Good morning, Bereans. We are continuing our study of 1 Thessalonians this morning and continuing to look at these four verses.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 ESV
The five imperatives here must go together. The first two negative imperatives of verses 19-20 set the boundaries for the three positive imperatives of 21-22. These five exhortations concern the use and control of prophecy within the church.
Do not despise prophecies, 1 Thessalonians 5:20 ESV
In the context, this is the primary way of quenching the Spirit (verse 1). This is also a present active imperative with the negative particle. As such, it usually means to stop an act in process. So, the Thessalonians must have in some way been despising prophecies.
Using the principle of audience relevance, can we apply this command to us today? Why or why not? Let me say a few things here about audience relevance. This is a subject that is very important to the study of Scripture. Audience relevance is one of the rules of Hermeneutics. It requires that the interpreter ascertain the meaning of the words of Scripture by what they meant to the original, intended audience.
See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 1 Thessalonians 5:15 ESV
Who is the audience of verse 15? It is the first-century saints at Thessalonica. Is this teaching specific to the Thessalonians only? No. Proverbs teaches this. Yeshua taught this as did Paul in his letters to the Romans and Corinthians. Peter also taught it. Is this teaching specific to the believers living in the transition period? No. All believers are to refrain from seeking vengeance but are, instead, to go after the other person's highest good with a vengeance. This is a truth for all saints in every age.
Do not despise prophecies, 1 Thessalonians 5:20 ESV
Who is the audience of verse 20? It is the first-century saints at Thessalonica. Is this teaching specific to the Thessalonians only? No. Is this teaching specific to the believers living in the transition period. Yes! Why? The gift of prophecy was temporary; it was only for the transition period. With this understanding in mind, let's continue our study that we started last week about prophets and prophecies. What is the definition of a prophet? Biblically defined, a prophet is the mouth of God. In other words, he is someone who speaks for God.
I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. Deuteronomy 18:18 ESV
A prophet is, essentially, a spokesman for God who is chosen by Him. Prophets are tasked with speaking to the people on God's behalf.
For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:21 ESV
Prophecy, then, involves men speaking from God.
Based on the questions that came in last week, there seems to be some interest in the subject of women and prophecy. So, let's talk about the prophetess for a moment. It's a subject that doesn't get a lot of discussion. A "prophetess" is no different than her male counterpart, the "prophet." As such, she is also the voice of Yahweh. The label "prophetess" is attributed to five women in the Tanakh. Let's look at them.
Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing. Exodus 15:20 ESV
Moses and Aaron's sister, Miriam, is called a prophetess. However, there are no prophecies of Miriam recorded in Scripture.
Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. Judges 4:4 ESV
Deborah is recorded as prophesying to Barak in Judges 4.
She sent and summoned Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh-naphtali and said to him, "Has not the LORD, the God of Israel, commanded you, ‘Go, gather your men at Mount Tabor, taking 10,000 from the people of Naphtali and the people of Zebulun. Judges 4:6 ESV
Then we have Huldah.
So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe (now she lived in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter), and they talked with her. 2 Kings 22:14 ESV
Notice Huldah's prophecy.
And she said to them, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: ‘Tell the man who sent you to me, Thus says the LORD, Behold, I will bring disaster upon this place and upon its inhabitants, all the words of the book that the king of Judah has read. 2 Kings 22:15-16 ESV
She is speaking for Yahweh. She is being the mouth of God. This is the only prophecy we have from her.
Next, we see the prophetess Noadiah who is mentioned in one of the prayers of Nehemiah. In his imprecation, Nehemiah said:
Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, O my God, according to these things that they did, and also the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who wanted to make me afraid. Nehemiah 6:14 ESV
Noadiah was a false prophetess whom Tobiah and Sanballat had hired to make Nehemiah afraid. No prophecy of Noadiah is recorded.
And I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son. Then the LORD said to me, "Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz; Isaiah 8:3 ESV
Here Isaiah's wife is called a prophetess. Titles were given in the East to the wives, daughters, etc. of officials that merely reflected the dignity of their husbands, fathers, etc. So, we can't be sure that she actually was a prophetess. Either way, there is no prophecy recorded in Scripture from her. So, we have four, possibly five, women in the Tanakh who are called prophetesses, but we only have actual prophecies from two of them. So essentially, throughout the Tanakh, we only have two prophecies given by women.
