On Being Noble-Minded
by Roger M. Hendricks
via The Graphic Evangelist, Vol. 21, No. 8, April 19, 1981.
It is affirmed of the Jews in Berea that they "were more noble minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scripture daily, whether those things were so" (Acts 17:11). Admit it or not, the fact is that the proclamation of truth can be rendered ineffective by the improper disposition of heart on the part of one's auditors toward the Word preached. Since success in any endeavor is dependent to a great extent upon one's attitude toward that endeavor, it follows that there is nothing, either in man's quest for truth or his efforts to serve Jehovah, more important than the development and cultivation of proper attitudes toward God, His Word, and the preaching of the same.
In the passage before us, Luke speaks of a nobility of heart (literally, noble-minded). While the Jews in Thessalonica were void of such nobility, those in Berea were commended for enjoying the possession of it. But of what did this nobility consist? The text provides the answer to our question.
Freedom from Prejudice
The first characteristic of this noble-mindedness that is mentioned is freedom from prejudice! These men received that which was taught "with all readiness of mind." The New American Standard Version translates the passage: "Now these 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." Each of us needs a readiness of mind to understand and an eagerness of heart to receive the truth. This should be the disposition of every individual -- but it isn't! Many, especially in religious matters, suffer from the dreaded disease of prejudice.
Webster defines the term under consideration as "preconceived judgment or opinion." Also, "an opinion ... adverse to anything without grounds..." Derived as it is from the Latin words prae (before) and judicium (judgment), prejudice may be adequately defined as being a judgment rendered either (1) before consideration of the facts or (2) in disregard to known facts. It is the lazy and/or dishonest man's method of reaching a conclusion. A factor in spiritual retardation, so long as it dwells within the hearts of men it will stand firmly as a mental barrier to learning, understanding, development, and unity. With hearts full of prejudice it is no wonder that many hearers refuse to accept the truth which is revealed in the pages of God's Book as that truth as proclaimed by faithful preachers of today. Like the Thessalonians of old, they refuse to grant either time or consideration to anything with which they are not already in agreement. To examine candidly another's arguments, to discuss calmly with others their differences, or to make needed changes in their own hearts and lives they will not do. Though it is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16), the gospel will not affect their salvation because their prejudice will not allow it to do so. Yes, noble-mindedness demands freedom from prejudice!
Freedom from Gullibility
The second characteristic of this noble-mindedness is freedom from gullibility! A gullible man is one who is easily duped. He is the individual who accepts as truth that which is taught -- without personal investigation. Now, while the Bereans were not prejudiced (they listened with an open mind), neither were they willing to accept what was taught without personal investigation (they studied their Bibles). I must emphasize again that in order to possess nobility of heart man must be free from both prejudice and gullibility. While the prejudiced man boasts of his "freedom from gullibility," the gullible one delights in his "open-mindedness." But it is just as ignoble and soul-condemning (because of their consequences) to be gullible as it is to be prejudiced and vice versa.
No teacher has the right to teach anything in religion by his own authority! If what is taught is not authorized by the Lord in the New Testament, it is not even an item in the religion of the Master and must be rejected. Never has God permitted men to devise their own religion (with God's approval). He doesn't today! And, I repeat, no instructor has the right to teach anything that is not authorized by God in His Word (Galatians 1:6-9; II John 9-11).
Furthermore, we must never attempt to hinder one's quest for truth, nor deny any man the right to question the truthfulness of any of our beliefs and practices. Beware the religious leader who fears and/or refuses to permit investigation of his doctrine! Make a personal investigation. Do not be gullible! Do not be duped into embracing error! The disastrous consequences of such are eternal. Be a Berean!