Paul visits Berea

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We now continue Paul's second missionary journey with his trip to Berea from Thessalonica.

Berea, like Edessa, is on the eastern slope of the Olympian range, and commands an extensive view of the plain which is watered by the Haliacmon and Axius. Plane trees, in Paul's day, spread a grateful shade over its gardens. Streams of water are in every street. Its ancient name is said to have been derived from the abundance of its waters. It is situated on the left of the Haliacmon, about five miles from the point where that river breaks through an immense rocky ravine from the mountains to the plain.

In the apostolic age Berea was sufficiently populous to contain a colony of Jews (Acts 17:10). When Apostle Paul arrived, he went, according to his custom, immediately to the synagogue. The Jews here were of a "nobler" spirit than those of Thessalonica. The minds of those in Berea were less narrowed by prejudice and they were more willing to receive the truth in the love of it.

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In a spirit very different from the ignoble violence of the Thessalonian Jews, those in Berea not only listened to Apostle Paul's arguments, but they examined the Scriptures themselves, to see if those arguments were justified by prophecy. And, feeling the importance of the subject presented to them, they made this scrutiny of their holy books their daily occupation. This was the surest way to come to a strong conviction of the Gospel's divine origin.


Deesis Range - The Apostle Paul
Deesis Range: The Apostle Paul
Andrey Rublyov, 1410s

Truth sought in this "spirit of Berea" cannot long remain undiscovered. The promise that they who seek shall find was fulfilled at Berea, and Paul's visit resulted in the conversion of many. Nor was the blessing confined to the Hebrew community. The same Lord who is rich unto all that call upon Him (Romans 10:12) called many "not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles" (Acts 9:24). Both men and women (Acts 17:12) and those of the highest rank among the Greeks, were added to the church in Berea founded by Apostle Paul.

The length of Apostle Paul's stay in the city is quite uncertain. From the fact that those in Berea were occupied daily in searching the Scriptures (Acts 17:11) for arguments to establish or refute the Apostle's doctrine, we conclude that he remained there several days at least. From his own assertion in his first letter to the Thessalonians (1Thessalonians 2:17) that, at the time when he had been recently taken away from them, he was very anxious, and used every effort to revisit them, we cannot doubt that he lingered as long as possible in the neighborhood of Thessalonica. This desire would account for a residence of some weeks for Paul.

We need to remember, however, that the cause which led Paul to leave Berea was the hostility of the Jews of Thessalonica, as the two cities were separated only by a distance of sixty miles. The events which happened in the Synagogue of one city would soon be made known in the Synagogue of the other. Jewish bigotry was never long in taking active measures to crush its opponents, we are led to the conclusion that the Apostle was forced to retreat from Berea after no long interval of time.

The Jews came like hunters upon their prey, as they had done before from Iconium to Lystra. They could not arrest the progress of the Gospel but they "stirred up the people" at Berea, as at Thessalonica before. They made Paul's friends feel that his continuance in the city was no longer safe. He was withdrawn from Berea and sent to Athens, as in the beginning of his ministry (Acts 9:30) he had been withdrawn from Jerusalem and sent to Tarsus. And on this occasion, as on that, the dearest wishes of his heart were thwarted.

The providence of God permitted the devil to hinder the Apostle Paul from seeing his dear Thessalonian converts, whom once and again he had desired to revisit. The divine counsels were accomplished by means of the antagonism of wicked men and the path of the Apostle was urged on in the direction pointed out in the vision at Jerusalem (Acts 17:17 - 21).

An immediate departure was urged upon the Apostle. The Church of Berea suddenly lost its teacher. But Silas and Timothy remained behind, to build it up in its holy faith, to be a comfort and support in its trials and persecutions, and to give it such organization as might be necessary. Meanwhile, some of the new converts accompanied Apostle Paul on his flight (Acts 17:14 - 15), thus adding a new instance to those we have already seen of the love which grows up between those who have taught and those who teach.

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