Now 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. (Acts 17:11 NIV)
Prophecy students owe a great deal to Thessalonian believers. Without their habit of becoming confused, distressed and led astray, we would not have clear, supportive Scriptures on subjects such as the rapture and Christ’s return. Paul loved the Thessalonians, as his letters testify, despite the fact they were easily swayed by men.
In the church in Thessalonica, they nightly turned out to listen to Paul. Afterward, they probably shook his hand and told him how nice his message was. Unfortunately, they may have forgot what they heard by the time they reached home.
The dear folks were no doubt polite and thoughtful, making sure Paul, Luke and their companions always had enough to eat and comfortable lodging, yet something was amiss. Luke, the writer of Acts, did not compare them favorably with the Bereans. As we read above, only the Bereans listened eagerly then examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
Friendly people, but the Thessalonians failed to employ critical thinking. They did not test the spirits to determine if what they heard was of God. One can imagine the Bereans had questions, sought clarity, and were hungry to learn the Scriptural basis for what Paul taught. (The Reformation-era Pietists were much like the Bereans. Their famous reply to a never before vetted statement on doctrine was, “Brother, where stands that written?”)
The Bereans compared Paul’s Bible passages with other Scriptures. They reviewed the full context. Among their band, some took detailed notes. On the other hand, the Thessalonians contributed a part of the New Testament simply because they failed to retain Paul’s teaching on prophecy, or failed to familiarized themselves with his Scriptures. As a result, they easily fell into error.
We still have Thessalonian Christians around, wouldn’t you say? Dear folks, who would give the shirt off their back and sit through every service. They seem attentive to the teaching, but they leave everything behind at the double doors. (“That was a good word from Pastor today. What was it again he talked about?”)
Thanks to the Thessalonians we have a record of what Paul taught. In one he chastised them for being easily led astray by a false prophecy, false letter or false report supposedly coming from him. “Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things?” (2 Thessalonians 2:5)
The Thessalonians were not equipped to catch an error in interpretation or in sound biblical teaching, but the Bereans were right on top of it. The lie never had a chance, because they interacted with what they heard and the inspired word of the Old Testament. False prophets may have avoided the Bereans altogether, which might explain why no letter was necessary to correct them. As a false teacher, why deal with being exposed when down the road, in Thessalonica, he could be treated like a star?
Revisiting what Paul taught about the events preceding Christ’s return and the rapture are to our benefit, but should it have been necessary? The Thessalonians probably treated every teacher with hospitality and an open door to their mind. If they did remember something, they lacked the discipline to put it to the accuracy test. Scriptural authority was not that big of a deal to the Thessalonians. The entertainment value of the experience had more importance. Do you know of any Thessalonian churches with Thessalonian Christians near you? I hope you are acquainted with other Bereans.