“A Heart for Truth”
"Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so."
Acts 17 outlines three different attitudes toward truth. The apostle Paul preached the same message to three groups of people eliciting three different responses, substantiating Jesus' parable of the sower (Lk. 8:4-15). Which one describes you?
The Thessalonians clung to what was old and familiar to them (Acts 17:1-9). Some are resistant to the gospel because it is new to them and requires change. This was the case in Thessalonica. Although some believed (v4), generally the gospel was rejected (vv5-7). The charge against Paul was not that his preaching was false; their scruples were not intellectual. Luke says they were "jealous" and did not like the way the message "turned the world upside down" and threatened their way of life. They stirred up the rabble and accused Paul of insurrection.
Ad hominem attacks and physical violence are the tools of the weak. What about us? Some are so comfortable with the way things are that they go to great lengths to keep them that way. Are we more concerned about being comfortable than being correct? Are we more attached to the way things are than the way things ought to be?
The Athenians were eager to hear anything that was new and exciting (Acts 17:16-34). The Athenians were excited to hear the gospel not because they thought it might contain truth but because of its novelty. To them, Christianity was just another worldview to add to the pot of academic soup.
This kind of religious syncretism, where aspects of Christianity are scavenged and mixed with other philosophies and religions, is popular today. Some are eager to throw off the shackles of the old ways in favor of the new. They see tradition as inherently bad. While human religious tradition will always lead us astray (Mt. 15:6), there is such a thing as divine tradition that we are to follow, patterns set by Jesus and the apostles that we must abide by (2 Thess. 2:15; 3:6). We are to hold to these "ancient paths" (Jer. 6:16) not because they are ancient but because they are true.
In contrast, the Bereans were committed to following what was true (Acts 17:10-15). They were not concerned with preserving what was familiar so as not to upset their routines. Nor were they concerned with hearing something new and innovative to cure their spiritual boredom. They cared about truth. They checked Paul’s preaching against their Bibles and, finding it to be accurate, followed it with all their heart.
The question is not “Is it old?” (Thessalonians) or “Is it new?” (Athenians) but “Is it true?” (Bereans) In some ways, this is like driving up a mountain: on one side is a sheer cliff and on the other is oncoming traffic. Some, fearing the cliff, will stray too far to the left and run into oncoming traffic. Others, fearing oncoming traffic, will pull too far to the right and fall off the cliff. The answer is to stay in our lane, not to deviate to the right or the left. God’s way is likened to a straight path in a crooked world (Deut. 5:32; cf. Acts 13:9-10; Mt. 7:13-14), a path paved with his truth (Psa. 119:105)
The Thessalonians turned too far to the right, the Athenians too far to the left. The Bereans loved the truth and followed the straight path of God. They were teachable, humble, and open-minded but also discerning and intellectually honest. We must resist the temptation to remain complacent by preserving man-made traditions and equally resist the temptation to grow bored in the divine traditions and patterns of worship. Rather, let us to stir one another up to recapture the wonder of God's saving truth.