Test All Things …
I have really been challenged of late as to what I actually believe when it comes to the Bible. So much so I am looking at it and I am compiling my thoughts and really looking into and defining my beliefs. Why? Because I don’t want to be like grass which is tossed about like the wind!
As a Christian I believe the Bible is “given by inspiration of God and is profitable for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” As is stated in 2 Timothy. In light of that statement I wish to point out something which the Bible clearly states and teaches – could you say, “commands?” It is …
Test all things, hold fast to what is good
1 Thessalonians 5:21
If you remember nothing else of this post remember that verse! And please apply it to everything I say!
Some Christians, myself included, at times take on everything they hear concerning their faith and the scriptures from those who are in authority or in a position of esteem in the church or in the family generally without any question or study and personal reflection on these spiritual matters. There are also those who take the teachings of people in the world, scientists, moralists, politicians, philosophers and so on without doing the same.
Why? Maybe we like being lazy? Maybe we are too trusting? Maybe we fear discrediting those we feel are “above us” will be seen as disrespectful? Whatever the reason is we need to stop.
This verse is a commandment in scripture against being intellectually lazy and not inquiring for ourselves further when it comes to our faith and statements and teachings which maybe put to us.
Disclaimer: Always read the full passage when someone is talking solely about one particular verse. It helps to know the context!
For this verse it comes at the end of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. Verses 12-22 are the main verses which relate to this where Paul is clearly talking about conduct in the church and our Christian living: how we are to recognize people who do work in the church; how the church is to respond to the weak, fainthearted, and those who are wrong. It also talks about prayer, quenching the Spirit and Prophecies. Prophecies are something I want to look at particular later in this post regarding this verse.
So this is part of what we should do as Christians. Not only as Christians but as any intellectual, reasonable person. If you look at how strong and how serious the statements are in verses 19, 20 and 22 which the statement in question is amongst, one can only assert that these words of “Test All things, hold fast to what is Good” are of equal importance, seriousness, and significance.
So let us take heed!
I think we need to work out this scripture continually every day in our lives. Constantly with social media, television, books and YouTube people bring up these deep questions about faith constantly. Are they (faiths) Right? Does God Even Exist? Was anything created? Is the Bible True? Evolution disproves God! God is not loving. This life is all there is. These are all questions and assertions made by people of varying degrees of intellect and understanding. What is interesting though is that there are people of equal intellect which have completely contrary views on the same questions.
Using Reason and Logic to Test
Now who are we to believe? Would it be wrong to only hear opinions and thoughts from the side you agree with? I think so. And here is why. In my own “testing” I have found that researching what people believe to the contrary of what I believe and affirm, no matter how fervent or persuading they are or seem to be when I carefully consider their view and think on what they say with an open mind and weigh up what I believe in light of it, more often than not, I am not compelled at all to change my stance. In fact, rather than leading me to deny my stance their points only seem to affirm my belief because I see a futility in what they are trying to argue. Now there may be some very good arguments out there, but we can’t let ourselves be so overwhelmed by their complexity or explanatory power or whatever about them overwhelms us we need to take a step back and think about it.
Now this method of testing takes honest discerning using reason and logic. Some Christians would say this verse means test it all against scripture, but that is not what it explicitly says. Yes, with somethings that is exactly what we need to do, which I will come to later, but somethings you need to look at all of the arguments whether scientific or philosophical. To start off doing this you need to know where you stand.
An example in which we can use logic and reason is in this highly debated point – Creation. Why? Because you need to look at scientific and philosophical evidence when it comes to arguments about this which need reason and logic.
Leading Atheist scientists like Dawkins believe Science, Evolution namely, disproves that God created the world or that there is no “evidence” of God in the natural world and they suppose there is no need for God therefore it is more plausible there is not a god.
Now the Christian has a big dilemma here. “Is the Creation Story so foundational to my Belief that if this evidence for Evolution is True my faith is in tatters” A very serious question. Now depending on the Christians answer will depend on their next step. If the Creation Story they deem is not foundational to their belief this is a non issue really. It comes down to interpretation, is this account literal or figurative? Is there scope in the account and Bible as a whole for it to work with evolution/Science and its ideas? So you really need to know where you stand so you know the answers and questions you need to look for. If you cannot reconcile the conclusions you have come to through open minded thought and discerning with what you believe you either have to assert what you believe is either wrong or needs amending. For some Christians this is not a problem – for others it is.
So you can use your God given reason and logic and intellectual inquiry to “test all things”
Testing against Scripture
Now when it comes to people saying, this is what the Bible Says, this is a word of Prophecy, this is how the Holy Spirit moves, if you are saved you must be able to speak in tongues if the Holy Spirit is in you. I could go on, but I think you get the drift. God has given us this revelation in the Bible which we can turn to discern these things for ourselves through the Holy Spirit who gives us understanding.
When someone preaches from the pulpit we should test it against Scripture. Is what they are saying consistent with the Bible? Or can this view be sufficiently argued from the Bible? Are they actually preaching what the Bible says? If not you need to ask serious questions! Are they wolves in sheep’s clothing? What is their motive? There are false teachers out there and that is the reason Paul gave this instruction. Now some people are out to purposefully deceive and profit, some people the devil has deceived so much they believe all they are doing is of God. We need to be vigilant of this and call it to account if it happens in our church.
Now onto Prophecy. Now I am not going to argue that the gifts displayed by the apostles were only for that period in time or not. Lets assume the gift of Prophecy is still a gift the Holy Spirit gives to some in the church. When someone comes to you and says “I have a word of Prophecy” or “God has told me to tell you” or however they put it you need to discern this! Don’t blindly accept what they say. I believe this is part of why Paul places this command after “Do not despise prophecies” because they are something we need to discern because there are also false prophets out there. One could argue Paul is talking about Old testament prophecies or scripture in general here but that is an aside.
Here is how to test a Prophecy/Prophet. Is it/are they contradicted by what scripture says? Does it/do they contradict what they/it themselves say.
If someone tells you they have a word from God then they tell you it. Then later they say something else. Was God wrong the first time? Likewise if they start Prophesying saying “Glasgow is the new Jerusalem” you can easily test these claims against Scripture. True Prophecies, if are still an active gift of the Spirit, will be backed by truth found in the Bible and done and used in the same manner the disciples used them. Anyone asserting anything superfluous to what scripture teaches should be treated with the highest scrutiny.
I have several views on this issue and am torn on the validity of modern prophets and prophecies. But if we “Test all things,” we will then be able to discern what is good and if indeed we find it to be good we can “hold fast” on to it.
So we need to test everything we are taught and hear. And God has given us faculties to do this with reason and logic, and when it comes to teaching and doctrine we have the revelation of God’s word for our plumb-line.
I hope this has challenged you to think more about your faith and your viewpoints and to be actively seeking and pursuing after truth.