Prove All Things - Glenn Conjurske

Prove All Things

by Glenn Conjurske

(A Sermon Preached on Nov. 8, l992, Recorded, Transcribed, and Revised.)

Open your Bibles with me to I Thessalonians, chapter 5, and the twenty-first verse. It says, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”

Father, teach us this morning. Open our minds, and Father, give us grace to be able and to be willing to do what this verse commands us to do. Amen.

This verse says, “Prove all things,” and “hold fast that which is good.” Now “prove” is an old English word which has a different sense in our day. What it means is to examine, to test, to try—-to put to the test. I’m going to give you quickly a few other scriptures where this word is used, so you can see what the word means.

I Corinthians 3:13. “Every man’s work shall be made manifest, for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work, of what sort it is.” That word “try” is the same word as is translated “prove” in I Thes. 5:21. The fire is going to try it—-that is, put it to the test, to find out if it’s good or bad, to find out if it’s gold, silver, and precious stones, or wood, hay, and stubble.

I Corinthians 11:28. “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.” “Examine”—-the same word as “prove.”

I John 4:1. “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” “Try” the spirits—-the same word as is translated “prove” in I Thes. 5:21. It means, put them to the test, examine them, test them, check them out.

Now back to I Thes. 5:21. What he commands you to do here is to test, to try, to examine, to put to the test—-what? “All things.” Now that is a pretty big order. Test all things. Try, examine, all things. How do you know that it’s right for you to do certain things? You don’t, unless you have tried it. Try all things, and hold fast that which is good. What happens here is that we are born into a world in which the multitudes have turned away from God, and are doing their own will, their own thing, whatever they please themselves. We grow up in such a world, and we grow up doing essentially as the rest of the world does. Now we get converted. We give up our own will. We turn our backs upon the world. We turn to God, and say, “I’m not going to do my own will any more. I’m going to do your will. I’m not going to go my own way any more: I’m going to go God’s way.” And this process—-proving all things—-is how you discover what is God’s way. You grew up doing the same things essentially that the rest of the world does. When you were converted, you still kept doing many things that the rest of the world does. How do you know you ought to be doing those things? How do you know they are right? Well, most people take custom as their guide. I’m not talking about the world now. I’m talking about Christians. Most people take custom as their guide, and they do as everyone else does—-and therefore may be doing a whole bushel basket full of things that are wrong, that are not according to Scripture, and don’t even know that those things are wrong.

Why do you dress the way you dress? Why do you eat the way you eat? Have you proved those things, and determined them to be good, and therefore held them fast? Or do you just do as everybody else does—-do as you always did? How do you furnish your house? What kind of activities do you engage in? Is custom your guide, or the Bible?

Now we have a command here to put to the test all things, and I’m going to try to suggest to you this morning what that means. All things means—-little things, big things—-right things and wrong things. You see, we have no business to assume that anything is right. We are bound to put it to the test, and of course the way to put it to the test is by the light of Scripture. You are just as bound to put right things to the test as you are wrong things. How else are you going to know that they are right? That’s implied in what the verse says. It says, Try all things, and hold fast to that which is good. That means, of course, reject that which isn’t good.

Now I think if there were some way we could get this text of Scripture burned into the modern church, the modern church would be turned inside out, revolutionized. It seems to me that most Christians go through their whole lives, and never act on what this verse commands. Custom is their guide. Why do you do such and such things? Well, that’s the way our church does things. Well, how do you know it’s right? Why does everybody do just what their church does? It is just assumed that it is right.

Now it’s easy enough to point the finger at the Catholics or the Lutherans or the liberals or somebody, and say, this is the way they think—-but evangelicals are very little different. You see, when you have this principle burned into your soul, to test, and try, and examine all things, the first thing that it does is that it makes you suspicious of everything. You don’t accept anything, unless you have first checked it out, and proved it to be good. That may be a long, drawn-out process, because the fact of the matter is, if you are a babe in Christ, you may not have the spiritual capacity to be able to get to the bottom of every practical question. I don’t think I’m a babe in Christ, and I may lack that ability in some things. But at least you do all you can towards it.

