Cross-check: Real Bereans

"The Bereans cross-checked Paul hard." Such ran a popular meme I saw some time ago. It expresses our common understanding of the noble Bereans and their conduct. The idea itself is correct: we need to examine teachers by the word of God to make sure what they're saying is biblical. But it's the spirit of the meme, and of our common use of this text, that is wrong. I'd like to do some cross-checking of my own here, because we're cheating ourselves out of something noble and wonderful. Let's look at the text:

"The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 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." Acts 17:10-11 

The Thessalonian Jews, with whom the Bereans are contrasted. were skeptical in the way we commonly mean.

They distrusted Paul. Their posture toward his preaching was one of skepticism and doubt. This should be our exact posture toward false teachers. Believers can smell when something is wrong, for "they do not know the voice of strangers" (John 10:5). It is then that we must, ironically, adopt a posture more similar to that of the Thessalonian Jews. A more suitable text for this is Isaiah 8:20: "To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn." Indeed, cross-check false teachers hard with the word when they come with their mutterings.

The Bereans weren't skeptical. At least not in the way we mean.

What made the Bereans noble was how they received Paul's preaching. It's the vibe that I think we miss here. Their posture wasn't negative, it was positive. Their hearts readily drank up what he said: "They received the word [that Paul spoke] with all eagerness..." The Bereans sat under such mind-blowing gospel preaching that they had to pinch themselves with Scripture to make sure they weren't dreaming. Now that's a Berean of a rather different sort, isn't it? They cross-checked their disbelief hard with the cross of Jesus Christ in all of Scripture. 

No earthly prosperity or fleshly doctrine ever hits the hearts of believers in this way, but the eternal gospel of God's free grace to miserable God-hating wretches does. So be a real Berean. Sit under the the kind of preaching that makes you sift through the Bible every day to see if God's grace is really that amazing.

Spoiler alert: It is.