What do we see in the New Testament about women prophets? Peter quotes Joel's prophecy in Acts 2 which says,
"‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; Acts 2:17 ESV
Peter revealed that in the last days, the transition period, women would prophesy, but we have no prophesies of women recorded in the New Testament.
On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. He had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied. Acts 21:8-9 ESV
This is interesting. Philip had four virgin daughters who prophesied. That's all it says. We have no record of any prophecies that they gave. What is really interesting in this context is that the daughters of Philip did not prophesy about Paul's trip to Jerusalem. Instead, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea to give this prophecy.
While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Acts 21:10 ESV
Paul is in Philip's house with his four daughters ("who prophesied"), but they didn't say anything to Paul about his trip to Jerusalem. Agabus had to come from Jerusalem to give Paul a word from Yahweh.
And coming to us, he took Paul's belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, "Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'" Acts 21:11 ESV
Agabus took Paul's belt (probably a long strip of cloth that he would wrap around himself several times), and in the image of the prophets of the Tanakh who frequently acted out their prophecy, he bound his own hands and his feet to give a vivid picture of what the Gentiles would do to Paul in Jerusalem. This prediction of Agabus was fulfilled in Acts 21.
Then the tribune came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. He inquired who he was and what he had done. Acts 21:33 ESV
Why didn't Philip's daughters give Paul this prophecy? Why did a man have to come to give it?
When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, "What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Yeshua." And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, "Let the will of the Lord be done." Acts 21:12-14 ESV
Notice what Luke said: "we and the people there urged him." Who were these other people at Philip's house? Maybe the church? Philip may have used his home for the church meetings. That may explain why the daughters didn't give the prophecy. Notice what Paul wrote to the Corinthians.
For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 1 Corinthians 14:33-34 ESV
These verses must be interpreted in their context, and their context is that of giving direction to the use of the gifts of speaking in tongues and prophesying. The whole of chapter 14 deals with these gifts. Consider 1 Corinthians 14.
Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 1 Corinthians 14:1 ESV
So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 1 Corinthians 14:39 ESV
The chapter is bracketed by these verses, demonstrating that this chapter deals with spiritual gifts and their proper use in the church. In giving us rules for the use of tongues and prophecy, Paul adds another rule: women are not to speak in tongues or prophecy in the church.
Some say that Paul was not forbidding women to prophecy because he had already given them instructions in chapter 11 on how they were to prophecy.
but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. 1 Corinthians 11:5 ESV
Paul may be talking here about a woman prophesying outside of the church meeting. Women had a prophetic ministry in the transition period as we have already seen.
Paul gives three arguments in these verses for a woman to be silent in the church. The first argument is because of the custom of the churches. We see this in the last phrase of verse 33.
For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, 1 Corinthians 14:33 ESV
the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 1 Corinthians 14:34 ESV
In general, translators consider verse 33b to be the introductory part of the first sentence in verse 34. The Greek manuscripts had no punctuation, so the context must determine where these verses go. His appeal is that in all the churches women are to be silent. They are not permitted to speak in tongues or prophecy; this is customary in the Christian church. Paul is emphasizing the fact that the principle of women's not speaking in church services was not local, geographical, or cultural, but universal. Because it is customary in the Christian church, it suggests that the public participation of women in the church meeting would somehow be inconsistent with Christianity. So, Paul calls upon them to conform to the custom of the Christian church.
His second reason is his own apostolic authority. He says, "For they are not permitted to speak." That is what Paul is saying; he is speaking as an apostle. Notice what he says in verse 37.
If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 14:37 ESV
This is not Paul's personal preference; it is not a bias that he has. This is the commandment of the Lord. When Paul spoke for God, his views were not tainted by cultural or personal bias. He did not, for instance, teach the submission of women in the church because of his Jewish background or in order to conform to any personal male chauvinism. He taught that truth because he had been taught it by the Lord. Since the apostles were infallible organs of the Holy Spirit, to disobey them in any matter of faith or practice is to refuse to obey God.
