1 & 2 Thessalonians

by Sim Kay Tee

Day 22

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:19-28

I grew up during a time of intense debate among Christian leaders about what were legitimate spiritual gifts, especially about certain experiences and practices. This debate continues today, reflecting an ongoing concern over how spiritual gifts are taught or practiced in churches.

All teaching, however inspired they may seem, must be subject to critical appraisal.

It is likely that spiritual gifts, like prophecy, were also a source of debate and tension in the Thessalonian church, and her leaders had over-reacted, perhaps by prohibiting the practice of any gifts they were unsure about. This may have caused members to view all spiritual gifts-particularly prophetic utterances-with suspicion and ″contempt″ (1 Thessalonians 5:20).

Wrapping up his first letter, Paul calls for discernment. Believers must not quench the Holy Spirit (v. 19) nor reject Spirit-inspired prophecies (v. 20). At the same time, they should not be gullible and accept what is false (v. 22), but test all prophetic utterances and hold on to what is true (v. 21).

The Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, is also the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ (see Romans 8:9). We ought to relate to the Holy Spirit in the same way we relate to the Father and the Son. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, will ″teach you all things″, ″guide you into all the truth″, and ″tell you what is yet to come″ (John 14:26; 16:13). We should not be afraid to walk with and be led by the Spirit, keeping in step with Him (Galatians 5:16, 18, 25).

We often think of prophecy as foretelling or predicting the future. But biblical prophecy is also forth-telling, ″declaring the mind of God in the power of the Holy Spirit″15. God can give to some people a remarkable degree of insight into Scripture, into its meaning and interpretation, or into applications relevant to the contemporary world. Such wisdom understands the world in which we live, and helps us by expressing specific instructions for specific people in specific situations. Prophetic utterances exhort, encourage, and build up the congregation.

In this context, expository preaching-which focusses on what the Bible says and means, and applies its scriptural meaning to the present day16-is prophetic, because it presents to us the mind of God from the Word of God. The Word of God reveals who God is and what His will is for us, which is why we must not treat prophecies with contempt.

At the same time, Paul calls for caution. No one is to take any message at face value. All teaching, however inspired they may seem, must be subject to critical appraisal. Believers are to ″test them all″ (1 Thessalonians 5:21). As 1 Corinthians 14:29 puts it, they are to ″weigh carefully what is said″. Even Paul's teaching was not exempt from this principle. When he went to Berea to preach to the Berean Jews, they ″received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true″ (Acts 17:10-11).

It is foolish and perilous to uncritically accept teaching just because a preacher is prominent, because as 1 John 4:1 warns us, there are many false prophets in the world. The NLT's take on Paul's words in 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 is a good summary of a wise response: ″Test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.″ Or, in the words of one pastor: ″Eat the meat, but spit out the bones.″

15 F. F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Westmont, Ill.: Intervarsity Press, 1988), 264. Quoted in Timothy Lin, ″How to Have the Power of God for Effective Ministry, Both Sacred and Secular″, Biblical Studies Ministries International. Accessed from http://www.bsmi.org/download/lin/PowerOfGod.pdf
16 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/erik-raymond/what-is-expository-preaching/.

Think through:

In what ways might you be quenching the Holy Spirit in your life?

How would you apply Paul's instructions in 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 to Bible teachings that you hear, watch, or read?




About Author

Sim Kay Tee is a Bible teacher and writer of Our Daily Bread Ministries. Based in Singapore, K.T. writes for the Discovery Series Bible Study guides, the Journey Through Series devotional, and is a regular contributor to the Insights for Our Daily Bread. K.T. has taught the Bible in various countries. He has three daughters and one granddaughter.

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Our Daily Bread Journey Through® Series is a publication of Our Daily Bread Ministries.

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