Paul wrote, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thes. 5:21). What did he mean? This article will show you how to prove the truth of God and to help you manifest the faith necessary to live up to it.
One must be called of God in order to understand the truth. No Bible teaching is clearer. Jesus said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44). Those who sincerely seek God can find Him (Matt. 7:7), but whether one is called of God or not depends entirely on the purpose and the mercy of God. Paul said, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). Divine revelation is the means by which God gives the knowledge of His truth. It is not gained by superior human intelligence, research, or scholarship. While all of these aspects can help in the quest for a full spiritual understanding, they are generally of little value if one is without the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Countless scholars are in constant disagreement over the meaning of God’s Word, truly ignorant of the real meaning of the Bible. Truth is revealed and comes only by divine revelation. Those who are chosen of God have been sanctified by the Spirit. Paul wrote, “But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (2 Thes. 2:13). By working on the minds of those called, God’s Spirit has set them apart, leading them to understand what they hear and see from the Bible.
The called of God understand certain rules of Bible study. For one thing they know that all of God’s Word is inspired (2 Tim. 3:16). They also know that the Bible contains no contradictions (John 10:35). They are also aware that all Scriptures on a given subject must be considered in order to reach a correct conclusion. They know that no Scripture of the Bible is of any private interpretation (2 Pet. 1:20). Also, Scripture must be read in context before it can be properly understood. The minds of the called and converted are able to prove what the Bible teaches. But, they also know this is only one part in the proving process.
Faith in the Truth of God
One of the manifestations of God’s Spirit is faith (Gal. 5:22). “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6). This means the man of faith fully believes in God’s existence, as well as the reliability of His word. The Bible is the Word of God. One called of God not only believes the Bible to be the Word of God but also believes the truth that has been revealed to him from the pages of the Bible. Christ, the Word of God personified, lives in us and gives us faith in the true doctrine. One who does not manifest confidence in the truth is like a wave tossed about on the sea. He is unstable in all his ways (Jas. 1:8). Those who adhere to the revealed truth of God have spiritual stability. The basis for their faith is the belief that God revealed the truth-doctrine. Faith is the key to spiritual success and eventual salvation.
There is one faith (Eph. 4:5), that is, one body of true doctrines. The true Christian must come to believe and practice what has been revealed to him. Unless he believes and practices the true doctrine he has no spiritual foundation. Faith in the Christian experience is the belief and practice of the revealed doctrine. The Christian must have confidence in the truth. Faith in the faith is the demonstration of God’s Spirit at work in one’s life and the proof of true Christianity.
Various Levels of Truth
Revealed truth does not differ in individual members of the body-that is, one member believes one thing about a doctrine while another member believes something else about the same doctrine. The only variation within the membership is the quantity of knowledge gained at any given moment. One member may know much more Bible truth than another, but when the deficient member comes to understand more, his beliefs will not vary from what was known by the others. Regardless of the amount of Bible truth one may understand he is expected to live up to that truth that has been revealed to him. Spiritual truth, with regard to individuals, refers to the amount of knowledge understood, not to differences in understanding. Divine revelation or spiritual truth does not differ from individual to individual, but how much one understands at any given moment in time does. Obviously spiritual babes cannot be expected to understand and apply what older, mature members can. But, as they mature spiritually they can come to the same level of understanding and practice achieved by older members. Thus, spiritual growth is the belief and exercise of new revelation.
Paul wrote, “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you” (Phi’p. 3:15). So that the children of God may continue to grow spiritually, God reveals what needs to be understood. But, this added and new revelation is never contrary to previous revelation. Any “new revelation” that contradicts previous revelation cannot be of God. The Bible does not contradict (John 10:35). New revelation will always add to and expand previous revelation but will never contradict it. God reveals truth only (John 16:13). He does not reveal error. If there is any contradiction between old and new revelation then one or the other is in error. Both cannot be right.
Proving Means Putting the Truth to Practice
It cannot be emphasized too strongly that once one is called to a knowledge of the truth, and is baptized, he must begin to practice it. He is required to walk worthy of his calling (1 Thes. 2:12). Truth generally comes by the preaching of others (Rom. 10:14) but what is clear to the recipient of that truth is that he recognizes it when he hears it. He recognizes it as the Word of God (1 Thes. 2:13, 2 Thes. 2:13-14, John 10:4). When Peter said, “. . . Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. . .” (Acts 2:38), he was saying that spiritual truth must be put to practice in the life of each individual. He did not mean spiritual truth is subject to the private interpretation of each Christian. Rather, that each one must apply the same truth by practicing it. Each Christian called of God must put to practice the truth delivered to him. Each Christian must prove himself before God in relation to the standard God reveals. Proving the self in relation to that standard is proving the truth by practicing it. Proving the truth never includes the idea that the standard can be changed. God’s standard never changes (Psa. 110:7-8). It is impossible for God to lie (Titus 1:2), so what is revealed to each Christian remains the same forever. Jesus promised that each one called to a knowledge of the truth would be guided by the Holy Spirit (John 16:13), so each Christian can practice with assurance that doctrine revealed to him. Proving the truth includes practicing the truth.
