A Study By
Gary Ray Branscome
"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." (Acts 17:11)
Although the Apostle Paul sought to convince the synagogues, in both Thessolonica and Berea, that Jesus was the Messiah, the Bereans were willing to look at what the Bible had to say, while the most vocal at Thessolonica ran him out of town (Acts 17:3,4&11). While some in Thessolonica did accept the gospel, those who opposed Paul may have felt that what the Bible said was all a matter of opinion (their own being the best). At any rate, they did not care enough about what it said to search the Scriptures with an open mind as those at Berea did. However, I would like to call your attention to the fact that Paul did not discourage the new converts at Berea from studying the Bible on their own. On the contrary, instead of telling them that they should leave Bible study to the professionals, he commended them. And if he thought that new converts should be encouraged to study the Bible, those who have grown up in a Christian church have no excuse for not doing so.
If you want to know what doctrines Paul taught, and what the Bereans learned as they searched the Scriptures, you need to consider the fact that they only had the Old Testament. Furthermore, since Paul was trying to convince them that Christ was the promised Messiah, his emphasis would have been on messianic prophecy. For that reason, he would have pointed out how that the Old Testament predicted Christís birth, life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension. The converts at Berea then searched the Old Testament to learn if these events truly were foretold.
CHRISTíS VIRGIN BIRTH
From Micah 5:2, the Bereans would have learned that the promised Messiah was to be born at Bethlehem; and that even though He was born as a man, he had existed from eternity. From Isaiah 7:14 and 9:6, they learned that although He was to be born of a virgin, He was to be called "God with us," "the Mighty God," and "the Everlasting Father." [See Matthew 1:23.]
CHRISTíS SUFFERING AND DEATH
From Jeremiah 23:5-6, they learned that He would be a descendant of David, would save His people, and would be called "JEHOVAH OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS." From Zechariah 3:8-9, they learned that this branch of David would remove their iniquity. And in Zechariah 12:4,10 they saw that Jehovah (the LORD, KJV v.4) said, "they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced" (Chapter 12:10).
From Isaiah 53, they would have then learned that He was to be oppressed and afflicted (verse 7), was to carry our sorrows, was to be wounded for our transgressions, and was to be bruised for our iniquities (verses 5-6). They would also learn that even though He was innocent of any wrongdoing, He was to die with criminals, yet (wonder of wonders) His body was to be placed in the tomb of a rich man (verses 9,12). And, because God allowed Him to die as an offering for sin (verse 10), many will be justified through knowing Him, because He bore their iniquity (verse 11). In Psalm 22, they would then see His suffering and agony on the cross, foretold in detail.
Having learned that the Messiah was the "Mighty God," their eyes would then be opened to see that any passages, which speak of Jehovah as our "Savior" and "Redeemer," are referring to the Messiah. For example: Isaiah 43:3 says, "For I am the Lord (Jehovah) thy God, the Holy one of Israel, thy Saviour." Isaiah 54:5 says, "thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall He be called." Similar statements are found in Isaiah 43:1,14,15, and Isaiah 45:15,17,21 as well as in many other passages. In fact, if you read Isaiah 46 to 66 you will find a number of similar references to Christís deity, all of which were written down centuries before His advent.
CHRISTíS VICTORY OVER DEATH
From Psalm 41:9-10, Psalm 16:10, and Isaiah 26:19 the Bereans would then have learned that the Messiah was to be betrayed by a friend, yet His flesh would not decay, but God would raise Him bodily from the dead. From Psalm 68:18 and Psalm 110:1, they would then learn that He was going to ascend into heaven, and there would sit at the right hand of the Father
CHRISTíS RETURN TO JUDGE
From Isaiah 66:15, they would have learned that Christ was going to return with fire to judge and condemn all unrighteousness. From Job 19:26, Daniel 12:2, and Isaiah 26:19, they would have learned that they will rise from the dead. And in Hosea 13:14, they would find assurance that Christ has ransomed them from the grave.
Finally, from Psalm 13:5 and Psalm 32:1-5 they would have learned that God will not impute any sin to those who, having acknowledged their transgression, trust in His promise of mercy. Then, from Ecclesiastes 12:14 and Psalm 17:15 they would have learned that although all secrets will be revealed on the day of judgement, those who trust in Christ will be like Christ when they rise, and will rise to everlasting life. The unrepentant and unbelieving, however, go into everlasting burning (Isaiah 33:14, Isaiah 66:24)
As you can see, the Apostlesí doctrine centered around the events in the life of Christ, while the Old Testament provided an objective witness to the spiritual significance of those events. That is why the following statement of faith, by Ignatius of Antioch (107 A.D.), reads like a summary of the life of Christ.
"Be deaf, therefore, when any would speak to you apart from (at variance with) Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was descended from the family of David, born of Mary, who was truly born both of God and of the Virgin ... truly took a body; for the Word became flesh and dwelt among us without sin, ate and drank truly, truly suffered persecution under Pontius Pilate, was truly, and not in appearance, crucified and died, who was truly raised from the dead, and rose after three days, His Father raising Him up, and after having spent forty days with the Apostles, was received up to the Father, and sits on His right hand, waiting till His enemies are put under His feet."