His third argument comes at the end of verse 34. It is his scriptural argument. He says, "For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says." Paul reaches back into the Tahakh to support his argument. He probably has in mind the account of Genesis 2:18-24 that teaches the creation order in which Adam was created first and then Eve as Adam's helper. Throughout this epistle, Paul consistently appeals to the creation account of Genesis 2. According to the Tanakh, women were to have a subordinate position to the man when it came to leadership in the things of God and in the worship of the tabernacle. For these three reasons, Paul taught that in the church meeting, the women were to be quiet as far as speaking in tongues and prophesying.
To support the fact that women were not to lead in the church in teaching or prophesying, we can look at the Bible as a whole. For example, in the Tanakh, we find no female Kings listed in the kings of Israel or Judah. None! We also find no female Priests. There are no women who wrote a book or a portion of a book in the Tanakh. And there are no women who had an ongoing prophetic ministry. The same is true in the New Testament. There are no women elders or evangelists. No woman wrote any of the New Testament books. There are no sermons or teachings given by women in the New Testament and all of Yeshua's twelve disciples were men.
Men and women share equality of spiritual life but have different roles. You might ask why? Why are these limitations placed on women? Paul gives us two reasons why there is this distinction of roles.
1. Because of the priority of man in creation.
I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 1 Timothy 2:12-13 ESV
The order of creation was God's way of telling all of his creation that the man was to be in the role of headship, with the responsibility of that headship. The second reason is given in verse 14.
2. The woman had the priority in the transgression.
and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 1 Timothy 2:14 ESV
The women was the one who was deceived in the garden of Eden. The woman was the first to sin, she was the leader, she had the priority in the transgression. In taking that lead, she usurped the authority of her husband. She was to be following her husband. But she usurped the authority, exercised the leadership, sinned, and Adam followed her. She stepped out of the place that was hers by creation. It was an act of rebellion against God's order. Paul says that is an illustration and it ought to be always kept in mind. The position of the man and the woman by creation is the headship of man.
When we ended last week, we were talking about the "sign gifts" of the Spirit, especially prophecy and how prophecies were only for the last days. We saw in Daniel that his vision ends with the destruction of Jerusalem—something that would bring an end to all prophecy. Yeshua said this same thing in Luke 21:22: "these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written." Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13 that prophecy would end when the perfect came. Paul also taught (in Ephesians 4) that when the body is completely matured, spiritual gifts would no longer be needed. And we know that the body was matured when the Lord returned. So, we have clearly demonstrated that when the last days ended, so did the gifts.
But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: "‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. Acts 2:16-20 ESV
We see in verses 16-18 that Peter quotes from Joel to explain what is taking place at Pentecost. But what about verses 19-20? What happened at Pentecost was awesome and a blessing, but these verses also speak of judgment.
This whole prophecy of Joel is predicting "the Christ Event" (aka, the "transition period," the "last days," the "second exodus"). This "Christ event" encompasses the Cross, Pentecost, the Resurrection, the Judgment, and the Parousia. Joel's prophecy stretches from Pentecost to the Day of the Lord. It covers a 40-year period that was equal to a generation. It was a second exodus.
The last days began at Pentecost and ended in A.D. 70. The charismata were to continue until the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. If the Lord has not yet come and the Last Days are still in progress, then the charismata still have to be around. All the revelatory gifts of the Spirit would still be around if the day of the Lord is still future. But if the last days ended with the day of the Lord in A.D. 70, then the gift of prophecy ceased as well. To further emphasize this point, I encourage you to look with me at Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. Paul stated
that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Yeshua the Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Yeshua the Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:5-8 ESV
Are the "revelation," "the end," and "day of the Lord" still future? If so, then all the gifts of the Spirit must still be available today because those who wait for the Lord's return cannot lack any of them. But let's remember the principle of audience relevance—Paul was speaking to the Corinthians in the first century. THEY were eagerly waiting for the Second Coming of the Lord Yeshua, the Christ. When the Lord returned in A.D. 70, the Last Days ended and so did the gifts.
Believing that Christ has not yet returned makes holding the position that SOME of the gifts have ceased indefensible. Believing that the last days ended in A.D. 70 and that the destruction of Jerusalem was God's "Revelation of Yeshua the Christ" completely removes the dilemma and inconsistency! Preterists are not consistent unless they believe that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased. At the same time, Futurists are not consistent unless they believe that all of the gifts are still available. You can't contend that the Perfect has not yet come while also believing that the gift of prophecy has ceased. That is INCONSISTENT!
