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Discernment ~ 1 Thessalonians 5.21-22

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Bible Study – Discernment


Text: 1 Thessalonians 5.21-22 – “Test all things; hold fast what is good.  Abstain from every form of evil.”


Question:  Does the word discriminate have a good or bad connotation?  Should we discriminate?  The world tells us no and labels us with every phobia under the sun.  This stands in the way of unity. 


Up until the Civil Rights movement, Discriminate simply meant to “separate, distinguish or mark a difference.  To discriminate means to exercise discernment, to draw a line between true and false, good and evil. 

Who is discernment for? 

Who was Paul writing?  Not to an elite group, such as only pastors or elders, leaders of the church, but the entire church.

How Important is Discernment?

1.       Lack of discernment can result in confusion.  The Thessalonians seem to accept anything taught in the name of Christ.  How much confusion is there concerning God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, salvation, the church, the end times, the Bible, worship and the Christian life, just to name a few.  In this case, Paul sent Timothy specifically to “establish and encourage” them in chapter 3.2 because they were in obvious confusion concerning what they were going through in persecution and suffering (vs. 3-4).  In chapter 4.16-5.2, he tries to correct an apparent error going around concerning the Second Coming of Christ that they had missed it. 

2.       Failure to discern can leave us vulnerable to false doctrine and teachings. 

How do we discriminate true doctrine from false? 

1.       By the Word of God – We have an advantage to the Thessalonians.  They did not have what we have as the Bible.  1 Thessalonians 2.13, 4.2 “which you heard from us.” 

2.       2 Thessalonians 2.15 – “Traditions” included their words and epistles.  I mention this verse because it is used to claim authority for extra-biblical writings and opinions as equal to the Word of God.  He is specifically telling them to stand fast and hold to the traditions.  In other words, don’t be so quick to accept something, but “Test all things!” 

  1. What things should we test?  “All things.”  Nothing is to be excluded.  No one man can be lifted above this action.  Test all things!  Or it could be rendered “Judge all things.” 
  2. But, Wait a minute!  Do you see any problems with Judging all things?  Christ said, “Judge not!”  Matthew 7.1 So, what do we do with that?  Some will use this to rule out testing and judging.  Is there a difference between what Christ teaches and what Paul teaches?  There are some things this does not include:

Hypocritical Judgment – “Take the beam out of your eye.”

Judgment of peoples’ motives or intentions.  We are not able to discern what is in peoples’ hearts.  These are matters of God only.  These are things God will judge 1 Corinthians 4.5

Two Ways in which Spiritual Discernment or “Testing” manifests itself

1.       “Hold fast to what is good.”  “Cling to.”  Seize it, possess it, tenaciously and jealously hold on to it.  He told Timothy to “Guard what was committed to your trust.”  Notice, this is connected to what is good.  This first indicates something about our attitude in the matter.  It carries the idea to embrace it, passionately, with much love commit yourself to the truth and never let it go.  Secondly, what is meant by good?  Not necessarily what appears to be lovely or beautiful.  There is much that appeals to the eyes or sounds good to the ears in the name of Christ.  This is something that is intrinsically genuine, true, right, virtuous and honest.  In other words, “Good” does not refer to authentically and dependably in agreement with the Word of God.

2.       “Abstain from every form of evil.”  This means to shun it, keep away from it.  This calls for a radical separation from it.  This removes from consideration the silly notion that in order to practice Spiritual Discernment, one must know everything about the evil matter, to study it thoroughly, completely understand its ins and outs in order to refute it.  No, Shun this!  You discern that it is false, now there is only one thing to do with the evil thing and that is to “Abstain” from it.  There is no need to go any farther.  You know what it is. 

One danger that is rampant over the last century is the call for “Evangelical Unity.”  Should we lay aside the truth for the sake of unity?

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