Imagine your church family being written about in the Bible. What word would you want to be used to describe you? Loving? Committed? Righteous?

The word that the Bereans got was “noble.” You may think they earned this word by being quiet and dignified, or even submissive. But they earned this partly by questioning the Apostle Paul, and looking up what he had to say for themselves!

The Berean Church was visited by Paul and written about between 70 and 90 AD. Though their interaction was brief, it was important enough to be recorded – and important enough to be lauded as noble.

Where Do the Bereans Appear in the Bible?

The Bereans are mentioned in the book of Acts as Paul was planting churches in Asia Minor, right after he planted a church in Thessalonica:

“As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men” (Acts 17:10-12).

The Bereans set an example for how to receive the Gospel with humility, but also to take ownership of their faith. And they did it together!

How Did the Bereans Study the Bible?

A way to remember how the Bereans studies the Bible is that they did it with the three E’s: eagerness, examination, and every day.

You can just feel the excitement that this church must have had when you read this passage. I imagine them hearing something new about Jesus from Paul, whispering to each other enthusiastically, and then promptly sending someone young and fast to fetch another scroll from Isaiah to pour over as it dawns on them, that yes, Paul is telling the truth. Jesus is the Messiah that they have been waiting for.

The Bereans were clearly open to the Word of God. It wasn’t a chore for them, but something that they were excited about reading.

Their faith wasn’t vague or superficial–they examined the Scriptures carefully because it was obviously something of great importance to them.

And this wasn’t just a Sunday church activity for them either. It was an everyday decision.

They didn’t just take Paul’s word for it. Paul was dropping amazing news on them that they could have just celebrated and moved on. But their faith in God’s promises was clearly of so much importance that they had to make sure Paul wasn’t just making it up. They had to see it in Scripture for themselves.

Paul commends the Berean church for being more noble than the church in Thessalonica because of their response to his message. If you read Acts 17:1-4, you learn how many of those in Thessalonica apparently did not take what Paul said to be true:

“When Paul and his companions had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,’ he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women.”

Although some were persuaded, it is recorded that Paul spent three sabbaths reasoning with them, and has no mention of their eagerness in checking to see if Paul was correct. It seems there is a difference in who is carrying the weight. In Thessalonica, Paul had to do the proving. But in Berea, the Jews took it upon themselves to see if what Paul was saying was true.

It seems like those in Thessalonica did not have as open, soft hearts as those in Berea.

What Can We Learn from the Bereans Today?

The Bereans show us an amazing example of how we should be whenever we come in contact with the Word of God.

To have heard that Jesus was the Messiah would have been incredibly shocking to the Jews. Jesus had been prophesied about for generations and generations, and now someone was claiming that he had appeared, in their lifetime! A fulfillment of the most epic promise God made to his people–and it happened right near them. And this Messiah was very different from the warrior-king they had expected.

So, it makes sense that what Paul was saying would have taken some persuading to accept. But the Bereans show us that even when Scripture is giving us a hard pill to swallow, our hearts can still be open and trusting. Even when it shifts our paradigms or disrupts our life, we can still allow Scripture to shape us.

The Bereans also very clearly owned their faith. Paul was an Apostle. He experienced a vision and was converted by Jesus Christ himself. If there was someone that the Jews in Berea could have taken at his word, it would have been Paul. But the fact that the Bereans verified Paul’s message with Scripture shows that they were not afraid to take their faith into their own hands. They would not be led astray when it came to something so precious to them. We can learn how to humbly question what our spiritual leaders are telling us–not out of rebellion, but out of a passion for the truth and integrity to God’s character.

And finally, the Bereans studied the Scriptures together. The fact that they met in the synagogue to study the Scriptures tells us that this would have been a very communal, interactive time of learning. The Gospel Coalition puts it this way: “This would’ve involved public readings of Scripture, debate and disputation by teachers, teaching and exposition, and conversation about teaching. This act of interpretation, whatever else it was in the granular details, was a communal act.”

As Westerners, we tend to view Christianity as a solitary, individual thing. But it is very much a team sport. Jesus tells us that something special happens when two or three gather in his name: that he is in the midst of them (Matt 18:20). The Bible holds up community as the clearest way to show God’s relational character. We were not meant to do this alone. And the Bereans show us that even interpreting Scripture is best done together, where we can learn from each other.

How often have you been in a Bible study where you’re reading the same passage, but the people around you get something completely different out of it then you do? It’s such a beautiful thing that we can hear the Spirit’s voice through our diverse lenses. And what a joy it must have for the Bereans to learn of the Gospel for the first time with their friends and family around them!

The Legacy of the Bereans

We can only read about the Bereans in the Bible in a total of three verses. And yet we’re still talking about them today!

The legacy they left was one you can tell that they did not even intend to leave – their impact was simply a result of their humble hearts. That shows us how powerful humility is, because of how powerful God’s Spirit is!

If you want to study Scripture like the Bereans, remember the 3 E’s: Eagerly, Examine, and Every day. But don’t just do it alone! Bring in your church family and learn the way that God intended you to: within a loving community that more fully shows his face.

Sources
The Bereans Had No Bibles: Re-envisioning Acts 17
Who Were the Bereans?

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Yakobchuk Olena

Kelly-Jayne McGlynn is a former editor at Crosswalk.com. She sees the act of expression, whether through writing or art, as a way to co-create with God and experience him deeper. Check out her handmade earring Instagram and Etsy for more of her thoughts on connecting with God through creative endeavors.