Let's look at some other Scriptures from the Tanakh that show us when prophecy was to cease.
"Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, you who seek the LORD: look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you; for he was but one when I called him, that I might bless him and multiply him. For the LORD comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song. Isaiah 51:1-3 ESV
Isaiah is calling upon Israel to remember the Abrahamic Promise. The Abrahamic Promise involved the redemption of Israel, that is, the true spiritual Israel. Who is Zion? It is the heavenly Jerusalem, the bride of Christ, the true Israel of God.
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, Hebrews 12:22 ESV
Back to Isaiah.
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns." Isaiah 52:7 ESV
We know this is a Messianic prophecy because Paul quotes it in Romans 10:15. Now give attention to the next verse.
The voice of your watchmen—they lift up their voice; together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the LORD to Zion. Isaiah 52:8 ESV
Isaiah stated that when Yahweh redeemed Israel, in fulfillment of the Abrahamic Promise, Israel would be in a face-to-face position. Israel was to see eye to eye when Yahweh restored her. When was the Lord going to restore Israel? At the consummation of the 70 weeks of Daniel 9 which was the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
Paul wrote that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit would cease when Israel would see face to face.
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:11-12 ESV
Therefore, the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased at the consummation of the 70 weeks. We cannot divorce Israel's promise of seeing eye to eye from 1 Corinthians 13, and therefore, we must acknowledge that the first-century, miraculous gifts have ceased.
Go through, go through the gates; prepare the way for the people; build up, build up the highway; clear it of stones; lift up a signal over the peoples. Behold, the LORD has proclaimed to the end of the earth: Say to the daughter of Zion, "Behold, your salvation comes; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him." And they shall be called The Holy People, The Redeemed of the LORD; and you shall be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken. Isaiah 62:10-12 ESV
This is the same theme of Isaiah 52:8 which states: "They shall see eye to eye when the Lord brings back Zion." Now look at verse 11: "Say to the daughter of Zion, 'Surely your salvation is coming; Behold, His reward is with Him," Yeshua quotes these verses in Matthew 16.
For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom." Matthew 16:27-28 ESV
Whose salvation was Yeshua to be? He was to be Israel's salvation. Is He the promised redeemer of Isaiah 62:11? I don't think anyone would argue against that. In Matthew 16:27, Yeshua quotes from Isaiah 62:11. Now, Isaiah 52:8 and 62:11 both speak of the same time and event—the redemption of Israel at the coming of the Lord. Yeshua, quoting Isaiah 62:11, said that His coming for the salvation of Israel, when Israel would see face to face, would be in the lifetime of his first century disciples. When Israel saw face to face, the miraculous would cease, and this was to happen in the lifetime of the first-century disciples in A.D. 70 when Jerusalem was destroyed.
If Matthew 16:27-28 was fulfilled at Pentecost, as some say, then the miraculous ended at Pentecost. That, however, is clearly when they began.
So, what have we seen? Daniel said that prophecy was to end at the destruction of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70. Paul said that prophecy would cease when the perfect came. The "Perfect" referred to the Second Coming of Christ that took place in A.D. 70, bringing in the New Heaven and Earth where we see Him face to face. The coming again of our Lord for His people, therefore, brought them to full maturity and closed the cannon of Scripture. This means that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit have come to an end. The gifts were for the period of the "last days"; when the last days ended, so did the gifts.
OK, hopefully we have covered the issue of prophecy. Let's move on in our text. Keep in mind that all of these verses deal with prophecy.
but test everything; hold fast what is good. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 ESV
"But test everything"—the adversative "but" which is de in the Greek. It signals that these imperatives are linked to the preceding exhortations. The "everything" that they are to put to the test is precisely the prophecies that some within the church had rejected. Paul, therefore, is admonishing them not to despise prophecy but to test it.
The word "test" here is the Greek word dokimazō. It is a technical word for testing money to determine whether or not it is counterfeit. It means "to put to the test or to test the value and quality of something or to approve after testing."
What are they to be testing? In context, this refers to prophecy. The Lord had warned his disciples that false prophets would arise.
