"Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." KJV 1 Thessalonians 5:21
"But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good." NAU 1 Thessalonians 5:21
The Bible declares that ALL things must be proven BEFORE we, as Bible-believing Christians, accept them. In order to prove all things it is necessary to investigate these things, to examine everything diligently and carefully. But how often are we exercising due diligence in this God-given mandate of Scripture? The human tendency is to just accept what we are told about the Bible's teaching because we trust the the pastor/teacher and feel that surely he couldn't be wrong. Why should we have to prove what the preacher is telling us?
But the Bible commands us to "prove all things" without restriction as to who is doing the teaching. In fact the focus here in this passage is not on proving the teacher but rather proving what is being taught. The Bible mandates that every Christian must test ALL religious instruction, irregardless of who or where it comes from.
Some may feel that promoting this kind of questioning of religious instruction is somehow undermining the authority and work of the pastor or minister. But this is the very work that the pastor and minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to do. The gospel minister is to instruct the listeners to test everything that is taught and every "spirit" that's doing the teaching. Why?
1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.
4 For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment. . .
9 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished . . . 2 Peter 2:1-9
Please note that the Bible teaches us that there WILL BE false teachers and prophets among God's people in the last days just before the return of Jesus Christ. These false teachers and false prophets will bring into the church "damnable heresies!" The only way to identify them the is that the speak about the "way of TRUTH" as if it were evil. That is they will attack those who teach people that they must follow the truth of the Bible in their daily practical lives-this is the "way" of truth spoken of here. The "way of truth" means we are to order our lives, to live out lives in harmony with the TRUTH, Biblical TRUTH. The TRUTH is defined by Jesus Himself as being the "WORD of GOD." John 17:17.
This Biblical Mandate to "prove all things" is an absolute necessity because of these false prophets and teachers. And this means that the majority of prophets and teaches are false, ans very few are genuine and true prophets and teachers of God. They are so convincing that "many" will follow their conniving and deceitful ways. In fact the counterfeit is so near the true that the only way to distinguish between the two is by faithful adhering to the word of truth-the Holy Bible!
The deception of Satan is so great that the Bible uses some of the most striking language to describe the Devils ultimate deception;
But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. 2 Corinthians 11:12-15
Please note that the false prophets, false teachers, and false prophets "transform themselves" into the "apostles of Christ." Which means they are almost identical to them and the appear to be "ministers of righteousness!" Even Satan himself appears to men as an angel of "light" as oppose to darkness. Most people would think a bright angel of light is without question one of God's sinless holy angels and they are certain that it is impossible that it could be one of the Devil's fallen angels! We are told not to "marvel" at this because the thing to marvel at is how the Devil is transformed into an angel of light. If Satan can do such wonders then it reason that his followers have no problem taking the form of "ministers of righteousness."
Identifying a minister of sinfulness is as easy as identifying a train wreck, but identifying a false apostle or even Satan himself under the garb of light or the cloak of righteousness is not so easy. Acts 20:27-31 tells us that these false prophets and teachers would only attack the church from the outside but from within as well, and that they would enter the church in "sheeps clothing" all the while underneath they are really "ravenous wolves!"
We are told that these false prophets and teaches would bring into the church "heretical" doctrines, doctrines of devils, that would lead those who adopt them to be damned. This they would do "privately" or "secretively." The prophet Jude wrote about how they would come into the church;
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. Jude 1:3-8.
Therefore, the Bible gives Christians the serious mandate to "prove" all things, and it means that is everything must be tested. As pastors, ministers, professors of theology, theologians ans scholars when we find those who are following this Biblical mandate we should not look down on anyone who desires to exercise their God-given right to prove whether something is true or not. This just what Bereans did when the Apostle Paul came to preach to them. Note the wording of these translations;
Bible in Basis English BBE-1949: Acts 17:11:
Now these were more noble than the Jews of Thessalonica, for they gave serious attention to the word, searching in the holy Writings every day, to see if these things were so.
English Standard Version ESV Acts 17:11:
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
God's Word to the Nations GWN Acts 17:11:
The people of Berea were more open-minded than the people of Thessalonica. They were very willing to receive God's message, and every day they carefully examined the Scriptures to see if what Paul said was true.
King James Versions KJV Acts 17:11:
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. Here we find that even the teaching of the Apostle Paul were not accepted as truth until they were first searched out in the Sacred Scriptures and proven to be true. No theologian, professor, scholar, exegete, or Christian should ever get upset with those who chose to exercise there God-given right and call into question what they are being taught. We should not be offended but we should actually encourage everyone to practice this virtue. As Christians, pastors, scholars, and theologians we do not need to "argue" about any issue, that is in the negative sense of the meaning of the word (see Argument & Debate). We can be Christians and still follow the instruction to "Prove ALL things" and then to "Hold fast to that which is good." I Thessalonians 5:21.
The man who objects to or who will not allow such an examination of their teachings is not fit to teach Bible truth to anyone. Think this through carefully-If we say we are teaching "what the Bible says" to others, and yet refuse to accept and encourage a careful examination of what we ourselves are teaching, then we are not really teaching what the Bible teaches, because it is the Bible that teaches the disciples of Christ to teach their follower to prove all things.
