Written by Dave Urbanski.
As we begin to wrap up our journey through 1 Thessalonians 5, verses 12 through 22, and discover what characterizes us as believers in Jesus, this past Sunday we looked at verses 20 and 21: “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.”
So, let’s take a look by going to the Scriptures and seeing what they have to say about prophecies.
First off, prophecies are found throughout the Bible. Arguably the most well-known prophecies are the ones that foretell the coming of Jesus and his saving work on the cross. But not all prophecies necessarily discuss the future. Prophecies can be a declaration of God’s word that’s relevant to a personal situation.
And indeed, the Lord speaks to us through his word. We know that Scripture is like a sword that cuts through our own thoughts and intentions so we can hear the heart of God speaking to us — and that’s when good things can happen.
But prophecies also can be God speaking to us in relevant ways through other people — such as preachers, friends, spouses, and family members. All of us can offer prophecies — you don’t have to hold the office of “prophet” to do so. For an example that’s relevant to all of us, what we experienced on Sunday when Pastor Scott declared to us God’s word and shared what his study of the Scriptures taught him over the previous week was a prophecy. We must dispense with the notion that prophecies are only dramatic moments when the Holy Spirit comes over someone and inspires a “prophetic word”; that’s actually not the norm. It’s more common that a friend during a Bible study mentions an insight that speaks powerfully to us — that’s also a prophecy.
Prophecy can be words of affirmation — for example, when others speak God’s word into our lives and help us if we’re feeling worthless and missing the truth about how much God loves us. God can use all of us to pass on his grace to others. What is God teaching you today? Maybe the Lord will use what he’s teaching you to speak to others and help them with whatever they may be experiencing or struggling with. And then perhaps that will cause others to think more about how God is speaking to them. In these cases, prophecies can be very important in our lives — and we must take to heart what Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5: 20 “Do not despise prophecies.”
Then there’s the second part of the Scripture we looked at on Sunday: “But test everything.”
Of course, we must always evaluate prophecies to make sure they are in line with God’s word. We may run into situations when others give their opinions with regard to our lives — whether it’s about buying a new car, taking on a new job, or what to do about a relationship — and human opinions aren’t always correct! Sometimes we use God’s word to support our own ideas. That’s why we always must test what we hear others say and ask, “Is this from God or not?”
Because in the end, the standard is always God’s word. Which of course underscores the importance that we know God’s word and how to study it — and figure out what God is saying through Scripture. And most definitely not “what Scripture means to me.”