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 17:11-12, NIV)
Would you like to find deeper certainty in your Christian faith? I commend the Berean method.
In Acts 17 we follow the Apostle Paul as he brings the Christian message to Europe for the very first time. He is following his normal method: he starts in the synagogue and preaches Christ there. Having being roughed up in Philippi and Thessalonica, Paul now moves to Berea (northern Greece), where he meets a warmer reception from the Jewish congregation there.
Luke, the writer of Acts, commends the Bereans for their eagerness in listening – and for the way they checked Paul’s preaching about Jesus from the Scriptures.
Often, and rightly, this is applied to us as a model for the way we should check what we hear from preachers against what’s in the Bible. It’s a reason why we have Bibles on all the chairs at church. However, Luke has a further, deeper purpose.
The Scriptures that the Bereans were checking Paul’s preaching against were the 39 books of their Hebrew Bible – our Old Testament. That may strike us as a little odd, since the Old Testament was written before Jesus’ time. But we can see from a record of Paul’s preaching in Acts 13 that his big point was that the historical Jesus was the fulfilment of the Old Testament hope of the promised king God was to send – the Messiah, or Christ.
Picture the Bereans, listening intently to Paul and then checking their synagogue Bible. Yes, Jesus really does fit with the Old Testament promises of a great king whom God would send. Yes, he is the suffering servant of Isaiah. Yes, he is a rescuer like the many rescuers in Judges. Yes, he had the same reforming zeal as the greatest of Israel’s kings. Yes, he is from the family line of Judah, from which the Messiah was to come. Yes, yes, yes…. etc. And no, Paul had not twisted any of this to make his points.
What Paul said was true. God had shown himself to be God by fulfilling his promises. And Jesus was so much more than a carpenter from Nazareth, or even a miracle worker. In him, all God’s ancient promises are yes!
This is how, Luke tells us, many of them believed. This is how conviction and certainty came!
Not long after I became a Christian, as an undergraduate, a friend recommended the Bible study scheme Search the Scriptures. This starts with Luke’s gospel but quickly moves into Genesis. I cannot describe the faith-strengthening, wonder-filling effect as I came to see how the Bible, including bits written many centuries before Jesus, all fits together in him.
The Berean route to deeper certainty is to read the Old Testament along with the New, and to see how amazingly Jesus fulfils all those ancient patterns and promises. Every year I discover new ways this works. For Christianity is true.