Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Acts 17:11
Hasn’t this passage been held up as an ideal for us to emulate in our study of the Bible? Don’t we want to be of “noble character?” Of course! Once I was prideful because of my faithfulness in exercising the discipline of this passage. When I heard someone else’s doctrinal views, I received that message with great suspicion, and I re-examined the Scriptures to be sure that my different interpretations was still true. I would pray, “Lord, give me an open mind.” And, over and over again, I proved the truth of my geocentric view of God and His revelation through creation and the Word – always confirming to myself the correctness of my preconceived interpretations. I knew that those sorts of errors in doctrine happened –because that’s what those other stubborn people did.
The Bereans were receiving new revelation from Paul about the foreordained plan of God, which completed and gave meaning to the Old Testament scriptures and prophecies of things to come. They did not crouch, growl, and protect their previous doctrines from the Old Covenant, but they received the new message of salvation with great eagerness and anticipation. It was out of this eagerness that they searched the Scriptures - probably more with a sense of joy and expectation than suspicion and protection of preconceived interpretations. The Bereans were of more noble character because they did not place themselves in the center of their own thinking. The Bereans saw an opportunity to get beyond themselves and their established preconceptions handed down from the Old Testament. The Bereans did not examine the Old Testament to find something wrong with Paul’s message and to protect their institutionalized doctrinal beliefs, so they wouldn’t have to change.
Our situation is a little different from the Bereans.
In the Western Christian part of the world, we have the completed revelation of God - it has been given, taught, written down, translated, printed, widely published, distributed, and readily available. We don’t have to hear this revelation for the first time and update our understanding of the Old Law. We can start with the completed revelation and then see how the Old Testament and everything else in creation fit into that. But, how noble a character do we display in doing that? Do we search the Scriptures to see if our preconceived interpretations are true under the scrutiny of discovery, knowledge, and thinking - being led into all truth by the Holy Spirit? Or, do we form and protect doctrines insulating our traditional teachings of patented methods to get to the truth and be saved?
Could we have so much doctrinal pride and institutional history at risk that we would never admit that things like the following could fall far short of the mark of the glory of God revealed to us in Christ Jesus?
How about ....
..condemning those who haven’t been appropriately water baptized according to a specifically approved protocol,
..structuring “God-ordained” higher authority of some humans over others,
..using the doctrine of the Fall of Man to set up salvation by Jesus “or else you fry,”
..setting up the “have’s and have-not’s” by divine predestination and “once in locked in,”
..clinging to an insistence - unsupportable by science or scripture - that God zapped the world into existence over a 6day x 24hr continuous period in 4004 BC,
..insisting on certain approved external manifestations of the Spirit to prove one's worthiness of salvation,
..or a bizillion other human interpretations?
Can’t Christians see that the plan of God, made before the creation of the world and predestined for our glory, absolutely and totally precludes all of these human constructions? It is God’s foreordained will that we should be transformed into His likeness in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:24) – into the image of the Creator (Col. 3:10). Everything must point to that goal; if something does not, then it is a distraction and an idol.
How can we afford to stop, camp, circle the wagons, and protect our doctrinal baggage instead of keeping on the narrow path upward toward God? The Holy Spirit will guide into all truth (John 16:13), but we have to do the searching and asking for it to be opened to us. Ask, seek, knock (Matt. 7:7-8). No need to seek for answers if you don’t have any questions. If we already have all the answers, let’s just arrogantly inform the Holy Spirit of what the truth is! How noble of character is that? Sure, God’s revelation is complete, but that doesn’t mean our understanding of it is complete.
Could the Holy Spirit say that the Bereans of the 1st century were of more noble character than the church of the 21st century, because the Bereans eagerly searched the Scriptures to learn of the revelation of God, whereas the 21st century Christians divided up into competing tribal groups who couldn’t bring themselves to be in unity and fellowship because those other groups didn’t hold to the same human traditional interpretations of Scripture?
The Bereans made a choice, just like the Thessalonians made a choice, and just like we make a choice. The Bereans were of noble character because of the Godly choice they made – what type of character does today’s divided church proclaim by the choices it is making?
...that all of them might be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. John 17:21