A Series of Exhortations
Copyright © Indian Hills Community Church, Lincoln, Nebraska
The following text is taken from sermons preached by Gil Rugh, Senior Pastor at Indian Hills Community Church in Lincoln, NE. The text has been edited and condensed by IHCC staff and may contain some material from adjacent sermons in the series.
In our last study we examined 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11. In verses 1 and 2 Paul reminded the Thessalonians that they had no need to be taught anymore concerning the rapture of the church, and the coming tribulation. But in verse 3, Paul identified some of the events that would occur after the rapture. He said, "While they are saying, 'Peace and safety!' then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape." After the rapture, unbelievers, including Israel, will delude themselves into thinking they have safety because of the false peace brought by the antichrist. However, after 3 1/2 years, that peace will be shattered and the eternal judgment of God will come upon them suddenly and completely.
In verses 4-10, Paul illustrated the difference in how believers understand the events of the Lord's coming. He said, "But you brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief." As believers, we are "sons of light" (vs. 5), therefore we are to be alert and ready for the coming of the Lord at the rapture.
We are not destined for "wrath" (vs.9), but we have obtained "salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ" (vs. 9). Christ, Himself, took our penalty upon Himself so that we can be with Him for all eternity. What a hope we have! In light of this fact, we have a responsibility to live our lives as servants for Him, looking forward to His coming to get us.
Paul closed this section of 1 Thessalonians exhorting us to "encourage one another, and build up one another." The fact that we can look forward to an eternity with Christ is to be an encouragement to us, and to those believers with whom we are in fellowship. We are to remind each other that Christ is coming back to take us with Him, whether we are alive or dead. Nothing can keep us from being brought together with Him.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-22
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, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. And we urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the faint hearted, help the weak, be patient with all men. See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all men 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); holdfast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.
Beginning in verse 12, Paul addresses one of the key factors involved in the maturity of a church: godly leadership. Today, it seems that the first consideration of most churches is the size of the church. However, a church can be very large and not necessarily be a godly and biblical church. In like manner, a church can also be very small and not be godly. A church is only effective when it is operating in the manner that God has outlined, and is producing people who are characterized by godliness. And one of the major factors that enable a church to accomplish God's purposes is godly leadership.
There are three factors involved in developing a godly church: sound biblical teaching, godly leadership, and service to other believers. When these three factors are working together, the church will be operating in the manner that God has intended.
In 5:12, Paul addresses the subject of leadership. He says, "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." It is important that we don't overlook the subject of leadership. Sometimes, I think we feel that it is too "worldly" to place an emphasis on human leaders, but we must realize that having godly, human leaders is God's intention for His church to come to maturity in Christ.
This subject is addresses several times in Scripture. For example, Acts 14:23 says, "And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed." Obviously, the pattern of the church is to appoint godly men as elders in a position of leadership.
In like manner, 1 Timothy 3 outlines the qualifications necessary if a man is to serve in the capacity of an elder or leader in the church. Why is it so important that the leaders of the church be godly men? "...I write so that you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth." It is imperative that the leaders in the church be godly men because the church is the pillar and support of the truth." The truth is clear: God has entrusted the oversight of His flock to certain leaders. And these men will give an account to God for the condition of the flock.
(See also Acts 20:17, 20:28, Titus 1:5, Hebrews 13:17)
God has established a program of godly leaders who are willingly followed and supported by God's people. The result is that the program being carried out in the church is a blessing from God. Whenever I talk to pastors of other churches, I always stress sound biblical teaching first. But I find in many places that these men are doing their best to teach the word of God, but are frustrated by conflict among the leaders within the church.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:12, Paul is picking up where he left off in 4: 12, giving them exhortation regarding their conduct as believers. Then in 4:13-5:11 he broke off and addressed their questions regarding the rapture of the church and the Second Coming of Christ. Now he returns to the exhortation he was giving them. Remember, not everything was going well for the Thessalonians. They were doing some things very well, but apparently one of the areas in which they lacked maturity was in their respect and honor toward their leaders.
In verse 12, Paul says, "...we request of you brethren... ." He approaches the subject with warmth. Now, of course he is writing instruction from God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but he makes this instruction known in a warm way. He calls them "brethren" which is an indication of the love and caring he has for them. The problem was that the Thessalonians had conflict and tension with their leaders, so Paul has to instruct them.
