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Hold Fast To That Which Is Good
1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 A timely reminder from Paul to examine everything against Scripture to validate or deny what you’re told
“But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.”
1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 NASB1995
1 Thessalonians is another epistle of Paul, and it has a remarkable back story. Paul founded the church in Thessalonica on his second missionary journey. The city was the capital of Macedonia at the time, a province in northern Greece. After about three weeks in the city, he was run out of town - just as he had been while visiting Phillipi earlier on the same trip. He was pretty discouraged, but kept up his work in Berea (where the same group of Thessalonians ran him out), then went to Corinth.
Given that he had only a short time to start the church in Thessalonica, Paul was concerned that it may have gone astray. Paul’s coworkers Timothy and Silas had stayed behind, and eventually they brought Paul good news — the church was flourishing and strong!
Like any good teacher, Paul knew that the way to really drive home a lesson to receptive students was to reinforce it by repeating key elements, explaining them in new ways, and adding new material. The epistle has five key elements:
Explaining how the Gospel changed the Thessalonians
Paul proving his sincerity to the people of Thessalonica and giving God thanks for His work to change the hearts and minds of the people
Encouraging the people to not be shaken by his own misfortunes and praying that God sends him back to Thessalonica so the church can benefit from his apostolic wisdom and authority
Commanding the people to be strong in their sexual purity, living a quiet life of work and worship, and explaining what happens to Christians after death; and
Teaching readiness for the return of Jesus, and urging and exhorting the Thessalonians to be faithful, discerning, and to abstain from evil.
We’re in the fifth part of the epistle, and in this section Paul is finishing up his written sermon by giving more precise instruction.
Paul wants the Christians of Thessalonia — and indeed all Christians going forward — to test all things. In other words, he wants them to know and understand the Word so intimately that they can hold their spiritual leaders up to that standard. By doing so, we hold fast to that which is good.
An interesting side note at this point; Sunday, August 27, was the fourth anniversary of the day that Barb and I “tested all things” against Scripture and realized that our spiritual leaders at a mainstream Protestant church were leading us down an evil path. They still are — I follow that church on Facebook and I’m appalled at what I see. Needless to say, they are always in my intercessory prayers! We have Paul and God to thank for helping us discern what is wrong and to hold fast to that which is good.
Paul is also dropping a subtle hint to the Thessalonians to be more like the Bereans, who heard Paul’s preaching and immediately searched the Scriptures to prove the truth of what he was saying.
Next, Paul exhorts the church to abstain from every form of evil. Testing our human reality against Scripture with the help of the Holy Spirit, we are to reject any type of evil, even that which might be associated with something that appears to be “holy”. In this verse, the word form is the Greek eidous — meaning “the external or outward appearance, form figure, shape”. Paul is telling them to shun evil in whatever form or appearance in may present itself; even that of a church elder or minister who is not weighing his teachings against Scripture.
When you hear something that just doesn’t ring true to you as a Christian, are you being discerning? Do you, as you should, use Scripture to validate or deny what you’ve been told? Paul’s epistle to the Thessalonians is relevant to Christians today as much as it was in the first century AD.
Heaven On Wheels Daily Prayer:
Father in Heaven, keep pushing me to know You more, studying Your Word with diligence and prayer. Help me to compare all things — dealing with religion or with daily affairs — against Your Word, and to follow everything good, genuine, and true as set down by You. In the name of Your Son and my Savior Jesus Christ I pray, AMEN.