"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Matthew 7:15-16 ESV
In this text, "sheep's clothing" is not talking about a wolf with a sheepskin over him so that he looks like a sheep. That picture comes from Aesop's Fable. When the shepherd watched the flocks on the hillside, his garment was a sheepskin. He wore it with the skin outside and the fleece inside. This sheepskin mantle became the uniform of the prophets, just as the Greek philosophers had worn the philosopher's robe. It was by that mantle that the prophet could be distinguished from other men. But sometimes that clothing was worn by those who had no right to wear it. There were those who were not prophets of God, but they wore the prophet's clothing. They were false prophets.
Contrary to popular interpretation, this does not mean that they were to be tested by their works. Notice what Yeshua says about fruit later in this Gospel.
"Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." Matthew 12:33-37 ESV
This text proves that their fruits are their words. In other words, it is not what they do but what they say! Their behavior does not set them apart from the sheep, but their message does! The Mormons appear to live a holy life outwardly, but their message is damning.
Peter also warns about false prophets.
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 Peter 2:1 ESV
John uses the same verb to inform his readers that they should put the content of prophetic speech to the test.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1 ESV
The word "test" here is also dokimazō. According to the third edition of the Bauer lexicon, the verb means "to make a critical examination of something, to determine genuineness, put to the test, examine."
How were they to test the spirits? They were to test everything by the teaching of the Tanakh and the Apostolic circle.
"For many false prophets have gone out into the world"—it is because of these false prophets that all prophecy was to be tested. What does John give his readers as the test? The test which he gives to his readers is a doctrinal test.
By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Yeshua the Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Yeshua is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 1 John 4:2-3 ESV
Notice that John did not say that we can tell false spirits by their works. He said we can identify them as false spirits by their message. This was the acid test of a false prophet under the Old Covenant as well (Deut. 13:1-5).
Paul is telling the Thessalonians to be like their neighbors, the Bereans, who had set them a good example in this respect.
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Acts 17:11 ESV
Believers, we don't have prophets today, but for us this is a call to examine all preaching and teaching in light of the Scripture. Just because one opens his Bible and preaches from it does not mean the message is truly biblical. There is far too much Scripture twisting and abuse of the Bible in view of one's own personal agendas or biases. There is a lot false teaching out there from the New Age Movement and from others, such as the Masons and the Mormons. Sadly, these are often under the umbrella of Christendom.
Within the church, there is a great variety of opinions. There are the liberals who deny the supernatural and the miracles. There are the ecumenists that want us all to join together even though we have grave and fundamental differences. There are also the Charismatics who want to add to the Bible their new revelations. Who is right? How can we know? How do you go about establishing who is right and who is wrong? We should examine everything in light of Scripture. Scripture is our infallible, inerrant guide for determining truth and error. Of course, we must interpret Scripture carefully in its context, comparing Scripture with Scripture on the assumption that God does not contradict Himself. We all need to be Bereans. This is why I constantly say to you that I don't want you to accept what I teach you. I want you to prove all things, and then hold fast to that which is true.
"Hold fast what is good"—this is another present active imperative. The good they should hold firmly is the prophecies they have tested and found to be genuine. It relates to the things examined.
Abstain from every form of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:22 ESV
This is one of those verses that many have wrenched out of context and then twisted, due in part to the translation of the KJV: "Abstain from every appearance of evil." This suggests the idea that we should avoid what even appears to be evil, though it may not in reality be evil.
The term "form" is the Greek word eidous which literally means "that which is seen," the external appearance. This command must not be torn from its context where true and false prophecy are in view. Consequently, this verse is not primarily warning people to abstain from any kind of sinful association with the outside world (though Scripture speaks to that elsewhere) but to separate from false prophets within and to reject their erroneous messages. If after a prophecy was tested and it was proven false, it was to be considered evil. They were to abstain from it.
Remember what we said earlier: these five exhortations concern the use and control of prophecy within the church. They were to test everything (all prophecies), to hold on to the good (that which derives from true prophecy) and to avoid every kind of evil prophecy. These four verses are all about prophecy and how the transition saints were to respond to it.
If we can make application to us today, it would be in how we respond to the teachings of the Bible. We are to test everything we hear in light of Scripture. There are many false teachers out there under the banner of preterism. We must test everything. This is why it is so important to read through your Bible at least once a year. If you know your Bible, you won't be fooled by false teaching. Now is the time to be thinking about what reading plan and translation you will be using next year.