He says "...that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction." The word "appreciate" actually means "to know." The Thessalonians are instructed to "know" and recognize their leaders, appreciating them for the ministry that God has given them.
They had failed to understand what God has said regarding leaders. The flesh, sinful as it is, always wants to distort what God says. This distortion affects two sides of the equation. On one side, people view leaders as dictators who want power over the people. On the other side, some people believe that, because every believer is a priest before God, he is not obligated to follow any human leader. Both of these positions are unbiblical and undermine the effectiveness of the church of Jesus Christ. Paul's instruction is that we know and recognize the leaders God has placed over us.
Paul uses participles to describe our leaders. He says they "...diligently labor among you...have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction." The use of Paul's grammar in this verse indicates that all three of these participles are describing the activity of the same people-the leaders in the church.
First, leaders "diligently labor among you." This is a phrase that means "to work hard, toil, struggle, or strive." It is a word that stresses the cost of the work done. In other words, the leaders within the church are to be laboring to exhaustion in their ministry, not just sitting back and claiming the title of "leader." Obviously, there must be a balance. One shouldn't go out and work 19 1/2 hours a day in order to prove that he is working. But I believe the emphasis today on "burn out" is exaggerated as well. All leaders within the church are to be toiling to exhaustion in the role of their ministry.
Leaders are not the only ones within the church who are to be laboring. In chapter 1 Paul said, "constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor...." We are all to be laboring as a church. This is Paul's pattern of ministry. In 2:9 he said, "For you recall brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden... ." As believers we are to be characterized by hard work (Revelation 14:13) because we have been called to work diligently for the Lord.
(See also 1 Thessalonians 3:5)
The first area of responsibility, where a leader is to toil, is where they "have charge over you." Literally, this phrase means "standing before." The leaders in the church are to be standing before us, assuming responsibility for our leadership. 1 Timothy illustrates this truth. In describing the qualifications of a leader, or elder, Paul says, "He must be one who manages his own household well...(but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?)" (1 Timothy 3:4-5). The word "manages" is the same word used for "charge" in 1 Thessalonians 5:12, indicating the responsibility the leaders have in standing over us.
(See also 1 Timothy 3:12, 5:17)
Are these leaders just taking their positions on their own behalf! No. According to verse 12, they are taking "charge" over us "in the Lord." This expression indicates two things: first, it shows the spiritual realm of leadership. God calls men to assume positions of leadership within the church. I think many pastors forget this truth. They get off track, forgetting that God has not called them to be the rulers of people's lives. They have not been called to be a political, or social ruler. They have been called to be a leader in the spiritual realm only. There is a serious problem with a pastor who goes off on this political crusade, and that social crusade. They are taking advantage of the leadership position that God has given them.
Secondly, the expression "in the Lord" shows clearly that this appointment is not a human one. Instead, it is based upon our relationship with the Lord. A leader is appointed over the body by virtue of being in Christ. This points out the importance of the church in functioning biblically regarding leadership. Why? Rebellion against God's appointed leaders is rebellion against God, Himself. One cannot be a spiritual man or woman and be in rebellion against God's appointed leaders. This encompasses every facet of leadership that is outlined in the Bible, including the leadership of the man in the household, and the political leadership that God has placed over society. Now, of course our obedience to the Lord comes first. If a leader in any realm asks us to act contrary to the Word, we must disobey. But in most cases, rebellion against a leader occurs, not because of theology, but because of personality.
The third area leaders are to be laboring in is "instruction." This word means "to put in the mind." The great Greek scholar A.C. Robertson said, regarding this word, "it means 'to put sense into the head of the people.' " Leaders are responsible for educating the people in their knowledge of the Word of God. In the context of verse 12, they are to be calling attention to our shortcomings and failures, correcting our faulty behavior.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:14, Paul uses the same word. He says, "...we urge you brethren, admonish the unruly..." (italics mine). It is clear that this instruction, or correction, is given in the context of improper behavior. This word is used several times in the New Testament, including Romans 15:14, 1 Corinthians 4:14, Colossians 1:28, and Colossians 3:16, proving that admonishment, together with the teaching of the truth of the Word of God, will allow the Spirit to bring us to maturity in Christ.
