My favorite verse is Acts 17:11, which I’m going to guess you don’t have memorized.
The King James Version reads:
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.
The noble Bereans
“These” were the Bereans. Specifically, “these” were those who were in “the synagogue of the Jews” (Acts 17:10). They were commended explicitly for receiving the word readily and for studying the word daily—good practices for all of us.
Note how the sentence ends. Part of what the Bereans were commended for was checking the teaching they received against the Scriptures they had. They weren’t willing to take just any teacher’s word for it.
Pause for a moment to recall who the teachers were that the Bereans double-checked before accepting what they taught. Was it one of the original Twelve Apostles? A new convert from Thessalonica? Perhaps a Judaizer or a Gnostic? None of these. The teachers the Bereans double-checked were Paul and Silas.
Think about it! Paul had apostolic authority. He—unlike any pastor or teacher today—could have said, “Because I said so,” but he didn’t.
And the Bereans—who might have been forgiven for thinking: “Hey! It’s Saint Paul. He’s gonna have churches and cathedrals named after him. We should take his word for it!”—didn’t take his word for it.
How much more should we search the Scriptures daily to double-check those who teach us?
What was the result of the Bereans’ double-checking? Acts 17:12 tells us: “Therefore many of them believed; also of honorable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.”
Take note of “therefore.” These things didn’t just happen. They were not just correlated. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, the actions recorded in Acts 17:11 caused the spiritual awakening described in Acts 17:12. Receiving and searching the Scriptures daily were at the heart of it all.
Double-check your teachers
I teach an adult Sunday school class at Pioneer Drive Baptist Church in Abilene. About once every six months, I end my lesson with a reminder of Acts 17:11 and the importance of each person searching and checking the Scripture for himself or herself. I encourage each one to let the Holy Spirit teach him or her—not just to let our pastor and me do the teaching.
I say something like, “Don’t listen to me when I get it wrong.” I and every other pastor and teacher will, from time to time, get it wrong and will make mistakes—despite our best efforts—because we are all sinful, fallible people.
Acts 17:11 speaks to me both as a Bible teacher and as a Bible student. As a Bible teacher, I realize if it was right for the Bereans to check and to challenge Paul and Silas, it certainly is right for members of my Sunday school class to check and to challenge my teaching. Some of them do, and I’m grateful. Among other things, it means they are listening and searching the Scriptures for themselves. Isn’t that what teachers should want?
As a Bible student, I’m reminded I also need to search the Scriptures daily.
Approaching the Scripture humbly
Many years ago, in my home church—First Baptist Church in Paris, Texas—one of the great saints of that church—Harold Davis (no relation)—occasionally taught the lesson to the teachers on Wednesday night during Teachers and Officers Meeting.
Brother Harold taught well from a lifetime of Bible study and Christian discipleship. He had a small Bible with tiny print, and he held it close in front of his face to read from the King James Version of the Scriptures. Every time he finished reading, he said, “Ladies and gentlemen, that’s my interpretation of the Scriptures.”
I don’t always say those same words when I teach, but maybe I should. It’s true for every preacher and every teacher, and it ought to affect how all of us hear, understand and apply what is preached and taught.
Search the Scriptures on your own—daily.
John N. Davis is an associate professor of management at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas. He and his wife, Connie, live in Abilene, where he teaches an adult Sunday school class at Pioneer Drive Baptist Church.