Evaluating Religious Claims

Before you read this entry, consider Acts 17:1 – 15. You can open it in another window or tab by clicking it here: Acts 17:1 – 15

Regarding spirituality, morals, and values – is there an objective standard? Who ultimately speaks for God? Teachers? TV evangelists? Cult leaders? Writers? Scholars? Street-corner preachers?

Notice the Biblical text: Paul and Silas are making a hasty nighttime escape from the city of Thessalonica. They are described as those who have turned the world upside down (v 6) and there is an ugly mob scene at the home of Jason, a local Christian. Arriving at Berea, they go to the Jewish synagogue (place of worship). And yet the attitudes of the Bereans were different.

They were “more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica” (v 11). What Luke (the author of Acts) is saying is they had a character of mental and moral excellence and were more open-minded. They were ready and willing to receive Paul’s message. But they were not gullible.

They were fair-minded people, intellectually honest and willing to give the gospel a fair chance. Consider the careful analysis, study and investigation of the Old Testament Scriptures by both Paul and his audience (vv 2, 3, 11). The word “examined” was a common legal term that meant to conduct a thorough investigation, questioning all aspects of a situation. So the Bereans were giving the gospel a thorough going-over, and they were considered noble for doing so!

Also notice the goals of the intense examination of the Scriptures: understanding, obedience, and application (vv 4, 12). Thus the results in Berea were not so surprising.

Not only did many Jews become Christians, so also did a several prominent Greek (Gentile; non-Jewish) men and women. Why? The Bereans used an objective standard for evaluating truth. They didn’t believe everyone with a smooth line and an attractive appearance. They would not let themselves be fooled by well-trained speakers. Neither did they trust a showy display of wealth and fame. We shouldn’t be fooled by these things or people either.

In conclusion, the Bereans knew about peer pressure. The Jews of Thessalonica found out that Paul was preaching in Berea and traveled 50 miles to try to stop him. They appealed to the mob mentality; agitating and stirring up the crowds. If you choose to believe, obey and follow Christ, there will be those who will reject, make fun of and discourage you. However, doing what is popular or accepted by the crowd must never be the way truth is decided. Nor is it the way to live your life. Always look to God and the Bible for the truth.

 

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