Were the Bereans Believers?

In the 17th chapter of Acts, were those Paul preached to in the synagogues in Thessalonica and Berea already believers or became believers after hearing Paul?

This is a good and interesting question because it takes us back to the context in which a very familiar scripture is often used. Acts 17:11 says, “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.” A majority of the time, we use this scripture to encourage Christians to search the word of God to make sure that what is being taught is true. And there is nothing wrong with making that application of this particular scripture. The original context in which it was written, however, was in regard to non-Christians. Let’s look at Acts 17 and see what the context of this verse is.

In Acts 17:1 Paul and his companions arrived at Thessalonica where a Jewish synagogue was found. Upon finding this place, as was Paul’s custom, he began to preach the gospel to the Jewish people there. Verse 4 says that “some” of the Jews believed; it also says that many of the gentiles believed as well. However, the passage says that of the Jews that did not believe, they stirred up trouble in the city for Paul. Verse 10 finds Paul and Silas being sent away from Thessalonica to the small town of Berea. Here again, as was Paul’s custom, he entered into the synagogue of the Jews and preached the gospel to them. These, however, were more noble than those in Thessalonica. As a result of their nobility, verse 12 says that “many” of them believed. However, the Jews in Thessalonica came to Berea and continued to cause trouble for Paul and Silas.

The question as stated above really answers itself. One cannot become a believer until one has heard the word of God and accepted it, for faith comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17). So whether a person was living in Thessalonica or Berea, he had to hear someone preach the gospel before he became a Christian/a believer. So those in the synagogues were not believers until after they heard Paul preach the gospel.

The questioner, however, already knows this so I am not sure that this is what is being asked. If I remember correctly, the question was originally raised in the context of Acts 17:11. In that verse, a comparison is made between those in Thessalonica and those in Berea. Those in Berea were “more noble” than those in Thessalonica. Perhaps the questioner is asking whether this particular verse is in reference to Christians being nobler than other Christians or unbelievers being nobler than other unbelievers. If this is not true, then the questioner may correct me on this, but I believe that this was the context out of which this question was asked and I would like to address this more specific question.

The comparison between those in Thessalonica and those in Berea more likely refers to unbelievers. The unbelievers in Thessalonica were belligerent with Paul and Silas. The text says, “But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people.” This was not the attitude of the Jews at Berea. In contrast, their attitude is recorded in verse 11, “they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” So it was not a case of the Bereans studying the scriptures MORE than those in Thessalonica as much as it was the case of their having a completely different attitude toward the word of God. The one not only rejected it, but stirred up trouble; the other received the word and then followed up to make sure the things that were taught were true. Consequently we see a different result in Berea than in Thessalonica. We see in verse 4 that “some” of the Jews believed in Thessalonica. However in verse 12 we read that “many” of the Jews believed in Berea.

So does this passage apply to us today as Christians? Absolutely. The principle is one of a noble attitude toward the preaching of the word of God verses an ignoble or base attitude toward the preaching of the word of God. Christians ought always to have a noble attitude toward the preaching of the word of God. They should receive the word and search the scriptures to see if the things taught are so. Christians should not behave in such a way as the unbelieving Jews in Thessalonica and try to stir up trouble regarding those who are preaching the gospel of Christ. The attitude of the Bereans is going to produce good fruit; the attitude of the Thessalonians is going to produce division. So in that regard, we should be noble like the Bereans and not ignoble like the Thessalonians.

Posted in Kevin Cauley | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Were the Bereans Believers?

What Does Luke 10:21 Mean?

In Luke 10:21, is Jesus saying you don’t have to be a doctor in Theology to understand the word of God as some religions would have us believe?

Luke 10:21 says, “In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.” In Luke 10:17-20, Jesus had just received the seventy disciples back from the limited commission. In their work they had had a measure of success and they were making a report to Jesus concerning these things. Jesus was happy with their success and offered a prayer to God of thanksgiving in this regard. It is within this prayer of thanksgiving that Jesus speaks in which he utters the words of the verse under consideration. Jesus prayer of thanksgiving is twofold. First he gives thanks that God has hid these things from the “wise” and “understanding.” Second he gives thanks that these things have been revealed unto babes. Why does Jesus say such a thing? Is Jesus saying that “the wise” cannot understand God’s word?

During the limited commission, the disciples had gone out and preached the coming of the kingdom of God. The message that they had been instructed to preach was that men should repent (Mark 6:12) and “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 10:7). There were some who were obedient to that message and did repent. However, there were others who did not. The cities that did not repent are recorded in Luke 10:13-15 and Matthew 11:20-24. These cities were Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. Jesus pronounces a “woe” upon these cities and says it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the Day of Judgment than for them. These cities had rejected the message of the disciples, rejected Jesus, and rejected the one who sent Jesus, God the Father (Luke 10:16).

