I owe it to my years in the Navigators that I can’t read the Bible without seeing a highlighter through certain verses. Now I generally don’t mark in my Bibles, but I think you know what I mean: as I read, there are certain verses that I have heard referred to so many times that they stand out to me mentally, as if they were colored with a bright yellow highlighter and a big black underline. One such verse is Acts 17:11…
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (ESV)
More than anything, the Navs were Bible people, so I suppose it’s not surprising that these words are highlighted in my mind, for this is not just a Bible verse, but a verse about the Bible, and as such, it provides some excellent guidance in life.
But first, the setting is this: Paul and company are on a whirlwind tour of the Roman Empire, his second missionary journey, which begins by backtracking through some cities covered on Paul’s first journey. Barnabas is no longer with him as a result of an argument over taking John Mark on the trip. (Are you encouraged? Paul is apparently human.) But he and his new cohorts Timothy, Luke and Silas get much farther out this time, going as far as modern day Greece before starting the long sea voyage home.
The visit to Thessalonica goes pretty well, and many Greeks believe, but it all starts to go sour when some influential Jews run them out of town. But no matter, they travel by night to Berea, and set up shop as per usual in the synagogue, where the noble Jews receive “the word” with eagerness.
“The word” here refers to the gospel, but what Paul was saying about a dying and rising Messiah constituted new information, so they need to check it out in the Scriptures, and when they did…
Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. Acts 17:12 (ESV)
The principle here is very important – if you want to be a “noble” follower of Christ, be all about the Bible. And I can think of two ways to do this:
First, examine everything you hear by the Word of God. If you’ve been a Christian long enough, it’s rare that you’ll hear a truly “new” theological idea, but when you do, something inside you should go, “Danger…need to check that out.”
For instance, in college, I began speaking with a fellow student who told me that I needed to speak in tongues to be saved (He was part of the United Pentecostal Church, a cult-like group that also denies the Trinity). This young man showed me a couple of verses and I became fearful and unsettled, largely because, you guessed it, I didn’t speak in tongues. My Navigator leader at the time was an extremely wise man named Dave Ostendorf. Dave knew that this “teaching” came from a couple of verses in the book of Acts, but he didn’t try to just show me two or three verses to prove the guy wrong. Dave sent me home with an assignment: read the entire book of Acts and see if these things were so. I did just that, and my fear was crushed. The guy was out to lunch.
But the second principle is even more all-encompassing: Acts 17:11 teaches us that we should endeavor to shape everything about our lives by the Bible.
Be a Bible guy. Be a Bible gal. Try to shape everything about your life by the Bible. And if you think this might have negative consequences, actually it’s just the opposite. In fact, there is nothing better to deliver you from the horrors of legalism, as for instance, when someone tells you that Christians shouldn’t dance. Well, see what the Bible says about it. Or, when someone says that you should baptize your infant in the remote case they might die early? Go read the Bible. Go read the Bible. Go read the Bible.
Endeavor to shape your life by the Word of God and while you’re at it, don’t believe such baptismal foolishness.
Finally…it’s worth noting that Jesus Himself would have been happy with the Bereans, for our Lord said that carefully examining the Scriptures and being a thoroughgoing Bible person would be the key…to true liberty:
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32 (ESV)
Tomorrow, Thursday, March 5th: Acts 18