Wherever Paul went, he taught people from the Scriptures, and in Thessalonica and Berea, we see the importance of both his own attitude to these holy writings and the responses of the Bereans. (Acts 17:1-15) In Thessalonica, Paul ‘reasoned’, ‘explained’, ‘proved,’ ‘proclaimed’ and ‘persuaded.’ In Berea the Jews eagerly ‘received’ the message and diligently ‘examined’ the Scriptures. They were proclaimed to be ‘of more noble character’ than the Thessalonians precisely because of this attitude to the Scriptures. (Acts 17:11)

It was inevitable in Jewish evangelism that the Old Testament Scriptures should be ‘both the textbook and the court of appeal’. (John Stott, ‘Acts’, P 274-5) What is impressive in this passage in Acts 17 is that neither speaker nor hearers used Scripture in a superficial, unintelligent or proof-texting way. On the contrary, Paul ‘argued’ out of the Scriptures and the Bereans ‘examined’ them to see that Paul welcomed and encouraged this thoughtful response. As John Stott says, ‘He believed in doctrine (his message had theological content), but not in indoctrination (tyrannical instruction demanding uncritical acceptance.)’ (John Stott, ‘Acts’, P 274-5)

For us today, we need both a careful exposition of what the Scriptures mean (which is why we place such importance on preaching and Bible study in our services), but we also need the same kind of response as the Bereans as we absorb this teaching. God wants us to think critically and to examine His word. There is no place for uncritical acceptance of teaching. Paul wrote to Timothy, ‘Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.’ (2 Tim 4:2-4) It’s always easy to like certain preaching and preachers because we hear what we want to hear, but there are times when we need the correction of God’s word as well as its encouragement (see 2 Tim 3:16-17). We need to ensure that what is taught lines up with the whole of Scripture; we also need to take seriously our responsibility for responding to God’s word. James talks about the dangers of hearing the word and failing to do what it says (James 1:22-25) When we have examined the truth of what we hear and agree with it, we then need to take action. When we do this, our attitude to the Scriptures is borne out by our actions and our lives have integrity and wholeness. As Paul says, ‘If the way you live isn’t consistent with what you believe, then it’s wrong.’ (Rom 14:23, The Message)