“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.” (Acts 17:11, AV)
When you meet someone of noble character, you meet someone who stands above the crowd in some way. Yet, it is not in physical stature or beauty. A noble person stands out with intrinsic qualities, something that comes from within that is noticeable in their demeanor and how they handle life. There are certain people that I have seen in my life that just stand out in such a way. Their lives exude that certain something that draws respect.
Shortly after preaching the Word of God in Thessalonica, the Jews incited a riot in that city. Paul and Silas moved on to Berea. Paul’s experience in Berea was quite different. The verse states that the Jews in Berea were “more noble” than those in Thessalonica.
The word “noble” in the Greek text is eugenes. It refers to one that is well born or of noble race; here in this context one that is noble-minded (Strongs, G2104). The verse gives us two marks of a noble-minded person, openness and astuteness.
First, the Bereans exhibited openness. They did not summarily write off what Paul taught, even though it may have conflicted with their preconceived ideas. Remember that the Jewish teachers of Paul’s day had interpreted the Old Testament writings to mean that God justified men based on their obedience to the Law, rather than free grace by faith. They had understood that their Messiah would come as a conquering and reigning king over an earthly kingdom. It is in the midst of this preconception that Paul brings a new and unusual teaching. Yet, they “received the word with all eagerness.” They had a willingness to hear things that may not agree with their preconceived ideas.
Second, we see that the Bereans were astute. They were not a group of gullible people. Rather than just jumping from their preconception to a new teaching, they examined the Scriptures to determine if what Paul taught was true. The word for “examining,” anakrino, means to investigate or scrutinize. It comes from two words, ana, meaning into the midst, and krino, which has a primary meaning to separate. They meticulously dissected the Scriptures to discover the truth. The implication is that they would go on an exhaustive study to discover the truth and then adhere to the truth.
In a previous devotional, I mentioned that many professing Christians today base their theology and moral choices on something other than the Bible. However, there is a potential problem. Various churches have their own slants on doctrine and morality, and may be off the mark in many cases. Here, the Bereans set an example for us. Believers ought to be students of the Word, ready and willing to examine the teachings of the church and challenge their own preconceived ideas.
As a pastor, I do not want people to believe something because I said it. I do want people to believe something because the Bible teaches it. Too often people hold to a certain theological position because of a preconception or a dynamic teacher taught it. Do not summarily reject or accept your own preconceptions or those of the dynamic teacher, but go on a quest for the truth. From personal experience, the forming of theological truth, the correct interpretation of every nuance of Scripture is a life-long journey. Even if you have studied the Bible from cover to cover a hundred times, do it again and then, again. This is the true mark of nobility.