THE LORD’S CHURCH at Thessalonica had suffered her share of negative experiences.
You could say she had been “burned.” False prophets had come in with alleged messages from God—especially in the context of the second coming (4:13-5:11). In retrospect, the congregation realized that some of these individuals hadn’t really brought actual, factual revelations (cf. 2 Thess. 2:1-3).1
Unfortunately, as is sometimes the case, the brethren not only stopped listening to the false prophets (a good thing), but they moved to the opposite extreme and evidently rejected ALL prophets and prophecies (not a good thing).
Paul tried to keep the pendulum of reaction from swinging too far and keep the church at center. He said, “Do not despise prophecies…” (1 Thess. 5:20). The Greek word translated “despise” is exoutheneo (pronounced eks-ü-the-ne’-ō). It means “to make of no account.” In Alabama parlance, when a person says something is “of no account,” he’s saying it’s of no or very little importance. In lieu of the fraudulent messages from false prophets, the Thessalonians treated ALL prophets and prophecies as though they were of no account.
Paul, by contrast, urged them to employ a different methodology. He said, “Test all things…” (v. 21). “Test”—some versions say “prove” (KJV, ASV); the word in the original is dokimazo (pronounced do-kē-mä’-zō). It means “to test, to examine, to prove, or to scrutinize” (to see whether a thing is genuine or not).2 The word was used in reference to the testing of ancient coins.
Somewhere around 650 BC, coinage was invented on the eastern shore of the Aegean Sea (think Asia Minor). Counterfeiters and counterfeit coins appeared soon thereafter.3
There were two ways of counterfeiting an actual coin. The first method was to cover a base metal disk with a very thin veneer of precious metal (like silver) and then strike it between engraved dies. Assuming the plating was smooth and without obvious defects, that the dies were of good quality, and the weight of the finished product was close to the official standard, a spurious coin might pass as genuine. This bogus coin was referred to as a fourrée (from the French word meaning “stuffed”).
The second method was to make a clay mold from a legitimate coin, and then pour molten metal (i.e., leaded copper alloy) into the mold. Since ceramic molds could be produced en masse with a minimum of expense, counterfeiters could make a significant profit from the creation and exchange of their low-value copper forgeries.
To deal with the proliferation of these counterfeit coins, some ancient societies passed laws which provided for official coin-testers (called dokimastes)—who would sit at banking tables in the marketplace and inspect metal currency. These “testers” would inspect a coin, weigh it against an official standard coin, and then cut it with a chisel to reveal what was on the inside. In so doing, they proved whether or not the money was genuine or whether it was a forgery.
Now watch it. Paul told the Thessalonians, “Do not despise prophecies. Test (dokimazo) all things; hold fast what is good.” Test what things, Paul? Prophecies (v. 20). Don’t despise all of them, don’t consider all them of no account—but prove and inspect them.
Beloved, the mandate of the Thessalonian church is ours today. Just because a preacher says something from the pulpit doesn’t necessarily make it true. It is possible he is sincere, but mistaken (e.g., Apollos—Acts 18:24-26); then too, it is possible that he is insincere as well as in error (e.g., Hymenaeus and Alexander—1 Tim. 1:20; Hymenaeus and Philetus—2 Tim. 2:17-18). On the other hand, because he says something that you haven’t heard before doesn’t necessarily make it wrong. The only way of knowing what he says is factual or not is to compare what he teaches with the revealed will of God.4
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test (dokimazo) the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
IT ALL BEGAN with a simple incident.
“Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money” (Acts 3:2-3).
What was Peter’s response?
He could have said, “Old man, don’t bother me. Can’t you see we are on our way to prayer meeting? After all, this is the HOUR of prayer, this is the PLACE of prayer, and we are MEN of prayer. Some other time, perhaps, but not now. We have a fixed schedule, a regimented pattern of life, and an inflexible determination to hold to it.”
But he didn’t.
He had an entirely different reaction.
Flexibility was one of the hallmarks of these men.
I’m sure that three years with Jesus contributed significantly to that lifestyle.
If it wasn’t a woman with an issue of blood, or a hungry multitude that needed to be fed, it was a blind beggar calling out to the Son of David for mercy.
Interruptions and changed plans were nothing new to Christ’s companions. (Leroy Eims, “Disciples in Action,” p. 38)
JESUS HAD POWER (Col. 1:16-17).
“Wonder-working” power (Luke 5:17).
He could walk on water, raise the dead, and instantly heal those afflicted with horrible, life-long disease.
He could cast out demons, feed thousands with but a few loaves and fish, and transform water into wine.
He could rebuke the storm and calm the sea.
He had power (Acts 10:38).
