Who were these people?
They were Jews who lived in a town called Berea, and we’re told they were more noble than the Jews in Thessalonica. Apparently that word translated “noble” refers to “noble birth”, so it’s not necessarily clear whether Luke is saying they were more noble than the Jews in Thessalonica because of the way they reacted to Paul’s teaching, or whether he was just stating the fact that they were from higher class families. But either way, the result was that many of them believed as a result of the way they received Paul’s teaching, so they seem to be setting a good example.
What did they do?
v11 tells us “they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures to see if these things were so”
The Bereans did some examining. Their lives weren’t changed just because they turned up and sat there while Paul talked. They had some work to do while they were listening.
And I think the way that applies to us is that it’s not just up to the preacher to do all the work in preparing a sermon and all we have to do is turn up and take it in by osmosis. We should examine the Scriptures to see if what the preacher says is what the Scripture says.
And there’s that word “if” in there. The examined the Scriptures “to see if these things were so”.
As far as the Bereans were concerned, it wasn’t necessarily going to be the case that whatever Paul and Silas told them must be true.
I think one of the reasons I wasn’t really interested in discussing expositional preaching back in May 2012 was that, growing up at Bradford-on-Avon Baptist Church, I heard lots of people talking about the sound Biblical preaching we have here at Bradford, and I simply believed that it was sound preaching because I’d been told it was. Now, to be clear, my point is not to deny that we have a history of sound teaching here at Bradford, but that I think I was wrong to simply trust that the preaching was sound because other people said so.
If the Bereans were right to examine the Scriptures to see if what the apostle Paul said was so, then we should probably check out what our preachers say too, not assume that because we have a history of sound teaching, that the sermons I hear this week are bound to be solid truth.
A few chapters later, in Acts 20v29&30, Paul warns the elders at the church in Ephesus to be alert because false teachers were going to arise from among their own selves and draw disciples away.
It’s quite easy to point at other churches who follow false teachers, but if a false teacher came to Bradford, or if one even arose from among our own selves, how would we recognise them? I might be wrong on this, but I doubt the false teachers at Ephesus turned up one day wearing a badge saying “I’m a false teacher” and immediately started preaching blatant heresy to draw people away.
Likewise, if a false teacher arose at Bradford, especially if they arose from within us (to be clear, I don’t have anyone in mind here; I’m talking purely hypothetically), I doubt we’d know he was a false teacher just by looking at him, and I don’t reckon he would draw many disciples away if he started his sermon by saying “This morning I’m not going to preach from the Bible, instead I’m going to talk to you about some life lessons I learned from The Hobbit.”
So how would we recognise a false teacher? How did the Bereans know Paul wasn’t a false teacher? They examined the Scriptures to see if what he said was true or not, and their examination found that it was true. And (v12) therefore many of them believed. They believed because their examination showed that Paul was telling the truth; they didn’t assume from the beginning that he would definitely be telling the truth.