The towns of Capernaum, Chorazin and Bethsaida were all located in fairly close proximity to each other. History records that Capernaum was the local seat of Roman government and as such would attract commerce. The towns of Chorazin and Bethsaida were fishing villages and would have had a lot of commercial interests within them as well. The economic situation in these towns was probably good. This would mean that many of the citizens were middle to upper class, financially. Not only, however, were they blessed with prosperity of finances, but with prosperity of God’s word. They had ample opportunity to hear the word of God and accept it. Within the town of Capernaum Jesus performed mighty works (Luke 10:13). Jesus healed the centurion’s son here (Mt.8:5); here he healed the nobleman’s son (John 4:46); Peter’s mother-in-law was healed here (Mk.1:31); a paralytic man was healed here (Mt.9:1); here an unclean spirit was cast out (Mk.1:21). The evidence for Jesus being who he claimed to be was overwhelming in this particular area, yet many rejected him. Why was this? Evidently this was due to their own human “wisdom and understanding” which resulted from their self sufficiency in their economic situation. When we read Luke 10:21, we must conclude that the words “wise” and “understanding” are spoken rather sarcastically by Jesus. That is, in their own wisdom and understanding, they had no need for Jesus or the gospel because all of their needs were taken care of due to their economy. We see this today as well, particularly in wealthy areas of the country. The well-to-do are often the ones who simply, in their own minds, have no need for the gospel. Paul wrote of this in 1 Corinthians 1:26 “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.” The Bible warns us concerning following after our own wisdom. Proverbs 3:7 says, “Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.” Isaiah 5:21 says, “Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.”

So looking back at the original question, I do not believe that this passage is referring to a person’s understanding of the gospel as much as it is referring to one’s acceptance of the gospel. Those who are wise in their own eyes are not going to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ because they think that they have within themselves the capacity to solve all of their problems. Whereas those who are “babes,” as Jesus calls them, acknowledge their dependence upon God to provide for their salvation and are willing to humbly submit to God’s will. Here is the difference between these two categories of people. So, to answer the question, I do not believe that Jesus is speaking directly about what it takes to understand the message of the gospel, but rather, the attitude of those who do, verses the attitude of those who don’t. In order to accept the message of the gospel, one cannot filter it through one’s own earthly wisdom; one must humbly acknowledge his or her dependence upon God as would a babe his dependence upon his mother. I do not believe that one’s worldly education is what is under consideration in this particular passage except when that worldly education causes one to be lifted up with pride and reject God’s word. So, the “wise” and “understanding” of this passage is not referring to earthly education as much as it is earthly and personal self satisfaction.

Posted in Kevin Cauley | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on What Does Luke 10:21 Mean?

Should the Church Give Scholarships?

Is it the work of the church to provide secular education and give money for secular education?

The primary work of the church is to serve as Christ’s bride in the grand purpose of saving souls (Luke 19:10). Within this great purpose, there is a three-fold division of work to be done. First the church must be evangelistic and reach out to those who have never obeyed the gospel of Christ (Acts 13:26). Second, the church must exhort those who are faithful (Hebrews 3:13). Third, the church must help those who are in need both within and without the church (Galatians 6:10). If the church is to spend any money on any endeavor, it must fall within one of these three categories. It may directly fall into one of these categories, such as the support of a local evangelist would fall into both categories of preaching the gospel to the lost and exhorting the faithful. It may also indirectly fall into one of these categories. In order for the evangelist to preach the gospel he needs various devices to assist him such as pencils, paper, notebooks, copiers, etc. These are authorized indirectly as matters of expediency. So where in these three categories would secular education fall? Let us look at who has the primary responsibility for secular education and then see if it falls within any of these categories.

First, the Bible says, “be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16). To get wise in secular things one must study secular ways and that implies secular education. It is, therefore, prudent for an individual to obtain some sort of secular education. Second, we note that secular education is necessary today to support one’s self and one’s family. While one may find work today without a secular education, the odds are increasingly against it. The Bible teaches that we ought to work to be able to support ourselves (2 Thessalonians 3:10, 12), our families (1 Timothy 5:8), and those in need (Ephesians 4:28). So, secular education is thus directly related to personal improvement and family support. This places the primary responsibility for secular education with the family. The question we must ask at this point is can the church provide financial support to families?

If the church can give money for food, clothing, shelter and other things to families who are in need, then the church may definitely provide for secular education to aid such families to provide for their own future. In fact, to perpetuate familial dependence upon the church by denying families the very things that they need to support themselves would be counterproductive to the work and mission of the church. Providing for secular education helps those members to become independent. Once independence is achieved the members will, in turn, provide for the needs of the church. In so doing, the perpetual cycle of interdependent care and support goes forward. Galatians 6:10 says, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” Inasmuch as this passage authorizes us to help those individuals who need food or clothing, whether within or without the church, it also authorizes us to help individuals find ways to provide for themselves as well. Thus, providing for someone’s secular education is within the scope of our responsibility to do good to all men.

Let me state one word of caution in this regard. The primary responsibility of the church is to work toward the salvation of men’s souls. Helping individuals with their physical needs should motivate individuals to want to learn more about God’s word and therein is the connection between this particular work and the primary responsibility of the church. If the cause of providing for an individual’s needs becomes the primary responsibility of the church, whether it is providing food, clothing, shelter, money, education, or whatever, then the church has failed to fulfill the mission with which she is charged by Jesus. We need to be careful to do good works, yes, but to maintain the primary mission with which the church is charged. To a large degree, this is the responsibility of the eldership as they decide the works in which the church is to be involved.

Posted in Kevin Cauley | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Should the Church Give Scholarships?