Here, in the space of a single verse, Luke shows us that the three most important aspects of successful study of God’s word are not – as we today might sometimes think – the latest translation, commentary, and Bible dictionary or other Bible “help.” Luke shows us, instead, that effective, meaningful study is based on much simpler and ultimately more important things.
Desire: First, Luke tells us that the Bereans “welcomed the message” as some translations put it, but this means much more than simple open-minded acceptance. Although it certainly includes that, it is also much more. The NIV “with great eagerness” is a better translation of the Greek word (a form of prothumos ) which means “willingness,” “eagerness,” or even “zeal." The Bereans were not only more open minded than their neighbors at Thessalonica; they also had a strong desire for the message. The attitude we must have in approaching God’s word is a realization that if we approach it correctly, there will always be more to learn, new insights to grasp, new understanding from which we can profit. Real desire to study is based on a deep desire to grow, and if we are growing we will want to study.
Consistency: Occasional study is not growth-oriented study. Surveys show that many who feel they are Christians only study God’s word once a week or less, and some only study it “in church.” The Bereans not only heard Paul preach in their synagogue on the Sabbath day, but searched the Scriptures daily. There is something about consistent, ongoing study that helps us better grasp the Bible's message. The more often we study, the more we realize we still have to learn, and we find that new insights come more often. One thing grasped helps us to better understand another. It is also amazing how, when we study daily, we find verses which seem to fit our present situation, verses which encourage and guide us. Perhaps the Bereans understood that our “daily bread” needs to be more than just physical.
Engagement: The last thing Luke tells us about the Bereans is that they studied to “see if these things [that they had heard] were true” – they compared Paul’s message with what they read in the Scriptures. This principle of engagement goes beyond simply “proving” whether a doctrine we have been taught is biblical or not. It may include that, but in the wider application it also includes seeing how we can relate the message to our lives, seeing how we can incorporate what we learn in our understanding and in the way we follow and serve. As Paul himself taught, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17), so it is not surprising that as a result of his teaching and the Berean’s diligent study, “many of them believed” (Acts 17:12). That is the ultimate “engagement” with the word of God – and it is one which can, and should, be ongoing.