"Examine Everything Carefully"
“But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good, abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22). What does this text tell us? It tells us that. . .
What We Believe Matters
How often do you hear the notion that it makes little difference what you believe, as long as you are sincere? We certainly don’t think that way in other areas of life, for example in finances or in health. We know better. We readily acknowledge that in those areas believing what is false can be disastrous. However, in religion a different standard often applies, one by which sincerity trumps truth. The Bible says no such thing. While it insists on sincerity, it also puts a premium on truth (John 8:31-32) and constantly warns against error (Colossians 2:8; 1 John 4:1; etc.). If sincerity is all that matters, why should we “examine everything carefully”? Why didn’t Paul simply exhort us to always be sincere?
We Have a Standard
The verb in our title means to determine the genuineness or accuracy of a thing. “Prove all things” (NKJV). “Test everything” (ESV). Proving or testing requires some standard by which things can be measured. The standard is the prophetic utterances (v. 20), the teaching of men whose words were inspired by God (2 Peter 1:20-21). We have those words in written form in the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
What appears to be right or what I think is not the standard. Neither is it what most people think or what civil law says. Tradition, even long-standing tradition, doesn’t necessarily make something right either. Nor does the testimony of some expert: the sad fact is, you can find a preacher who will say most anything! (see 2 Timothy 4:3). No, the Bible is the standard by which we must “examine everything carefully.” We must test based on what it says, not presume based on what it does not say.
We Need to Examine Everything
That’s what our text says. It is not enough just to check out a few things. The Lord’s rule extends over every aspect of our lives. Everything must be subjected to Him.
Begin with your salvation. Faith in Jesus is essential (John 8:24), but the Bible does not teach salvation by faith only or via the sinner’s prayer. Saving faith is expressed in repentance, confession, and baptism for forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 10:9-10). Examine doctrines: does the Bible really teach what you believe about . ..? Examine the church: does it’s name, composition, worship, organization, work, etc., match the New Testament picture? Examine your relationships, including family, social, civic, and business ones. Examine morals. Examine attitudes. “Examine everything carefully.”
We Must Apply the Results
What we test will either pass or fail. If it passes, if it proves to be good as measured by the Scripture standard, Paul says to hold it fast. What God approves ought to be practiced, preached, and defended with all the enthusiasm we can muster. On the other hand, if it fails, if it is evil, we must renounce it in every form. Don’t flirt with it. Don’t see how close you can get without crossing the line. Get as far away as you can. Some translations say avoid every appearance of evil (NKJV). What if you are not sure? The Bible says to stay on the side of caution, limiting yourself to what you are sure is right (Romans 14:23).
May God help us to fairly, objectively, and regularly “examine everything carefully.”