That very night the believers sent Paul and Silas off to Berea; and when they arrived, they went to the Jewish synagogue. These Jews were more receptive than those in Thessalonica, for they welcomed the message very eagerly and examined the scriptures every day to see whether these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, including not a few Greek women and men of high standing. But when the Jews of Thessalonica learned that the word of God had been proclaimed by Paul in Berea as well, they came there too, to stir up and incite the crowds. Then the believers immediately sent Paul away to the coast, but Silas and Timothy remained behind. Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and after receiving instructions to have Silas and Timothy join him as soon as possible, they left him. – Acts 17:10-15 (NRSV)
The apostle Paul commended the Bereans for examining the Scriptures and not just blindly believing the message he brought to them. The Russian people have a proverb: “Trust, but verify.” People of faith should ask questions. An informed faith is a strong faith and a valid faith. Jesus taught that we should build our house on a solid foundation and not on sand. Our faith has a solid foundation- Jesus Himself. We learn of Him all throughout the Bible, and we encounter Him in the world and through other people as we go out and do what He taught. This is the reason why worship and prayer and study and service all go together- our faith is not intended to be a blind faith, but a practical, dynamic and growing faith.
The difficult thing about telling the truth is that telling the truth doesn’t always make one popular. Usually truth telling has quite the opposite effect. Throughout Scripture God’s prophets were treated rather nastily for telling the truth. Jeremiah was consigned to a dirty cistern (Jeremiah 37:11-16) as a prison. Daniel was thrown in the lion’s den to be eaten by lions (Daniel 6:10-20) for refusing to pray to an earthly king. John the Baptist ended up with his head on a platter as a gift for Herod. Going against the current ruler or saying bad things about the king wasn’t an activity to engage in, if you valued your hide. Telling the truth and speaking out for what is right is not always a safe thing to do, even today. Anyone who doubts that can test the theory. Agree with a woman when she comments that she has put on a few pounds, and watch the sparks fly.
Paul was no less popular to the old school Jews and Pharisees, who did not understand and did not want to believe Who Jesus was. They didn’t want to be told He is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophets and of the Law. The Pharisees and other old school Jews were looking for a grand military style king like David who would defeat the Romans and restore the Jewish state as their Messiah, not the Suffering Servant that Isaiah had foretold.
Paul himself had once been the Pharisee Saul, who was behind the persecution and killing of Christians until Jesus paid him a visit on the Damascus road. So it was likely that the Pharisees were even more incensed with Paul because they saw him not just as a heretic, but also as a traitor.
The truth is a threat to those in power, especially if their power is built on sustaining a lie. To admit that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah meant that there was no longer any reason to submit to the religious authorities. To admit that Jesus was God Himself and that God had revealed Himself to the whole of humanity and not just the Jewish people, was more than the Jewish leaders of the day could stand.
The Jewish leaders of Paul’s time couldn’t stand the thought of the truth that God is God of all- and that because of Jesus they could no longer assert an exclusive claim on God. God’s people were not just the direct descendants of Abraham, but all people are God’s people- the door had been opened.
Perhaps we have to face some unpopular truths today. Sometimes the truth revealed in Scripture can be hard to take, such as when we are called to forgive, or we are called to take a path we know is difficult and that we would rather not be on.
What parts of God’s truth are hard for us to accept? That He loves the unlovable? That He calls us to sacrifice? That sometimes the answer to our prayers is no?
God is Lord of all. No matter how we may be challenged, or how we might suffer, Jesus is walking with us. He knows our disappointment, our pain, and our sorrows as well as our love and our joy. In Him we can be confident when we tell the truth, even when it doesn’t contribute to our popularity.