Now what kind of things should we put to the test? All things. Let me suggest, in the first place, this means to put to the test all things that everybody else is doing. One of the great difficulties of the modern church is that it makes custom its standard. If everybody else is doing it, then the church does it, without testing it to find out if it is right or good. Why do you celebrate Christmas, if you do? (I hope you don’t.) Well, I grew up celebrating Christmas. Everybody does it. Therefore it’s right? Test it out. Find out. How do you test it? Well, first of all see what the Bible says. What does the Bible say about Christmas? Nothing. Have any of you ever seen a little tract entitled “Everything the Bible has to say about infant baptism”—-and you open it up, and it’s blank? Why don’t the Baptists publish one like that about Christmas? Or Easter? But you see, most folks accept custom as the standard of their practice, and never prove all things. The things that everybody else does are assumed to be right. Now let me just drop a little hint in your ear on this. If you want to take that kind of ground you should reverse it. The fact of the matter is: the things that everybody else does are more likely to be wrong than right. If you want to make an assumption, assume that the things everybody does are wrong, rather than right. It would more probably be true, though not necessarily. There are some things that everybody does that are right, too—-everybody eats and drinks and breathes, and there is nothing wrong with those things. In fact, there’s something wrong with quitting.

The things that everybody does. The observation of holidays. It never enters most people’s minds to question whether the thing is right or wrong. Why not? Why does it never enter people’s heads? I’m talking about Christians. Why does it never enter their heads to question whether it is right or wrong? Because their standard is wrong. Their standard is custom rather than the Word of God. Why is it that when young Christian folks get married, why is it that the bride goes out and gets a wedding dress? And the groom goes out and gets a tuxedo? Why do they do that? Custom. It’s what everybody else does, therefore it must be right. I tell you it isn’t right. It’s a waste of God’s money. I got married about 25 years ago, and my bride did not have a wedding dress. You can go home and weep for her if you want, and write her a letter of condolence, but she did not have a wedding dress. She got married in the same clothes that she wore on other days. By the way, so did I. Custom was not my guide. She didn’t have a wedding ring, either, by the way. You have a wedding ring? Why do you have one? Well, just because everybody else does. Did you ever stop to put that to the test, and ask, Is this right or wrong? What does the Bible say about it? What principles of the Bible are at stake? Where did this idea of wedding rings come from? I told you about this book by Francis Wayland that I was reading this morning. I just happened to read in it this morning, when he talks about the evil example of some other denominations—-the evil influence upon the Baptists that came from following the example of other denominations. He wrote this in 1857, and he said, “I learn that some of our brethren are introducing the ceremony of giving a ring in marriage.” All of the poor, unfortunate Baptist brides went without wedding rings before the 1850’s, and then the worldly among them introduced them. Of course now it’s universal. Where did it come from? From the Church of Rome—-part of their sacrament. The Puritans opposed it. The Baptists had nothing to do with it, but somehow the Church has sunk into a place where custom has become the guide rather than Scripture, and folks merely accept everything that the rest of the world does without questioning it. Now that is the real evil. If you once learn to prove all things—-that means question all things—-put everything to the test—-accept nothing merely because the rest of the world does it, then you are on the right track to getting straight in your life.

Well what about “all things” that the whole church does? You need to question those, too. The whole church can be wrong just as well as the whole world. I’m not saying purposely wrong, but ignorantly. There are things in our day that the whole church is wrong on, which the whole church was right on a couple hundred years ago, but the church has drifted down into the world. Plain dress you know used to be the earmark of every godly movement in history. I just happened to read this in Wayland’s book. He said the time was when you could immediately spot a Baptist or a Methodist by their clothes, because they dressed plainly. You can’t do that any more. I guess you couldn’t any more in Wayland’s day, which was over a hundred years ago. Now the church and the world dress just alike, generally speaking.

Well I want to suggest something else to you. You’ll have to try, prove, put to the test, question all things that great men and men of God have done. There’s an old proverb that says, Great men may greatly err, and that is the truth. You need to put to the test all the things that great men do, and things that men of God do. And that includes the things that great soul winners do. You know I have heard this kind of thing in speaking of men that are rightly esteemed and looked up to: you try to question something that some prominent preacher does or says, and folks will come back with, “Oh, there’s never been a soul winner like him! Look at all the souls he’s winning.” And this is taken as proof that what he is doing is right. It doesn’t prove anything at all, except maybe that God is merciful. We ought to question the things that great men do. We ought to question the things that great preachers do, great soul winners, preachers that can make your heart burn. And you know, this is where the difficulty comes in. And it could be a difficultly right here, if I ever get to be a preacher that can make your heart burn. I’ve seen this type of thing too often. Folks will become impressed, maybe enamored, maybe enthralled, with a preacher that can stand up and preach and make their hearts burn, and then they go on and swallow everything he says. Half of it might be wrong. We need to put to the test everything that great men and good men do and teach. Well, of course, this implies you have to dig into the Bible. How can you who may happen to be a babe in Christ, or a very ignorant and weak believer—-how can you put to the test the things that great men, who are far above you, do? Well, you can. It’s going to require some serious digging, and humility, and growth in grace and knowledge. But it’s your responsibility to do it.

