The apostle Paul preached the gospel in Berea, a city located in the first-century Roman province of Macedonia. Paul arrived in Berea after he had preached in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-10).
Upon his arrival in Berea, Paul went into the synagogue of the Jews (17:10). What is written in the next verse contains words which are familiar and beloved to many Bible students: “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (17:11). Observe some facts:
“These” Scriptures-searchers were the people whom Paul encountered in the Jewish synagogue (17:10). As tempting as it might be to think that this verse describes how the first-century Christians studied the word of God, the truth is, the context shows that Acts 17:11 is an account of how certain folks in Berea conducted themselves before they “believed” (17:12) and were converted.
These Bereans “were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica.” In this passage, the expression “more fair-minded” means “more noble- minded” [Vine; www2.mf.no/bibelprog/vines.pl?tofrom]. It is the same Greek word that is translated as the “noble” part of “nobleman” in one of Jesus’ parables (Luke 19:12).
These Bereans “received the word with all readiness.” What “word” did they hear? Two verses later we read that “the word of God was preached by Paul at Berea,” so the “word” that they received was not man’s ideas, but God’s truth. Thank God, these folks were not rejecters of that word, but receivers! The word “readiness” means “zeal, spirit, eagerness, inclination, readiness of mind” [Thayer, word no. 4288 via e-Sword]. The ones described had a heart that longed to learn what God had to say in His word. All of us need to have such a spirit.
These Bereans searched “the Scriptures.” Which Scriptures? In this case, it would have been the Old Testament. Paul’s teaching custom was to prove from the message of the old covenant that Jesus was the promised Christ (17:2,3). That still works today as an effective way to show Jesus’ deity: read the Old Testament texts which foretold of the Messiah’s coming and then point out how in each case they were fulfilled in the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth.
These Bereans “searched” the Scriptures. Here the word “search” indicates that they examined, judged, or discerned [Thayer, word no. 350]. They put forth an effort to come to an understanding of what their Bible said. The Lord wants His people to understand His will (Ephesians 5:17), and we recognize that this does not happen by accident. We also admit from experience and observation that good understanding of the Bible does not come about by putting forth a minimal effort or having haphazardous study habits. These noble-minded folks who heard Paul’s preaching did not simply look through the Bible. They did not simply read it. Reading the Scriptures is great, but diligent study, searching, and meditation is better because it produces more lasting fruit. Blessed is the person who delights in the law of the Lord and meditates in it day and night (Psalm 1:2).
These Bereans searched the Scriptures “daily.” They may have set aside a special, extra time of study on the Sabbath, but these truth-seeking people were daily searchers of God’s word. Doing that on a consistent basis requires desire, time, commitment, and self-discipline. Does that describe the effort that you and I are making to learn God’s truth?
What was wrong with these people? How in the world could they find time to search the Scriptures every single day? Why did they have so much time on their hands? Did they not have other things to do? What, were they all retired or jobless or something? Did days back then last thirty hours instead of twenty-four? Surely if those Bereans were living in our fast-paced age of technology and stressful work, there is no way that they would find and take the time to study God’s word so much. Let us not kid ourselves. Diligently searching the Scriptures has nothing to do with culture, the period of history, or geography. It is all about having a heart that hungers and thirsts for righteousness (Matthew 5:6). We either have it or we don’t. Do you and I have such a heart?
These Bereans searched the Scriptures daily “to find out whether these things were so.” What things? The things that Paul was teaching them. They were putting the apostle to the test! They did not want to be led astray, and they knew that it was their personal responsibility to avoid being deceived.
We admire the spirit of those first-century Bereans. We can imitate their attitude and commitment to learning the truth. They not only learned it; they submitted to it, too (Acts 17:12). How fantastic!
— Roger D. Campbell