At the Synagogue they would have found people who were religious; meaning that they would have had some foundational understanding of the Bible. The Jews at that time would have considered themselves to be in line with God’s will if they were following the Law of Moses. This would have been a religion based upon rules and traditions. They would have been taught that they had to jump through certain hoops in order to receive God’s blessings. Some of those rules would have been to attend the Synagogue, be circumcised, and participate in certain feasts. Their understanding was that as long as you did those things you would be “safe.”
Paul and Silas’ message was different. Their message was not works based, but grace based. The hope they proclaimed was a hope in a Person, not a procedure. The person was Jesus Christ. They proclaimed that Jesus was the fulfillment of the law (Matthew 5:17); and salvation was not to be earned, but received. This was the same message that they proclaimed in previous towns. When asked, “’Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ And they said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…’” (Acts 16:30-31).
Now in Berea, the townspeople had a choice to make. They could reject the Gospel message and stick to what they knew, or they could look into it. Acts 17:11 tells us what they chose.
“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.”
Instead of rejecting the message of the new guys in town, they chose to examine the Scriptures. Why? Because they trusted God’s Word above men’s teaching. God’s Word was the measuring rod for truth. And upon examining the Scriptures they determined that what Paul and Silas proclaimed was in fact true, so they “believed.” (Acts 17:11).
Having said this, not everyone eagerly accepted the message of Grace. Some rejected the teaching and chose not to examine the Scriptures. Instead they defaulted to what they were accustomed to, the traditions, rules and procedures of religion. These people then attempted to undermine the gospel message and agitated and stirred of the town. (Acts 17:13).
These events unfolded 2,000 years ago; however, they continue to play themselves out today from town to town as the Gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed. The question is what side will you fall on? My prayer for you is that you would be a Berean and examine the Scriptures for yourself.