Assumptions

Today, I read where one more person claimed Acts 17:11 commends the Bereans as nobler in mind than the Thessalonians because they searched the Scriptures to test what Paul was saying.

It’s not true. Here’s the verse:

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.

That’s the KJV. I’m using it because I have it on my computer. It won’t read any differently in any other version (except maybe a paraphrase).

The Bereans were commended for receiving the Word with all readiness of mind!

The Thessalonians rejected the Word; the Bereans received it. Acts is all about people receiving the Word. When they do, it is like a seed planted inside of them, and it grows into a full knowledge of how to follow God, so that all of them, from the least to the greatest, would know him (Heb. 8:11).

Yes, they also examined the Scriptures to see if what he was saying could really be true. But they were not commended for doing this. They were commended for receiving the Word.

The Pharisees searched the Scriptures daily, too, but they are not commended by Christ, they are rebuked by him.

You search the Scriptures, for you think that in them you have life, but these are they which testify of me, but you refuse to come to me so that you may have life. (Jn. 5:39-40)

I didn’t use the KJV here because it has this verse wrong. It translates the verse as a command: "Search the Scriptures." The context makes it clear that’s not what Christ was saying, and more modern translations translate it as above. (I always make sure that a translation I choose is supported by multiple versions.)

What’s the difference between the Pharisees and the Bereans?

The difference is which of them were prepared to receive the Word readily. The Bereans were, and the Pharisees were not. Both searched the Scriptures, but one group was prepared to receive the Word, and the other was prepared to reject it.

Thus, the Bereans were not commended for testing Paul by the Scriptures; they were commended for being open to the Word.

Bonus Assumption

While we’re on things that just get repeated over and over but aren’t accurate, let’s do Romans 2:4 as well.

Or do you despise the wealth of God’s kindness, tolerance, and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads to repentance?

When we modern Christians quote it, we emphasize kindness: "It is the kindness of God that leads to repentance."

In other words, we use this verse to teach that if we want to produce repentance in people, then we need to show them the kindness of God, not his severity or judgment.

But the context makes it clear that Paul is emphasizing repentance, not kindness: "The kindness of God leads you to repentance."

In other words, the kindness, tolerance, and patience that God has shown you is not a reason for you to harden and continue in sin. God has been showing you kindness in order to give you time to repent.

The kindness of God is not the only thing that leads to repentance. Ps. 38, for example, is all about David repenting when God was angry at him. We all know that the Lord chastens those whom he loves.

Anyway, you can read the verses leading up to Rom. 2:4, and the context makes it clear what the verse is talking about.

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2 Responses to Assumptions

  1. jeremiahbriggs says:

    Can't tell you how often I've heard this misquoted. Its be caught up in the "Bible is the Word of God" debate and the "Search the Scriptures to find Christ." instructional. "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God." Can't recall chapter and verse but the point is this: Christ (the Word of God) saves people not bible study. Its pretty obvious that the Pharisees we long on Bible study and short on faith. The seed of the Word could find no place in hearts that had been hardened by long years of self-righteousness produced by scripture knowledge.

  2. John Michael says:

    Thanks, I've read the Acts quote for decades and heard it used that way, without ever really paying attention to the obvious context that is the whole point of the passage. It's kind of like brain-washing, when you've heard sermons that say the same thing over and over, and come to assume it's true, even when you have excellent reading comprehension. I've read the scriptures through a number of times, especially the NT. Wonder how many more times before I catch all the obvious things I've been mistaught?

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