The title of this article is a direct quote of the apostle Paul as it is found in the KJV. As
is the case with every passage we study we do well to consider the passage in context.
The two verses prior to this one set the context in the area of the miraculous
gifts and specifically the giving of God’s revelation. Paul wrote, “Quench not the Spirit.
Despise not prophesying” (1 Thess. 5:19, 20). It is essential that we consider this
context first as we examine the passage before us.
When we consider the church in the first century, their teaching was no different than
ours, if we are teaching from the Bible and the Bible only. The major difference was
not in what was revealed, but rather the largest difference was in how it was revealed.
God’s message in the first century was given miraculously as men exercised
the use of the gifts they received by the laying on of the apostles’ hands. Today, we
have the completed product of their work in written form—in the 66 books that make
up the two testaments that comprise the Bible.
However, just as it is true today, there were those who went out making claims to be
proclaiming the message of God, yet they were not. Therefore, brethren were commanded
Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are
of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the
world (1 John 4:1).
The message must be examined, tried and tested and it must be consistent with the
whole of what was taught by the inspired men of the first century. Today we have the
same responsibility to receive “the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the
scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). Thus we see Paul’s admonition
to “prove all things.” Paul wrote,
And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and
more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve
things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and
without offence till the day of Christ. (Phil. 1:9, 10)
Notice that both knowledge of God’s will and personal discernment were essential to
determine the fitness of a teaching for our approval. This was true in the first century
where we see the miraculous employed to give God’s Revelation. It is also true today.