************ Sermon on Acts 17:11 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on September 19, 1999

Acts 17:1-12
verse 11
"Of More Noble Character"

"The Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians." That's what the Spirit of God directed Luke to write in Acts 17. The Bereans were better than, superior to, and more noble than the Thessalonians.

What would make one person more noble than another? What makes one person better than or superior to another person? Think about this for a moment. How is nobility measured?

During the Middle Ages nobility was measured by blood-lines. If you were related to royalty, if you had blue blood in your veins, if you had a title in front of your name earl, duke, lord, king, queen than you were considered more noble than those who did not.

Even though we claim all citizens are equal, we do consider some people as being better or superior to others. There are those in our land who look at your last name; if, for instance, your last name is Roosevelt, Kennedy, or Vanderbilt than you are considered a cut above others. Others look at ancestry; consider the pride of those who trace their descendants to the Mayflower. Others measure by skill on the playing field; athletes who win Olympic gold are considered superior to those who have won only a world championship. Some look at good works; those who help out others, like Mother Theresa did, are viewed as more noble than others. Some look at glamour and good looks; those who are movie stars and win Academy Awards and Emmys and are one of the "beautiful people" are reckoned to be better than others. And still others look at the avoidance of negatives; those who are not homeless, not alcoholics, not divorced, not convicts, not druggies, not adulterers, are better than those who are. And finally, many today measure a person by money and possessions; those with the deepest wallets, biggest bank accounts, largest homes, most toys, and nicest cars are the people who are admired the most.

I ask again, what makes one person more noble than another? What makes one person better than or superior to another person? Think about this for a moment. How do you measure nobility?

This morning we are told to judge people in a totally different light. We are told to judge people in terms of what they do with the Word of God. Those of more noble character, those of most noble character on this earth, are those who eagerly receive and examine the message of the Bible.

At stake here is the kind of person you admire, idolize, look up to. At stake here is the kind of person you make into a hero.

What kind of person do you admire most? Who do you look up to? Those with titles, those with the right last name, those who came on the Mayflower, those with Olympic gold, those who help others, those with trophies and good looks, those with lots of money or possessions? Are these the kind of people you admire most?

Our text tells us to admire, to look up to, to make heroes of those who spend time with the Word of God. Those who spend time with the word of God are of more noble character than those who do not. Those who spend time with the Word of God are better than and superior to those who do not. That's what the book of Acts is saying to us.

I want to challenge our young people and boys and girls to look up to grandparents and parents who spend a lot of time reading and studying the Bible. I challenge you to consider entering a life of Christian service as a pastor or missionary or Bible teacher because then you have the opportunity, like me, to spend a lot of time with the Bible.

I The Preaching of Christ
A Our text tells us 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."

Before we look a little more closely at their noble character we need to backtrack and ask about the message they received. What is this message that they received? Our text tells us it was a message said by Paul. And, we find the content of that message in verse 3:
(Acts 17:2-3) ... he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, (3) explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. "This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ, " he said.

There is nothing exceptional about Paul's message here. If you were to look through the sermons recorded in the book of Acts, you see that Paul like Peter and the other apostles focused on Jesus Christ.

We see from the book of Acts that at the center of the apostles' proclamation was the death and resurrection of the Lord. In their preaching, the apostles appealed to the Old Testament Scriptures fulfilled by Christ. The apostles also proclaimed the promise of forgiveness through Christ's blood and the gift of new life through Christ's Spirit. Finally, the apostles proclaimed that the Gospel demands a response of repentance from sin and faith in Jesus (cf Stott, The Spirit, The Church, And The World, p. 80-81).

B In their teaching and preaching the apostles present us with an example to follow. For the church, like the apostles, must proclaim Christ. The church, like the apostles, must proclaim the fullness of the Gospel message.
Topic: Cross of Christ
Index: 891-892
Date: 3/1995.17

A man in Scotland who is a fishing-tackle maker and an enthusiastic fisherman, explained how he lost his bait in a mysterious way without catching anything. The explanation was that by some accident the barb had been broken from the hook. He said that this was exactly what happened when people preached the love of God to men, but left out of their gospel the essential truth that it is Christ on the cross in whom the love is revealed. In other words, the condemnation of our sins in Christ upon his cross is the barb on the hook. If you leave that out of your gospel your bait will be taken, but you will not catch men.
Isn't this what is happening in many churches today? People don't want to hear about God's anger against sin. They don't want to hear how God, in His anger, punished Christ for the sins of the world. They don't want to hear about Christ's descent into hell when He was forsaken by God so that we would never have to be forsaken by God. They don't want to hear that God is a holy God with unchanging standards Who demands that His people be holy like he is holy. Or, consider this:
Topic: Gospel
Index: 1440-1442
Date: 12/1997.1956
Title: The Pearl of Great Price

An inquisitor of the 14th century has left us a lively account of a Waldensian preacher who went about in the guise of an traveling salesman. It seems that upon his arrival at the local manor all the townspeople, including masters and servants, would gather around while he showed his various wares--fabrics, jewelry, and artifacts. ...
But even as he sold he would make allusion to more precious goods in his possession, to jewels of inestimable value he was in a position to offer. The curiosity of his audience kindled, the Waldensian would then speak of The Pearl of Great Price, the Gospel of Jesus, and gradually proceed to contrast the official Church, in its love of power, riches, and luxury with the purity of the Gospel. ...
This Waldensian preacher, like the Apostles, preached the fullness of the Gospel message.

The apostles, like Paul, made Christ the center of their preaching. And preachers today can do no less. When I preach, my preaching must be centered on Christ. It is good to invite people to worship or Coffee Break, to participate in church programs and ministries, but I confuse the issue and miss the point if I don't press them to meet Jesus Christ.

