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“The Hijacking of the Bereans”

Posted on Jul 06 2015 by Gary Mason

By Jonathan Bounds

If only the Bereans could see the future, I’m sure they’d be thrilled. Few cities in early church history enjoy the enviable reputation of this first century group of believers. Their brief cameo in the book of Acts, consisting of but six verses, has for centuries made their name synonymous with nobility of mind and depth of character. With the exception of the fact that they were perhaps included in Paul’s boasting in the churches of Macedonia in his second letter to the Corinthians, the only direct reference to them in Scripture is found in the 17th chapter of Acts.  The verse that has won them such renown in modern Christianity is found in verse 11, where Luke writes,

“Now these were more noble- minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.”  Acts 17:11 (NASB)

Here’s where we run into the crux of the problem; It would seem that their reputation has been somewhat hijacked. In our modern age, what comes to mind when the name Berean is mentioned is the idea of never truly committing to a truth before you have examined it for yourself, always maintaining a “healthy” skepticism when it comes to any sermon, book, or other medium of revelation. While we all agree that it is absolutely necessary to let the Scripture be our final authority, not allowing ourselves to be tossed around by “every wind and wave of doctrine”, it is quite possible that many have found themselves taking the concept all the way to the ditch on the other side of the road.

If you were to do a quick internet search of the term “Bereans”, you would doubtless find it attached to another hijacked word; “discernment”. While discernment is a thoroughly Biblical concept, the foreign concept when looking into Scripture is the idea of “discernment ministries” existing solely to expose false doctrines and those that would disseminate such teachings.  Sure, we would all affirm that discernment is a vital tool in every believer’s life, as attested to in many places all over the New Testament.  However, this brand of ministry has often found itself outside the Biblical description of “discerning of Spirits”, and “discerning between good and evil”, and has turned into a veritable witch hunt. What seems to be contrary to Scripture is the idea that a person in the Body of Christ would be able to claim that the core of their gifting and mission is to ferret out the false teachers, the charlatans, and the cults. Any student of the Scripture would agree that in these last days, it will be imperative for believers and especially leaders to be able to expose and refute the multitude of false teachings and errant doctrines that we were warned would be rampant in our time, but the idea that this is independent of the discerning, preaching, and manifestation of the truth of the gospel is likely an error in its own right.

We all have probably encountered that individual, in person or online, who feels it is their responsibility to expose the frauds. In my personal experience, it is impossible for this person to keep an open heart to the things of God for very long when engaged in this type of “ministry” alone. When one’s ministry is defined by identifying and exposing wrong doctrine, cults, and the like, it is a virtually inevitable result that this person will arrive at the point where they no longer “rejoice in the truth” as described in 1 Corinthians 13, but rather begin to “rejoice in unrighteousness”, as their very ministry depends on it. It is also nearly unavoidable that they would continue such a ministry for any sustained period of time without succumbing to the trappings of pride and spiritual arrogance. In my time years ago as an assistant manager of a Christian bookstore, I would occasionally encounter customers that upon entering the store, would usually make a beeline for the “cults” section, which in moderation could be very helpful, always looking to expand their substantial library of resources with the latest exposé of the modern “doctrines of demons”. Such a person begins to flip through the latest Christian best-sellers, not looking for edification or revelation, but rather with a hope that they will find error, and with such an attitude, it is usually a foregone conclusion that they will find something to satisfy their hunger. Far too often, the modern self-identifying Berean rarely listens to a sermon eager to draw closer to Christ, but rather places themselves in the seat of the critic, examining the speaker’s every point, watching for error, their Bible now used as a legal text with which to refute the errant and expose the unlearned.  This, however, was not the picture we see of the Bereans in Acts 17.

It is important to note that Luke does not write simply that the Bereans were noble-minded, but rather that they were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica. To properly understand this statement, we must look at the city that they were being placed in contrast to. Earlier in Acts 17, we are told that while in Thessalonica, the Apostle Paul followed his usual pattern of first visiting the synagogue and preaching the gospel to the Jews before going to the Gentiles of the city. The trouble with the Thessalonian synagogue was that while many Jews and God-fearing Greeks believed and were saved, the leaders of the synagogue became jealous and violently opposed the apostles and their message, going so far as to form a mob and drag some of the prominent believers of the city in front of the city authorities, accusing them of the grave crime of treason. When some ministers expound on the verse speaking of the Bereans as being more noble-minded, the implication that we’re often led to is that the Bereans are somehow being compared to a group of naive simpletons who blindly accepted whatever they heard without having the spiritual maturity or intellectual integrity to fact-check it for themselves. Upon reading it in its context, we find that Luke’s account presents a different contrast altogether. The Bereans are being compared to a group of people that were closed and hardened to this new message being presented to them, and jealous at the followers it was attracting. They weren’t willing to allow for the possibility that the message being proclaimed was a fulfillment of the very Scripture that they claimed to hold so dear, and resisted the notion that Jesus Christ Himself was at the very heart of their beloved law and prophets. Once again in verse 11, we see Luke state that the proof of the Bereans’ noble minds was not that they received the word with skepticism, but rather with “great eagerness”.  He does not imply that they examined the Scriptures hoping to disprove the apostles, but rather, that they did so daily in order to “see that these things were so.” It seems that they received this new message with an open heart and were excited to find that the Christ the apostles preached was the Messiah they had read and heard about all their lives; the very same Messiah whose presence in the Scripture now must have virtually jumped off the page at them as they examined the sacred writings with fresh eyes and open hearts.

It is without dispute that any form of revelation that is preached, prophesied, or written, must always be judged and measured by the Scripture, especially in these days where “itching ears” and false teachers are so prevalent. I too get suspicious when I hear of “new revelation” that exists independent of the authority of Scripture. What we can’t afford to lose in this state of alertness is the need for eager hearts that see the Scripture as the living and active Word of God, the truest source of edification for every believer, a revealer of Jesus, and not merely a weapon to dispel a supposed opponent. We should be open to the idea that this very living Word of God will likely confront some of our long-held traditions or belief-systems on occasion; and if it is indeed of God, we would be the better for it. Believers who seek to grow in righteous discernment must remember that we are taught not only to discern error, but even more importantly, to discern truth, remembering Paul’s letter to the Thessalonian believers admonishing us that while we must examine everything carefully and abstain from every form of evil, at the end of the day, we must hold fast to what is good. Come to think of it, we may owe the Bereans an apology.

Jonathan BoundsJonathan Bounds is the pastor of The Word Church in both Loon Lake, Saskatchewan and in Lloydminster, Alberta.

Find out more about them by clicking here.

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Posted on Apr 17 2015 by Gary Mason

Southeast Ontario Saturday Morning Get Together

Where:

Life Abundant Niagara
384 Concession 7
Niagara on the Lake

When:

9:00 am – 10:30 am
Saturday, May 9, 2015

Why:

Because it’s time!
A gathering to fellowship, encourage, and support one another.
Includes a continental breakfast and a time for share and prayer.

Please let Rick know if you are intending on attending.  You can send him an email at begods@gmail.com.

April 2015 Video Message from David McGrew

Posted on Apr 11 2015 by Gary Mason

April 2015 video greeting from David McGrew.

David McGrew is pastor of Keystone Victoria in Victoria, British Columbia and the National President of CFCM.

Find out more about him by clicking here.

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