Another Part of “Noble”
1. I need to tell you how I came to the title for this message.
a. Last week we learned that the work of an overseer is a noble task.
b. As I worked on our Wednesday night class, I came across a wonderful passage that looked forward to the time when “the fool will no more be called noble.”
c. Then in our Bible reading during the week we read of those Jews in Berea who “were more noble than those in Thessalonica.”
2. This nobility is not another kind from what we investigated last week; it is another part of the same character.
a. In that way, I suppose, it helps us think a little more about the sort of spirit the work of shepherding will require.
b. But even more basically, it brings us face to face with the moral quality which often determines how a person responds to the claim of God upon his life.
c. It is the degree to which we share the “nobility” our text mentions.
i. Acts 17:10-15
ii. “Noble” in v. 11 translates a term which originally meant “of noble birth” or “well born.”
iii. It is used here to describe people who exhibited noble behavior by being open-minded, fair, and thoughtful, especially in their regard for truth.
1. Appreciating Nobility
a. We may appreciate what it means to be of noble character by contrasting it with the motives that dominate when it is lacking.
i. Paul had spent three weeks at Thessalonica, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ, and had convinced some of the Jews and a great many of the devout Greeks that is was true.
ii. But that is when jealousy took over among some of the Jews, followed closely by some very “un-noble” actions on their part.
iii. They surrounded themselves with a mob out of the rabble, and started acting out of the ugliest passions, with angry disregard for right-side-up thinking or conduct.
b. We may also appreciate what nobility is by contrasting it with how Scripture is handled when it is missing.
i. They used a thought which had a grain of truth to it, but with an absence of consideration for what it meant, so that the wrong impression would be left in their hearts and in the minds of the hearers.
ii. Jesus was indeed the King, but he, of course, had explicitly taught that he was not a king like Caesar and that his kingdom was not of this world.
iii. I have heard people use this “un-noble” approach to Scripture to leave the impression that believing the Bible will make you treat your family bad, or to hold women in low regard, or to serve a mean and bloody and little-minded God.
2. Aspiring to Nobility
a. Any of us who finds the behavior of those in Thessalonica distasteful can see that it is necessary to aspire for character that is more noble than that.
i. God certainly demands a higher level than jealousy and misrepresentation, and anyone whose heart is close to his will too.
ii. In the Old Testament, God was trying to train his people to long to see his ways, to be open to hearing his word, and to want to do his will.
iii. Through his prophets, he often looked forward to the time when he would have a people of that kind of character, and he meant for the hope of that promise to move his people to repentance and hope.
b. Isaiah 32 is a good example: the word for “noble” here is translated “liberal” in the older version, but you can see that it is contrasting what is to be respected and admired with what is foolish and vile.
i. The prophet foresees the triumph of a perfect King, the Messiah (32:1-2).
ii. That King will have subjects who are perfected in responsiveness (32:3-4; cf. 28:10; 29:24).
iii. Among those subjects, social ideals will be redefined so that prestige will go only to what is truly noble (32:5-8).
(1) Seeks truth concerning the LORD
(2) Plans ways to bring good to people
(3) Stands on what advances the kingdom of God
3. Applying Nobility
a. We may take the noble attitude and action of the Bereans as evidence that the time of which the prophet had spoken had begun.
i. Paul proclaimed the word of God there (v.13). It was his practice to go first to the synagogue in the towns he visited, and to use the Scriptures to reason, explain, prove, and persuade people that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead, and that Jesus is that Christ (v. 2-4).
ii. As he did that at Berea, his hearers applied the nobility of their souls.
(1) They regarded what Scripture says as the determining factor in whether a teaching was so.
(2) They were eager to know what Scripture means and open to instruction in it.
(3) They believed the point of Scripture could be understood.
(4) They were willing to do the work necessary to make a proper judgment about what they were hearing.
(5) They did that work continually, as often as they heard.
b. If there is any nobility in us, that kind of spirit and action will have to be part of it
i. We will respect the fact that what God wants can be understood and that what he has said must be taken as the last word on a matter.
ii. We will have an enthusiasm for knowing the heart of the One who has sought to make himself known to us.
iii. We will display an openness to the truth as Scripture makes it known, and a willingness to do the critical questioning it takes to discover it.
iv. We will bring a sense of industry to the task, the energy to do the work it takes to understand God’s effort to communicate with us.
(1) More than 400 years ago, an unnamed Bible scholar offered these “Rules of Interpretation.” They are mostly common sense, but they do illustrate the kind of work a learner must do.
It shall greatly help thee to understand Scripture,
If thou mark
Not only what is spoken or written,
But of whom,
And to whom,
With what words,
At what time,
With what circumstances,
Considering what goeth before
And what followeth.
(2) We have to process things within a biblical point-of-view while we do this work: we’re looking to know the One behind the message, and the Bible has an overall theme to it.
(3) We begin to understand words, then sentences, then paragraphs; we meditate on what they say and wonder at their messages; and we begin to see how to apply their meaning in practical ways in everyday life.
v. We will need integrity–enough of it to hold ourselves accountable to what we honestly know that Scripture says.
1. This, all together, is what it means to be noble, or, at least, another important part of nobility.
2. Even at Berea, however, acceptance of the gospel was not unanimous. A person had to:
a. decide whether he believed;
b. be prepared to face the crowds who might be unfavorable to it;
c. and stay with the message when the one who taught it to him was no longer present.