The Necessity of "Being a Berean" Revisited |

T. A. McMahon

And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.


Luke documents for us that the Apostle Paul, having left Thessalonica and recently arrived in the city of Berea, preached in the synagogue of the Berean Jews. Paul’s encouraging experience with the Bereans caused Luke to commend them. He wrote that they were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica because they received the Word of God from Paul “with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily” to know whether or not what Paul had to say was true.

The calling of The Berean Call ministry is to exhort believers in Jesus Christ to take the same discernment approach as those Jews in Berea. They not only had a heart to hear the things of God but, more importantly, were able to discern what was truly of Him because they regarded the Scriptures as the authority in ascertaining the truth of what they were hearing. They practiced what Isaiah preached: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah:8:20).

TBC’s chief concern is the spiritual welfare of the body of Christ, and, in particular, the encouragement of biblical discernment. We believe the times reflect the necessity of our calling. Even a cursory review of what has taken place in the church during the last 25 years will reveal a fierce undermining of “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude v 3). You might even say that the Bereans of Paul’s day were not as menaced in comparison to this generation. In those days the opposition to truth was in the secular world around them—it had not yet infiltrated the church under the guise of a more enlightened or advanced Gnostic Christianity. Although there were pressing pagan influences as well as some aberrational teachings and practices here and there, they weren’t subjected to anything like the flood of false beliefs, teachings, and practices surging in on the tidal wave of today’s Christian media.

TBC certainly has a heart for saving the lost; we also have a concern for rescuing those in bondage to cults. Our primary ministry, however, is to believers. In many ways the church has turned to the beliefs, teachings, and practices of the world and the cults, from the penchant for humanistic psychology among conservative evangelicals to the cultic affinity for godhood and the demonstration of godlike powers among more extreme charismatics. Popular movements and teachers are influencing the church to take dominion over the earth, to set up the Kingdom as a requirement for Christ to return, to produce signs and wonders, and to solve its problems through unbiblical methods such as self-esteem therapies, twelve-step recovery programs, inner-healing rituals, “binding demons” strategies, and “Christian” mysticism. Many professing Christian leaders promote unity by demoting doctrine and encouraging ecumenism to include even overt paganism. They also foster the participation of false religious institutions (Mormonism, Roman Catholicism, Seventh-Day Adventism, etc.) in “Christian” political and social causes.

We believe our calling is to exhort the body of Christ to abide in His Word, allowing the Scriptures, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, to be the authority and all-sufficient resource in the life of every believer. We want to encourage fellow Christians to be Bereans—not followers of The Berean Call, not followers of Dave Hunt or T. A. McMahon or of any other man or institution. That would be the antithesis of our ministry! The fruit we desire are believers who proclaim, as Jeremiah did, “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart” (15:16). The basic premise for our approach is found in 2 Timothy:3:16-17:

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly [equipped for] all good works.

We desire committed Christians to take every aspect of those two verses to heart. All Scripture is indeed inspired of God. The psalmist confirms, “Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever” (Psalm:119:160). Peter tells us that the revelation of God didn’t originate from man, “but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter:1:21).

It is also profitable for doctrine. Paul exhorted Timothy with these words: “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Timothy:4:16). Ignoring the Scriptures, numerous evangelical leaders today claim that a concern for doctrine causes division and therefore should be avoided for the sake of love and unity among the brethren. The Word, however, couldn’t be more specific in its opposition to such a teaching: “...[M]ark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Romans:16:17). Divisions are created by teachings that are contrary to sound doctrine. “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son” (2 John:1:9). Unity in the faith is impossible without the doctrine of Christ. Without such a foundation we have no basis for the faith, for the gospel, for knowing Jesus, or for knowing anything pertinent to the Truth.

All Scripture is profitable for reproof. Contrary to popular Christian self-esteem teachings, a biblical reproof is beneficial both for the individual and for a body of believers. Paul publicly reproved Peter, who, because of a fear of men (Galatians:2:12), was undermining the faith of some believers by withdrawing from the Gentiles and compelling them to live under Jewish law (2:13-14). It’s interesting to note that Peter did not respond by complaining bitterly that Paul’s public correction denigrated his ministry or caused a loss of support. In fact, as Peter reflects upon his “beloved brother Paul[’s]” teachings he commends them for their wisdom and value to the church.

Peter rebuked Ananias and Sapphira, prophesying their death. As a result, the early church was infused with a wholesome fear of God and His holiness. That was a deterrent for believers not to depart from God’s instructions (Proverbs:14:12; 16:25). Examples found continuously throughout the Scriptures demonstrate the value of reproof for the conviction of sin and erroneous teaching that otherwise might have gone unheeded, leading to the destruction of the faith of some.

