May 23, 2022


Has anyone ever stood over your shoulder while you were working, scrutinizing every detail? If so, this probably wasn’t something you found very pleasing. Many of us find this sort of double-checking to be insulting. Quit breathing down my neck!—that’s how we put it. To be sure, there are bosses (and customers!) out there who are guaranteed to add unpleasantness to any task, not to mention making it take twice as long as it takes! When we know that we know what we’re doing, we generally prefer to be left alone to, you know, get it done. 

In terms of getting things done, Paul was one of the most driven people ever to live. Both before and after his encounter with Jesus, Paul was intense. In a very matter-of-fact way, he once said (of the other apostles): 

“I labored even more than all of them.” –Paul 

But—Paul says this in passing, not as if he’s bragging or insulting, more like casually pointing out something obvious, as he might speak of being taller (or shorter) than them. Perhaps, if the other apostles were asked who did the most work, we’d hear, “Paul.” “Paul.” “Um, Paul.” “Duh, Paul.” “Are you kidding me—Paul!”

Paul traveled more, wrote more, and is mentioned more—the final score: Paul, 262; Peter, 192. So, the thought that Paul might need to have his teaching double-checked might seem silly. (He’s number one!) Here’s the thing, though: it wasn’t silly to Paul. Let’s see why.

Luke, a physician and historian, meticulously documented Paul’s journeys, often traveling with him. Here’s the record of a visit to the city of Thessalonica:

“They came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue. On three Sabbath days, Paul reasoned with them from the Scriptures, that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead, saying, ‘This Jesus, whom I proclaim, is the Christ.’ Some of them were persuaded and joined Paul, as did many Greeks and not a few of the leading women.” -Luke

This sounds like a pretty successful stop—and it is! Unfortunately, those who weren’t persuaded formed a mob and started a riot. Paul and his crew skedaddled that very night to Berea, about 30 miles away:

“When they arrived, they went to the synagogue. These people were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. Therefore, many of them believed.” -Luke

The Bereans are commended, heartily, for double-checking Paul. They examined the Scriptures, daily, to see if what Paul was saying was true. Finding it so, many of them came to believe in Jesus as the long-awaited savior, the Christ. There is no sign that Paul was put out by their cross-examinations. They weren’t breathing down Paul’s neck—they were being wise! These were noble-minded people. 

It seems they well knew that any charlatan could show up on any Sabbath and say just about anything. Maybe they’d learned the hard way what happens when you don’t check for wolves under the sheep coats. Perhaps they had taken to heart this ancient wisdom:

“The first to plead his case seems right, until another examines him.” -Proverbs

However they came to it, they had certainly grasped this: truth never fears scrutiny. God’s Word, if true, will stand up under scrutiny—and when a man’s word is true, it too will withstand scrutiny, including the scrutiny of the Scriptures. Paul brought the Bereans something new—but these noble-minded souls neither accepted it, nor rejected it, until they tested it.

So, pattern yourself after them. Be eager for the truth. Be unwilling to accept anything false, even if it offers you some benefit. Test everything, including yourself, by the clear and unchanging standards of Scripture. Do this continually—if new information comes daily, then examine it daily. Learn to ask, in every case, “Is it true?” Paul told us exactly what to do if we found anyone, even him, teaching falsely:

“If we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” -Paul

Perhaps sometimes you do happen to know exactly what you’re talking about. Maybe you’ve learned some hard lessons and you are ready to teach others. Even when this is so, welcome questions. Someone badgering you with honest, difficult, and probing questions is a noble-minded person. They are seeking truth. So be like Paul—be willing to be cross-examined.

I’d like to add a personal note. I was 21 years old when I came to faith in Jesus. My life was in an utter upheaval, all of my own doing. In the fallout, I had, for the first time in my life, met a Christian who was willing and able to answer difficult questions—and who welcomed the questions, and welcomed me. Without his influence in my life at that time, I shudder to think where I’d be sitting today instead. (Rick, if you’re reading this... I owe you a lifetime of thanks. Your reward surely awaits.)

In closing, I ask, won’t you quiet your heart and see if you can hear, today, the call of wisdom?

“Does not wisdom call and raise her voice? ‘To you, people, I call. Naive ones, understand. Listen, for I will speak noble things, right things. My mouth will proclaim truth—wickedness is an abomination to my lips. Accept my instruction above choice gold. For wisdom is better than jewels, and all desirable things cannot compare.’” -Proverbs

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