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In his final admonitions to the Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul exhorted the Church to "prove all things; hold fast that which is good" (1 Thessalonians 5:21). The word used for "prove" in the Greek means to "test, examine, prove, scrutinize" (Thayer's Abridged Greek Lexicon).
An encouraging example of this approach is recorded in Acts 17. Paul and his party had had trouble in Thessalonica and were forced to leave under cover of darkness, traveling about 75 miles west to the city of Berea. Paul then preached the truth of God to the Bereans, who responded very differently to the Thessalonicans: "Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true" (Acts 17:11).
We should be certain about what we believe, and why we believe it. The Corinthians exhibited the all-too-human tendency of being taken in by a good sounding argument without spending the time and effort to examine it carefully in the light of Scripture: "But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough" (2 Corinthians 11:3-4).
The same thing happened to the congregations of the region of Galatia (Galatians 1:6 and 3:1) and it is still happening today, in spite of the fact we live in an age where studying the Scriptures is more convenient than ever before. The Bible is available in many different languages, as well as concordances, dictionaries, lexicons, commentaries and Bible atlases, and all of these Bible helps can also be accessed online.
The United Church of God offers free Bible Study Aids, both online and in hard copy, as well as a Bible Reading Program and Commentary. The same website (ucg.org.au) offers access to Ambassador Bible Center (ABC) classes and sermons on various topics as well. These can be a big help to us in following 1 Thessalonians 5:21. But as well written and accurate as a magazine article or a study guide may be, they are not Scripture, and studying them should not replace reading the Bible. We should follow the approach of the Bereans and listen (or read) intently, and then study the Bible daily to prove what we've read.
The benefits of examining, studying and proving our beliefs are tremendous. Our faith is strengthened as we become more confident in what we believe, and less susceptible to false teachings, and we will be able “... to give an answer to everyone who asks…for the hope that you have" (1 Peter 3:15).
United News (June 2005)