1 Thessalonians 5:21

Monday, 4 September 2017

Test all things; hold fast what is good.
1 Thessalonians 5:21

Note: Some manuscripts begin this verse with “but,” thus showing a contrast between what was just said and what is now said. Whether “but” belongs there or not in the text, the words of Paul still imply the use of “but” in the verse. Either way, Paul is showing us a contrast to the previous thoughts.

Paul has been giving a list of positive exhortations intended to keep the believer on a happy and sound course. Verses 19 & 20 concerned the latter – “Do not quench the Spirit” & “Do not despise prophecies.” Now, in order to ensure that we accomplish those things, he exhorts us to be wise and discerning. In order to do this, we are to, “Test all things.”

The word “test” is one that speaks of validation. Its root was used concerning the proving (or testing) of coins in order to confirm whether they were genuine or not. There is the real currency of the land, and then there is that which is counterfeit. Unless one was careful, they could easily be duped into believing they possessed something of value, when instead they possessed only a fake which had no value at all. Paul’s admonition here is that we are to test the fire of the Spirit, and we are to test prophecies. Is this the true Spirit of God, or is it a corrupt counterfeit? Is this a true prophetic utterance, or is it lie from the devil?

Like the currency of the land, what is real is often very hard to distinguish from a forgery. Paul even relayed this truth directly to those in Corinth –

But what I do, I will also continue to do, that I may cut off the opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the things of which they boast. 13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.” 2 Corinthians 11:12-14

How can one tell if something is true and correct if they are not intimately familiar with it? It takes either a specialist or a special chemical test to tell if a $100.00 bill is real or not. The specialist is trained in the most subtle nuances of the original bill, and the chemical test is able to quickly identify the false bill as such. It provides a comparison to what will occur with an original bill.

In both cases, the original is the standard, and the false can only be identified as such when compared with it. The lesson for us is obvious. We cannot know what is false in our faith, unless we know what is the true basis for our faith – the Bible. If we are not willing to train ourselves in a detailed understanding of God’s word, it is not possible for us to test all things. No wonder so many cults and false teachers have arisen, and why so many once-sound denominations have completely fallen away from what is true!

But when we are careful, and when we “test all things” according to the one true standard, we are then able to “hold fast what is good.” We can easily reject the bad, and we can quickly discern who the false, or just plain crummy, teachers are.

In today’s world, where everything in the Bible can be quickly accessed, it is easy to have people suddenly come forth sounding as if they are specialists in the word. In fact, it appears many are specialists, because everyone has this amazing access to the word which was never before available. But this is a scary place to be when putting one’s trust in someone because they have supposedly mastered a single specialized portion of the word (such as future prophecy) and nothing more.

There must be a full understanding of the whole counsel of God in order for a teacher to be fully equipped. Likewise, the layman must have a full understanding of the word of God, or they will easily be duped by these seeming specialists. The study of the word is hard, it takes much time, and it takes a great deal of mental energy, but without it, there is no way we can test all things, and there is no way that we can hold fast to what is good.

Life application: Concerning the Bible in today’s world, it seems everyone is a “specialist.” The wise person will read the word day and night to be kept from these “specialists,” and he will be careful to not get duped by them. KNOW YOUR BIBLE.

Lord God, right in Your word, we are told to test all things, and to hold fast to what is good? How on earth can we test something unless we are familiar with that by which we are making the comparison? Do you approve of homosexuality? Is the supposed prophecy I heard about true? Is observing the Sabbath necessary? How can we know the answer to these things unless we are familiar with Your word? We are like sheep being led to the slaughter because we find our pleasure in TV and not in You. Forgive us of this, and help us to get our priorities right. To Your glory we pray. Amen.

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