Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good.
Why would someone despise a word that was attributed to God? Most likely, the person hearing the word is not convinced that God is the author of what is being said.
In I Thessalonians 5:20, Paul said not to despise prophesying, and in the next verse, he said not to be gullible—but to test all things. If we criticize a prophecy without testing it, we have not given it a chance. That is wrong. It is also wrong to believe that everything spoken in the name of God is true. We must use discernment.
In Matthew 7:15-20, Jesus explained that we would know a true prophet by the fruit in his life.
It is wrong to judge a prophet without looking at the fruit his life produces. But we need to exercise wisdom when examining the fruit in someone’s life. Even good fruit can go bad. Some hearers of Paul’s message twisted his message to say that he had given them the freedom to live sinful lives (Romans 3:8). Paul never justified sin in anyone’s life. Those who twisted what Paul said did not discredit his whole ministry. Things said by others today do not justify discrediting a whole ministry. The prevalent fruit that a ministry produces is a good way to judge its validity.
The believers in Berea also gave the greatest example of how to prove the validity of a message.
“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:21).
The real test of any prophet or prophecy is if what he says aligns with God's written Word. If a message of a prophet disrupts the letter or spirit of the Word, it is wrong. However, we need spiritual maturity to make a judgment like this. We do not have the whole truth of God (1 Corinthians 13:12). We need to be careful. We are human. We can make mistakes when we judge prophecies. There needs to be scriptural consistency and reliability in our judgment. Those who blatantly violate Scripture should never be judged good.
If a prophet leads people away from God and places them in bondage with his message, do not hold fast to it. Paul said, “Hold fast that which is good.” He did not say to reject the bad. It is implied, but he places emphasis on embracing the good. Some people just “look to embrace the bad instead of the good.” Some are on judgment-watch, examining everything for the slightest mistake in a minister’s life. When they find that mistake, they come against him and label everything else in his life as false. That is not what Paul was saying in 1 Thessalonians 5:21. When listening to any prophet that says he speaks the Word of God always exercise discernment. Not everything that is said in the name of God is from Him. But it is equally wrong to be critical except in the most blatant instances.
When we judge a prophecy based on our personal judgment of its messenger, we may discredit a word God has for us. It is easy to discredit a message because of a messenger. It takes effort to look past the human conveying the message and receive the message coming from God.
God uses imperfect humans in our lives, and, we humans, are fallible. Do not despise a prophecy. Do not judge a prophet based on the word of others. Carefully, study the fruit in his life. Test his message with the written Word of God, and embrace what is good.
© 2022 Lynn Lacher