“Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22).
Treating prophesies with contempt and cynicism stifles the Holy Spirit. Such suppression of the Spirit was a temptation in the first century prior to the completion of the canon of scripture and it is a temptation for us today. Just as surely as one could scoff at a prophecy straight from God presented in Thessalonica, one can scoff cynically at a message from God’s word presented in Jackson.
Have you ever been around somebody who specialized in “putting out the Spirit’s fire?” Somebody cynical about preaching? Scoffing at preachers? Sarcastic with brothers and sisters in Christ? Skeptical to the point they can find something negative in just about everything? Scornful toward God’s family? Mocking the body of Christ?
Some who have grown up in a suspicious church-culture have decided they have had enough. And they have reacted to the disdainful attacks they have witnessed or experienced by deciding that nothing is worth a fight. The absence of conflict at all costs becomes the supreme virtue. Angry sermons sown by bitter preachers reap a dangerous harvest.
No, we should not be arrogant, contemptuous, or condescending in stifling the preaching of God’s word. But neither should we be so gullible that we check our brains at the door while walking into the assembly. Evaluate everything, carefully test it. When your testing uncovers good, you should hold on tight. When you find anything tainted with evil, you should avoid it.
Testing is hard work. It would be so much easier for someone else to do your work for you and just tell you what to believe. But who is testing those who want to think for you? What are the testing standards of those so eager to tell you what to accept? Have they personally tested everything? Are they relying on hear-say or second hand testimony? And even if they rightly have reached their conclusion, does that excuse you from the examination you are called to administer?
Scripture warns against false teachers and their dangerous teachings (for a couple of good examples, see 1Timothy 4:1-8 and 2 Timothy 3:6-9). Remember, you can recognize false teachers by their fruit (Matthew 7:15-23). This is not an exhaustive list, but a way to get started. False teachers love to argue and promote controversies (1 Timothy 1:3-7, 6:3-5; 2 Timothy 2:14-15; Titus 3:9-11). False teachers disobey the commands of Jesus, specifically the command to love (1 John 2:1-11). False teachers deny the deity or humanity of Christ (1 John 2:22-23, 4:1-3; 2 John 7-11). False teachers contradict the teachings of the apostolic message, for example, teaching a “gospel” of works-based salvation that enslaves rather than a gospel of freeing salvation based on grace and faith (Galatians 1:6-9, 3:1-6, 5:1-6, 5:12-15) or abusing grace as an excuse for sinful behavior (Romans 6:1-14).
What does all this mean? Don’t stifle the Spirit with your cynicism. Recognize it is a serious matter to contemptuously regard a message claiming to be from God. Testing these messages is important enough to put forth the mental and emotional energy and too important to leave to someone else who is enthusiastically waiting to tell you what to think. Check fruit — false teachers and their teaching can be recognized. When all is examined, hold the good and avoid the evil.