We ought to put to the test all things that good and great men do, and you ought to put to the test all things that successful men do. The argument from success is one of the biggest deceptions in the modern church. Sometimes the reason things are successful is precisely because they are not right. They succeed with the wrong kind of people. You can bring the world into the church, and it will make the church successful—-make the church grow in numbers—-make the church grow in enthusiasm, and make the church decline in holiness, and devotedness to Christ. The argument from success is not worth anything. There may be things that will actually apparently produce the right kind of success. Not only success in numbers, and in enthusiasm, but even success in spiritual things—-real, solid, spiritual success. You ought to put those to the test, too. You know why? Because a good man with good motives may adopt wrong methods—-may take a wrong course, and have good success in it. But I will say this: if he had taken the right course he would have had better success. Success doesn’t prove anything. Isaiah, you know, took the right course, and he wasn’t very successful. God told him to preach, and he said, How long? And God said, “Until the cities are wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate.” He wasn’t very successful, but he was right.

Now God’s way quite often takes longer. There may be greater success in God’s way in the end, but in the mean time the world’s way will gain faster more apparent success. George Whitefield says, “When our Lord has anything great to do, he is generally a great while bringing it about, and many unaccountable dark providences generally intervene.” That’s true. And the fellow who’s doing it his own way may have success before God’s chosen instrument ever gets through the back side of the desert. But God’s way will be more successful in the end. Paul says, “As a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation.” And, by the way, whatever you may think of me being a wise master builder, that has been the thing that I have concentrated on, and worked at, and aimed at, for the last six years here—-to lay a good foundation. It is the absolute, most important part of the building. Now there are a lot of churches that may have more to show for their labors than we have here, but they don’t have a solid foundation. They’ve got numbers without spirituality. Growth without depth. It takes a while to lay a foundation. Takes time. But the end will prove that it is God’s way.

So we have to put to the test the thing that works. There are things that work that are not necessarily of God—-not necessarily the best, just because they work. On that basis, you know, you can bring into the church every kind of worldliness under the sun, and there are churches right now all around us that are doing exactly that. How are we going to keep the young people? Parties, games, banquets—-worldliness. It may work, apparently, but it’s not of God.

We ought also to put to the test all of those things that have been established in the church of God for years. I want you to turn with me to II Kings, chapter 18. We’ll see a man of God who evidently did put something to the test—-something that had been established among the people of God for centuries, and he overturned it and got rid of it. II Kings, chapter 18, and verse 3: “He did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his father did. He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and break in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it, and he called it Nehushtan”—-which means a piece of brass. Oh, he had a brave spirit, to take this thing that the people of God had been worshipping for centuries, and call it a piece of brass. That’s what it was. Not a god, a piece of brass. I’m sure he incurred the wrath of a lot of people for that word. But how does it happen that this thing had been worshipped, and folks had burnt incense to this thing for centuries, and none of the godly prophets or kings had overturned it? How could it escape them? You see, whenever a real prophet of God comes on the scene and begins to point his finger at this or that—-this is wrong—-that is wrong—-this ought not to be done—-the people always raise up the cry, and say, “What are you saying? Are you saying you know better than all the godly preachers and doctors and fathers in the church for the last thousand years? This thing has been done for a thousand years, and nobody has said it was wrong before. Who do you think you are? How does it happen that none of the godly kings…..”—-how does it happen that this thing escaped the notice of David? It says here that Hezekiah did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David did. But here he went beyond David. Why didn’t David get rid of this thing? Why didn’t all the former prophets get rid of this thing? Don’t know. But the fact that something has been established among the people of God for centuries does not prove that it is right. It may be very wrong. Sunday schools have been established among the people of God for the last couple hundred of years anyway, but I do not believe they’re right. You can’t find any trace of such a thing in the Bible. Of course, it is a rather modern thing. It never existed till a couple hundred years ago. You want to stir up a hornet’s nest? Go into some modern churches and tell them that Sunday schools are wrong. Tell them they are not of God. You’ll get the same thing that Hezekiah no doubt got from calling the brasen serpent a piece of brass. But you see people just accept what everybody does, and don’t question it. Now the text of my sermon this morning says, question it! Put it to the test, try it, examine it, and if it’s good, hold it fast. If it’s not good, it’s implied, of course, reject it. Put to the test the things that the whole world does. Put to the test the things that the whole church does. Put to the test the little things, the right things, the wrong things, the things that have been established in the church for the last two hundred years or the last thousand years—-put them to the test.

