“But examine all things; hold fast to what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21 NET).
Three commentators offer brief but valuable insights into 1 Thessalonians 5:21 as we close our look at this portion of Scripture…
“…In context this could refer to church leaders, spiritual gifts, a spiritual message, (or) doctrine. The word (dokimazo) implies ‘to test with a view toward approval’ (cf. 1 Cor. 12:10; 14:29; 1 John 4:1ff.). Some things appear spiritual but actually are not (cf. Matt. 7:21-23; Col. 2:16-23).” (1)
“The idea is that, while they should not hinder someone who is genuinely working for God, neither should they be gullible and accept anyone who claims to be religious.” (2)
“This call for careful testing and discernment is in response to the command of v. 20. One is never to downgrade the proclamation of God’s Word, but to examine the preached word carefully (cf. Ac 17:10, 11). What is found to be ‘good’ is to be wholeheartedly embraced. What is ‘evil’ or unbiblical is to be shunned.” (3)
As mentioned earlier, this passage should encourage us to prayerfully study the Scriptures to ensure that a teaching, a doctrine, or spiritual belief corresponds with God’s Word. As another source reminds us, “The temptation to put the ideas of men on an equal footing with the Word of God is still present.” (4)
This is a message that bears repeating, especially in light of the Apostle Peter’s warning concerning those “…who will secretly introduce destructive heresies” (NASB) in 2 Peter 2:1-3. It’s not that such heresies remain hidden from view; on the contrary, those who promote such beliefs often do so openly. The issue is that their destructive nature is frequently disguised by a veneer of spirituality. Such heresies are destructive in the sense that they misrepresent the truth about God and undermine our ability to establish and maintain a genuine relationship with God in Christ.
Remember that the Scriptures consistently warn us regarding such dangers. Paul the Apostle’s cautionary message to the church at Rome offers another example…
“Brothers and sisters, I urge you to watch out for those people who create divisions and who make others fall away from the Christian faith by teaching doctrine that is not the same as you have learned. Stay away from them. People like these are not serving Christ our Lord. They are serving their own desires. By their smooth talk and flattering words they deceive unsuspecting people” (Romans 16:17-18 GW).
Therefore, we should remain diligent and “Test all things; hold fast what is good.”
(1) Dr. Bob Utley. Free Bible Commentary, 1 Thessalonians 5:21 Copyright © 2014 Bible Lessons International http://www.freebiblecommentary.org/new_testament_studies/VOL07/VOL07B_05.html
(2) Hindson, E. E., & Kroll, W. M. (Eds.). (1994). KJV Bible Commentary (p. 2482). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
(3) MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (1 Th 5:21). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
(4) John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, Bible Knowledge Commentary [1 Thessalonians 5:20]