Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. I Thessalonians 5:21
Who is the person who fears Adonai?
He will teach him the way to choose.
He will remain prosperous,
and his descendents will inherit the land. Psalm 25: 12-13
The responsibility to “prove all things” is one we all share, and its application should be a practical and fundamental motivation in our everyday lives. This is what I sought to put into understandable terms when I had the opportunity to speak to the women’s fellowship at our church.When I looked into the phrase “prove all things” in I Thessalonians, I discovered some things I hadn’t expected.
Let’s look at the passage.
19 Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; 20 do not treat prophecies with contempt. 21 Test everything. Hold on to the good. 22 Avoid every kind of evil. NIV
19 Don’t quench the Spirit, 20 don’t despise inspired messages.21 But do test everything—hold onto what is good, 22 but keep away from every form of evil. The Jewish Bible, Tanakh
Don’t suppress the Spirit, and don’t stifle those who have a word from the Master. On the other hand, don’t be gullible. Check out everything, and keep only what’s good. Throw out anything tainted with evil. The Message Remix
And then we have this…
18 In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
19 Quench not the Spirit.
20 Despise not prophesyings.
21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.
23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly… King James
According to J.C. Ryle: “St Paul says to us, ‘ Prove all things. Hold fast that which is good.’ In these words, you have two great truths:
I-The right, duty, and necessity of private judgment.
II- The duty and necessity of keeping firm hold upon truth.”
So here are the questions I had to answer about this passage.
~If we are to test everything, and hold on to the good, then are we to discard something?
~If we are to test all things, how are we to do that? What standard are we to test them against?
~Do we do that?
~What kinds of things are we to test? Spiritual matters alone?
~What kinds of things are spiritual matters? Do these things impact how I live my life?
~If we are to apply this testing to practical decisions and preferences, are there other legitimate standards by which to test those?
~ What are they? Do we use those other standards?
What We Throw Out
First: If we are to test everything, and hold on to the good, then are we to discard something?
“Avoid every kind of evil. Hold onto what is good”…Do you see a gray area? Hold on to the good, but keep away from every kind of evil. Abstain from it, throw it out.
What is found not passing the test is called evil, and we are commanded to separate ourselves from it.
The Sources We Use
Next: If we are to test all things, how are we to do that? What standard are we to test them against?
What are some sources of advice we usually go to?
Our common sense… people we respect as peers…premises from a surrounding culture…expert advice…our best judgment based on our beliefs? Do you have any others?
I submit to you that while living in the midst of a culture which is intrinsically contrary to God’s thinking, that in practical terms, we make decisions all day long which are influenced by that culture. Without examining and without proving.
We swallow our culture’s premises without a thought.
“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.” We are!
We sometimes declare that we’re to use our common sense. And we tend to do this when it’s the last refuge we have, in cases where hundreds of years of culture and the most obvious Biblical references stand against our wishes. But Scripture does not seem to recognize our common sense as a reliable source of wisdom.
Pr 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.
Psalm 53:3 Everyone has turned away, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray. Each of us has turned to his own way. And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Is 53.
Our own way is called iniquity. My way of acting is called iniquity. Left to my own devices, my own reasoning, my own judgment, I choose iniquity.
Is there an area where God has not spoken and so it’s up to our common sense?
Pr 3:5Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will make your paths straight.
There’s that universal word again—all.
How many things are we asked to prove? “Prove all things.” That means everything including the ones you thought were settled. Test them all over again!
Getting Advice from Our Culture
Barnes Notes on the Bible: “Prove all things—Subject everything submitted to you to the proper test. (I Cor 3:13)…they were carefully to examine everything proposed for their belief. They were not to receive it on trust; to take it on assertion; to believe it because it was urged with vehemence, zeal, or plausibility. In the various opinions and doctrines which were submitted to them for adoption, they were to apply the appropriate tests from reason and the word of God, and what they found to be true they were to embrace; what was false they were to reject. Christianity does not require people to disregard their reason, or to be credulous. It does not expect them to believe anything because others say it is so. It does not make it a duty to receive as undoubted truth all that synods and councils have decreed; or all that is advanced by the ministers of religion. It is, more than any other form of religion, the friend of free inquiry, and would lead people everywhere to understand the reason of the opinions which they entertain.”
My pastor, Robert Kinzel: “We are swimming upstream—big time–against the culture.” “The ship is going down…you don’t want to go with it!” AND “When you begin to look for guidance outside of God’s word, you’re in trouble!”
Here is a description of the unbelieving culture of any time:
Romans 1:21-23: …Although they know who God is, they do not glorify Him as God or thank Him. On the contrary, they have become futile in their thinking, and their undiscerning hearts have become darkened. Claiming to be wise, they have become fools!
31: brainless, faithless, heartless and mindless.
If the world is filled with people who go their own way, whose god is their bellies, who don’t refer to Almighty God in the way they lead their lives, why would be go to the world, the culture, for advice? Are these the sources we use to help us make important decisions about our lives?
And here is Romans 12:2: Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will
What is the True Test?
I started looking for a definable test. What was the standard I ought to use? And I was shown this:
Commentary: The prophecies “ must not be accepted with credulity but are to be tested by more objective revelation and especially the touchstone of Christ’s Lordship. (I Cor 12:3) and His Incarnation.” (I John 4:1-3).
I John tells us how to discern between spirits; this was the test the early Christians were to use.
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.
And here is the ‘touchstone of Christ’s Lordship’: I Cor 12:3:
Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says ‘ Jesus be cursed’, and no one can say,’Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.
So the test that we apply to a premise or idea is whether it acknowledges the Lordship of Jesus Christ; and whether it acknowledges that Jesus is who he said he is.