But examine everything [carefully]; hold fast to that which is good
(1 Thessalonians 5:21 NASB)
When I was growing up, you would look for the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval to assure yourself that a product was of good quality.
Today you are more likely to check a product to see whether USDA has certified it as organic.
In either case, you want to know that someone has done a careful inspection of the product you’re planning to buy, and you look for a seal of approval to show that it passed the test.
Testing to demonstrate that something is genuine is a key concept in the New Testament. In fact, the apostle Paul used a Greek word carrying that idea when he told the Thessalonians to “examine everything” (1 Thessalonians 5:21)
The word is dokimazō, usually translated “to test, examine.” In secular Greek, it was used to describe the scene in a marketplace where the authorities would examine coins to make sure they weren’t counterfeit. Naturally, they were testing the money with the expectation that it would pass the test. They aimed to detect any fakes, but the purpose was to give customers confidence in the coinage they were using.
Contrast this with the closest Greek synonym, peirazō. Peirazō could mean either a test or a temptation. It might describe the sufferings God allows in your life to make you stronger, or it could describe Satan’s efforts to make you stumble into sin. The goal might be success or it might be failure. Dokimazō, on the other hand, never means temptation. It always means a test intended to show that something is genuine.
You can easily see the idea in New Testament examples:
- A man in one of Christ’s parables refused an invitation to a feast because he wanted to test some oxen he had just purchased (Luke 14:19).
- Paul told the Corinthians that he was sending a brother whom they could trust because he had been tested (2 Corinthians 8:22).
Sometimes the word means “to administer the test”; sometimes it means “to approve someone because he has passed the test.” And the New Testament makes it clear that a “seal of approval” is an important aspect of the Christian life.
1. God examines us.
- At the judgment seat of Christ in heaven, all our works will be tested by fire (1 Corinthians 3:13).
- Paul asked the Thessalonians to trust him because God had already tested him and approved him (1 Thessalonians 2:4).
2. We should examine ourselves.
- Christians are warned to examine themselves before participating in the Lord’s Supper so that they will not incur judgment for partaking unworthily (1 Corinthians 11:28).
- Paul asked the Corinthians to examine themselves to make sure that they were genuinely in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).
- Each of us should test his own work to see if it is worthwhile (Galatians 6:4)
3. We should examine others.
- Paul allowed the Corinthians to approve the men who would help bring an offering to Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:3).
- Men should be tested before you appoint them as deacons (1 Timothy 3:10).
- John told the believers to test the spirits who supposedly inspired prophetic utterances, to make sure that they were actually from God (1 John 4:1).
4. We can examine God’s will
Here’s a fascinating one: The familiar command in Romans 12:1-2 tells us to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” God calls us to allow Him to make our minds new so that we can find out by experience that God’s will is exactly what He claims. It is good and acceptable and perfect! By doing His will, we can put our “seal of approval” on it, testifying that we have tried it and found it to be exactly what God said.
Now let’s go back to our original verse: Examine everything (1 Thessalonians 5:12). Paul has just spoken of prophecies, of messages that claim to originate with the Lord (5:20). Don’t accept everything at face value, he warns. Check it out by comparing it to the truth that God has already revealed. If it passes the test, hang onto it (5:21b); if it fails, avoid it (5:22).
The ancient philosopher Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” The Word of God says, “The unexamined life is not God’s will for you.” Everything should come under the scrutiny of God’s truth!
© Ezra Project 2019