The second responsibility we have in recognizing our leaders is illustrated in verse 13. Paul says, "and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another." We are to "esteem" them, or to hold them in "high regard." You may think, "that seems obvious. I wonder why Paul wrote this instruction?" The worldly pattern, when leadership is exercised, is to ridicule, and complain about the leadership that is in place. The flesh reacts to leadership by rebelling against the very leaders they may have elected. The danger is that this behavior creeps into the church as well. Soon, we begin to view the leaders in the church with distrust and suspicion. But Paul says we are to hold them in "esteem."
One Greek commentator said we are to view our leaders "abundantly out of all bounds beyond all measure." You may say, "That's laying it on a little thick, don't you think? It's one thing to hold my leaders in high regard, but to hold them so high, it goes beyond all measure? That's ridiculous." Keep in mind that Paul is writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and these are leaders that God has appointed. When viewed in this light, what other kind of attitude would be fitting?
Paul uses the expression "in love." This phrase helps to understand what our attitude is to be. Love causes us to value and esteem others beyond all realism. Have you ever been in love? Did you ever listen to someone describe someone they love? Do they tell you about all their negative qualities? No! They look beyond the faults. They only see the good points about that person. This is what Paul is referring to in verse 13. We need to look at our leaders in love, and appreciate them beyond all reason.
Paul continues "...because of their work.. ." This phrase puts our love in perspective. We are not to love our leaders because of their wonderful, shiny personality. It has nothing to do with personality. We are to love them "because of their work" This is a reminder that it is the Spirit of God who has placed them over the body, and we are to recognize and appreciate their value. It doesn't matter if you relate to your leaders as people, or not. The appreciation is to come because of their work for the Lord.
Finally, Paul says "...live in peace with one another." Paul's tone changes, from a request to an imperative. He is giving a command. We must connect this command with the proper context. What it shows is the importance of a proper attitude toward leadership for maintaining peace in the body. If the body does not have a proper attitude toward it's leaders, peace in the body will not be accomplished. When the body responds properly to the leadership over the body, the leaders are able to perform better than they would have otherwise because the church is functioning in a biblical way.
The real test of leadership comes when there is disagreement. If the conflict is over doctrine, it needs to be resolved, but again, most conflicts have nothing to do with doctrine. Not long ago, I was involved with a church which had strong disagreement and dissension with their leaders. Members of the body came to me and asked to talk about their situation. I asked, "Does your disagreement have anything to do with doctrine?" They answered "No." So I said, "I do not care to hear what you have to say. Your responsibility is to follow those leaders."
Of course they were shocked, and they protested, but it didn't matter. They had to understand what God says about our responsibility to follow our leaders. If there is not a doctrinal problem, there is nothing else to say. A believer's responsibility is to submit to the leadership provided by the living God.
Beginning in verse 14, Paul gives a series of commands to the Thessalonians relating to their behavior toward one another as believers. He says, "And we urge you brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men." He says, "...we urge you brethren." In other words, he is saying, "we beseech you, as believers in Jesus Christ, to do this."
First, he says, "...admonish the unruly." Evidently, even though the church at Thessalonica was young and small, they have the same kind of problems that exist at every church. At Thessalonica there were those in the body who were "unruly." These were people who were "out of place, or out of order." It is a word used to describe a soldier who is out of step, or an army not functioning in the proper formation. In the context of verse 14, Paul is referring to those in the body who are out of order in conducting their lives, particularly in the area of working for a living.
As one will recall, Paul had already given them instructions as believers that they were to be diligent, hard workers. But evidently, some of the Thessalonians thought that the Lord was going to return at any moment, so they began to slack off in their work. In verse 2:9 Paul used himself as the example. He said, "For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day, so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God." Paul, while he was at Thessalonica, had worked hard at secular employment to support himself. This should be an example to us, as believers, to be hard workers even though that will bring added pressure on us.
He addressed this situation in chapter 4 as well. He said, "and make it your ambition to lead a quite life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you." In other words-support yourselves! They were to do what was necessary to provide food, clothing, and shelter in order to meet their physical needs.
