Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. 20 Do not scoff at prophecies, 21 but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. 22 Stay away from every kind of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 in the NLT Translation)
Paul’s instruction here to the believers is rooted in his desire that they and we too, do not inadvertently stifle the activity of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in church when it is gathered.
The fact that he has to warn them and us means that it is possible to do, so we should take heed of this warning.
Paul goes on to explain HOW we might stifle the work of the Spirit – by ‘scoffing at prophecies’ (vs20), treating them as nothing important.
Prophecy in the NT era is most simply hearing from God for someone else. Someone who brings a prophecy is allowing God to use them to bless, build-up, correct, direct or encourage people as they hear God’s voice through their actions and words.
Prophecy can be corporate or personal in nature and prophecy can take different forms such as a word for someone, a picture or an impression or a Scripture.
For Paul, prophecy was an essential part of biblical church life and community and so was not to be scoffed at, stifled or quenched.
The balance here is that every prophetic utterance is to be ‘tested’ or examined. We need to ask whether what has been shared lines up with Scripture? (vs21) We also need to remember that this side of heaven, all prophesy is ‘in-part’ (1 Corinthians 13:12), meaning that all prophetic contributions will be fallible to some degree.
So, don’t stifle prophecy & don’t blindly accept everything that is spoken in the name of God. Rather, eagerly desire prophecy in your life and in the life of the church (1 Corinthians 14:1) but test all prophetic utterances against the plumbline of Scripture. So, eat the fish and spit out the bones!