Saturday, November 11, 2017

Take a Tip from the Bereans – Part II

Continuing with the last post regarding the Bereans of the New Testament and how they have shown us how to discern in all things that which is true and that which is not, taken from the Book of Acts, and of several ancient records of the Berean community, including Matthew Henry’s six-volume Exposition of the Old and New Testaments (1708–10); originally published in 1706, Commentary on the Whole Bible.    How exactly did the Bereans search the Scriptures and prove this "new" information? Searched comes from the Greek word anakrino, which translates as "properly, to scrutinize, i.e. (by implication) investigate, interrogate, determine." The King James Version translates the word variously as "ask, question, discern, examine, judge, search."
This does not mean that the Bereans constantly questioned the Scriptures to prove or disprove what they were learning. However, they had access to the Old Testament, the Bible of their time. They could examine the words Paul and Silas spoke and determine if they were indeed in line with the Old Testament teaching. They could also observe the manner that these men conducted their lives. How these men taught the Word of God and the proofs they gave were quite relevant to the Bereans.
    Does this mean that they had to disprove or reprove things such as the Sabbath or the Holy Days, which they knew to be of God? Absolutely not! But it clearly indicates that they were not going to let old thoughts, ideas or ways easily fall by the wayside, nor would they close the door on any truth that might come to them through revelation or by teaching. It also made them aware of the need to establish and re-establish the truth of God among them on an on-going fashion.
    As a small Jewish community among the Gentiles, they probably needed the added security of what they were learning and living to be a bulwark against the corrupt world around them. They kept close to God's Word, scrutinizing it for every bit of help it could give them to remain true to God's way amidst a pagan culture. Each of us should readily relate to this as we strive to survive the corruption of this world around us and Satan's ploys.
In addition, the Bereans studied God's Word on a daily basis. Why is this important? When we see instances of contact with God in the Bible, it often has a daily application. Why did God require the Israelites to collect manna each day (except on the Sabbath, for which they prepared by collecting a double portion on Friday), except to remind them of His constant providence? Why does Christ leave us the example of the "model prayer” in which we are to thank God for our physical and spiritual food each day? This daily spiritual exercise had to help the Bereans to feed on, dwell on, delight in and think upon what was true, lovely, praiseworthy, and excellent rather than the negativity that their world often embraced.
Their lives and minds were continually on the things and ways of God.
    Luke, the author of Acts, specifically notes that "non-Jews" or Gentiles came to believe in the same truths. It may be that these Gentiles converted through the personal examples of Paul, Silas, Timothy and the early converts among the Jewish Bereans. Luke labels these Gentiles as "prominent" or honorable men and women. They may have been wealthy and well-respected members of the community, people who had all the creature comforts they might need. Nevertheless, because of the truth that Paul preached as well as the personal examples of the brethren, they believed because they tested out what was told them and compared it to the truth the scriptures as they knew them.
    We can imagine that the personal lives of the Bereans—so careful in their study and defense of God's Word—must have set a wonderful example to people that Christ said would have a hard time accepting the truth (Matthew 19:24), if they were indeed among the wealthy.
    Another interesting fact comes from Hitchcock's Bible Name Dictionary, which mentions that the name "Berea" represents something that is heavy or weighty. Even the city's name hints at a vastly different nature than that described in Matthew 23:23,  where Christ condemns the Pharisees for neglecting the weightier matters of God’s law. The Berean's example was a balanced one in that they separated themselves from the world around them yet still influenced the conversion of others. The Pharisees' strictness, while perhaps technically correct, lacked the love and concern that the Bereans embraced as a way of life toward God and others, and many of the Bereans believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men.
    The people of Berea certainly placed great importance on their belief system, but also strove to see the balance of things so that even those of other cultures and religions could see the fruit produced in their lives. Hypocrisy does not seem to be a problem that hindered this faithful but open-minded people.
    The Bereans were a unique people with a strong desire to follow God's truth. They combined genuine character with zeal to lead and live by example and by the whole Word of God. Their search for the truth did not rely just on the accepted sources of their time but also on the words and actions of those shown to be credible leaders of God's people—and their willingness to check out or test the words being preached or told them. Once this was evident, their lives became living examples that others around them could emulate. Their lives began to show fruitful "works" that centered on God and his truth.
    A final intriguing factor unique to the city of Berea is that it was known for the many streams of water that flow through it. As we know, water symbolizes several Christian ideas, among them baptism and the Holy Spirit being most recognized. Water is critical to the survival of a town and its inhabitants, just as the Holy Spirit is to those within the body of Christ.
    In John 4:10-14, Christ speaks of this to the Samaritan woman at the well. He tells her of the living waters, His Holy Spirit, that would soon become a part of a person's life if he believed. Once converted, God's elect soon understood this living water to be as important to spiritual survival as drinking water is to physical survival. Jesus says, "Whoever drinks of this water (from Jacob's well) will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life" (Johm 4:13-14).
    Not only Berea's name but also the city's physical attributes have spiritual connotations. That the city is well watered symbolizes the relationship between the Berean's faith and flow of God's Holy Spirit through their lives on a daily basis. This, too, should be a good reminder to us to partake of a daily diet of God's Holy Spirit through study, meditation and prayer.
    As a result of all this, the Bereans stand in stark contrast to the Jews of Thessalonica, who were far more obstinate and not nearly as fair-minded. Though both groups had a similar background, they obviously had different intents and goals. The Bereans were willing to be shown a much different and better way of life than the close-minded ways that had become the norm under the rule and influence of the prevalent Pharisaical Judaism.
    The next time the Bereans come to mind, we need to remember that these few verses are a reminder for us. It may be a good idea to compare our evaluation of people, theorists’ and groups’ explanations of the Land of Promise against the actual wordage of the descriptions Mormon, Moroni, Nephi and Jacob giveus in the scriptural record. Are we, like the Bereans, willing to take the time to investigate, examine and scrutinize the Scriptural record to find the truth and compare it against what so many are claiming today? Do we, in fact, compare the worldly information that comes our way with Mormon’s clear and concise language and explanations?
    It was Paul that said, “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12). And it was Solomon, in his old age, speaking on the value of wisdom in daily life, who wrote: “See you a man wise in his own conceit? There is more hope of a fool than of him” (Proverbs 26:12).
    Like the Bereans, we live in a world that is corrupt and where men think themselves smarter than the Lord, but we can remain true to the scriptural record by making the comparisons made by these ancient Greeks. All we need to do is compare what is written by people with the actual wordage of the scriptural record.
    Following is a series on the Age of the Earth, Dating, and other information—perhaps we should read it like the Bereans, by comparing what is said by us and by others with the word of God found in the Biblical Genesis and in the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price, as well as in the Book of Mormon scriptural record.
    Only in that way can the truth be known as well as that which is not true be discerned.

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