Prove All Things
Principles of Bible Study
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.—1 Thessalonians 5:21
To prove all things is an admonition given to the church. It does not involve investigating everything that crosses our path and that claims to be fact. It is not our purview to investigate science and other worldly pursuits, but only those matters that purport to represent the word of God. We are interested only in divine truth; and not heathen or so-called Christian theology. The jarring creeds of the various sects have proven themselves to be unworthy of investigation from the standpoint that they are corrupt at their very foundation. Because they are not based on the vicarious ransom sacrifice of Christ, we deem them as anti-Christian.
The entire Bible, from cover to cover breathes a spirit of liberty that is not to be found anywhere else and especially in many religious circles, whether they be heathen or purportedly Christian. The truthfulness of the scriptures is born out in the fact that it first of all appeals to human reason and bids no one take anything without proving its harmony thought sanctified human reason and through the metes and squares of God’s character.
God bids us, “Come let us reason together” in Isaiah 1:18. Jesus tells us to “search the scriptures” (John 5:39). Paul commends the Jews of Berea for daily searching the Scriptures to see if the things the Apostle told them conform to the teachings of the law and the prophets. Paul also counsels us be able to always give a reason for their hope (1 Peter 3:15) and John, the Revelator added “believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God.” It is of paramount importance to have a faith rooted and grounded in solid evidence that is established by the power of God and not the wisdom of men.
What then are we to prove or to try? and why is it necessary to prove the soundness and accuracy of theories claiming to be supported by the Bible? The primary job of a Christian is to establish a sound footing in truth. Therefore, when one comes in contact with what appears to be truth it must be set against the infallible standard of the scriptures. In testing anything, whether it is a secular or religious truth, a standard must be established. It is not good enough to simply say, “It sounds good to me; it appears reasonable.” We are not to trust our instincts or feelings in such matters.
Even in the world, a standard is necessary by which to measure things. For example, if we wanted to measure the quality of air, or soil or critique an author and his work, or any number of things, we would first need a model by which to appraise its value.
Our standard in establishing the validity of supposed truth is the Scriptures. Every truth that is presented to us must, after agreeing with the foundation ransom truth, must next agree with the law and the prophets (Isa. 8:20)—the entire testimony of Scriptures. The law which was perfect, was given to Israel to convict them of sin and to be types and shadows of God’s truths. The prophets, writing under inspiration also spoke of things to come and of God’s plan in general.
It is marvelous to realize that the lives of the writers of the Old Testament span many centuries and yet there is remarkable harmony in all they wrote. They consistently speak of a plan of redemption for fallen man with Jesus Christ as its central character, the one responsible for this redemption. The entire harmony of the Scriptures is the proof of their divine inspiration. If a theory cannot be harmonized with the Scriptures, then we know that it is false.
Next, when examining doctrines presented for our consideration, do they comport with the general character of God? Many have erred along this line and instead of truth have taught doctrines of devils; ascribing to God attributes that are abhorrent even to man, such as the doctrine of eternal torment which blasphemes the very name of God. God himself tells us that when ancient Israel became involved in the heathen practice of human sacrifice by passing their children through the fire, that it was an idea that never even entered his mind. (Jer. 19:5) These evil doctrines were foisted upon people mainly by a clergy that forbid its adherents to study or even own a Bible and who insisted that the repository of all truth rested with priests and popes. Thus reason was fettered and progress through study in the Word of God completely eradicated.
Is It Reasonable?
A final test to be applied in testing doctrines is to determine whether the teachings under consideration harmonize with sanctified common sense? Formed in the image of God, man was given the ability to reason, which distinguished him from the lower creation. Through sin and the fall, much of this quality has been erased, but, the Christian, with the aid of the holy spirit is able to judge the quality of the doctrines and those by whom they are presented (1 Tim. 4:1).
Why is it of such importance to know for a certainty that the doctrines you believe are the correct ones? After all, is not love the principal thing and all that is necessary for salvation—love for the Lord, the brethren and even the world? It is true that the highest attainment of character development is love and that love, when faith and hope become a reality, will be that which remains.
But love, like faith and hope must have a basis, a foundation. God can only be worshipped intelligently and the only way to know the mind, will and character of God is through his expressed word—his truth (John 4:24). The will of God is our sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3), and it is doctrines that are the truth that sanctifies or sets up apart to holy service (John 17:17). It is through the Scriptures that we ultimately have eternal life (John 5:39). Paul reiterates to Timothy the importance of sound doctrine: “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.”
Throughout history it has been important to know the truth. God instructed the priests and Levites of Israel to continually set before the people, not only the reading of the law, but the “sense or understanding of it.” It is ignorance and superstition that corrupts nations and people, and truth and understanding that enlightens and makes intelligent worshipers and good people.
Proving all things in the early church was also essential. By understanding the true God and his plan, they were able to withstand persecutions and even death and thus be faithful to the end. Even then the spirit of the Antichrist was beginning to work in the early church (2 Thess. 2:7).
Once the logic and beauty of these truths are seen, we are to tenaciously hold to them, for only those shall stand in the Day of the Lord who wavers not from the faith (Heb. 10:23).
Confidence in God’s Messengers
One of the many ploys of the adversary in our day to weaken confidence in the message of present truth is to undermine the appointed channels through which truth is dispensed. Throughout this present century Satan has used the worldly educational systems and theological institutions to change the thinking of men along the lines of not only the Bible, but the role of authority in general and the validity of absolute truth. Through these institutions he has claimed that truth is relative only to time and place. This has led to the belief that there is no authority on truth, because there is no absolute truth—each man’s opinion and conclusions are as valid as the next. This thinking has slowly, but surely crept into the Church and his done its evil work.
But man ways are not God’s ways or methods. Mankind has displayed a haughtiness far from the humility that God looks for in his people. God declares that it is indeed possible to find truth, but that it must be done in his way. When Jesus ascended on high, he received gifts for men (Psa. 68:18). These gifts were in the form of men as Paul says in Ephesians 4:11: “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Today a high premium is put on originality and creative thinking. It takes great humility, in light of present day thinking, to accept ideas from another and admit that we were not the originator of these ideas..
Therefore, we are to look for truths to be presented in this manner, through the agency of competent brethren. Because men would be used to transmit God’s truth, there would also be the necessary to “try the spirits,” because there would always be false brethren unawares brought in, to spy out the liberty which those in Christ Jesus share, “that they might bring them into bondage.” (Gal. 2:4; Jude 1)
We must be able to distinguish between the doctrines of God and the commandments of men. (Matt. 15:9) In keeping with this Apostle Paul warned against the wiles of the devil.
Whoever does not attain to a head and heart knowledge and appreciation of the divine arrangements will be sure to sin against the Lord, to keep his covenant of consecration imperfectly and fail to gain the highest prized, if, indeed, they be accounted worthy of eternal life on any plane.