(See also 2 Thessalonians 3:6)
Paul says we are to "admonish" believers who are out of line when it comes to their work habits. This is a hard thing to do. Most of us tend to pull back and avoid the situation. It is not easy to sit down with another believer and say, "Look, you are really out of line in light of what God says we ought to be doing as believers. You need to get back a in line and do what is necessary to provide food and shelter for your family." But that doesn't change the fact that God has instructed us to "admonish" one another. It is something that must be done. We must, however, be careful that we don't fall into a pattern of correcting and admonishing every believer we know. This becomes a danger when one becomes too carried away with this instruction. Remember, we are only to correct the "unruly."
Continuing in verse 14, Paul addresses a different kind of believer. He says, "...encourage the fainthearted..." We are to respond to those who are discouraged or despondent. Perhaps the pressure of persecution has caused a believer you know to lose heart in the faith. He becomes discouraged and defeated. Are we to rebuke those who are in this situation? Absolutely not! That is not the way we are supposed to deal with the fainthearted. Paul says we are to "encourage" them. We are to console them, comfort them, and cheer them up.
Have you ever had a believer take a sincere interest in you? Isn't it refreshing to have somebody who wants to come and comfort you? We can appreciate these kinds of ministries in our lives, and we are to be looking for opportunities to have this kind of ministry in the lives of others as well.
Next, Paul says, "...help the weak" The picture is one of putting your arm around a weak person and "holding them up". In fact, the phrase "hold on" is used in Luke 16:13. Luke says, "No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other, or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." Although the context is different, the phrase "hold to one" is the same phrase used for "help" in 1 Thessalonians 5:14. In Luke 16, the picture is of putting your arms around something and holding on tight. This is similar to 1 Thessalonians 5:14, where the picture is of putting our arms around those who are weak and holding on to them, and cheering them up.
The word "weak" is not referring primarily to physical weakness, but rather to spiritual and moral weakness. When we encounter a believer who is morally or spiritually weak, we are not to ridicule and rebuke them. We are to put our spiritual arms around them, cheer them up, and help them continue on the path to maturity in Christ.
These are the same kind of "weak" Christians that Paul referred to in 1 Corinthians 8 and Romans 14. These are believers who do not have a good understanding of their Christian liberty. But Paul says we are not to pass judgment. Rather, we are to "accept the one who is weak in faith" (Romans 14:1). Again, we are not to knock the legs out from under our weaker brothers and sisters. We are to put our arms around them and help them understand the Word of God.
(See also Romans 14:10-12)
It is sometimes amazing when we come to recognize true maturity. We almost make it more of an issue than the weak Christian does. We say, "This is my liberty! I will do it if I want to!" We have forgotten that we also have liberty not to do it, if it causes a weaker brother to stumble. Our attitude should be characterized by our concern for our weaker brothers and sisters in Christ. Our goal should be to help them come to maturity in Christ (Romans 14: 19). We need to be careful not to try and show off our biblical knowledge to a weak believer. Sometimes, it seems mature believers have a tendency to spout verses left and right, using their knowledge and strength against a weaker Christian simply to prove them wrong. We need to be sensitive to their struggles and difficulties, and ask ourselves, "How can I help them? How can I encourage them? How can I bear them up through this weakness?"
Paul concludes verse 14 by instructing us to "...be patient with all men." This would apply not only to all the groups of Christians he has previously mentioned, but to all others as well. The word "patient" carries the idea of an attitude that holds strong even through persecution, hostility, and rejection. A believer who is "patient" doesn't put himself first. He is first concerned with others. Remember, the Thessalonians were going through persecution and difficulties, so this instruction has a particularly pertinent value for them. But it obviously applies to all believers, regardless of their situations.
We must understand that "patience" is a characteristic of love (1 Corinthians 13), and a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). And if we really love each other, that fruit will be produced, and we will be patient with one another. If we are not patient, we are not manifesting love, and the fruit of the Spirit is not being produced in our lives.
Paul continues in verse 15. He says, "See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all men." Since the Thessalonians are encountering persecution, the danger is that they will want to seek revenge. This is the natural response of our inbred, sinful human nature. But Paul says we are to "See that no one repays another with evil for evil." We are to be careful, and be on guard that this does not happen. It doesn't matter if you want to take revenge on a believer or an unbeliever. Paul says we are not to do that.
Instead, we are to "always seek after that which is good for one another and for all men." This is the right thing, to do but it is also the difficult thing to do. We think we have won the battle because we have not looked for vengeance, or a way to get even. The problem is, we must do more than just not seek revenge. We are to "always seek after that which is good." The word "seek" means to "diligently pursue something."
