Berea was a city in Greece near Thessalonica that Paul visited in his ministry. Why would Christians call themselves Bereans? This is why.
“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” – Acts 17:11
When a Christian calls themselves Berean they would want to be known for searching the scriptures daily.(And who doesn’t want to be more noble?)
This is why Calvinists, heretics, and Bible students of all stripes and flavors have been calling themselves Bereans for centuries. Many ministries and churches in the grace non-movement claim the title of Berean for the same reason.
But should mid-Acts Pauline dispensationalists be Berean? Maybe there is a better pattern to follow. Wouldn’t it be ironic (and just like God) if the better pattern was from Thessalonica?
The Noble Bereans
The noble Bereans were unbelieving Jews when Paul arrived.
“And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews.” – Acts 17:10
These unbelieving Jews were nobler in their reception of Paul and his message. Note the ignoble behavior of the unbelieving Jews in Thessalonica toward Paul and his companion Jason:
“…the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people.” – Acts 17:5
This conspiracy to capture, assault, and forcibly arrest Paul’s ministry resulted in Paul being sent by the brethren to the much safer city of Berea.
It is much easier to do ministry when the unbelievers do not beat you up. How noble these unbelieving Bereans were.
Did the Bereans Believe?
The educated and wise men in Greece were known for giving audience to different philosophies (Acts 17:19-21).
Perhaps this culturally Greek attitude toward new ideas influenced the Jews at Berea, because they received Paul with a ready mind, and searched scriptures to study out the consequences.
As a result of their listening to hear this new thing Paul preached, and by searching the scriptures, many of the Jewish and Greek Bereans believed (Acts 17:12).
However, their nobility ended when they failed to stand with Paul against the opposition.
“But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people.” – Acts 17:13
Lacking strength of conviction their belief was easily swayed by the more zealous unbelieving Jews from Thessalonica who “stirred up the people” against Paul.
The only other mention of Berea is to name it as the hometown of Sopater, one of Paul’s companions in travel (Acts 20:4).
Berea is not mentioned again in the Bible.
The Thessalonian Ensample
The noble Bereans were unbelieving Jews. They were more noble than the unbelieving Jews in Thessalonica, but not a better ensample than the believers in Thessalonica.
The ruckus and controversy in Thessalonica was a result of the zeal of the believers there to stand with Paul in his ministry and message.
Unlike the studious unbelieving Bereans who heard and many believed, the multitude that believed in Thessalonica also consorted with Paul (Acts 17:4). That is, they became followers of him (1 Thess 1:6).
The world of Thessalonica was turned upside down by the believers there (Acts 17:6). Nothing was turned upside down in Berea except for their libraries.
Perhaps this is why Paul writes two letters to the church of the Thessalonians and praises them for their work, labour, and persistent faithfulness to his message (1 Thess 1:3).
Paul’s gospel did not just come unto them in word (as it also came unto the Bereans), but also in power (1 Thess 1:5).
It was not the Bereans, but the Thessalonians that became the ensample for all the believers in Macedonia (1 Thess 1:7).
Whereas we hear nothing from Berea after Paul leaves, Paul says the word of the Lord sounded out from Thessalonica in every direction (1 Thess 1:8).
Truly the words that Paul spoke, the words of God, effectually worked in the believers at Thessalonica (1 Thess 2:13) .
A Better Pattern
The unbelieving Jews in Berea were more noble in initially receiving Paul peacefully, and searching the scriptures while Paul evangelized them.
Certainly, we need to study to show ourselves approved unto God, but there is much more than nobility and studiousness, there is zeal, workmanship, and faithfulness to do the will of God.
If Paul’s gospel and the mystery of Christ will be spread abroad, then mid-Acts dispensational Bible believing grace churches must follow a different pattern.
“For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: God hath chosen the foolish things of the world…” – 1 Cor 1:26
Those foolish things were the pagan Thessalonians who heard, believed, and followed Paul into the ministry of God’s grace. They were truly ambassadors of God’s grace.
We should stop trying to be Bereans who searched the scriptures, but were not known for doing any real ministry work, and start being faithful workmen who sound out the word of the Lord, consort with Paul, and turn the world upside down.
Our real ensample should be the church of the Thessalonians who not only believed the word of God, but allowed it to work effectually in them to do the work of the ministry.