What is your favorite Bible verse?
I love to hear Christians answer this question because their answer is often more than just a reference. It also usually includes a reason.
Perhaps there was a time when you were really depressed and a specific verse sustained you and brought you out of the pit. Or maybe there is a passage that really captures the glory of God, and every time you think about that set of verses, your heart is led to worship. Whatever the reason, if you are a Christian, most likely you have a verse (or verses) that is significant to you.
I found my favorite verse of the Bible at a pivotal time in my life.
It was the year 2000, and I had just transferred to Lancaster Bible College to study Pastoral Ministry. God saved me a year before, and in the intervening time, I felt called to discontinue my original major of Secondary Education in Math at Millersville University in order to study the Scriptures at a Bible College and pursue full-time ministry. And while I had grown up in a church, I had never read the Bible through in its entirety, no had I ever studied theology.
Enter my first roommate, Corey (*Actually, I had 5 roomates in our apartment-esque dorm setting, but Corey happens to factor into this story in a very unique way). I owe much of my early theological framework to him. It was Corey who first explained to my the doctrines of grace, laid out the full implications of Romans 9, and didn’t let up until I was a full-blown Calvinist. (No regrets, by the way! If you need a good book on the subject, check out this.) Corey, along with my other roommate, Nick, also helped me study for many vocabulary exams, as we learned New Testament Greek together.
But aside from all of this, it was also Corey who very early on, introduced me to Acts 17:11. And yep, that is now my favorite verse. In the New American Standard Bible, it reads:
Now 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.
‘These’ individuals are the Berean Christians that the Apostle Paul and his associate, Silas, were visiting (see Acts 17:10). And this text tells us that they were ‘more noble-minded’ than those in Thessalonica (see Acts 17:1-9). Why was this the case?
Well, for one thing, the residents of Thessalonica largely rejected Paul and Silas and the Gospel they proclaimed. Acts 17:2-3 says that even though Paul “reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead,” the majority of the Thessalonicans refused to believe and instead, formed a mob and forced Paul and Silas to leave immediately. So the Bereans were more noble-minded in that they actually received Paul’s message. They didn’t reject the Gospel, but rather, received it with ‘eagerness’.
However, I believe the text tells us more than that. For even though many in Thessalonica rejected the Gospel, verse 4 tells us that some still believed. Yet, Acts 17:11 tells us that the Bereans were still even more noble-minded than they! How was this the case?
Verse 11 tells us: they ‘examined the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.’ The Bereans didn’t just blindly accept some new teaching. Certainly, there are many in this world who will be persuaded by just about any claim or movement that comes on to the scene. The Bereans weren’t like that. They didn’t even accept the Gospel just because it was Paul!
Rather, they fact-checked Paul. They were Snopes before there was Snopes! Can you imagine fact-checking the Apostle Paul? Can you imagine saying to one of the most significant figures in Christian history, “Excuse me sir, I’m going to need to see if what you say checks out”? Who does that? Yet, the Bereans are praised for it! They listened to Paul’s messages every day, with an open ear and an open Bible. And as they heard him speak, they checked what he said against Scripture, ‘to see whether these things were so’. The Bible was their standard to which everything was to be compared. If Paul said one thing, and the Bible said another, they would reject Paul in favor of the word of God.
Fortunately, Paul checked out. The Bereans came to understand that Jesus really was the promised Messiah, and they became saved as a result! And because of their diligence, they are remembered as the ‘more noble-minded’ Christians.
I want to be a “noble-minded” Christan.
I want to be a Berean Christian.
In today’s connected world, it can be so easy to accept a new teaching without checking it against Scripture first. This has always been a danger, in fact…even before smartphones existed. But as a pastor, not only do I want to disciple new Christians, but Berean ones.
Acts 17:11 has been my favorite Bible verse now for 16 years (even since that day in my LBC dorm when Corey introduced it to me). I want my theology not to be formed by what I think is right, but by what Scripture says. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” I want God’s Word to be my rule and my standard, by which I judge everything else. I don’t want to be an empty-minded believer, but a noble-minded one.
So here’s my exhortation to you: Be like the Bereans. Don’t just accept what you hear, no matter where it comes from, even if it comes from me! Check me against Scripture, and if whatever I say doesn’t match up with what the Bible says, reject me and choose the Bible! Always keep an open Bible at hand. Be a critical thinker. Receive what is true ‘eagerly’, as the Bereans did, but as you do, test everything against the Bible, examining everything ‘day and night, to see if these things are so.’
Soli Deo gloria.