And yet…perhaps His most surprising manifestation of power was the intentional failure to employ it (1 Pet. 2:21-23; cf. Isa. 53:7; Mark 14:61).
Despite the unlimited miraculous resources at His disposal, when faced with Calvary and all that entailed, Jesus restrained His own mighty hand.
Has it ever occurred to you that one of the Lord’s most significant displays of power was expressed in a non-miraculous way?
The chief priests, elders and scribes (ie., religious leaders!) levied a sordid array of attacks against Jesus.
They brought false testimony against Him (Mark 14:55-58).
They accused Him of blasphemy (Mark 14:64).
They spat upon Him, they blindfolded Him, and they struck Him (Mark 14:65).
Pilate had Him scourged (Mark 15:15).
His own friends betrayed Him and denied Him (Mark 14:10-11; 66ff).
Finally, He was thrust upon a cruel cross and forced to endure humiliation and torture (Mark 15:22ff; cf. Heb. 12:2).
Jesus could have prevented it all.
Peter tried to (Mark 14:47); in fact, he had vowed to (Mat. 26:31-35; Mark 14:31).
When the enemies attempted to take the Lord away, Peter struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear.
In another one of his brash initiatives, this future leader, apostle, and preacher of the first-century church tried to start a fight.
Peter wanted the mob to know that He was ready to come to blows if necessary, and he drew blood in order to prove his point.
But Jesus didn’t need Peter’s sword.
He was/is the Son of God.
He not only had power, He had all power at His disposal.
He could have called angels.
Mighty, super-human (Psm. 103:20; cf. Mat. 28:2-4; 2 Thess. 1:7) legions.
A legion was anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 men strong.
We sometimes sings, “He could have called TEN-THOUSAND angels…”
More accurately, He could have called between 36,000 and 72,000 angels plus (cf. Rev. 5:11; Dan. 7:10)!
So what would He need with Peter’s puny blade?
The host of heaven could have been beckoned with but a word, and Jesus could have retaliated.
Let’s be honest.
Most of us have more in common with Peter than with the Lord, right?
When our mates hurt us with words, we want to show our superiority and exhibit our prowess.
“Where’s my sword?! Hey angels, come on down!”
When our enemies try to injure us, our inclination is to emulate Peter rather an Jesus.
We want to unsheathe our weapon and fight back; we want to call in reinforcements and engage in combat.
But the Lord urges us not to use force (Rom. 12:19).
You see, we like jesus (Mat. 26:54), have a mission (Mat. 5:43ff; 1 Pet. 2:20), a mission to reconcile others to God (2 Cor. 5:20).
So how can we bend our will to the Father’s and subdue our desire to use force, intimidation and or power?
“All who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Mat. 26:52).
I know couples who are capable swordsmen.
They are skilled in verbal engagement.
They know how to cut to the core with their sharp tongues (Prov. 12:18).
They mutilate their mates by hacking them to pieces with their words.
(Peter would be proud!)
By their malicious and caustic jabs they bleed the life out of their relationships.
As a result, their marriages are killed, and divorce ensues.
Husbands, wives…swinging your swords (Mat. 26:51) doesn’t produce peace; it only escalates hostilities (Prov. 15:1).
Be lovers (1 Cor. 13:4-8a; Eph. 5:25; Titus 2:4; Song of Solomon), not fighters (Prov. 17:14; 20:3; 1 Tim. 3:3).
Be peacemakers (Jas. 3:14-18; cf. Mat. 5:9), not war-mongers (Jas. 4:1; Psm. 68:30b).
2. REMEMBER–employing force nullifies your mission.
“How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?” (Mat. 26:54).
Had Peter been permitted to fight off the Roman mob, had Jesus summoned His legions (Mat. 26:53) and prevented His own capture, Calvary might never have occurred, and you and I would still be in our sins!
Peter could have cut and Jesus could have called, but either alternative would have aborted the Father’s will for mankind (Mat. 26:54).
Brethren, when we employ retaliatory force against others, we effectively severe any opportunity to win and reconcile them to Christ (1 Pet. 3:1; 4:19).
We have a mission to win souls (Prov. 11:30; Mat. 28:19-20; Rom. 12:17-21), not personal battles (1 Pet. 2:20ff), or arguments (2 Tim. 2:24).
3. REMEMBER–the greatest exercise of power is often the decision NOT to employ it.
Jesus didn’t dial 1-800-4ANGELS; instead, He turned over His Shepherd’s rod and became a sheep Himself (Isa. 53:7).
Real power backs away from a fight.
Real power shows restraint and exercises self-control.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23; cf. 2 Pet. 1:5-9).