We are to be diligently and continually pursuing what is "good" for others. This is a reminder to us that we are to be continually watching out for fellow believers, and for "all men." This is to be an attitude that characterizes us at all times. This is not an easy task. In fact, it is impossible to achieve without the Holy Spirit. For example, suppose you worked with someone who continually harassed you because of your faith. They kept you from getting promoted, or lied about you so that you were demoted, and had to take a cut in pay. What is your first thought? If you are like most of us, you would think, "This is unfair and I can't wait to get even with him!" But Paul calls us to do the opposite. We are to be looking for an opportunity to do something good for him because that continually reflects Christ in our lives.
Verses 16-18 tie together in giving a series of sharp commands that emphasize doing something repeatedly, or continually. In verse 16 Paul says, "Rejoice always." This is a reminder that Christian joy doesn't depend on the circumstances in which we find ourselves. As believers in Jesus Christ, we have no right to be despondent. Why? Because we are commanded to "Rejoice always." This is what makes the believer different than the unbeliever. Most people are happy most of the time, but a believer, if he is living in obedience to the Word of God, will be rejoicing continually, even when everyone else is in complete despair.
This doesn't mean that I'm always walking around with a smile on my face, or that I never cry. Nor does it mean that I never have sorrow. It means that in the midst of everything I can have joy because I have been given eternal salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ, and His joy is in my heart. He has everything under control! This is a supernatural truth that only the believer can understand. In other words, we are to think more of our Lord than of our difficulties.
Philippians 4:4 illustrates this truth; "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice." We are commanded in the Word of the living God to always "rejoice." This should be of tremendous encouragement to us as believers.
(See also Galatians 5:22-24)
Paul continues in verse 17; "pray without ceasing." In like manner, we are to be continually praying. What kind of praying, you might ask? The word Paul uses for "pray" encompasses every kind of prayer known. Again, this doesn't mean that I walk around praying all the time. I must work, and talk with people. Obviously, this is not what Paul meant in verse 17. This verse means we are to be living with a constant attitude of prayer. This is an indicator of what kind of relationship we have with God. Do we talk to Him about everything that comes into our lives? Or is it like the times we meet strangers and have to think, "What will I talk about now?" Our relationship with God is to be like the relationship we have with our best friend. We should feel comfortable coming into His presence in prayer, and be willing and able to talk to Him about everything.
This is the same idea that Paul expressed in chapter 1. He said he was "...constantly bearing in mind your work of faith... ." Obviously, Paul had other things on his mind besides the Thessalonians. But they came to his mind often. It is to be the same thing with our relationship with God.
(See also 2 Thessalonians 2:13, Ephesians 6:18, Romans 12:12)
In verse 18, Paul says, "in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." Again the emphasis is continuity. In verse 16 the command was "always," in verse 17, "without ceasing," and now in verse 18 Paul says, "in everything...." The idea in verse 18 is that we are to be giving thanks in every circumstance and situation. That doesn't mean that we have to be thankful when we are suffering, but within the situation itself, we can be thankful because we know God is in control. For example, if I fall down tomorrow and break my arm, I don't have to say, "Thank you God, that I broke my arm." But I can be thankful for the fact that God is in control, and He allowed my arm to be broken for a reason that is working to accomplish His purposes. This is the point Paul is making in verse 18.
Paul illustrated this truth in 2 Corinthians 4:16-17 as well. He said, "Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison...." The sufferings, the heartaches, and the hardships we face on earth are all being shaped by God for our future glory. This is why we need to give thanks. How do we keep focusing on this truth? We are to keep our eyes on the future prize (2 Corinthians 4: 18). If we do not, we will find ourselves dwelling on our difficulties rather than giving thanks "in everything."
A perfect example of this attitude is found in Acts 16:22-25. In this passage, Paul and Silas have been beaten very badly, thrown in prison, and had their feet put in stocks. Yet, in verse 25 it says, "But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God... ." One would expect Paul and Silas to pray for deliverance, but they didn't! Instead, they are singing and giving thanks to God! This is the same attitude we are to have.
