A Sacred Trust
Every individual believer is responsible
The Revelation & Stewardship of God’s Word
When God’s Word is revealed to us it becomes a sacred trust, and we become accountable for those things He reveals both in how we handle them, and whether or not we live them out obediently. God’s Word is not meant to be merely read — it is meant to be lived.
We are instructed to study to show ourselves approved, thereby thwarting deception and reproving error. The Word of God is not subject to man’s opinion, but rather is revealed by the Holy Spirit. Being Berean means doing as the Bereans did in the Apostles’ day: diligently testing the public teaching of God’s Word by God’s Word, not with a critical spirit, but with the wisdom and discernment of the Holy Spirit. We encourage you to do the same in every circumstance, rightly dividing the Word of Truth, being found a good steward of the Word of God entrusted to you.
The Berean Approach is one that I employ wholeheartedly in my personal life as well as within my Stepping Stones bible studies. It is one I both encourage and teach, and I believe it to be a very simple and relevant practice for every believer that will safeguard against deception and provide necessary insight into the scriptures. The Berean approach is one you may have heard of, but may not fully understand, which is why I’ve constructed this page.
We’re going to talk about the Berean approach by answering the following key questions:
• Who are the Bereans?
• What is the origin of the Berean Approach and how is it practiced?
• Why is it necessary for the proper interpretation of scripture?
• How do I properly apply it in my own life and in the study of God’s Word?
Before attempting to answer these questions, let’s begin by reading the biblical text where we are introduced to the Bereans:
And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few. But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people. And then immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea: but Silas and Timotheus abode there still. And they that conducted Paul brought him unto Athens: and receiving a commandment unto Silas and Timotheus for to come to him with all speed, they departed, (Acts 17:10-15, KJV).
Who Are the Bereans?
The biblical Bereans come from Macedonia, which is in Northern Greece. They lived in the Greek city of Berea. These Bereans, although Greek, were also practicing Jews. We know they had a synagogue, and that they also possessed the holy scriptures. Yet there is more here than meets the eye. When we consider ancient Greek culture, we find some clues that help us understand the Berean’s approach to Paul and his Gospel.
The Bereans spoken of here are not to be mistaken for the Calvanist church of Edinburgh, Scotland which followed John Barclay.
What is the Origin of the Berean Approach and how is it practiced?
The Greeks were known for their deep mythological and philosophical studies. Traditionally, they were not people of faith. Rather, they required evidence of truth which afforded them permission to believe, and that was something that came only from the wisdom of the gods. Greek gods were not always the kindest. It was from these gods that the Greeks traditionally sought answers for the many mysteries to the natural and spiritual world. In doing so, they engaged in manipulative practices that either brought them favor or punishment, and they did so with great fear. With regard to this grave error, God did gift the Greeks with knowledge, some of which remains applicable to this very day. This is evidenced in their math, philosophy and physical science, as well as their beautiful arts. Greek mythology gives evidence to their belief in the spirit world and higher powers, however dark.
With that said, let’s be mindful that the Bereans of Paul’s day were indeed Greek. However, they were also practicing Jews who were, no doubt, still influenced by the Greek culture, hence their approach to Paul’s Gospel.
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men, (1 Corinthians 1:18-25, KJV, emphasis mine).
We see here within this text, the origin of the Berean approach. The need for validity and proof were excessively strong — both for the Jew and the Greek. To obtain a legitimate faith the Greeks were dependent upon it, and the Jews demanded it. Let’s consider what Paul is saying and remember that many Jews, namely those in Christ’s day who were of the synagogue and religious establishment, sought signs of Him, for which He rebuked them calling them an adulterous generation (see Matthew 12:39 and 16:4). The Jews who sought signs are no different than the Greeks who sought wisdom. Their mutual need for validation and proof is much the same; it simply employs different means toward the same end.
The Bereans were equally Jewish and Greek, and the faith by which the Gospel was preached to them in contrast to their need for validation, was not one easily borne.
