Examine everything carefully
1 Thessalonians 5:1-28 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. 2 For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. 3 While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; 5 for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; 6 so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. 7 For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. 8 But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.
12 But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, 13 and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. 14 We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. 16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not quench the Spirit; 20 do not despise prophetic utterances. 21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil.
23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.
25 Brethren, pray for us. 26 Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss. 27 I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren.
28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
In today’s text Paul instructs, encourages and exhorts the believers saying: Live in peace with one another. We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil. In our culture and society, and unfortunately in the church today, it has become increasingly difficult to do both of the first two things Paul says. It is difficult to be at peace, to live at peace with those who you admonish for being unruly. Unruly means: disorderly and disruptive and not amenable to discipline or control. In the Greek it is ataktous, which comes from the word alpha with a negative prefix, so it is to be against authority or rule. To admonish is to: warn or reprimand someone firmly. In our present culture we do not accept reprimands or discipline for our behavior. We are encouraged to protest, to become unruly against authority. Often these protests are not peaceful, but rather violent divisive and hate filled. Even in the church, many respond to discipline, warning or reprimand by leaving and finding a place where their behavior will be accepted. In 2 Timothy 4:1-5 Paul encourages Timothy saying: I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. Surely, if it was not seen in Timothy’s day, that time has come. Many pastors and church leaders are faced with the decision of whether to fulfill their ministry to Christ and the word, preaching sound doctrine, or be one who keeps the people content, tickling their ears and avoiding any semblance of discipline, never reproving or rebuking, never admonishing those who are unruly.
Paul’s answer is not that the pastor should change or that the message or exhortation to obey the word should stop; instead he says: We request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction. Rather than rebelling against leaders and authority, we are to appreciate them. That does not mean that we blindly follow them. Paul says: Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil. There are basically two ways by which we can examine everything carefully. First in Matthew 7:15-20 Jesus says: “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.” We can carefully examine things by their fruit. We are not to judge people, but we are to be those who examine the fruit that we see. To clarify the message Jesus is speaking here, we see in the context that our knowing the fruit comes between Him saying: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” And “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” The false prophet we will discern then in judging fruit are those who would declare that there is a wide and broad way to life in Christ, those who practice lawlessness or as He says in Matthew 5:17-20, those who teach others to practice it.
The second way we can examine everything, particularly prophetic utterances, God’s word spoken through His people, carefully is by how it compares to God’s written word, scripture. In 2 Timothy 3:16 Paul says: All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. Some will argue and say that scripture, the Bible, was written, interpreted and translated by men and not by God. That of course is true, but to use that argument to dismiss the value of scripture, the written word, over what is currently being spoken by people claiming to speak for God is ludicrous. That argument fails because of the misapplication of two words. First it does not say that scripture was written by God, but rather that it is inspired by God. Second Paul says, “All Scripture,” not every word or even every verse, but rather it is the entirety of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, which is inspired by God and so profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. When we examine scripture to find the continuity in it rather than isolating one verse against another, we see the full message of God inspired scripture, the full revelation of God, His will and of Christ. When we look at the whole of scripture we see that the judgment of God is based in justice and righteousness and it is provided for through love, mercy and grace. The real problem comes when people try to create doctrine using isolated verses or portions of scripture, without regard to all scripture. If there is any question though as to the value of the written word, even the Old Testament, I will defer to the opinion of Jesus, the Word made flesh. In Matthew 5:17-20 Jesus says: “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus is Himself the very revelation of God’s will and His character. He is the fulfillment of scripture, not the replacement of it. Who then, as simply a person, should override what all scripture says?
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.