Next I want to point out to you another thing you should put to the test, and that is those things which have been established in the church by the men of God. Great men may greatly err, and you’ll see an example of that in the book of II Kings, the 23rd chapter. II Kings, chapter 23, verse 10. Here we see Josiah acting, and it says, “And he defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech. And he took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun, at the entering in of the house of the Lord, by the chamber of Nathan-melech the chamberlain, which was in the suburbs, and burned the chariots of the sun with fire. And the altars that were on the top of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars which Manasseh had made in the two courts of the house of the Lord, did the king beat down, and brake them down from thence, and cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron. And the high places that were before Jerusalem, which were on the right hand of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had builded for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Zidonians, and for Chemosh the abomination of the Moabites, and for Milcom the abomination of the children of Ammon, did the king defile. And he brake in pieces the images, and cut down the groves, and filled their places with the bones of men.” Now here’s something that Solomon had established, and it was something wrong. Solomon, the great king, the greatest king, of Israel, who had wisdom that no man before or since had, who was blessed by his God, and “beloved of his God,” as Nehemiah says. Here is something that Solomon had established, and Josiah said, it doesn’t matter if Solomon or an angel from heaven established it, it’s wrong. And he broke it to pieces and beat it to dust. Josiah took the Word of God for his standard.

Now I’m going to suggest one thing that’s a little more difficult than all these. It’s not so hard to put to the test everything that everybody does, or the thing that the whole church does, the thing that great men of God have done, the thing that works, the thing that’s been established for a millennium in the church of God, or the things that have been established by men of God. It’s not so hard to put all those things to the test, as it is one more thing I’m going to mention, and that is, the things that you love. You know I had an experience one time with a very godly girl in this congregation. She had plans to do a certain thing which I didn’t think she ought to do. I didn’t say much to her, but I took her aside one day, and I said, “Why are you going to do this thing?” And she burst into tears, and she said, “Because I want to.” Of course it was something everybody else does. No reason to think there is anything wrong with it—-until you start putting it to the test. And she put it to the test, and she didn’t do it, either. She wanted to. I think that’s one of the main reasons that people fail to prove all things. Don’t want to change. We’re called upon to prove all things, put them all to the test, and examine them, whether they’re a pleasant thing or unpleasant. Whether they’re things we want to do, or things we don’t want to do. Some things are easy to give up, you know. Didn’t want to do it in the first place. But some things you want to do. Those are harder to give up.

Now then, the result of this is to hold fast that which is good. Even if you have to hold it fast all by yourself, which may well be the case. And of course, on the opposite side, reject the things that aren’t good, even if we have to reject them all alone, while all the rest of the world is doing it, and you’ve got to be different. This will be hard, but I’ll tell you this: it wasn’t easy for Christ to go to the cross, either. I don’t know that it was easy for him to empty himself of all the glories of heaven, and come down here, and live a life of suffering, and die a death of suffering. It wasn’t necessarily easy, but he did that for you. And everything that Christ gave up for you was good, and pure, and holy, and right, and proper. He never gave up anything that was wrong—-didn’t have anything wrong in his hands to give up. It was all good, and he gave it all up anyway. All he asks you to do is give up what is wrong. Hold fast that which is good. Now we just need to get this text burned into our souls. Prove all things. It’s not necessarily something we should consciously think. We ought to get beyond that. It ought to become your second nature to test all things. Never receive anything just because everybody does it. Never receive anything because a good man teaches it. Never receive it because it’s been done for a thousand years. Prove all things, and hold fast that which is good.

Glenn Conjurske