Receiving the Word (Preparation)
“10The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11Now 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. 12Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men” (Acts 17:10-12; NASB).
Paul’s visit to Berea is a fairly familiar event for many especially in Reformed circles. Most of us are aware of what is being said when Christians exhort one another to “be Bereans” in their reception of the preached word. Or are we? Sadly, many do not practice the studiousness of the Bereans in their desire to “be Bereans.” Instead of taking the event as a whole and applying all of it to our lives, we can tend to zero in on the “examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” portion to the exclusion of all else that is recorded about their exemplary nobility.
If we were to ask the average person encouraging us to “be Bereans” to tell us without consorting the text of what the main verb is in the text, what would he or she say? Most likely, he or she would tell us that the main verb is examine, because that is most peoples’ takeaway. We are to examine the text to see whether these things we’re being taught are so.
Many might be surprised to discover that the only verb that appears in Acts 17:11 is the word received (Gk.: δέχομαι). The word examining (Gk.: ἀνακρίνοντες) is a participle, which means that it serves to augment the main verb, not to supplant it. As such, it is appropriate for us to re-center our focus in regard to how we interpret this passage. The central focus ought to be on the receiving of the word, not so much the examination of it.
The nobility of the Bereans was found in their receiving of the word, but how exactly did they receive it? First, we are told that they received the word with great eagerness. This is sadly in contrast to how many modern day ‘Bereans’ receive the word. Pastors can tell you story after story of the stony-faced congregant who approaches the pastor after the sermon to test his interpretation of a particular text or his definition of obscure and unimportant terms. Often these conversations reveal to the pastor just how distracted we are as we allow our train of thought to get derailed by unimportant nuances and supporting points while listening to the sermon.
How do we prevent ourselves from being derailed by minute, insignificant details of our pastors’ sermons? We must “be Bereans.” As we prepare our hearts and minds to receive the word of God tomorrow—with all discernment—let us consider how we might prepare our hearts and minds to receive the word of God with great eagerness. This was the nobility of the Bereans.
We must come to see ourselves as needy beggars who have arrived at the grand table of our King. We should inspect the food to ensure that there are no bones that could choke us, but how dishonoring it would be to the King to allow this investigation to impede our ability to thoroughly enjoy the meal He has laid before us. We must be careful not to come to Lord’s Day sermons like many children come to the dinner table: scoffing, scolding, complaining, and picking at our food. We examine it for any deadly or dangerous elements, and we encourage our pastors toward better and better preaching, but we nonetheless receive the divine meal that the Lord has supplied for us with thanksgiving and great eagerness.
It is only through properly receiving the word of God that lives are transformed. This was the main point of many of Christ’s teachings, including but not limited to the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:4-15). It was certainly the case with the Bereans. “Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men,” (Acts 17:12; NASB). As you prepare your heart and mind for the Lord’s Day tomorrow, take heed then how your receive the preached word (Luke 8:18).