by Bryan Matthew Dockens
“Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:10-11).
These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica
The comparison made by the narrator is between the Jews of Berea and the Jews of Thessalonica. No criticism is made of the Christians in Thessalonica whom Paul described by saying, “when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God” (I Thessalonians 2:13). The apostle went to some length to commend the disciples at Thessalonica for how they embraced the word (I Thessalonians 1:2-10). Rather, the fault in Thessalonica lay with “the Jews who were not persuaded” who, “becoming envious”, “gather[ed] a mob”, and “set all the city in an uproar” (Acts 17:5). Jesus spoke of a people whose “heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them” (Matthew 13:15).
In that they received the word with all readiness
The nobility of the Bereans was their readiness to receive the word. They were not so complacent spiritually as to be unwilling to learn and grow (Hebrews 5:12; Revelation 3:14-17). Unlike their counterparts in Thessalonica, these were not enraged by the challenge presented to their way of thinking (Proverbs 15:10). Reasonable people never react that way. Those who love truth either defend their hope (I Peter 3:15) or accept correction (Proverbs 3:11; 12:1).
As their fair-mindedness was proven by their readiness to receive the Word, so their readiness to receive it was proven by their search of the scriptures. Notice that they did not merely read a brief selected passage and leave it at that as many are prone to do. They searched the scriptures. They understood the need to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15). Real knowledge does not come without hard work.
Consider that they did not survey the opinions of their neighbors, nor did they fall back on what their parents had taught them, neither did they consult the intellectual leaders of their day. The only source to which they appealed was scripture. Jesus said the scriptures must be searched, for they testify of Him (John 5:39), and Paul confirmed that the scriptures “are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (II Timothy 3:15).
Their scripture searching was not occasional, but constant. Most people who own a Bible actually own little more than a glorified dust catcher, seldom cracking the pages of God’s word, but God wants people who will wear their Bibles out. The Jews in Berea were that kind of people.
To find out whether these things were so
Their purpose in study was verification. The Bereans were not gullible people, willing to accept anything they were told. Instead, they put every word of Paul’s message to the test to verify its accuracy. Paul commanded, “Test all things; hold fast what is good” (I Thessalonians 5:21), and another apostle taught, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (I John 4:1).