Two men in an impassioned argument could only agree on one thing - they must see a judge for arbitration. The first man eloquently and persuasively argued his case. When he’d finished, the judge nodded and said, “That’s right, that’s right.” The defendant jumped up when he heard this and heatedly reminded the judge that he hadn’t heard the second side of the case yet. With the judge’s leave, the second man detailed his defense with persuasive eloquence enough to match the plaintiff’s. When he was through, the judge remarked, “That’s right, that’s right.” Now the clerk of court stood and declared, “Judge, they can’t both be right.” The judge considered the clerk's words for a moment and said, “That’s right, that’s right.” This story seems unbelievable, but it is what so many of us do inside. We think we can agree to some of the things the world says while accepting some of God’s Word. 1 Thessalonians 5:20-22 tells us how to avoid this kind of instability. We are to listen to God’s Word, evaluate our sources to make sure they are really based on God’s Word, hold fast what God’s Word says, and avoid even the appearance of evil. Study this important passage to learn more about these four commands for a stable Christian life.
Before studying the passage, acknowledge that it is God's truth and ask Him to make you wise through it. Commit to obey all that He shows you in it.
Read Focus Verses
Read 1 Thessalonians 5:20-22 and notice the short simplicity of the verses.
Read 1 Thessalonians 5:5-28 to understand the context around these verses. (You'll notice that verses 16-19 are part of today's passage. For sake of time, this passage is split into two sections. Check out the study for verses 16-19 called "Do You Know God's Will for Your Life?" to study the first half of the passage.)
How many commands are given in 1 Thessalonians 5:20-22?
In your own words, what is the command given in verse 20?
In your own words, what command is given first in verse 21?
In your own words, what command is given second in verse 21?
In your own words, what does verse 22 command?
Keyword - Commands
Highlighting the key theme of a passage helps it stand out.
Highlight each of the commands in 1 Thessalonians 5:20-22.
Which two commands tell Christians something they should do?
Don't Do This
Which two commands tell Christians something they should not do?
Why do two of the commands use the word all?
Read 2 Peter 1:19-21. As you read, notice the basis of the authority of God's Word as prophecy.
Who gives prophecy authority?
What does 2 Peter tell us is the prophecy we should heed?
In 1 Thessalonians 2:13 we see that we should also heed the faithful preaching and teaching of God's Word. (This teaching is not on an equal level with Scripture because Scripture cannot contain error but people's interpretation of it can. However, when the Word is faithfully preached or taught, we are rejecting God's Word if we do not heed it.)
Take a moment to look at the definition of the word translated despise.
Origin: a variation of (1847)
- to make of no account, despise utterly
In Your Words
How could you explain and illustrate what the word despise means?
Numbers 15:31 shows us what despising the Word of the Lord looks like practically.
What does despising the Word of the Lord (and by implication the Lord) look like practically?
In 2 Thessalonians 3:6 God tells us how Christians should respond to people who claim to be believers but despise God's Word.
By despising prophesying, a person is essentially taking away from God's Word or adding to it. Revelation 22:18-19 tells us the end of those who do this.
After that warning to not despise God's Word, we receive another warning to make sure the what we hear is true. If we read the next three verses from the 2 Peter passage, 2:1-3, we will see that there are false teachers.
Why is it important that God warns us to test all things right after He tells us not to despise His Word?
How to Tell?
In Matthew 7:13-23, the Lord Jesus gave us a simple test to evaluate whether a teacher is teaching truth or error.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us by what standard we can judge the truth.
By what standard can we judge whether something is true?
We see an example of God praising people for judging teaching by the standard of Scripture in Acts 17:11.
In Galatians 1:6-9, Paul warns us not to believe another gospel than the one God has given us through Jesus Christ in Scripture even if an angel preaches it.
Angel of Light
2 Corinthians 11:13-15 explains why that warning in Galatians is so important to remember.
In Real Life
How would you use what these verses say to help you in the following situation. A friend you respect says they have heard from God that they or others should do something that contradicts the commands or principles of God's Word. Should you believe them? Why or why not?
God gives us all of these tests for evaluating whether a teacher or teaching is biblical. But we can still be led astray and think falsehood is truth. Does God give His people further help in this regard? Find the answer in John 16:13.
In John 14:26 Jesus further explains how the Holy Spirit will Guide God's people into truth.
How does the Holy Spirit help Christians discern between truth and error?
Knowing the Truth
We've seen that the way to test all things is to compare them to Scripture. When bankers and others who handle money are trained, they learn the characteristics of real money - not counterfeits - so that they can recognize whether the money they are given is true or false. There will be new kinds of counterfeit money, but there is always one kind of real money. The same is true for Christians - we have one truth, God's truth. What should a Christian study in order to recognize falsehood?
2 Thessalonians 2:15 also tells us to hold fast what we have been given.
Not all tradition is good, though, as we see in Colossians 2:8.
Based on what you learned studying the first part of 1 Thessalonians 5:21, what is the standard for knowing which things are good (and so which things we should hold on to)?
Proverbs 24:21 warns against companionship with those who are always looking for something new and different.
Ephesians 4:11-16 tells us how God teaches His people to hold fast what is good.
According to Ephesians 4, what has God given to His people to help them know what is good and hold fast to it?
1 Timothy 1:18-20 tells us the result of not holding fast to what is good.
What is the result of not holding fast to what is good?
Obeying the direction of Proverbs 4:14-15 will go a long way in helping us obey the fourth command in today's passage.
How will avoiding the appearance of evil help you avoid temptation?
1 Peter 4:4-5 tells us that the world will sometimes think it is strange when we avoid evil and its appearance.
The world may think it is strange that you don't live like they do, but if you were to live in sin, they would know it was inconsistent with your testimony. That is why Scripture tells us so many times to obey because of the way it influences the world's perception of who God is. Take Titus 2:1-6 for an example.
If you are a Christian, how does abstaining from all appearance of evil affect your testimony and how people think about God?
Based on what you've seen, what are some reasons that 1 Thessalonians 5:22 doesn't just tell us to abstain from all evil but to abstain from all appearance of it?
Psalm 119 says that God's Word gives us understanding and light. How has this study of Scripture given you understanding of the commands in today's passage? Based on what you've learned, do you need to go and change how you stated any of the commands in the observation section?
Despise Not Prophesyings
Is there a part of God's Word that you've thought wasn't very important or that you've otherwise despised? What about your thinking and life needs to change? Where are you going to start today?
Prove All Things
How are you going to begin to prepare yourself better today to be able to test all things?
What are some good things you've been taught that you aren't doing or don't believe anymore? How are you going to begin again today?
Abstain from Appearance of Evil
What are some ways the Lord wants you to change your choices so that you avoid the appearance of evil?
We hope this study has helped you understand these four commands for a stable Christian life and challenged you to know the truth of God's Word and hold onto and live it.
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