I have been reading through the history of the Presbyterian Church in America. This Church has come through many trials and difficulties, very much like the Church of England in South Africa, now Reformed Evangelical Church in South Africa. At the root of all the problems in both cases is the Bible, the Word of God. In growing up and belonging to a Church where the Bible is received as God’s Word, inspired, inerrant, infallible and authoritative, one does not understand why other Churches who are called Christian Churches accept what the Bible speaks against as acceptable. Those Churches who have submitted to political, religious and secular pressure, have reduced their morals by changing their opinion and belief to a Bible that is not inspired, inerrant, infallible and authoritative.
Largely but not exclusively, this is why we have different denominations and Church associations. As examples, “Is Jesus God? Was there a virgin birth? Did Jesus die to save us from our sin? Did Jesus rise from the dead? Is divorce unbiblical (apart from unfaithfulness or desertion)? Are homosexuals (and everyone else who brackets themselves into ‘LGBTQ2+’) in line and agreeable with God’s Word? Are there more than one human race? Is abortion murder?” Churches who declare these things acceptable to their Christianity and loving towards their fellow beings are decidedly not basing their persuasion on the Bible but on ungodly teachings and beliefs.
In our reading today we find an eye-opening directive to all Christians, Christian leaders and Church Groupings. Please read:
Ac 17:10 As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 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. 12 Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men. 13 When the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, they went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up. 14 The brothers immediately sent Paul to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed at Berea. 15 The men who escorted Paul brought him to Athens and then left with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible.
1) Missionaries on the move. Under the protection of night, Paul and his team left Thessalonica for Berea with the blessing of the brothers. Today the trip is 72 kilometers and by car takes about 54 minutes … Paul and his team would have taken the best part of the night and maybe slightly longer. In 168 BC, Berea was the first Macedonian City to surrender to the Romans after the battle of Pynda. She was a major center for religious studies.
2) Missionaries in the synagogue. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. We have already seen this to be Paul’s custom, for it was the easiest way to be made known. One of the best mission fields is within the Church! Never fall for the devil’s trick that all people in the Church are saved. Even in a Bible Believing, Gospel Preaching, Reformed Church, not all are saved. Generally there are huge pockets of souls in most Churches that are good people, Church attenders, tithers, ministering in some way … yet foreigners to the “Grace of God”! That is where our mission field starts! Too often we want to go to townships, rural areas and other countries … but our first call needs to be amongst those in our Church and surrounding areas.
3) Missionaries have their teaching tested!
Ac 17:11 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.
This is one of the most profound verses in the Bible when it comes to personally ensuring the preaching you hear is what the Bible says! The whole verse needs to be held in mind as we briefly dissect it … look at the flow …
(1) Noble character … the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians. This term in Greek means “noble-minded” which some have interpreted to say … “more open-minded”. This is certainly a better translation because here we are not dealing with one’s character but one’s openness of mind to God’s Word. They were not judgmental. They were spiritually hungry and ready to nourish on the Word. We will get to other issues soon, but as followers of the Lord Jesus we too need to be open-minded regarding God’s Word.
(2) Receiving the message … they received the message with great eagerness. The word “received” means to embrace with readiness … to make it their own. That is, they accepted the message favorably. This shows us something of their preparedness for the sermon. How do we get ourselves ready for the Sunday Sermon or the Bible Study Message? Are we eager to understand God’s Word? Are we ready to embrace it as manna from heaven for our soul?
(3) Examining the Scriptures … examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. This is phenomenal! Every time Paul preached they took what they heard and compared it to what the Scriptures said. Because of the way Paul presented his message, they were favorable in accepting it so that they could investigate what was preached by scrutinizing the Scriptures. Their purpose … to see whether what Paul preached was in line with God’s Word!
How often do you attend Church without your Bible? How often do you just allow what is preached to sink into your mind without checking to see whether what the preacher says is correct … in line with God’s perfect Word? Just because what preachers say seem right and enjoyable does not mean the exposition is Biblically accurate! Too often people say … “let the Spirit speak through the man.” “Give him freedom to say what he needs to say because the Spirit is speaking through him.” Stop! How do we know it is the Holy Spirit speaking through him and not his human spirit saying what it wants to say? We measure what is said against the Word of God. We become like the Bereans … we embrace what is preached for ourselves and then compare it with what God says. We scrutinize the Bible the Holy Spirit has already given. Yes … the Spirit has spoken! We have what He said in the Bible. There is no further revelation. All we need has been provided. Before running after new revelation (extra Biblical revelation), let us study to know what has been provided … for:
2Pe 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
Lastly, let’s reflect upon Paul’s words to young Timothy:
2 Tim 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
Father of glory, help us to know Your Word to use Your Word correctly and unashamedly … Amen.