Like the Bereans
--Pastor Jamey Nichols
Acts 17 relates information about the people of Berea, a small city in Macedonia with a populace of faithful Jews. Paul and Silas went there to preach the gospel. As was their custom, they made an appearance at the local synagogue where they told about Jesus and how he fulfilled Jewish prophecy. They told of his teachings, his life and death, and they explained that he was the promised Messiah about whom the prophets had spoken. The response of the Berean people is noteworthy because this group of people was not a collection of religious simpletons. They didn’t just buy into what Paul was saying. These were intelligent souls who were thoughtful and critical about the things they were hearing. The Bible says in Acts 17 that when Paul and Silas arrived, the Bereans were open-minded. They listened to the message with great earnestness, and every day studied the Scriptures to see if what Paul was teaching them was really true. Many of them eventually believed, as did many Greek women of high social standing, and many Greek men as well.
Do you ever secretly wonder if your Christian faith is really true? It’s OK if you do. I sometimes do. I believe it’s a legitimate question. In fact, I think it’s a very important question.
Western culture today prides itself on open-minded thinking. Everywhere is the idea that the best chaplains are those who appreciate the value of interfaith ideals. Many colleges, hospitals, and even the military have little interest in clergy members who tout their own personal denomination as correct and everything else incorrect. This sort of thinking is considered extremely passé. Modern progressive thinking shows tolerance and respect for all faiths because, after all, it is reasoned, no spiritual belief can ever be proven really true. Faith, they say, is a personal matter and it’s judgmental to exalt one’s own unprovable ideas over those of another’s.
Here at FCC we hold a slightly different view. Yes, it’s important never to insult or mock someone for their religion, but that doesn’t mean we must validate it. IMPORTANT NOTE: Disagreeing with a person is not the same as insulting them. Similarly, asserting your view that someone is mistaken is neither intolerant nor hateful. Many corners of our culture have come to accept the bizarre reasoning that the view “all religions are true” is loving, while “your religion is mistaken” is mean-spirited.
We hold that the Bible is the one spiritual authority that is really true. Some may say Jesus is more authoritative than the Bible, but where do we learn about the things Jesus taught? Others may say their confidence is in the Almighty Creator only, where do we learn specific details about this One? Others may ask why we should accept the claims of any religious manual over another? Islam has the Koran; Hinduism has the Bhagavad Gita; Buddhism has the Tipitaka; Judaism the Tenak and Christianity adds the New Testament. For many, no part of this broad collection of spiritual ideas can never be ratified as really true (or, even really false) because, as it’s generally expressed “all religions are one in the same, just from different perspectives.” The problem with this idea is that it is flawed on its face - but that’s for another article. For now, a fair question to wonder is why the Bible should have any preferential authority over any other religious manual. After all, doesn’t claiming its superiority smack of elitism? I don’t think so.
The Bereans trusted in the authority of the Jewish Scriptures (our Old Testament) because of the way God intervened in history. They didn’t worship gods made by human hands. Who they worshiped was the True and Living God as revealed throughout the generations. Even pagans had aha moments when they recognized the God of Israel as the one true God.
Generally, religion can be defined as spiritual beliefs and practices. The Jews had their religion, but its source was not the mind of man. Bereans understood this as seen in the way they examined the claims of Christianity. They went to the Hebrew Bible which they held as really true to examine whether or not what Paul and Silas were telling them was also really true.
How ‘bout you? Do you trust that Word of God is sufficient for you to know—really know!—everything God wants you to know in this life? Keep reading the Scriptures and ask God to show you the truth.