During the last couple of posts, I have been writing about the tests that Christians face. Sometimes these tests are internal (should I really do that?) and some are external (“I can’t believe what is happening!”). Regardless, all people face these types of tests, but as Christians, we are commanded to pass tests that may seem impossible to pass.
In his first letter to the church at Thessalonica, Paul wrote of many tests. Of course, we must understand that Paul’s writings were never just written randomly. He was addressing real issues in real churches. And the letter we call 1 Thessalonians was no exception.
For the sake of space, I will not get into the entire letter, but just before the end of the letter, he gives seventeen commands in eleven verses. (Take a moment to read 1 Thessalonians 5.12-22). In these few verses we see words like respect, love, admonish, encourage, rejoice, pray, and in verse 21, we have the word test.
This short blog series has been about our being tested, but here Paul writes that we are to test everything. Notice the words around the word test. Verse 19 says not to quench (or suppress) the Spirit. Verse 20 says not to despise prophecies (which is another way of saying not to despise truth. The end of verse 21 says to hold tight to what is good, and then verse 22 says to abstain from what is evil.
Thus, in testing everything (Paul’s words), we can begin to know what is good (and should be gripped tightly) and what is not (and should be avoided).
But it is only possible to know what is good if we know truth (not despising truth – prophecies), and we cannot know the truth if we quench the Spirit whom Jesus called the Spirit of truth (John 14.17) and said would teach the disciples into all truth (John 14.26) only a few moments after saying that He (Jesus Himself) is the truth (John 14.6).
So, if we want to test everything according to the truth, we need to not quench the Spirit. That connection is clear from verse 19 forward in 1 Thessalonians 5. But the Spirit is also important in fulfilling the commands (tests) that came before verse 19 as well.
Let me explain.
When we quench the Spirit, we not only make it challenging to know the truth, we make it extremely challenging to live the truth. That is, how can we pass the God-given tests (as related by Paul in the list of commands) without having the Spirit?
It is the Spirit who allows us to respect, love, admonish, encourage, rejoice, pray, and test (using the same list from earlier). And, if we look closely, we can see that many of the commands in the eleven verses are much more than merely commands we must strive to fulfill. They are the fruit of having the Holy Spirit in our lives.
The fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5.22-23) is love (c.f. 1 Thessalonians 5.13), joy (c.f. v. 16), peace (c.f. v. 13), patience (c.f. v. 14), kindness (c.f. v. 14, help the weak), goodness (c.f. v. 20, do not despise prophecies – truth), faithfulness (c.f. v. 21, hold fast to what is good), gentleness (c.f. v. 14, encourage the fainthearted), self-control (c.f. v. 22, abstain from every form of evil). Against such things there may not be a law, but with such things we can test ourselves.
Thus, God did not give us a set of commands to try to fulfill. He gave us reminders of what living according to the Spirit should look like. And just as we cannot rightfully test everything properly when we quench the Spirit, we cannot live out these commands properly either.
And, to return to last week’s closing thoughts – we cannot have the Spirit without having Jesus. Of course, choosing to follow Jesus does not mean we will do so perfectly, but without Jesus, and thus without the Spirit, we have no chance to live as God desires for us to live.
And thus, God gave us His Spirit. What an amazing and loving God He is.
So, with a little more insight into the idea of testing and the role the Spirit plays in our lives in both knowing the truth and living by the truth, I end this post with the same basic questions this week that I ended with last week.
Have you chosen Jesus? If so, let the Spirit guide you as you face the tests of life, including those specifically mentioned in the Bible.
If not, will you choose Jesus? If not, why not? Could anything change your mind?