God the Holy Spirit has been given to every believer (Romans 8:9). He is God's indwelling voice to our hearts, convicting us of sin, teaching us about Jesus and urging us to live in a way which will please the Father (John 16:13-15). Before the New Testament Scriptures were completed, God spoke to the new churches through the Old Testament writings (1 Peter 1:10-12), apostles and prophets. But how did people know whether what the prophets said was really from God or just something which came from their own thoughts?
Some believers had decided to take no notice of what the prophets said, while others accepted everything without question. The sceptical and gullible sat side by side listening to people who claimed to speak from God. So although prophecy was God's way of speaking to His people at that time, it also became a prime route for false teaching to infiltrate the churches. The apostles had the task of defining what was true and what was false, but they or their team members were not in every church all the time, so Paul urged discernment (1 Corinthians 14:29-33).
Paul instructed the Thessalonians not to put out the Holy Spirit's fire by disregarding what was said in the church meetings; that would be treating God with contempt. Each prophecy should be heard and then examined to see if it was consistent with known Scriptures, with what Jesus had said and how He lived, and with what the apostles had taught about Him. Whatever passed those tests should be accepted, and acted upon. But false prophecies must be rejected for they were evil, leading individuals and whole churches away from the Lord and His gospel (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
We also need to have that discernment. Our task should be easier because the apostles' teaching has been incorporated into our New Testament so that we (as well as the early church) can understand what is true. But still people are sharing their own ideas about Jesus which are not supported by the Bible; thus defacing the gospel. Their teaching about Jesus may be sincere but it is not authentic and will lead people astray (2 Corinthians 11:2-3). It is not wrong to ask questions, but you need to know where to find the answers. We honour the Holy Spirit when we agree with His Word. Those whose teaching is in line with the Scriptures, we should honour and obey. But those who invent what God has not said are spreading evil (2 Thessalonians 2:9-11): keep clear. Listen, test and choose what to accept or reject.
© Dr Paul Adams