By Charles Ivie
“Test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Such a familiar verse, but do we really always obey this command? Or do we simply accept, as having already been tested, many statements by well-known brethren from the past? Acceptance of any view, simply because it was set forth by a respected brother, is very dangerous to the Lord’s church. This is the very attitude that has furthered denominationalism.
Let us consider two passages that have been lightly considered in the past. It is not my purpose to bring reproach upon anyone, nor to impugn the motives of those advancing the false views. My purpose is to point out how carelessly some views have been accepted as fact. There are other passages that could be used, but these will suffice.
1 Peter 4:11, “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” This verse is often used to teach we must speak according to God’s word. Certainly, there is no problem with this idea. We are commanded to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15); God’s word is truth (John 17:17). We also are not to follow empty deceit or traditions of men, but to follow Christ (Colossians 2:8). However, is this the idea Peter is putting forth in 1 Peter 4:11? The context shows that it is not. If one speaks by the power of God, he is to give God the credit. Herod did not and died of worms (Acts 12:21-23). If one ministers, he is to recognize it is of God’s ability, thereby glorifying God.
Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” This passage is often used to show that we, as Christians, are to do good works. It is true that we are to do good works. We are commanded to walk worthy of our calling (Ephesians 4:1). But, is this the idea being taught in Ephesians 2:10? Paul was inspired to use the Greek word “epi,” which is translated for or unto in the phrase for good works. This word basically means: upon, or on the basis of. Therefore, we understand that we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17), on the basis of good works (continued obedience to the gospel, Romans 2:7,8).
These ideas are mentioned, not to spark controversy, but to point out that our first understanding of a passage is not always the correct one. Part of the problem in understanding the Holy Spirit issue is the acceptance of well-known views as truth. Faithful Bible students have misunderstood (and others will misunderstand) verses of God’s word. Therefore, let us be diligent to “test all things,” no matter who speaks them.