II Receiving the Word
A Our text tells us 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."

What did the Bereans do with the message about Jesus that they heard from Paul? They received it eagerly. No yawning on their part while Paul preached. No glancing at their watches wondering when he would be done. No planning of the day or the week or of Sunday dinner during the sermon. No day-dreaming or short attention spans. Like students eager to learn, they leaned forward in their seats. They listened. The wrote notes. They were attentive and quiet. Paul, remember, was speaking about Jesus. He was speaking about the Messiah. He was speaking about the Son of God, the Suffering Servant, the victorious King.

Everyday they came to hear Paul speak about Jesus. Not just once a week. Not just twice a week. But every day. They were eager listeners. They were every preacher's dream congregation. Not to say, of course, that this congregation the Trinity United Reformed Church is bad.

B But there is more. They not only received Paul's message about Christ with great eagerness, but they also "examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true."

This means they listened eagerly to Paul but not thoughtlessly and uncritically. They did not throw reason to the wind. They did not blindly accept everything Paul said. Paul was not going to get away with telling them anything he wanted to. They were not gullible dupes who could be taken in by any and every wind of doctrine like a piece of wood taken in and out by the tide and the waves. Theirs was not an emotional response to the gospel. They were not simply carried away by the moment. Rather, theirs was a response based on intellectual conviction. They took what Paul said about Christ and they examined what he said in the light of the Bible.

They "examined" what Paul said. In the Greek, the word that is used is the same word used of Herod as he examined Jesus (Lk 23:14-15), of the Sanhedrin as it examined Peter and John (Acts 4:9), and of Felix as he examined Paul (Acts 24:8). The Bereans went over the evidence in the same way as the experts do at a trial.
Topic: Bible
Subtopic: Study of Commanded
Index: 428
Date: 9/1999.101
Title: Swissair Flight 111

When I think of this I cannot help but think of Swissair Flight 111, the jumbo jet that crashed and broke apart a little more than a year ago in choppy seas off Nova Scotia. Investigators are studying huge sections of the plane salvaged from the ocean floor for microscopic signs of faulty wiring. You need to realize that this is no small task; for hidden inside the guts of planes is a spaghetti maze of electrical wires crisscrossing the body, running from the cockpit, through the cabin, to the engines, the bathrooms, and everything else that requires power. In some planes, there's enough wiring to stretch 173 miles. Imagine going over 173 miles of wire with a magnifying glass looking for a wire with even a microscopic piece of brittle, worn, or broken off insulation!
It is fair to say that in the same way the Bereans were examining the message of Paul through the magnifying glass of Scripture.

C Because of this, because they eagerly listened to Paul's message about Christ, because they intently examined and studied the Scriptures, the Bereans were of more noble character that the Thessalonians.

The book of Acts want us to compare the Bereans to the Thessalonians. In Thessalonica many of the Jews did not accept Paul's message about Christ; in fact, they outright rejected it. Furthermore, though some of the Jews, a large number of God-fearing Greeks, and more than a few prominent women accepted the Gospel message they seemed to have done so without first examining the Scriptures.

D Now comes the main point of this sermon: are we like the Thessalonians or like the Bereans? Are we of noble character? That's the question.

To answer this question, let me ask some other questions. Do we eagerly accept the message of Jesus Christ? Do we spend time studying the Scriptures? How many of us make a point of attending both worship services? How many of us make a point of being involved in Bible Study?

Last week, as you all know, we started another year of church school and catechism. Our Bible studies have started up for another year. Our youth programs began another year of activities. You can see a list of all of these at the back of the bulletin: Morning & Evening Coffeebreak, Story Hour, Cadets, GEMS, Choir, Twenty-Something, Friday Night Fellowship, Evening Men's Life, Women's Bible Circle, Men's society, Senior Fellowship, Drop-in Men's Bible Study. Why do we have these programs? So that, like the Bereans, we can examine the Word. So that, like the Bereans, we can be of noble character. So that, like the Bereans, we can meet Christ

III The Results
Our text tells us 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."

Do you see here what happens when God's people spend time examining the Scriptures? They are able to distinguish truth from falsehood. They are able to tell the difference between true doctrine and false doctrine. They are able to discern the spirits.
Topic: Bible
Subtopic: Study of Commanded
Index: 428
Date: 4/1986.26
Title: Full Bible Intelligence

When a new FBI agent is hired he is given intensive training. As part of the program, he is taught to watch for counterfeit money. He makes a thorough study of the genuine bills -- not the phonies -- so that he can spot the fake currency immediately because of its contrast to the real thing.
The child of God can learn a lesson from this. While it is helpful to study false religions and be fully aware of their dangerous dogmas, we should be so familiar with God's Word that whenever we encounter error, we will spot it at once.

Today many are being led astray by cults and isms because they don't recognize how they are being deceived. The only way to prevent this is to indoctrinate believers with the truth so they will be much more discerning. For example, if a person is solidly grounded in the teaching of salvation by grace, he won't swallow the line of the legalists who inject human works into the matter of being saved. If he knows the Bible's teachings on sin he won't accept the lies of those who say every person is basically good and good enough to be saved. If he knows that Christ is the only way to God he won't fall for the heresy that all paths and all religions lead to God. If he is well instructed about the person of Christ, he won't accept the error of those who deny the Savior's deity. Knowing the truth of the second coming of Jesus, he'll not be swayed by those who distort the blessed hope, making it something less than the personal, bodily return of the Lord. A thorough knowledge of essential Biblical doctrines is the only way to detect the counterfeits!

What makes one person more noble than the next? What kind of person do you admire? What kind of person do you want to be like?

Our text for this morning tells us we should admire the person who eagerly listens to the Gospel of Christ and spends time examining the Scriptures. The person who does this is more noble than any other.
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