- Rick LoPresti
The noble Bereans
When the apostle Paul arrived in Thessalonica, he followed his usual procedure which was to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath and preach to the Jews first (Acts 17). After three Sabbaths, He saw great results. "And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few." The Jews who rejected the gospel got jealous of Paul, opposed him, and started a riot. The disciples sent Paul away, and he went to Berea. The people of Berea 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." They did not have blind faith. They compared what Paul taught to what the scriptures said. When they saw that they matched, they believed. The Jews who had heard the scriptures all their lived refused to believe, but the Bereans did.
When the angel Gabriel appeared to Zacharias the father of John the baptizer, he gave him great news - his barren wife was going to have a son who was to be a great prophet (Luke 1). He asked the angel how this could be. The angel told him since he doubted, he would be mute until the child was born. Six months later, the same angel appeared to a virgin named Mary to tell her she was going to have a child who would be the Messiah. She asked the same question as Zachariah, but she was given an explanation.
The Thessalonians heard the same word from Paul as the Bereans, and Zachariah and Mary heard very similar news from Gabriel. What was the difference? Faith. In the parable of the sower (Matthew 13), there were four responses to the word of God. Only one was fully receptive and productive. The seed is the same for all. It is our response that determines what effect it has on us. When Jesus told the parable of the wicked husbandmen, he said the vineyard would be taken from them and given to those would bring forth fruit (Matthew 21). He then said, "And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder." It was the same stone, but different results. How we experience it depends on us, not the stone. If we have faith, it will save us. If we do not, it will become our judgment. The same rain that floated Noah to safety destroyed the world (Genesis 7). When the Lord returns, the same event will be the salvation of His people, and the judgment of the world (Daniel 2:12, John 5:28-29, Revelation 14).
It is not really up to God whether we are blessed our cursed, and saved or lost. He already did His part. It is up to us to choose. He made His salvation available, but we must mix the ingredient of our faith with the ingredient of His word to make the right recipe (Hebrews 4:2). Faith includes, not excludes, obedience (Romans 1:5, Romans 10:14-17, Romans 16:25-27). "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say (Luke 6:46)?" We must hear and do (Matthew 7:24-27, James 2:14-26).