Truth Is Revealed Only One Time
Divine revelation is given one time only. That is why it is so important to hold fast to it. The message of salvation encompassed in the gospel applies to each one called. After receiving that call it is the responsibility of each individual to hold fast to it. Jesus Christ was sacrificed one time only. His shed blood applies one time and one time only to each one called (Rom. 6:10, Heb. 7:27; 9:26; 10:10, 1 Pet. 3:18). Once accepting the shed blood of Jesus Christ in payment for ours sins we cannot return to our old ways and expect another call to repentance. The fact is: One who completely turns from the way of truth, having accepted the sacrifice of Christ, will never be able to return. Why? Because he will never be given the grace to repent again. Paul wrote, “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy [Spirit], And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame” (Heb. 6:4-6). The blood of Christ applies only once. The call to repentance comes only once. The unpardonable sin is unpardonable because the one who commits it will never again be given the opportunity to return to God and accept the sacrifice of Christ. Jude said the faith was “once delivered” (Jude 3). The truth of God must not be taken lightly.
The Truth Is Absolute
The divine revelation from God is absolute. It is not subject to change and continues the same throughout all generations. Neither does the unalterable standard ever change. That which was revealed to Adam applies today (Mark 13:31). There is no such idea in the Bible that truth for one may not be the truth for another. There is one faith (Eph. 4:5). This faith or doctrine applies in the same manner to everyone. Man has not been given the prerogative to decide what truth applies to him. God has already decided that His entire revelation applies to all mankind. There is no such thing as the idea that each man has the right to determine truth. The truth of God is absolute and applies the same to each individual.
Divine truth is spiritual knowledge. It comes from a spiritual source only. That source is God. Jesus said, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). This truth is divinely revealed and cannot be determined by any physical means. By the Spirit of God the deep things of God are revealed (1 Cor. 2:11). The natural man cannot understand them (1 Cor. 2:14). These truths are absolute and constitute the revelation of God.
Character and Truth
Character is the ability to recognize right from wrong and to always choose the right in opposition to the wrong. When it come to the matter of God’s truth we have the standard that defines right from wrong. How, then, can one exercise character without putting the truth to practice in one’s life? The fact is: Proving the truth of God means building character by practicing the truth. We are told to prove what is good and acceptable to the Lord (Eph. 5:10). We do this by proving the truth-by applying it in our lives. By obeying God’s Word and seeing the results in our own lives. At the same time we build holy, righteous character. We no longer conform to the fleshly desires. Rather, we have a change in heart and attitude with the willingness to serve God spiritually. One is not a righteous man unless he practices righteousness (1 John 3:7). Righteousness defines character and character cannot be built without the practice of righteousness. Each Christian must obey God and keep His commandments before character can be built. In the day when all our works will be made manifest we will know how good of a task we accomplished in the building of holy righteous character. Character cannot be built without applying the truth of God in our lives.
There is really only one requirement necessary in the process of proving the truth and building character- living by the divine standard set forth by God. Character cannot be developed by knowledge alone. The man who refuses to act on the truth revealed to him cannot build divine, holy character. By putting the truth to practice we see the value of the truth in our lives and the benefits derived. But, obedience to the truth of God must be done willingly. It cannot be coerced.
Trials Strengthen the Truth
God allows trials and tests to come upon all of us. These are for our good. Trials are valuable. James wrote, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience” (Jas. 1:2-3). “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him” (Jas. 1:12). Peter wrote, “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:6-7). Both James and Peter knew the purpose and value of trials. One who endures a trial successfully has greatly strengthened his faith in the truth of God. He has greatly added to his character. The truth of God has been bolstered and enforced in his mind and heart. This is the benefit of enduring a trial. Its purpose is to build character and to strengthen one’s faith in the truth.
The process of proving the truth continues throughout one’s entire life. God’s way must be practiced continually. The true Christian continually evaluates himself in the light of the true doctrine-the truth. He checks himself daily (2 Cor. 13:5, 1 Thes. 5:21). He continues to study the Word of God and to spend time in prayer and meditation. This is what builds the necessary character to achieve the goal of each Christian-eternal life in the Kingdom of God. It is the only goal in life worth striving for.
How Can One Be Sure?
How can one know he is really following the truth of God and living by it? Jesus gives the answer. “. . . My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:16-17). Those willing to obey God will have no trouble determining the true doctrine-the truth. But, again we see the emphasis on the need to prove it by putting it to practice-by living it. One who agrees with the truth but fails to live up to it does not really know the truth. To practice it is to know it. One who fails to practice it will quickly succumb to temptation. If one does not practice it he does not really believe it. There are those who drink in the truth and those who gargle it. Those who gargle fail to internalize the truth as a part of their make-up. Eventually they discard it. By practice only can one really know the truth. Jesus said so. Those who live God’s truth in their lives are the ones who are sure. Their foundation is secure.