In 1 Thessalonians 5:21, the apostle Paul gives a command of Christian doctrine that, if obeyed, would resolve a whole host of issues. It is short and easy to memorize, “Test all things, hold fast what is good?”
The problem is that its not always easy to apply. It doesn’t take much effort to memorize such a short command, but it takes effort to apply. What it takes to apply is the determination to confirm everything we are taught for our religious observance by the word of God. It is the kind of determination that the Holy Spirit commended in the Bereans.
“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, NKJV). Notice how the Holy Spirit refers to them as fair-minded (noble, ESV), which means that they were behaving in a dignified manner.
What were they doing that brought such a commendation from the Holy Spirit inspired writer? They were doing what Paul commanded in 1 Thessalonians 5:21! They were testing what Paul taught by the Scriptures to see if what Paul was teaching was indeed the truth of God’s word.
The word test means, “to try to learn the genuineness of something by examination and testing, often through actual use — ‘to test, to examine, to try to determine the genuineness of, testing’” (Louw and Nida). So, Paul’s exhortation to anyone desiring to live a life according to the truth of God’s word is that they verify the things they are taught by the Bible.
Sadly, there is a great deal of religious division among those claiming Christianity to be their religion. If Christianity has a single source for faith and practice – i.e. the Bible – then why are there so many different kinds of Christians? It is precisely because they do not do what Paul exhorted in 1 Thessalonians 5:21!
From the definition of the word test, you see that it cannot be done in the way that most people determine their religious practice. For example, when asking the question as to why a person believes what they believe, the most common answer is: “that’s what my pastor says.” That is, a person just assumes that what they are being told is the truth.
If anyone could be justified in assuming what they were taught was true, the Bereans could. After all, they were listening to the apostle Paul himself! However, their practice of verifying what they were hearing — even from an apostle — by the Scriptures was referred to as noble.
If they were noble for verifying what they were hearing from Paul, who would I be if I expected people to “just take my word for it”? No! Please don’t ever “just take my word for it.” I want people to verify what I teach by the word of God. If it is proven true, then hold to it. If not, reject it and do me the loving favor of pointing out my error so I can correct it. That would be the noble thing to do.
To test something, you have to take it and set it side-by-side with an open Bible. The Bible alone is our source for proving the truth of any teaching when it comes to the practice of the Christian religion (2 Timothy 3:16, 17; 1 Corinthians 4:6).
Our feelings about something has nothing to do with whether its biblically right or not. Consider how Jacob felt when his sons told him they had found the torn and blood-soaked multicolored coat of their brother. He said he knew his son, Joseph, had been torn to pieces by a wild animal.
Notice what he said in the presence of the false evidence he was shown. “And he recognized it and said, ‘It is my son’s tunic. A wild beast has devoured him. Without doubt Joseph is torn to pieces.’ Then Jacob tore his clothes, put sackcloth on his waist, and mourned for his son many days” (Genesis 37:33–34, NKJV). See, Jacob’s feelings were manipulated by false evidence. So, our feelings can’t be how we test things to see if they’re true.
The same is true for “the family religion.” Something we have received as a matter of family tradition has nothing at all to do with whether it is biblically correct or not. Regarding “family tradition,” Peter says, “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers,” (1 Peter 1:18, NKJV).
Despite this, when asking most people why they go to the church that they do, the most common reply is, “that’s where my mom and dad went.” Or, “my mom and dad were [fill in the blank] so that’s what I am. It was good enough for mom and dad, its good enough for me.” Peter said that’s “vain.” “Family tradition” is not the source for biblical truth, the Bible is!
There are any number of things that could be listed as incorrect sources for “testing” what we do in Christian practice. The root of the issue is this, if it doesn’t come from the Bible then it is not to be held to. Paul said, “test all things, hold fast what is true.”
The opposite is also true. That is, “don’t hold onto what is not true.” Have you tested what you hold to in your Christian practice? Are you willing to turn loose of anything found not to be true according to God’s word?
We are having a Gospel Meeting! Please plan to come and help us welcome Bobby D. Gayton for his visit to LaGrange. For more information about Bobby and the upcoming Gospel Meeting (April 10-13, 2016), please see our website at NorthsideLaGrangeChurch.org.
Norm Fields is the minister for the Church of Christ Northside meeting at 1101 Hogansville Road in LaGrange. He may be reached at 706-812-9950 or [email protected]