The last part of verse 18 ties verses 16-18 together. Paul says, "...for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." Often we say, "I wish I knew the will of God." Well, here we are told what the will of God is. If we are encountering suffering and hardship because of our faith we are to "always rejoice...pray without ceasing...in everything give thanks." Simple isn't it? We may not understand what God is doing, and we may not understand why He is doing it, but we do know that it is His will to obey these commands. We have the full assurance and confidence that He loves us, and He has everything under control. We can be confident that everything that comes into our lives is part of the divine plan of God, and is producing an eternal weight of glory in our lives.
In verses 19-22, Paul lists a series of instructions that are related, even though they may seem isolated. He 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 evil."
These instructions are built around the idea that believers are to be discerning. He starts out instructing them not to "quench the Spirit." plays off the familiar reference to the Spirit as fire (Acts 2). The word "quench" means to "extinguish." Figuratively it means "to suppress or stifle something." In this context, Paul is saying "Do not stifle or suppress the ministry of the Spirit."
It is important that we recognize the way we respond to Word of God, and the ministry of the Spirit. We can suppress or hinder the ministry of the Spirit by our response, or lack of response.
Paul's' immediate concern seems to be "..do not despise prophetic utterances." This expression may indicate what area of the ministry of the Spirit the Thessalonians were suppressing. They failed to recognized the importance of the prophetic ministry. Literally they "set down with no account prophetic utterances."
Remember, at the time the church in Thessalonica was formed the New Testament was not complete. The gift of prophecy involved making known the revelation of God to God's people. As Ephesians 2:20 says the church was built "...on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone." Why? Because they received information about the church from the very one on whom the church is founded. The same is true today. We can suppress the Spirit by treating the revealed Word of God as something of no importance. We are not to disregard the message that we have from God.
Paul continues the same theme in verse 21. He says, "But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good." When Paul says we are not to suppress the ministry of the Spirit, he doesn't mean that we are just to accept everything that everyone says. We are to be discerning. The danger is not that we reject too much, but rather that we accept too much.
In order to be discerning we must "examine everything." This phrase carries the idea of putting something to the test. It is like putting metal to the test to see if it is pure. First Peter 1:6 uses the same word to compare our faith with gold, "...which is perishable, even though tested by fire." As believers, our examination of "everything" that claims to be from God is to be as thorough as the test for pure gold.
What is the barometer for our test? In John 4:l, the warning was similar. Be aware of false prophets because there are many of them. We must sift everything they say through the truth of the eternal Word of God.
Finally, Paul says, "...hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil." "Hold fast" and "abstain" are very closely related words. The point is, when we test something, and recognize that it is good, we "hold fast" to it. But when we recognize something that is evil, we are to "abstain," or "hold yourself away" from it. If it is good, we cling to it, if it is evil, we reject it. There is no room to dabble. We are to do either one or the other. We are to "hold fast" to everything that conforms to the word of God, and "abstain" from everything that is contrary to His Word.
This principle was laid out by Isaiah the prophet. He said, "To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn" (Isaiah 8:20). This applies to us today as well. One of the biggest failures in the church today is lack of obedience to 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22. We do not "examine everything." Instead, we are blown about by different doctrine, not knowledgeable enough in the Word of God to know the difference. We must continually be studying the Word of God in order to be able to "examine everything." Only when we sift everything through the Word of God, will we have a true indication whether something is "evil" or "good."
If you are a believer in the person and work of Jesus Christ, how do you stand up to this series of exhortations? Do you appreciate and recognize those who are appointed leaders over you in your church? Can you say you are always rejoicing? Always praying? Giving thanks for everything? Do you put everything claiming to be from God to the test? Do you "hold fast" to what is good and "abstain" from evil? If not, we must conform to the Word of God. As 5:18 said, this is the "will of God."
If you are not a believer in the person and work of Jesus Christ, you cannot, no matter how hard you try, please Him by trying to conform to His Word. You are separated from Him for eternity, doomed to a horrible hell, unless you recognize your sinfulness, and place your faith in Him alone for salvation, repenting of your sins, and conforming your life to His Word.
Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, © Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977. All quotations used by permission.
INDIAN HILLS COMMUNITY CHURCH
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Permission was received from Indian Hills Community Church for the posting of this file on Bible Bulletin Board. Our gratitude to the Holy Spirit for leading Pastor Gil Rugh to preach/teach messages that are bold, and doctrinally sound—they are so needful to this generation.
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