Examining the Scriptures
I place these two passages of Scripture together (that is, the apostles’ preaching in Thessalonica and Berea) because they bear so many similarities. Incidentally, we noted previously that the writer of Acts (Luke) started saying “we” in 16:10, indicating that he was among the missionaries when they sailed over to Macedonia and preached in Philippi. He now switches back to “they,” leading us to believe that Luke may have remained in Philippi to help the church just planted there.
Unlike Philippi, the cities of Thessalonica and Berea each had a synagogue where the Jews met, and as was Paul’s custom he went there on the Sabbath day to worship. And upon being asked to speak, he did. What is significant is how Luke describes what Paul did in each synagogue. In Thessalonica we are told that Paul “reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.’” In Berea we are told that the Jews there “examin[ed] the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” The words I wish to highlight are “reasoned” and “examined,” both in regards to the Scriptures.
To hear some folk talk, faith and reason are mutually exclusive or the opposite of one another. Such is nonsense. Now I will readily confess as I have throughout these devotions that saving faith is a miracle and that no one comes to saving faith without the Holy Spirit impressing such faith upon him. But this is not the same as saying that faith is unreasonable. Anselm, a great teacher of the Church in the eleventh century, once said, “I believe that I may understand.” It is faith that opens our eyes to the truth, that makes us to see clearly. And it is through examining the Scriptures that the Holy Spirit enlightens the mind that one may rightly perceive the truth. Oh yes, historical and archaeological discoveries provide evidence of the integrity of the Bible over and again, but that is not the evidence we seek. Scripture has its own internal witness that one begins to understand as one, not only reads, but experiences it. So some of the Jews in Thessalonica and Berea examined the law and the prophets and began to see the relationship, or better, the fulfillment of them in the ministry of this Jesus whom Paul preached. They reasoned and examined; the Holy Spirit provided the light. Yes, many examine and the darkness that pervades their minds is never pierced, for no one “gets it” on his own. But never be afraid to challenge someone to examine the Scriptures; such is how lives are changed.