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Summary: Paul believed that the Jews had first claim to the Gospel, for Jesus was first and foremost their Messiah. He had been born a Jew and had come to fulfill the Jewish Scriptures. So, no matter how bitterly Paul might be persecuted by the unbelieving Jews

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March 11, 2015

By: Tom Lowe

Lesson: IV.C.6: The Work in Berea (17:10-14)

Acts 17:10-14 (KJV)

10 As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue.

11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

12 As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

13 But when the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, some of them went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up.

14 The believers immediately sent Paul to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed at Berea.

Introduction

When the three[1] missionaries left Thessalonica, they also left the Egnatian Way, the route they had been following since they first landed in Macedonia at Neapolis (16:11). This main east-west highway went northwest from Thessalonica to Dyrrachium on the Adriatic. It was the main land route to Rome. At Dyrrachium travelers would take a boat across the Adriatic Sea to Brundisium in southern Italy and from their north to Rome. It has been suggested that Paul might have entertained the idea of taking this route to Rome even as early as this point in his missionary career. In his Letter to the Romans (15:22) he spoke of his having “often” been hindered in coming to them. The hindrance at this time may well have been the news that the emperor Claudius had expelled all the Jews from Rome (18:2). Whatever the case, Paul headed in another direction at this time, going southwest to Berea and well off any main thoroughfare.

Commentary

10 As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue.

About 50 miles from Thessalonica, Berea lay on the eastern slopes of Mt. Vermion in the Olympian mountain range. In a somewhat remote region, Berea was the most significant city in the area, having been the capital of one of the four divisions of Macedonia from 167-148 b.c. It evidently had a sizable population in Paul’s day. The journey from Thessalonica began in the nighttime because of the hasty departure. By foot it would have taken about three days. They must have hoped to avoid pursuit, and to a degree that hope was fulfilled. At least they had a breather from their persecutors, during which they were able to follow Paul’s “usual habit” of proclaiming the Good News[2] in the synagogue in this city also.

Paul believed that the Jews had first claim to the Gospel, for Jesus was first and foremost their Messiah. He had been born a Jew and had come to fulfill the Jewish Scriptures. So, no matter how bitterly Paul might be persecuted by the unbelieving Jews, there was always the believing remnant, the true Israel of God, awaiting the Good News of the Gospel. In city after city they (Jewish Christians) became the nucleus of the church. Berea was to be no exception. On the contrary, he was to meet with a refreshingly different reception at the Berean synagogue.

It is not clear whether Timothy was with Paul and Silas at this time; he was probably working in Philippi. Later, he would join Paul in Athens (Acts 17:15) and then be sent to Thessalonica to encourage the church during its time of persecution (1 Thessalonians 3:1-2). Since Timothy was a Gentile, and had not been present when the trouble erupted, he could minister in the city freely. The piece bond could keep Paul out, but it would not apply to Paul’s young assistant.

Undoubtedly the process of preaching was nearly identical in Thessalonica and Berea, but notice the difference pointed out in the next verse.

11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

On arriving in the town, they began to witness in the synagogue, as they had in Thessalonica. The Jews of Berea, however, were of a different breed. Luke describes them as being “more noble” than the Thessalonians. He used a word (eugenesteros) that originally meant high born but came to have a more general connotation of being open, tolerant, generous, having the qualities that go with “good breeding.” Nowhere was this more evident than in their eager willingness to take Paul’s scriptural exposition seriously. He encountered the same eagerness in his Corinthian converts (2 Corinthians 8:11, 12, 19; 9:2). How Paul must have rejoiced to find such a spirit among his beloved Jewish brethren. They did not, however, accept his word at face value, but did their own examination of the Scriptures to see if they really did point to the death and resurrection of the Messiah as Paul claimed (17:3). This was no superficial investigation either, no weekly Sabbath Service, as at Thessalonica. They met daily to search the Scriptures, examining them, and sifting through the evidence. Paul welcomed that. His gospel could stand the test of any amount of critical examination. The example of the Bereans should be followed by everyone. All teaching, no matter how convincing it sounds, no matter how great the personal charisma of the teacher, ought to be subjected to the test of Scripture.

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