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November 28 – Test the spirits

“Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:20-22 

Scripture reading: Psalm 119:137-144

Paul’s admonitions in 5:12-21 ends with: “do not despise prophecies”. Prophesying was to be considered a special gift, enabling someone to interpret Scripture and it was a gift not to be despised. On the other hand, however, they were not to accept uncritically everything offered as application of Scripture. Paul instructs them to “test the prophecy” to see if it was in harmony with the doctrines Paul had taught them earlier. He is saying to the congregation: don’t despise prophecies but be sure to test them.

False prophets are legion, especially in our age and culture and the tendency is to either simply ignore them or worse to accept their prophecy without critically examining the words of the prophet. Here Paul admonishes us not to believe everyone who claims to speak in the name of the Lord but to “test” them.

The standard by which a true prophet can be distinguished from the false is that the true prophet will speak or teach nothing contrary to what has been revealed earlier in His special revelation. In the new dispensation, the criterion would be the revelation of God through the testimony of Christ and the apostles. We are to test all religious utterances against the teaching of Scripture. Test the spirits, says Paul. Any utterance that can’t be confirmed by Scripture is not from the Holy Spirit. Once the prophecy has been tested and confirmed, once a true verdict has been reached, hold on to that truth.

Suggestions for prayer

Thank God for faithful prophets who yet today climb into their pulpits and can say, “Thus saith the Lord”. Thank the Lord that you may sit under the preaching of such a prophet every week again.

Rev. Mark Zylstra is an emeritus minister of the United Reformed Churches in North America. He and his wife Corrie, live in Smithville ON and their home church is Wellandport, ON URC. Get this devotional delivered directly to your phone each day via our RP App. It is also available in print, for purchase, at NTGDevotional.com.

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