Having literally spent my entire life in church, I cannot count the number of times I have heard it said that we are admonished, or even commanded, to be Bereans. But are we? Where is that found? It may seem like a minor point, but nowhere in the New Testament is there a command to be Bereans. And if we are going to claim to be guided by the Bible, then when we use Bible terms we need to use them with accuracy.

The Bereans are mentioned by Luke in the 17th chapter of Acts, and here is what is said about the visit by Paul and Silas to Berea:

Acts 17:10-12 (NET)
“The brothers sent Paul and Silas off to Berea a at once, during the night. When they arrived, they went to the Jewish synagogue. These Jews a were more open- minded than those in Thessalonica, for they eagerly received e the message, examining the scriptures carefully every day to see if these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, along with quite a few a prominent Greek women and men.”

So what is said about this relatively successful encounter was that they were open-minded, and looked into what Paul was saying to give it a fair hearing and see if this was true or not. They were intellectually honest; that’s all. In fact, while many did believe, some did not. But at least they were open-minded enough to hear him out and research things before jumping to any conclusions. If you are like that, then you can see here that such an approach can be profitable.

Thessalonica is mentioned in the preceding verses as a contrast to those in Berea. What made the Bereans more open-minded, or noble? Well let’s see from chapter 16.

Acts 17:1-9 (NET)
“After they traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. Paul went to the Jews in the synagogue, as he customarily did, and on three Sabbath days he addressed them from the scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and to rise from the dead, saying, “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.” Some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large group of God- fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women. But the Jews became jealous, and gathering together some worthless men from the rabble in the marketplace, they formed a mob and set the city in an uproar. They attacked Jasons house, trying to find Paul and Silas to bring them out to the assembly. When they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city officials, screaming, “These people who have stirred up trouble throughout the world have come here too, and a Jason has welcomed them as guests! They are all acting against Caesars decrees, saying there is another king named Jesus!” They caused confusion among a the crowd and the city officials who heard these things. After the city officials had received bail from Jason and the others, they released them.”

So the difference was that the Bereans didn’t form a mob, riot, and want some body to die because of the message about Jesus Christ. Want to be a Berean? Then when someone preaches something you are unsure of or unfamiliar with, research it instead of forming a riotous mob and trying to kill someone.

Well if we are not commanded to be Bereans, then should we just believe everything a preacher says to us? No, but there are other verses that talk about that. There is no need to insert a command where there isn’t one in the text, for to do so makes us among those who add to the Word. And technically, you can be a Berean and reject the correct message, like some of them did in Acts 17.

So what should we do if we hear preaching on a subject?

1 Thessalonians 5:21 (NKJV)
“Test all things; hold fast what is good.”

Not everyone is going to get it 100% right every time. That doesn’t make them a false prophet; it makes them human and fallible. So test all things, whether it is teaching, a new practice, and see how it lines up with scripture. Whatever passes the test, keep. Whatever doesn’t, toss out. And tell your fellow believers that we are commanded to test all things. Just don’t tell them we are commanded to be Bereans when no commandment is there. We must handle the Word of God accurately if we are to show ourselves to be rightly dividing the Word.