those that heard the word in the synagogue on the Sabbath day did not think this enough, but were searching it every day in the week, that they might improve what they had heard the Sabbath before, and prepare for what they were to hear the Sabbath after. You must be content to hear me today and by tomorrow everything has been stolen by the birds of air. Those are truly noble make the scriptures their vision and touchstone, and consult them accordingly. Those that rightly study the scriptures, and meditate therein day and night, have their minds filled with noble thoughts, fixed to noble principles, and formed for noble aims and designs. Always examine the Old Testament by the New Testament because the New is the fulfilment of the Old as someone has said that the New is concealed in the Old while the Old is revealed in the New.
Many think that they have it all together after a short scrutiny but they are wrong more time is to be invested into Scripture this New Year than you did last year. You will need more patience and diligence. Take more time to read the Bible – do you read the Bible through in a year? Try it this year with Bible reading plans many Bibles would have them. If you had your family devotion reading a chapter six days a week – then it would take you seven years. I am emphasizing this because the more you are exposed to the Scriptures the more unlikely for you to be deceived – those who are deceived are ignorant and weak women. Please take the slogan seriously that says that ‘if you think education is expensive, try ignorance.’
We are to be even more careful because our times are worse than then. The Bible says of the false teachers that they will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (2Ti 3:13). False teaching is now more subtle. It is more crafty and cunning – it appears to be good and fresh but that is only an icing = it is deadly poisonous! Bear in mind that most of those TV preachers are not out to win your soul to heaven, they want to win your hearts into their pockets. Others are building a kingdom for themselves and will use any of the tactic to win you over. Beware and make sure that you are informed.
4. RESOLVE TO BELIEVE THE WORD
We read that “Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men.” (Act 17:12) the implication for this is that these were not like the dead sea receives water from Jordan and never satisfying and always salty. They were transformed by the preaching of the Gospel. The good effect of the preaching of the gospel at Berea is that it had the desired success; the people's hearts being prepared, a great deal of work was done suddenly, because they believed the Lord Jesus Christ of the Gospel:
They acknowledged their sinfulness; they trusted in Him to save them from their sins. They accepted the gospel invitation offer to come to Christ by faith. This is because the Scriptures had revealed to them their sinfulness and had also presented to them the remedy for their sins. There were many of the Jews who believed. At Thessalonica there were only some of them that believed (Acts 17:4), but at Berea, where they heard with unprejudiced minds, many believed, many more Jews than at Thessalonica. We also see that it was not just the Jews but also Greeks, that is the Gentiles, many believed, both of the honourable women, the ladies of quality, and of men not a few, men of the first rank, as should seem by their being mentioned with the honourable women.
It might be that wives first embraced the gospel, and then they persuaded their husbands to embrace it. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? (1Cor. 7:16) This is an encouragement for you ladies whose husband are not saved that by your respectful and pure conduct of submissive spirit might win your husbands without a word. (1Pet 3:1-2)
Would you notice that God gives grace to those who He first inclines to make a diligent use of the means of grace, and particularly to search the Scriptures?
1) Though the Bible is the Worlds’ bestseller, yet it is very neglected by so many people. The desire to own it is not matched by the desire to possess its message. For many people, and in various homes, Bible just gathers dust on the shelves. When the bible is hidden, it cannot have any influence on people’s lives – see 2Kings 22:8-23:3
2) To cherish the Bible by a daily personal study, family devotion and group devotion and also in church meetings. Do you have a partner in which you may study the Bible together?
3) We ought to diligently study the Bible as families. When we maintain strong and diligent Bible study in homes, we build strong homes and future families and generations.
4) We must strive all the more to memorize portions of the Bible – many would be defeated by children’s Sunday school in giving memory verses... when we hide the Word of God in our hearts then we may not sin against the Lord (Psa. 119:11)
5) Our worship ought to be centred on the Bible and we are not to get tired to this custom in our church, so that when we may go home we might be saying that the Lord spoke to me.
6) Let it be our character to very diligently study and examine the Bible. We are to give time and resources into it by our attitude is to have the Bible as basic in our lives – more than food!
7) Have you taken the bible to heart? Have you believed the message of the Bible? Have you put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ? The Bible has the good news that if you believe in Christ, then He will have your eternal destiny sorted.