Vol. 8, No. 2
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In Acts 17:11 (ASV), we read; "Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica." Why would such a statement be made regarding the people of Beroea? What is involved in being noble? One definition of the word 'noble' is. "having or showing high moral qualities or ideals, or greatness of character; lofty" (Webster's Dictionary). This understanding has nothing to do with one's birth or ancestry. This is dealing with the moral fiber of an individual. There are many noble people from various backgrounds simply because they possess a worthy heart that is honest, fair, understanding and receptive to new and lofty ideals. The same writer that declared the people in Beroea noble also informs us why he did so. In the remainder of Acts 17:11 we read "that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so."
The first important ingredient in one's being noble is to possess an open heart, a receptive mind. That is basically what Luke means when he wrote that the people "received the word with all readiness of mind." There is a great need today for people to be intellectually honest with themselves and the Word of God. A person may be honest in his dealings with others yet refuse to have that integrity of heart that is needed to receive the teachings of God. It is easier sometimes to be fair and honest in business dealings than to be open-minded when it comes to a study of the Holy Scriptures. It requires fortitude and courage to permit the Word of God to have free course in one's heart and life. Very few people today are willing to permit God to shape and mold their thoughts, habits and character by his revealed will.
Prejudice is peculiar to the human race. To some degree, all are adversely affected with this trait of character. Because we are, we refuse to eat certain foods, associate with some people and avoid being seen in various places. Prejudice is defined as "an adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts. A preconceived preference or idea; bias" (The American Heritage Dictionary). There is the thought of prejudging something or someone. One biased individual was heard to say, "Don't confuse me with the facts; my mind is made up."
Jesus Christ knew prejudice in his day. There were those who were prejudiced against the place where he lived. Philip informed Nathanael of "Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." Nathanael's reply was, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Later when Nathanael met Jesus, that prejudice which inferred that no great one could come from such an insignificant city was removed. He said, "thou art the Son of God; thou art King of Israel" (John 1:45-49). There was a great deal of prejudice among the Jews toward the person of Jesus Christ. They would not accept the fact that Jesus was indeed the Son of God. John recorded, "He came unto his own, and they that were his own received him not" (John 1:11-12). This terrible disposition of heart contributed to the eventual crucifixion of Christ. Peter declared, "He is the stone which was set at naught of you the builders, which was made the head of the corner" (Acts 4:11). The truth that Jesus taught was often rejected because of preconceived opinions. Actually, one of the reasons why Jesus spoke in parables was to conceal the truth from those whose ears were dull of hearing, eyes that were closed and hearts that had been hardened against the truth (Matthew 13:10-15).
Today, the power of prejudice is so prevalent among people that it prevents many from studying the Holy Scriptures. There are those who will not permit their family members to attend a series of Gospel meetings. Some will warn others not to get mixed up with that group of people, having reference to the church of the Lord. Prejudice is often the motive behind such statements as, "They believe that everybody is going to be lost except them." How wonderful it would be if there were more noble people like those of Beroea who "received the word with all readiness of mind" (Acts 17:11). The good soil in the parable that Jesus gave as recorded in Luke 8:4-8 represents the heart that is receptive to the Gospel of Christ. It was said of Ezra that he "had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord" (Ezra 7:10). So, it is a matter of an attitude that one can develop. One can "prepare his heart" to be receptive to the truth. The apostle Paul spoke of some who did not possess a love of the truth. This fact contributed to the blinding of their eyes that they might not be saved (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). In contrast, how wonderful it is to know individuals whose minds are open and who manifest a spirit of eagerness to learn more of God's Word.
The second characteristic of the noble people of Berea was that they were willing to examine the Scriptures daily to see if the things being taught were true (Acts 17:11). One definition of the word 'examine' is "to inspect or scrutinize carefully; inquire into or investigate." Thus, to examine or to search implies more than a casual reading. It means to exert effort to discover, to understand, to learn. The source of investigation in the time of the people of Beroea was the Old Testament writings. The eunuch in Acts 8 had in his possession a portion of these Scriptures that contained the writings of Isaiah. The Hebrew Scriptures had been translated into the Greek language in the year 285 B.C. Thus, the Septuagint Version was available to a greater number of people. Luke mentioned the frequency of the searching of the Scriptures by the citizenry of Beroea, and that was daily. An open Bible is a prerequisite to the understanding of the will of God. One should not accept anything that mortal man may say relative to religious matters without examining the Word of God to see if such is true. Yet, many will simply listen and agree because a person has declared himself or herself to be a preacher of the Gospel. Since there are no inspired men today, it is necessary that the teachings of men be compared with the inspired Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Multiplied millions are being led astray by false doctrines propagated through the various medias like television, radio, internet, etc.
This investigation of the Scriptures is a perpetual matter. The Psalmist spoke of a righteous man in this manner: "But his delight is the law of Jehovah; and on his law doth he meditate day and night" (Psalm 1:2). "Oh how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day" (Psalm 119:97). Paul exhorted Timothy to "give heed to reading" and to "study to shew thyself approved unto God" (1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 2:15). Jesus said, "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled" (Matthew 5:6). "If any man willeth to do his will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from myself" (John 7:17). Each person has a moral obligation to himself to study the Bible. Another person should not determine what one believes. Jesus referred to blind leaders leading blind followers and both falling into a pit (Matthew 15:14). It is bad enough when men teach falsely, but it is even worse when others will follow without a proper investigation of the Word of God. The apostle John gave this directive, "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1).
In summary, there are two requirements for those who would be noble as those in Beroea, namely, an open heart and an open Bible. There must be a receptive mind to the teaching of the Word of God and a willingness to search the Scriptures to see if such is in harmony with the revealed will of God.