All Scripture is profitable for correction. Designed for the benefit of believers, this teaching of God’s Word is very much out of favor among today’s church leaders. It’s astounding that page after page of the Bible involves some form of correction, yet any such application among Christians is generally avoided or viewed as emotionally harmful, “negative,” and “unloving.” On the contrary, correction is biblical and necessary. When it is a work of the Holy Spirit, which it must be to be fruitful, it is the most loving of ministries! The psalmist writes, “Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head” (141:5).

Jesus was continually correcting Peter, Thomas, His other disciples, the Jewish leaders, the multitudes, individuals who came to Him, the woman accused of adultery as well as her accusers, the two on the road to Emmaus, the seven churches of Revelation, and on and on. His words in Hebrews and Revelation may not be popular today, but they cannot be denied: “My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him: For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth...” (Hebrews:12:5-6; Revelation:3:19). Much of the New Testament is corrective in nature. It teaches us what to correct and how to go about it.

Some have complained (a form of “correction”?) that The Berean Call corrects too much; that it majors on error rather than on teaching the truth, that it hurts individuals and their ministries by mentioning names, and that the ministry has thus become unloving and divisive. Such a development is far from our intent. And since we believe in correction, we try our best to make sure we’re “walking our talk.” Our prayerful intention from newsletter to newsletter is to be acutely sensitive to such concerns, while at the same time trying to be true to what the Lord has put on our hearts to communicate. We guard against our corrections becoming intemperate, and we sincerely want them to be beneficial.

We mention the names of Christian leaders or ministries that we believe to be promoting certain errors because, in many cases, their false teachings undermine the faith of millions of Christians and must be corrected publicly. Although it is possible to deal with a false teaching without “naming names,” it’s impossible to document its scope and impact without giving examples. Paul’s naming of Peter and Barnabas, Alexander the coppersmith, Hymenaeus and Philetus, and John’s exposure of Diotrephes are just a few biblical examples of public correction.

Some assert that such matters should be dealt with privately, according to Matthew 18. But those verses address matters of personal offense—issues between individuals, not false teachings or practices that subvert the gospel and are promoted publicly.

Our love for all who teach in the name of our Lord compels us to exhort them to reflect biblical truth, and we hope and pray they will respond to our concerns. When an influential individual or ministry wittingly or unwittingly teaches something contrary to the Word of God, then recognizes the error and publicly repents and corrects that teaching, the whole body of Christ is encouraged and edified. What man, woman or ministry of God would not want that? This seems to be Peter’s heart when (after being publicly corrected) he commends the one who rebuked him and then does some correcting of his own, warning believers to beware of scripture-twisting teachers and of being led away from the faith (2 Peter:3:14-17).

Exhortation to discernment is not without certain occupational hazards, both for us and for those with whom we communicate. We must examine our hearts constantly to make sure we are ministering according to the instructions of 2 Timothy:2:24-26

“And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” 

Falling short of such an approach can open the way for the very antithesis of what we desire: self-righteousness, judgmentalism, a critical spirit, legalism, and “bashing” persons or ministries rather than shedding light on their unbiblical teachings and practices. Nevertheless, as we continue to apply biblical correction to our own personal lives as well as our public outreach, His grace will help us avoid such pitfalls and enable us to speak the truth in love.

All Scripture is profitable for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy:3:16). As I hope all of you know, TBC is wholly committed to Jesus, who is the living Word. Our perspective is that righteousness is found in knowing God’s way through the Scriptures and in doing things His way, according to the absolute authority of God’s inerrant and all-sufficient Word. Our heart’s desire is to encourage those who love the Lord to major in discernment in these days of religious confusion, delusion, and deception, and to fill their hearts and minds with God’s instructions, the only true resource for living a fruitful and productive life.

Concluding its litany of profitable uses of the Scripture, 2 Timothy:3:16-17 declares that God’s Word is the sufficient resource for every child of Christ to become mature in Him, its content consisting of all that we need to know in order to lead fruitful lives unto the Lord. Once again, exhorting believers in the truth by pointing them to the Person of Jesus Christ and His Word is our calling. Our heart is simply to encourage those who love the Lord to heed His words: “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John:8:31-32).

Though TBC is a small operation, the Lord is enabling us to expand our outreach as He leads and guides us. We want to make a definite impact for good, to be a true and increasing help to more and more of the millions who know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. 

To that end, we hope to offer additional online conferences designed to inform and help pastors deal with unbiblical teachings and practices (particularly those influenced by the church’s growing affinity for psychological counseling), and programs for general audiences dealing with critical doctrinal issues in these days of increasing compromise and apostasy. Should the Lord tarry, we believe it will be necessary to develop more effective ways and means of equipping believers in biblical discernment, as well as ways of mobilizing them to contend for the faith.

Please pray that we will “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith [we] are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians:4:1-3).