Fugitives in Berea

FUGITIVES IN BEREA (ACTS 17:10-12). Paul and Silas must have felt more like fugitives than missionaries must when they arrived at Berea. They would have reached Berea on the third day after passing through vast forests with intervals of cultivated land. Berea was a peaceful city, in majestic surroundings, looking down with a narrow view to the sea, and up to the gorge from which a river emerged from the mountain.

Berea was of little importance historically or politically, though it had a large population in NT times. It was off the beaten path. It had an access to the eastern coastal road that ran down to Achaia and Athens from the Via Egnatia.

To his delight, Paul found that the Bereans were open-minded. When the message was given, they received it readily and were eager to listen and learn. Such an enthusiastic response was rare. A closed mind is something that a witness for Christ frequently encounters. People have a natural tendency to resist the Gospel because they have a closed mind. First, Paul understood that a closed mind is the work of Satan.

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4).

Second, he recognized that people who live to gratify the sinful nature will have a closed mind.

Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires (Romans 8:5).

Third, he knew that a closed mind is hostile to God.

The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God (Romans 8:7-8).

Little wonder Luke says that 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. The Bereans were not blind, they set their minds on the Scriptures, and they desired to submit to God’s law. All Christians should imitate the Bereans.

At Berea, the preaching of Paul was from the OT since the Bereans checked what he said from the Scriptures. The one thing that made the Jews certain that Jesus was not the Messiah was the fact that He was crucified, and therefore cursed by God. Paul might have taught them:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree” (Galatians 3:13).

Paul might have pointed the Bereans to OT passages like Isaiah 53, which explains how Christ took our curse upon himself that we might be delivered from it.

Paul preached the Gospel wherever God led him. Some people accepted what he had to say, but many opposed him violently. Yet as a channel, Paul kept passing on God’s message:

His text—the Word of God
His message—the Son of God
His confidence—the power of God
His guide—the Spirit of God
His motive—the Love of God

One who loved God and mankind with all his heart was wholeheartedly hated by so many. When the Thessalonican Jews learned that Paul was preaching the Word of God in Berea, they pursued the fugitives. The tragedy might have been that they thought they were doing God’s work in trying to silence him. Ironically, they were all just like Saul before his conversion. The sowing and reaping produces fruit far more than we imagine—what Paul had handed out, he now received.

The fugitive is running again—not away, however, but to new challenges! Most men would have abandoned a struggle seemed bound to end in arrest and in death, but not Paul. The brothers sent Paul to the coast (some 20 miles) to pick up the coastal road. Since the men escorted him to Athens, they did not travel by boat. Paul left with them instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible.

The movements of Silas and Timothy after Paul left them at Berea are rather difficult to trace since Luke is primarily interested in Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, who is the major character in the spread of the Gospel.

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