The Berean Test: 3 traits you need to carry the mantle of Berean
Be careful not to be found a false berean
By Pastor Dave Bunnell
“Now these Jews (of Berea) 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. Many of them therefore believed….”
One of the things I’ve found surprising the last several years of engaging in online Bible discussions, is how many Christians consider themselves “Bereans,” when they aren’t that. There are three things that Acts 17 tells us made the Berean Jews a noble group; but so many of the ones who want to carry the mantle “Berean” on social media only major on one of the three, and do so cantankerously. I get the feeling many of them bragging about their bereanousness couldn’t even name the other two traits that make a Christian worthy of the label.
Why were the Bereans noble in their response to preaching?
1) They received the word with all eagerness. (So many online self-proclaimed Bereans don’t have an ounce of that trait. In fact, I’ve seen several that actually boasted about the fact that they don’t go to church because they can’t stand the preaching that happens in every church they can find. It all fails to measure up to their personal standards.) To be Berean is to not only listen to preaching of the word, but to long to do so with eagerness, because a Berean wants to hear from God more than he wants to reflect on his own thoughts and ideas.
2) They examined the Scriptures daily to see if the things preached were so. (This is the one the self-proclaimed Bereans want credit for.) But for many of them, what they really do is argue with everything they hear, assume the worst possible imaginable interpretation of every sermon, and accuse every Christian pastor of heresy. (Or just listen in their hearts to the accuser of the brethren and repeat whatever he tells them about a pastor, rejecting said pastor without ever hearing him preach at all.) They don’t trust God that He does actually have pastors in the world that He has chosen and given to the church to do the work of ministry. And some of them, presumably with straight face, will call themselves Bereans in the same sentence that they tell you they’ve not been active in a church in years.
Don’t get me wrong. Pastors’ words should be tested by the scriptures. And good pastors want that to happen. Good pastors actually like to learn the word further and to have God redirect their thinking when it is out of line. And certainly on issues of the gospel of salvation by faith alone in Christ alone, a preacher must be solid. I’ve many times told the congregation I pastor that I want them to be so dedicated to defense of the true biblical gospel that if I ever abandoned it, they would abandon me. If that’s your attitude, don’t feel like I’m stepping on your toes with this article, because it isn’t you I’m talking about. I’m talking about those who think they are Bereans not because they love to hear the word preached, but because they don’t.
3) Many of them therefore believed. That’s the third thing, and it tends to be ignored as much as the first by those who know only the second and interpret it to mean a good church member is putting all his or her energy into critiquing every sermon instead of receiving it for spiritual growth in the Lord. Some also have the attitude of correcting any pastor who preaches God’s promises and encourages them to trust Him. Their critical spirit causes them to dig in their heels, because it is more important to them to take preachers down with cries of “word of faith heresy,” than it is to believe God’s promises and receive His blessings. They cause themselves to miss out on so much, by burying His precious word in the ground instead of investing it in their lives and making church and following God their chief focus.
The solution: Be a real Berean, not a self-deceived fake one. Love the Lord, Love His word, Love hearing it preached, Love its preachers, put everything to the test of scripture, and believe wholeheartedly everything that passes the test (which is most of what your local Bible-believing church preaches each week.)
But if your attitude is that of critic, accuser, skeptic—so that you don’t ever experience great joy that a sermon has moved your heart closer to the Lord or increased your faith, please don’t kid yourself any longer–you’re no Berean. Not until you love to hear and receive preaching AT LEAST as much as you love critically analyzing it.