Stuart Briscoe in his autobiography, tells this awesome story:
“John Smallwood… was… seeking the Lord but didn’t seem to know it. His social graces were somewhat underdeveloped. Before entering my room, which he did constantly, he never bothered to knock. The door would fly open, he would march into my little abode, and stamp around the limited space shouting, “How could a whale swallow Jonah?” or “How could Elijah go to heaven in a fiery chariot?” Then, without pausing, he would march out, slamming the door behind him. I became quite accustomed to these fascinating interludes and was rarely required to respond to them. So I watched them in amused silence and proceeded with my studies. One night, however, I decided to change tactics. When, as expected, the door flew open and John marched in with his latest rhetorical question, I grabbed him, pushed him into a chair, and gave him a Bible and a pair of scissors.
Startled, he asked, “What are these for?”
“I want you to go back to your room, read the Bible—start with the Gospel according to St. John—and cut out all that you don’t accept. When you’ve done it, then come back, and not before, and we’ll discuss what’s left.”
“Why? I couldn’t possibly cut a Bible to pieces,” he replied.
“You’ve ripped on it with your tongue every day since I’ve met you. So why not make it final and just cut out the pieces you can’t accept?”
“No,” he said firmly, “I can’t. I won’t do it.”
“Then stop treating it the way you do,” I answered. “And don’t forget that as you pick and choose which parts of the Bible are acceptable to you, all that is left will fit into the confines of your intellect; and with all due respect to your intelligence, my hunch is that we would be left with a God who doesn’t amount to much at all. Take the Bible with you, start reading where I suggested with as open a mind as you possess, and ask God to reveal himself to you.”
He left the room soberly, taking the Bible but declining the scissors. It was only a matter of a few days before the Lord opened his heart. (This week we received an email message from him—after more than forty years! He still ministers to young men.) – Stuart Briscoe (Flowing Streams, pp. 44-45.)
That was the state of the last church Paul and Silas had visited, Thessalonica. They cut out only the Scriptures they wanted to believe regarding Messiah. Continuing on, this missionary team come to a Noble Nook… the noble minded Jews at Berea.
10As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.
Type of City: Berea was a small town 60 miles West of Thessalonica which differed from the capital not only in size but in receptivity. Luke says they were more “noble-minded.” This is interesting… the big city probably had more actual “nobles”… those of good birth. This small town had more of those that were noble in their thinking. This was a “soft soil” city.
Paul’s Message: It was the same message here but it was more conversational that it was confrontational. There was more give and take. He offered Scriptures to support his arguments about Messiah, and these people opened their scrolls and examined Paul’s arguments.
Town’s Reaction: Many believed; they received the word with eagerness. Paul and Silas have greater success in Berea than Thessalonica… not because they have sown the seed better, but because the soil was more receptive.
Now they didn’t just accept Paul’s word at face value. They didn’t accept or reject based on his personality or oratory. They picked up their Bibles and discerned whether or not what he was saying was true. How discerning are you?
Charles Swindoll: Less than a hundred years ago the Sunday sermon was the chief occasion of community instruction… the only time for formal instruction of any kind. The Bible was the nucleus of shaping minds and determining decisions. What a difference today! The barrage of information that now competes for parishioners’ attention is incredible. [They] are the target of a deadly accurate dense-pack of information: an endless number and variety of books, media persuasion, and secular propaganda with its appealing influences flying at us at the speed of light. Our thinking is changing.
Truth is now up for grabs. – Charles Swindoll (Come Before Winter, p. 31.)
Swindoll wrote that back in 1985. How much truer is that is today? How discerning are you about what you take in while watching a show on the History Channel or reading an article in the Tennessean or listening to a neighbor rant about a political or social issue? We have been given the words of life. Are we noble minded enough to crack open our Bibles to get at its truth… and to weigh all that other stuff against what it says?
Outcome: They STILL get run out of town.
13When the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, they went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up. 14The brothers immediately sent Paul to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed at Berea. 15The men who escorted Paul brought him to Athens and then left with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible.
We will talk about that third city, Athens, next time. In the meantime, put down the scissors and take up a magnifying glass. Dig into to God’s word… you will not be disappointed.