10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 Now these people 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. 12 Therefore, many of them believed, along with a significant number of prominent Greek women and men. (Acts 17:10-12)

It was said in Korea, ‘Be a Berean Korean.’ Amen! Those noble-minded Jews are an example to all of us until this day. Let’s learn a few lessons.

Noble-men. The Bereans were noble-men, in that these Jews were noble. Luke 19:12 refers to a man of noble birth, a nobleman, who went to a far country to receive a kingdom. Certainly, a nobleman (Gk: eugenes) was a figure of high status in society, powerful and wealthy. To Paul, the Jews in Berea were like the aristocrats of Downton Abbey. The elves of LOTR conducted themselves somberly, aristocratically, and with great fidelity. They were noble.

            What specifically was the reason for Paul’s view of them? He said they were “more noble” than the Jews of Thessalonica, for the Jews of Berea had “received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” It wasn’t because the Bereans were actual aristocrats or high-ranking people. It was because they searched the Scripture to discover the truth, unlike the Thessalonican Jews.

            I truly believe herein lies an example for NCT to follow. NCT is not tied down by theological confessions, nor by timecharts. It has the freedom at the local assembly level to encourage nobility in God’s people, an eagerness and hunger to search his word for oneself. Nor is it about tongue-speaking, or social justice, or youth groups. We do not need to feel embarrassed concerning diving into God’s word. For all the buzz today in assemblies about following Acts and its model, what could be more appropriate? 

Preacher-hearer relationship. Paul was an apostle, the best at explaining God’s word. Yet, he didn’t force his message, nor demand compliance. He was confident in God’s calling and in the Spirit’s presence with him in his preaching. He knew that it was the duty of each man, woman, and child to weigh the apostolic teaching given to them. He had his job to do; they had theirs. Too many discipleship courses begin with what is effectively the teacher imposing his will on the ‘disciple’. We mustn’t cudgel into the kingdom, we preach. Often a subtle form is to press a discipleship program on them, instead of to declare Christ to them.  It is then up to the hearer to hear with listening ears. If they don’t, it is not the duty of the preacher to use tricks to persuade them, or to resort to pressure. Preachers can rest: God has his plan, and nothing can stop it.

Ungodly. We focus on the Bereans as Christians. The truth is, they are called noble whilst in a state of ungodliness. They were not true believers at that point. Their nobility was in stark contrast to the majority of the Jews in Thessalonica who had stirred up a mob to cause trouble for Paul and the assembly. They hated God’s preacher, and did not wish to listen to his message. They were like animals, beasts.

            Underneath this teaching is an important principle: there is differentiation in the ungodly. Some are more sober, balanced, and open, and others are just evil! It is simply not true to say that the ungodly don’t know what is right or wrong. And it is equally wrong to argue that you cannot expect them to learn about the bible’s teaching in any kind of depth. These Bereans searched the Scripture. The preacher cannot force someone to search, but some can and do search.

            This depth and eagerness were a good sign, for we are told that many believed, unlike in nasty Thessalonica. Put another way, a sign that someone, some group, is not far from the Lord is that they wish to dig deep and see for themselves. Why, then, does much street preaching and evangelism happen along the lines of barely conveying biblical content? Why are new Christians discipled by giving to them merely the most rudimentary, kindergarten forms of teaching? Thank God for the hunger, encourage it, feed it, let it thrive and grow! Yes, I know, the Jews had the Scripture, and most today do not know the first thing about God’s word. Are we suggesting that they are incapable of bearing more of a load, or couldn’t possibly, once converted, dive deep into God’s word?

            There is also a kind of warning here, is there not? In this day and age, any celebrity professing Jesus is instantaneously made a hero of the faith. Some Roman Catholics dig into God’s word. SDAers and others search the Scripture. But an eagerness to search the Scripture does not equate to being a believer! Read on, “many of them believed”, not “all of them believed”. Nicodemus was someone who liked that fellow Jesus, and even understood he was from God. Nicodemus- the teacher in Israel- bowed to Jesus as the rabbi. Yet, Jesus told Nicodemus that had to be born from above!

Let’s be Christian noble-men!