1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 “Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”
The act of preaching is under attack in many churches today. This comes as no surprise, as Paul warned that in the last days, people will not desire strong doctrinal messages, but rather “teachers, having itching ears” (2 Timothy 4:3).
What is preaching?
Before we look at how we are to respond, we must define some things. In the text we have looked at, the word used was “prophesy.” Often when we think of prophesying or a prophet, we often think of someone predicting the future, however, that was a small aspect of the prophet’s ministry. His primary task was to speak for God. To prophesy was to speak forth the word of God; a “Thus saith the Lord” message. Today, we have the completed word of God. There are no new revelations, but God has given us everything He wanted us to have in the inspired, preserved, and completed word of God. So, to prophesy, is to declare and apply God’s truth to the hearers. In Nehemiah’s day, the preachers stood up and “… read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading” (Nehemiah 8:8). There’s a good checklist for a sermon! There must be scripture, there must be an explanation of the passage, and then an understanding to apply to the lives of the hearers. There are really three “arts” utilized in a sermon. There is homiletics – the art of preaching or delivery; hermeneutics – the study and understanding of the text being preached; and apologetics – the proof of the what is being preached. Far too often, opinion speeches are passed of as preaching.
Paul instructed the preacher, Timothy, to “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2). The content of preaching: the word and doctrin. The purpose of preaching: to reprove (point out error), rebuke (challenge to correct), and exhort (build up, instruct, and encourage). The prelude of preaching: the preacher is to be ready always, and be consistent and patient with his preaching.
So there it is. Prophesying it to speak forth, proclaim, present the word of God to the hearers. To preach!
Despise not prophesyings
The word despise, means to have a low regard for; to put little value on; to esteem lowly. By placing “not” in the statement, it creates the antithesis of “despise.” In other words, highly regard; greatly value; highly esteem. We ought to make much of what God makes much of. God exalts preaching. God chose it as a crucial act in salvation; “…it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21b). God elevates it above other acts in the church; “Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy” (1 Corinthians 14:1). God uses it to edify and encourage His church; “But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues…” (1 Corinthians 14:3-5). Jesus’ ministry on earth was a preaching ministry: “From that time Jesus began to preach, and say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). Paul’s burning desire was to preach the Gospel: “So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth…” (Romans 1:15-16). The prophet’s primary job was to preach, even as Jonah was instructed of God to “… preach unto [Nineveh] the preaching that I bid thee” (Jonah 3:2). And I could go on, and on about the emphasis God places on preaching.
This short, three word verse says so much about God’s heart on this action. We must elevate the act of preaching. How we all need the preaching of God’s word!
Prove all things
Once we have been been exposed to preaching, we must prove it. To prove something means to try it, or put it to the test. Do not buy into something just because a preacher says it as “…many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). We must take what we have been given and drag it through the Scriptures, which is The Source of truth (John 17:17), and find what lines up, and what should be cast aside. Even as the Bereans’ response to Paul and Silas’ preaching. The Bible tells us, “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 17:11). Far too often, we have laziness both in the pews and the pulpit. People do not know what the Bible says, so they are tossed by every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14) that comes their way, just because a smooth talking preacher tickled their ear. Many preachers fail to study for their message, so they just parrot what others have said, or what they have been taught.
Have we proven all things?
Hold fast to that which is good
Once we have heard the truth, and have proven the truth, we must take hold of the truth. Own it! “Buy the truth, and sell it not…” (Proverbs 23:23a). Make it your own! It is not enough to say, “My church believes…” or, “My parents believe…” Find the truth, own it, and don’t sell out for anything!
This is God’s purpose and plan for preaching. Take it in, run it through the Scriptures, and own it. God uses His word, as it is properly preached, to develop us (Ephesians 4:12), sanctify us (John 17:17, James 1:21), and grow our faith.
“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17)
How do you respond to preaching?