The Apostle Paul told the Christians in Asia that he had been "Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations . . . " Paul explained; "how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 17:19-21).
And Paul further tells the church;
For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. (Acts 20:27-32).
The whole counsel of God is the entire word of God-the Holy Bible. Paul declared all the counsel that God had given him to give to the church, he gave to them He says that he kept "nothing back," he gave them everything. But even though what he gave them was "the counsel of God" we must remember that ALL that he preached was open to public and individual examination. The believers went home and search the Scriptures to prove whether these things were so! And Paul never objected to this! Paul never told them; "How dare your question my teachings! Don't you know who I am? I am a prophet of the Lord Jesus, don't you never question what I tell you!" Rather he encouraged them to test his teachings by "commending" them to God and to "the word" of God's grace.
Paul "warned" them that there would be those who would seek to enter the church in the garb of a Christian yet in reality would actually be "wolves" looking to devour the sheep of the Shepherd Jesus Christ. Not only this, but even from among there own selves, from within the church, men would arise "speaking perverse things." And the purpose of these men would be to "draw away disciples after themselves," that is that they would attempt to get men them, to follow their teachings, and even go to work to get people to join their following. They could then say "I am a disciple of Paul." The Apostle and Prophet Paul never sought a following for himself but rather he constantly sought for men to follow Christ. This he tells us in his own words in his letter to the church in Corinth;
1 Corinthians 3:3-9:
3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
4 For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?
5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?
6 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.
7 So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.
8 Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.
9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.
He previously said the same thing in chapter one;
1 Corinthians 1:10-15:
10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;
15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.
Paul never sought for anyone to become his own disciple. He only sought for all to follow Christ and be His disciples. But he had to give the warning that not all who would preach and teach in the church would follow this rule. Therefore, he warned them day and night with tears! He wrote to those in Thessalonica that they "prove all things, and hold fast to that which is good."
The Apostle Peter said the same when he wrote;
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you. . ." 2 Peter 2:1-3.
Paul even said that Satan himself and his evil angels would enter the church and deceive many, as we read previously. These "wolves in sheeps clothing would "seek to draw away disciples after themselves." This Paul never did, neither did any of Christ's true followers. They all obeyed the call of Christ; "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself." John 12:32.
It is crucial that we recognized that these false teachers would arise WITHIN THE CHURCH! And that they would be given opportunity to preach and teach the church members, and that "MANY" would accept and follow their "pernicious" or insidious, deadly, and corrupting ways, and this ALL within the Church!
We are told that the only way to identify them is by how they speak about the truth, what they say about the truth. This can only be done by a thorough examination of their teachings, by a scrutinizing investigation as to whether those things are in harmony with the truth of the Holy Word of God.
We are called by God and by His apostles and prophets of old to "test the spirits whether the are of God" (1 John 4:1-3), to "prove ALL things" (1 Thessalonians 5:22). After we have scrutinized or analyzed a particular teaching, we are to take those things which are "good" and hang on to them. This implies that there are things or teachings which are not good. But these must be sorted out from those teachings which are good. The bad must be abandoned and the good hung on too.
2 Timothy 2:15 states that we are to "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." Our purpose in dealing with the teachings of men and investigating the teaching of the Bible is to "come to a knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4). In order to do so we must "rightly divide the word of truth." This implies there is a wrong way to interpret the word of God. Therefore we need to have "spiritual discernment."
1 Corinthians 2:11-14:
11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
It was the prophet Jude that wrote;
"Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." Jude 1:3.
To contend earnestly for the faith, is to strive in defense of what Christian's believe, that includes their "the teaching," or "doctrine." Acts 2:42 tell us that the new Christians "continued int the apostles doctrine and fellowship." Jude tells the believers to "contend earnestly" for the beliefs and teaching of the saints (the body of believers-the church). Those beliefs and doctrines are those which the Apostles and Prophets delivered to them. This expression "contend earnestly" is an imperative of command! It's a Biblical Mandate! A Biblical Requirement!
The prophet Jude says to all Christians; "you" should do this-CONTEND for the FAITH that was once delivered unto the saints of old. This implies that the ancient faith of the early church was under attack by forces seeking to break apart the church and destroy her mission. Over the centuries of conflict and the long drawn out attack against the faith of the church, the faith "once delivered to the saints" has been to a great degree lost site of, and that it needs to be restored. We must recognized that when entering into the work of restoration of the ancient faith of the saints, there WILL be contention, argument, and debate, and that the only way the church can defend the faith is to "earnestly contend" for it, by the grace and power of Christ Jesus-the Head of the church, and with the "sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (See Ephesians 6:10-16).
As we enter into this God-given Biblical Mandate we must do so in the spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ and with the love of God~1 Corinthians 13. If we devote ourselves to Christ each day, to living as He would have us live, then we can contend "earnestly" without being unkind, mean, and contentious. This is what I hope to do in the Spirit of Christ Jesus.