Words of Faith 4-10-19
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2019
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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1 Thessalonians 5
 Do not put out the Spirit's fire;  do not treat prophecies with contempt.  Test everything. Hold on to the good.  Avoid every kind of evil.
Paul warned carefully against treating prophecy with contempt while at the same time urging that we test every teaching, utterance, and proclamation against the Word of God. We are given the loving task of discernment.
Paul wrote to the church at Corinth: "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14). Because of the presence of God in our lives, we can discern what the truth is with the measure of the Bible as our guide.
The problem is that false prophecy is such a dangerous thing. Christians need to test what they hear and read, by comparing it with the Word of God, to determine if it is divine in its origin. Each Christian has the responsibility and ability to do this.
In this passage, Paul was probably exhorting the Thessalonians to be more like the Bereans, a community down the road, who were "people of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true" (Acts 17:11). It is that noble character quality that we need to develop as we carefully test what we hear against the witness of the scriptures.
An important point here is that it should never be an offense to a true prophet of God-- whether an Inspired Preacher or one who gives a prophetic utterance-- to have people respectfully "test" their teaching against the Word of God. This does not mean that people should defiantly argue with a Preacher or be rude. But the Berean method of careful testing, even of the Apostle Paul, is a valuable part of our Christian heritage which guides us.
The Apostle John also wrote about the value of testing. "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" (1 John 4:1). Should we assume that there would be fewer "false prophets" today than in the first century?
Jesus Himself warned, "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit, you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit, you will recognize them. Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock" (Matthew 7: 33-24).
Jesus could not have been more explicit. There will be false prophets. They will dress in the clothing of good sheep but really are ravenous wolves. We are to discern and know them by their fruit, not the eloquence or their words or the cleverness of their phrases. True prophets of God will exhibit the Fruit of the Spirit-- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). False prophets will appear to be part of the flock but at some point will exhibit some of the acts of the sinful nature-- sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like (Galatians 5:19-21). These are things to watch out for. While no prophet, preacher or teacher is perfect, these are clear warning signs.
In such testing, Paul declares that we will discern the good from the evil. We are to hold on to the good and avoid every kind of evil. The word translated "hold on" means to fasten to, keep in memory, possess, retain, seize on, or take. The word translated "avoid" means to hold oneself off, refrain, or abstain from.
If you have a good preacher who is of good character and exhibits the Fruit of the Spirit, you should hold on to him. If you hear a good word of preaching that exhorts you in your walk with God, you should cling to that truth and hold it in memory. If you find a ministry that has integrity and proclaims the truth, you should bless that ministry and receive heartily from that ministry.
If you encounter evil, in any form of ministry or any walk of life, you should avoid it, refrain from it, and abstain from it. Counterfeit teaching and living should be rejected and avoided. Not only should false prophecies be discarded but also every kind and form of evil should be avoided. What may only appear to be bad falls under this same warning. While believers should abstain from actions which will knowingly offend others, it is not always possible to refrain from everything which may appear evil to a narrow and foolish judgment. But the effort should be made to avoid even the appearance of evil.
How do we apply this? We should be careful students of the Bible. We should learn always to filter what we hear in teaching and preaching. This is not a matter of being suspicious but of developing a discerning spirit that is eager for truth and integrity. We should ask questions respectfully and seek clarification. We should watch for fruit. And those who teach and preach should not be offended by such questions.
Father God, tune my heart to Your Spirit. Teach me from the depth of Your Word. Prepare my heart and mind to carefully discern the truth and integrity of the ministries around me. Help me to walk closely and carefully with You. In Jesus' name.