Gleanings – Be a Berean
by Dr. Gerald Chester
Be a Berean
The wife of the founder of a Bible school famously walked the campus asking students if he or she read their Bible regularly. Of all the activities she could have stressed—for example, music, prayer, evangelism, or service projects—she stressed engaging the Bible, the Word of God, to find answers to the questions of life.
When the enemy (Satan) tempted Jesus to go outside the will of God, Jesus responded by quoting Scripture:
It is written: “Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4 CSB)
Even after a forty-day fast, Jesus demonstrated his commitment to living aligned with the will and ways of God by prioritizing spiritual food over physical food. For Jesus, the right way to live was to be aligned with the will and ways of God; this means, to be regulated holistically by Scripture.
Though such a commitment is personal, it is not autonomous. In addition to personally studying Scripture, one must study under godly teachers. For example, when Paul directed his spiritual grandchildren in Colossae to be established in Christ, he stressed the importance of being taught.
So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude (Colossians 2:6–7 CSB).
Christianity is both taught and caught, that is, modeled as the apostle Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 4:14–16. In this passage, he stressed being taught by spiritual fathers.
Paul was a spiritual father to many. He taught and modeled a lifestyle regulated by Scripture. Among those he taught were the Bereans, Christians who sought to be regulated based on a sound interpretation of Scripture (Acts 17:10–15).
In Luke’s account of Paul’s visit to Berea, he wrote that the Bereans were “more noble” than those in Thessalonica because they “received the word eagerly and searched the Scriptures” to see if what Paul taught about Jesus was true. The implication was that the Berean Christians were more noble minded—better thinkers, more rational, and wiser—than the Thessalonian Christians.
The people who attended the synagogue in Berea were biblically literate. The synagogue system was established after the dispersion of Israel to enable the dispersed Jews to stay connected to their Jewish heritage rooted in Old Testament Scripture.
The system began to develop in the fourth century BC. By the first century AD, the system was well developed and, because it was the place for people to become biblically literate, it was the preferred venue for Paul to share the message that Jesus is Lord and Christ (Acts 2:26)—the seminal revelation that unlocked God’s plan of redemption and restoration of fallen mankind.
The synagogue system upheld the authority of Scripture and each Jew’s responsibility to be regulated by Scripture. Before visiting Berea, Paul went to Thessalonica. The people in the two cities were similar, some received the good news that Jesus was Lord and Christ. But in Berea, the people were more diligent to confirm with Scripture the doctrine Paul taught. Luke noted that the Bereans were exemplary for this action.
For those who claim to be Christ-followers, all aspects of life should be submitted to values, principles, and practices congruent with Scripture. This requires biblical literacy and personal responsibility to properly understand and apply Scripture.
Accordingly, all jurisdictions of life—personal, family, ekklesia (church), work, and public policy—should be regulated by Scripture. There is no place for mankind to redefine truth and reality in any aspect of life.
Submitting to the authority of Scripture, however, is not popular with those who wish to live as humanists whose focus is on individual rights and entitlements. Humanists want to be their own authority. They are autonomous people who seek to live separated from God, in other words, they live in rebellion against God and his revelation in Scripture. They are spiritual orphans who presume the right to construct reality as they please.
Humanists are in stark contrast to Bereans who lived under the authority of the heavenly Father. The first-century Bereans were, therefore, regulated by biblically defined values, principles, and practices.
Those who seek to live as Bereans today don’t focus on individual rights and entitlements as humanists do. Bereans always seek to serve their divine master. Bereans don’t presume the right to construct reality, they submit to God’s definitions of truth and reality as revealed in Scripture.
Increasingly, humanists govern the cultures of the world not Bereans. Consequently, biblical authority is increasingly rejected. This is euphemistically called progressivism. The correct way to characterize this is not progressive but regressive—regressively rebelling against the Creator and his truth.
To reject the authority of Scripture is to reject the Creator and sovereign Lord of all. This rejection will manifest in purposelessness and hopelessness that will be furthermore evidenced by dysfunctional families, educational confusion, economic calamity, and ineffective public policy.
This deranged thinking seems to be increasingly normative, particularly in the cultures of the free world today. Consequently, in these places, the number of broken and fatherless families is increasing, the education systems are confused because they are decoupled from God who is the source of all knowledge and wisdom, the economies of the world are progressively suffocating in debt, and public policy is failing to produce stability and safety.
The only way to reverse this is to follow the example of the Bereans. The Bereans measured truth and reality by Scripture and took personal responsibility to validate all truth claims against the Word of God. They were submitted to the authority of Scripture—nothing trumped the word of God as revealed in Scripture.
This is the only basis for sound thinking. Trying to live any other way is deranged thinking that is tantamount to building on sand instead of rock. When the storms of life come, as they will, the cultures built on sand will be annihilated but those built on the rock of obedience to the Word of God will stand.
Jesus stood strong against the test he faced because he lived submitted to the Word of God. The Bereans modeled the commitment to the Word of God required to live like Jesus. May Christians have the grace to repent from humanism and follow the model of Jesus and the Bereans, who were committed to being holistically regulated under the authority of Scripture.
The predicate for sound living is sound thinking. Living aligned with the will and ways of God as revealed in Scripture is the only way to truth, stability, safety, peace, and fruitfulness in life. May we all learn to live like Bereans.