Tag Archives: Bereans

Called to Investigate

Sherlock HolmesSkeptics will often accuse Christians of “blind faith”, of believing in spite of the evidence to the contrary. If you think that’s the case, I invite you today to consider who is actually commended in the Bible. In Acts 17:11, Luke is recording the results of Paul’s missionary activities among the Bereans, and states,

“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.”

These Jews were highlighted as role models not for blindly accepting this teaching from Paul, but rather for fact-checking him. He came proclaiming that the Jewish prophecies of a coming Messiah had been fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. What did they do? They went back to the original sources, the writings of Moses and the prophets, and verified for themselves each day whether what Paul had said matched up like he said it did. And this wasn’t just skimming Paul’s citations to spot-check him. The Greek word used for “examining” the Scriptures is ἀνακρίνοντες (anakrinontes), meaning to examine or investigate someone or something thoroughly (even by torture); to interrogate; or to subject something to careful study, evaluation and judgment. In fact, this word is used often in the New Testament (and secular Greek writings) to refer to the process of a judge interrogating a witness or defendant.[1] Luke also notes that they did this daily. This wasn’t just a thorough check the first time they heard Paul speak; they were verifying what he said each day that he was there. Why? Because this is important stuff. The world will try to say that religious belief is a back burner issue – something that can be a quaint little compartment in your life if you choose, or can have no part in your life if you choose that route, but it doesn’t really matter one way or the other. Yet, your beliefs about the existence of God, His attributes, whether He is involved in His creation or not – these have major impacts in every area of our lives. These are “big-picture” questions that send ripples through every little detail of our lives. And while the world may encourage apathy toward spiritual questions, the stakes are higher than most people are comfortable admitting. So be like the Bereans, and  keep investigating to see if these things are so.

Now, was this just a fluke, or do we see this call to investigate elsewhere in the Bible? We do, actually. Paul wrote a letter to the new Christians in Thessalonica, that “less-noble” city he’d been run out of before going to Berea. In it, he encouraged them to “examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.”[2] Here, it’s the word δοκιμάζετε (dokimazete), meaning to test or try something to prove that something is good or genuine, as in the case with precious metals. Is anything exempt from this, like religious claims? No! John uses this same term when he wrote in his letter to the church to “test the spirits” to see whether they are from God, lest believers be led astray.[3]  Again, Paul uses this term when he admonishes the Corinthians,  “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?”[4] .

In each case, we have a call to investigate, to examine everything, even ourselves, according to God’s unchanging standard. Does that leave any room for believing something blindly, “in spite of the evidence”? No. On the contrary, Peter tells the Christian he must always be “ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you”.[5] We must know what we believe and why we believe it, both for our own sake (that we not be led off track by false teaching) and for the sake of others (that we may be able to explain to them why they, too, should believe what we do). So dig in to the Scriptures like a Berean, and discover that rich, reliable, and inexhaustible vein of gold that is God’s Word.

[1] Luke 23:14 – Pilate’s examination of Jesus; Acts 4:9 – Peter & John before the Sanhedrin; Acts 12:19 – Herod’s examination (and execution) of the guards tasked with keeping Peter imprisoned.
[2] 1 Thessalonians 5:21, NASB.
[3] 1 John 4:1, NASB.
[4] 2 Corinthians 13:5, NASB.
[5] 1 Peter 3:15, NASB.