“Do not despise the words of prophets (or prophecies), but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.”
~1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 (NRSV)
Church hurts leave many reeling for want of escape to somewhere safe—from a place, ironically, where care was implied, expected, even required. How sad it is that the one place where people ought to feel safe and loved can sometimes be the source of hurt.
Although these feature in the vast minority of cases (usually via cults and sects), such situations make for, firstly, the destruction or interruption of spiritual lives and, secondly, the harming of the broader church imperative: the saving of souls in the true gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Thankfully there are ministries, like this one linked, that exist to call out as a herald for truth, compassion, and balance against ‘ministers, and ministries, of darkness’; those ministering toward their own ends and against God’s purposes.
So far as the church is concerned, anywhere over this globe, especially in a globalised social economy, we must grow more adept at testing all things—not to disparage effective witness, but to highlight, as advocates, the real gospel imperatives.
We can know, with a full portion of confidence, that the biblical framework is a banner of truth for the universality of love; it is a gospel of grace we purport, never at the expense of any truly needy one.
Love wins because God has set up the universe to run according to his nature. What this means is there will always be a comprehensive need of God—the true and living Lord—and Almighty God has decreed that the one and only church, she who is betrothed to the Son, is that witness for the gospel imperative.
There is no getting around the construction of God’s nature as it is revealed through love, wisdom, and all virtue in the entire known world.
Correspondingly, anywhere the church is threatened regarding its key role to exhort the gospel imperative is a blasphemy and, therefore, it is critically unfortunate that the church finds herself, when it happens, attacked from inside out or from out-of-reach outsiders.
Notwithstanding, if it is the church’s role to save souls in, and through, the name of Jesus, it is most certainly the church’s role to protect its own integrity toward its chief end—the evangelisation of the world.
To be an advocate means the preparedness to fight for the right to practice advocacy, as required, even against allegations for incompetent or immoral forfeiture because divisions of ‘the church’ have been perverted.
Yet, the right of advocacy should only be borne on those tested and proved, over the long run, competent for such a role. There is no question the church, generally, is competent, alone, regarding the saving of souls into God’s kingdom.
The Personal Imperative
Prophecy is a key characteristic of the church—always has been and always will be.
Like many facets of church life, however, it is open to abuse; none of us is beyond deceptions couched in the devil. We must learn, and continually apply, the practice of testing all things to available truth.
We are to be cautioned regarding accepting, carte blanche, even the most encouraging of words. Encouragement, of itself, is never a bad thing, unless it leads to the prevalence of things like complacency, flattery, or ignorance.
The personal imperative is to test all things; wisdom, as Jesus put it, is known for its results (Matthew 11:19)—many times we will not know conclusively until we wait patiently for the full light of truth to emerge at God’s timing.
Encouragement Of Prophecy
Part of the Apostle Paul’s original purpose, in raising the subject of the reception of prophecy with the Thessalonians, was to encourage them to receive prophetic word with patience and a considered wisdom. Tolerance was called for.
Too easily we might reject prophetic words because of who brings them, or how they are brought to us. Wisdom calls for prudence but it also calls for care. Most often people bring these ‘Words of God’ out of the purest of intents. We should honour them, at least by the propriety of kindness for the obedience they show in bringing forward the ‘word from God’.
All things of God should be ‘tested’ in order to find out whether they are genuinely from God or not. This calls for the discernment of wisdom—the patience to wait upon further evidence and, therefore, confirmation. Until such times, all those bringing prophecy should be kindly respected.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.