19 Do not quench the Spirit; 20 do not despise prophetic utterances. 21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil.
I almost skipped over this passage. It is another one of those, like the previous passage we looked at, that’s easy to gloss over.
Do not quench the Spirit is kind of his opening to what he is going to say next, but let’s understand what he means by this. As I’ve discussed before, our daily commitment to follow Christ is a choice. We can choose to or not to follow His guidance every day. As we become more in tune with God and His Will, the Holy Spirit, which resides in us, will guide us throughout the day. Through the Spirit, God tells us what it is He would have us do, but we still get the choice to acknowledge that or to reject it. The Holy Spirit is commonly referred to an internal fire that burns within us. Here, Paul is telling us not to try to put it out, or dim it down, or shut it up, rather we should stoke the flames. This rolls into the second half of his sentence; do not despise prophetic utterances.
Now, we probably at first think this means from others…I did. When someone says that “God told me something,” our first thoughts are “yeah right. How do you know it was from God and why should I believe you?” I think this can also apply to ourselves, the voice we hear from within from the Holy Spirit. Have you ever had a sudden urge or thought about something that you immediately resisted because somehow it went against the grain of your normal thought process? That’s what Paul is talking about here. So, do we just take everyone at their word, even our own thoughts? What about the evil that is also a part of our being? Paul addresses this next.
But examine everything carefully. How do we do that? Let’s follow the logic of it. The bible is God’s Word. The Holy Spirit, which we receive as a gift once we believe (aka Christ’s Spirit which He released upon us at Pentecost) is also known as The Word. So…it’s all the same! How we examine these thoughts or prophetic utterances is against the bible. The bible is our filter of discernment with which to test these things. This is where studying our bibles for God’s Will comes into play. Can you imagine flipping through your bible every time someone says something to you or every time you have a thought? Even with the internet and smartphones, that could become cumbersome very quickly. However, as we begin to learn God’s word by daily study, we will know without having to look it up. This is how God’s will syncs with our brains and our hearts. Ok, so now that we know how to discern these things, what do we do with it? Paul makes it simple.
Hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil. So, if we use the bible to discern that which God calls good and that which He calls evil, we just act accordingly. We still have the choice. Sometimes we make the wrong choices and that’s what God uses us to teach us through discipline and consequences. This is the process. People are always searching for God’s Will for the world and for themselves. This is the method through which we learn what His Will is. All we have to do then is make a choice.
How do you discern God’s Will? What part of this process needs improvement?