Intro: Acts 16:9-10 – And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them. I know that God does not guide us through visions and dreams today. But suppose you saw the same vision that Paul did here. A man says “Come over here and help us”. Would you conclude that God wanted you to preach the gospel to them?
What kind of help do they need? What kind of help can we provide? Paul recognized that the gospel message was the help they needed more than any other. And He could do that!
I. “Come Over to Macedonia” – In direct response to a heaven-sent vision in the city of Troas, Paul and Silas changed their plans and took the gospel to a region known as Macedonia on the northern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. They found an audience in every city there, but in both Philippi and Thessalonica, there was also opposition. In both cities Paul and Silas spent time in the local jails.
A. In Acts 17 Paul and Silas leave Thessalonica and come to Berea. This is how Luke describes their reception: Acts 17:10-12 – 10 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few. The Jews of Berea were “more noble” than the Jews of Thessalonica.
1. The Greek word for word “noble” here literally means “well born”, or descended from proper ancestors. Luke choice of words here is somewhat paradoxical. Certainly, the Jews as a people placed great significance on their ancestry. In fact those Jews who opposed Paul in Thessalonica were convinced that they were protecting their nobility. But the Jews in Berea proved themselves to be more “well bred” Jews because they did not immediately reject the gospel.
2. The word “noble” in the KJV is elsewhere translated “fair-minded” (NKJV), “of noble character” (NIV) and “open-minded” (NLT). Luke’s assessment points us to examine ourselves. Are we like the Bereans? Why is this important?
II. Giving Truth a Fair Shake: Our theme for this past year has been centered on something that is quickly being discarded and dismissed in our culture today. We have been looking at what Peter described as “the present truth” in 2 Peter 1. Literally the phrase means “truth among us” and refers to the revelation of the gospel message that had been delivered to people of Peter’s audience in Asia through the apostles. Some of those same people that Luke tells us about here in the book of Acts. Some of them rejected the truth, and some became established it. 2 Peter 1:12-14 – For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. 13 Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, 14 knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. How does one become established in the truth?
A. I believe that the Bereans had the key to answering this question. “They received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” What did they do that made them fair-minded?
1. Earlier Luke described Paul’s teaching efforts in Thessalonica… Acts 17:2-3 – Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.” We can assume that Paul also used this approach in Berea. He did not just assert it; he explained it and demonstrated it from the OT scriptures. The verb “reasoned” points to dialogue – he entertained and answered their questions.
2. The Bereans, unlike the Thessalonians, received the word with readiness of mind. This phrase seems to describe the first step in a process that ends in their belief (v. 12). They were willing to give Paul’s message a fair shake. They did not immediately cast it off because it was different than anything they had heard before, or was difficult to believe.
a. The word translated readiness of mind indicates a Predisposition. They were not prejudiced against the truth. The prejudiced mind is a closed mind. Paul had encountered many closed minds already and would encounter more.
1) The Jews in Thessalonica “were not persuaded” and through jealousy stirred up the crowd against Paul and Silas.
2) The gentiles at Athens prided themselves in being open-minded toward new things, but when Paul spoke about the resurrection from the dead some of them mocked and walked away (17:32).
3) In preface to James’ familiar statements about being doer of the word and not just hearers (James 1:22) he speaks about receiving with meekness the implanted word which is able to save our souls. (James 1:21). This meekness or submissiveness is that unprejudiced approach. It is the willingness to objectively take a look at something that is different from what we believe or have been taught. Do you realize that you might be wrong?
III. Searching the Scriptures Daily: Luke uses the word anakrino (an-ak-ree no) to describe the active element of the Bereans’ approach. They examined, or searched the scriptures. This word is sometimes used of a judicial investigation. The Bereans carefully sifted the evidence being provided by Paul. They were not credulous or gullible to believe anything that was being said.
A. Those who honestly examine the Scriptures will always come to the conclusion that these Bereans did. In John 5:39, Jesus said to the Jewish leaders, “You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me.” In verse 46 He added, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote of Me.” In John 7:17 Jesus called for a willing heart when He said, “If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself.” In Luke 24:25-27 Jesus Himself used the Old Testament Scripture to convince the disciples. And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.
1. In the parable of the sower, the wayside soil was a prejudiced heart, rejecting the seed immediately; the stony ground was credulous, believing readily, but without the foundation needed to survive. Neither one produced fruit. There are many Christians who hold a position (believe) but do not know why.
2. Christians are presented today as gullible and naïve, resting their hopes on “blind faith”. But God has never asked anyone to believe without evidence. The prophets and apostles provided “proof” that they were speaking from God and thus speaking the truth. In 2 Peter 1:19 Peter said we have “the prophetic word confirmed” (NKJV). He went on to say… “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20-21 – NIV)
B. Where did they search? They searched “the scriptures”. This is a reference to the OT scriptures of Moses and the prophets. They recognized God as the author to truth, and knew where to go to find it. They did not judge Paul’s teaching by their own wisdom, nor did they go to their parents, to the traditions of the synagogue, to their favorite rabbi or preferred religious journal.
1. In John 17 Jesus prayed for the sanctification (separation from the world) of His disciples. The element of that sanctification was the object message of God. John 17:17 – Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.
2. I like what Sewell Hall writes here… “Any preacher, whoever he may be or from whatever religious fellowship he may come, who preaches what the Scriptures teach is preaching truth on that subject; whoever preaches anything else is preaching error, regardless of who he is or the fellowship from which he comes.”
3. Have you ever been asked (or maybe you asked) what does the church teach about that? What does a certain preacher teach about that? That is not the question we need to ask. What do the Scriptures teach?
C. What were they searching for? “Whether those things were so.” What does that mean? They searched for objective truth. What Paul was saying was either true or false. If truth is relative, and individually determined then there is no need to search for anything. And even if you think you found it, what difference does it make? The passion that most displayed in generations past over religious or moral questions is gone today. Not because we have all agreed on the answers, but we have concluded that the answers do not matter. Truth does not matter. If Paul was right about the Messiah they were wrong. Both views could not be true, and they could not rest until they learned the truth.
D. How much did they search? They searched “daily”. As Paul preached daily they examined daily. Their pursuit of truth demanded that they keep looking into the book.
1. So with us, we must not convince ourselves that we have all the truth that we need. Have you every changed your conviction on anything? This type of continual search takes courage and humility.
2. This is why a daily Bible reading is so important. We are in a constant search for truth and the applications of truth to our lives. I challenge everyone here to read the Bible every day. But more specifically I challenge you to read it today.
a. Notice how Paul words this challenge in Eph 5:15-17 – See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
E. How can we be established in the truth? How can we know the will of God? We must search the scriptures daily. Test all things by the words of God Himself. But there are other necessities:
1. First, the prerequisite for Bible study is confession of sin. 1 Peter 2:1-2 states that truth succinctly: “Therefore, putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.” It is impossible to study the Scriptures profitably with an impure mind.
2. Second, Bible study must be diligent. Paul commanded his beloved son in the faith, Timothy, to “be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15).
3. Third, we must pray for the wisdom to properly apply the truth. Paul Prayed for the Colossians… ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him (Col 1:9-10)
4. Fourth, we must be committed to practicing the truths we learn. James charged Christians to “prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22). The ultimate goal of all Bible study is not increased knowledge but increased holiness and Christ-likeness.
Conclusion: We have spent a year looking at the scriptures themselves in order to help us, as a church, be established in the present truth. We challenge you, as an individual to search the scriptures daily in order to be established in the present truth. There is no other way. Do you know how to become a child of God? Search the scriptures. Hear – believe- repent – confess – be baptized.