Duties Toward God’s Truth
Having given several duties for leaders and the brethren to do toward each other and with regard to the church and to God, Paul now gives several commands to be fulfilled by the saints at Thessalonica toward God’s Truth. “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22).
▸ Quench Not the Spirit
“Do not quench the Spirit” (5:19). The word “quench” is translated “stifle.” Yet the Holy Spirit is pictured as a fire in Acts 2:1-4. The word means to douse a fire with water or dirt. It is an effort on the part of the disobedient to hinder the work of the Holy Spirit. The work of the Holy Spirit in the first century was to reveal the Word of God. Any effort to stop or hinder it would be a violation of this command. Revelation has been completed for nearly two thousand years. However, Christians can still quench the Spirit indirectly by refusing to hear or accept the Spirit revealed Word. The Pharisees quench the Holy Spirit revealed words of Stephen when they stopped their ears and stoned him to death. This also can be done in relation to the very next prohibition by Paul.
▸ Despise Not Prophesies
“Do not despise prophecies” (5:20). One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the early church was the ability to prophecy. This did not just involve future telling of world events but forth telling God’s Will. According to F. F. Bruce prophesying is “declaring the mind of God in the power of the Spirit”
In the Corinthian letter, Paul dealt with the brethren who were exulting the gift of speaking in tongues over the other gifts, even the gift of prophecy. Paul claimed that all gifts would one day be done away. However, to prophecy was of no less value than to speak in tongues and in some ways superior. Today, many are casting aside Gospel preaching as boring and ineffective. They are looking to other forms of speaking based on more interesting topics. They want music and entertainment in their worship. Are these not despising the forth telling of God’s Word?
▸ Test All Things
Paul’s final duty given to the Thessalonians is for them to “test all things” (5:21a). To test something means to sift through it or closely examine it in order to determine whether or not it is genuine. As a Jew in the first century would test a pair of oxen or a prospective buyer today would test drive a car.
Everything needs to be questioned, criticized, checked out or evaluated in light of the Holy Spirit revealed Word. It is a fair-minded person who searches all doctrines. Of the Bereans Luke wrote, “these were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). John commanded, “beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world” (1 Jn. 4:1-3).
Every sermon we hear, every Bible class we sit through and every religious article we read should be tested by comparing what they say to what God has said in the Bible. Only the Bible can be the correct standard for testing. Testing implies a standard of measure. The testing cannot be based on personal preferences, public opinion or the wisdom of current experts or personal experimentation.
Remember the burden of proof is on the shoulders of the one who is proclaiming a particular doctrine. This is not only true of something that is taught but moral behavior as well. Smoking marijuana is not okay so long as no one seems to be able to find a verse in the Bible to condemn it to the user’s satisfaction. In fact, they should test it out first and only smoke it after proving it.
Paul gives two results of or responses to this testing: “hold fast to what is good, abstain from every form of evil” (5:21b, 22). “Good” means that which is genuine as opposed to that which is counterfeit. When the testing is over and the teaching is true to God’s Word and the behavior is morally pure, then by all means latch on to it and never let it go. Preach the true and practice the godliness. Beware of fixing the results of the test. Isaiah warned, “woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Is. 5:20).
Verse twenty-two has been misused due to a inadequate understanding of some translations. In some, this verse reads, “abstain form the very appearance of evil” or “stay away from things that have an outward appearance of evil.” Some think this verse is teaching Christians to avoid anything – good or bad – which might even give the impression of evil. For example, a preacher should never stand in the parking lot of the church and drink water out of a whiskey bottle. Although he should not, this is NOT what this verse is teaching. Jesus did not keep for healing on the Sabbath just because it might appear to be the evil of breaking the Sabbath day. Instead, Jesus warned, “do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24). A thing is not evil just because someone thought it looked that way.
Perhaps some other translations can help clear up this misunderstanding. J.B. Philips translates this as “steer clear of evil in any form.” Nestle’s Interlinear: “From every form of evil, abstain.” Although the Bible condemns all sin, it does not list every type of sin in detail. If abortion is a form of the evil of murder, then Christians are to avoid it. If a Christian tests gambling and finds it to be the evil of stealing and covetousness, then he must abstain for it. If taking a certain recreational drug hinders one from being temperate or being sober-minded, get rid of that habit. If a woman discovers that allowing men to massage their bare body causes them to lust in their hearts, she needs to stop and repent immediately. If a man finds that being a lifeguard causes him to lust after half-naked girls on the beach, he must repent and quit his job.
A faithful Christian will test and question everything!
– Daniel R. Vess