Yet there is more. Now that we see their motivation behind a diligent search for validation, let’s not dismiss their nobility which Paul expressly commended. These Bereans welcomed the Gospel openly and readily. They did not respond as their brothers in Thessalonica (who were also Jewish Greeks), and that is to be very well noted. The Bereans, in contrast, were of a noble heart. They did not possess a cynical or critical spirit, and that is the difference between a noble heart versus an adulterous one.
The message of the Gospel prompted the Bereans to probe deeper. Let’s make note of how they accomplished that task. They diligently searched the scriptures for validity in Paul’s message, which they found. Paul was a man, and therefore, the only way to test his words was by sifting them through the sieve of holy scriptures.
The Church today should demand the same of men as the Bereans did of Paul. This diligent search for validity and proof is an excellent practice when it’s applied correctly by a noble heart. Unlike the Jews who sought to disprove Christ and make a mockery of Him, the Berean’s motivation was not to test or disprove God, but to prove man. The Berean approach, when appropriately practiced, is a sure safeguard for all believers against deception, error, falsehood and blatant heresy.
When we understand Greek and Jewish culture, we can now see why Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians (who later came to the faith) reads like this:
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, (1 Thessalonians 5:18-23, KJV, emphasis mine).
Within this passage we see a strict measure employed against evil with the intention of upholding good. The outcome of the Berean’s approach was they came to a genuine faith in the Gospel of Christ which could withstand any argument on God’s terms. In their faith they assisted Paul in his journeys, and the Thessalonians eventually followed in coming to the faith as well. However, they did so with much greater trepidation. The key is this: the Bereans received Paul’s message with a noble heart instead of an adulterous or critical one — and only after testing it by the authority of the holy scriptures.
The Berean’s trusted God at His Word to be the final authority in every doctrine and matter of men. And that is a noble practice we want to adopt and establish readily and appropriately.
Why is it necessary for the proper interpretation of scripture?
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth, (2 Timothy 2:15, KJV).
As we can see, the Berean approach is one that is upheld in the scriptures. The key is the heart with which we test and prove all things. Again, we are given a sacred trust. When God reveals His Word to us, we have a holy obligation to rightly divide God’s truth and steward it accurately on the following points:
• Interpretation: Proper handling within scriptural context in regard to the audience, voice, culture, and original tongues translated.
• Validation: The testing of God’s word can only come by God’s word.
• Application: Proper application and obedience to God’s word in our personal lives.
How do I apply the Berean Approach in my own life and in the study of God’s Word?
We live in an age when very little is tested, proven, or tried. Masses throng to teachers and speakers who tickle their ears. The average Christian knows very little of the Word of God for themselves — much less how to prove it. Therefore, the Berean approach, if it is to be properly practiced, demands a fundamental knowledge of the scriptures.
Again, the noble goal of the Berean is not to merely reveal error, falsehood and heresy, but to preserve, approve, and reveal truth. A critical and adulterous heart is one that will search for error and seek to disprove God via sources outside of God’s word through signs and esoteric knowledge or wisdom. This is a malpractice that is contrary to a heart of faith which Christ openly condemned. God’s Word cannot be tested or proven by anything other than His Word. That is the only reliable source for validation, and until we understand that truth, the Berean approach cannot be rightly practiced.
A noble heart is one that is open to God and readily seeks to preserve and approve His Truth. Whenever error or heresy is found, it is immediately shunned and condemned — and that without apology or compromise. The noble heart which the Bereans possessed endeavored to prove all things unto God — which they succeeded well in doing in Paul’s case. That is the nobility of the Berean approach, and it can only come by a heart that seeks and desires God’s absolute Truth. The Word of God is the plumb line by which all words of men must be measured.
The greatest proof of God’s word is found in God’s word, in which there will never be a contradiction. The scriptures will stand the most grueling of tests every time. Despite their diverse authorship over thousands of years, they will hold true, never faltering — if they are rightly divided. That comes with practice and is afforded by the discernment and revelation of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the Word of God demands a Berean approach. The preservation of truth will protect believers against the onslaught of deception and error being unleashed in the last days, which Christ strictly warns us to guard against.
The Berean approach is the best and surest safeguard we can practice toward achieving this end.
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