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Thessalonians 5 v 21b hold fast that which is good

A Catechism is a number of questions drawn together by a common theme. With the questions come the answers and learning both the questions and answers is a useful tool for gaining knowledge.

Many of us are familiar with Christian Catechisms – the most well known being the Larger and Shorter catechisms of the Westminster Confession of Faith. There is a catechism linked to our Baptist Confession and numerous catechisms designed specifically for children.

Why the mention of a catechism this morning?

Simply because the word CATECHISM finds its root in one of the words of our text in 1 Thessalonians 5. It is in verse 21

Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

We thought about the phrase at the beginning of v 21 “Prove all things” last week and identified the importance for us as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ to test what we hear. All prophecy – that is preaching and teaching – must be tested to see if it is God’s word that is being preached, expounded, interpreted or explained. We have to value preaching, but not take everything on trust from every preacher – but to try them by the law of Scripture –

Isaiah 8 v 20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

Matthew Henry says this –

“The doctrines of human infallibility, implicit faith and blind obedience are NOT the doctrines of the Bible! Every Christian has and ought to have, the judgement of discretion, and should have his senses exercised in discerning between good and evil, truth and falsehood. Proving all things must be in order to hold fast that which is good.”

We must not believe every spirit but to try every spirit. However we cannot always be trying and testing what we hear – this will lead to our being unsettled – rather we need to be settled hearing what we can trust – and then HOLD FAST TO IT – THAT WHICH IS GOOD. When we have found teaching that is right and good – THEN we are to hold on to it – this is the sense of our text this morning the second part of this verse

hold fast that which is good.

Let us look briefly at the words that Paul uses in the original.

KATECHO is the joining of 2 words – KATA which means down and ECHO which means to have or to hold keeping something in mind. It commonly is used to describe the keeping of faith or the Faith. During the winds this week there were one or two things in the garden that were in danger of blowing away. They had to be HELD DOWN – physically they needed to be held on to secured and held down. To catechise therefore is to hold fast something important in the mind.

The same word can be used in slightly different ways but the meaning remains the same.

For instance when Paul describes how unrighteous people suppress the truth in unrighteousness in Romans 1 v 18 he uses this word – they stop the truth from getting out – they restrain the spread of truth by their own wickedness.

In Hebrews 3 we find the thought of holding fast the confidence that we have in the Lord Jesus Christ as Christians –

6 But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.

And in Chapter 10 of the same letter we find the word in verse 23

Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering;

On a day off last week we happened to be in Cambridge – for the first time for us. We went for a leisurely time with the Northern family on a punt on the waterway called “The Backs” – a shallow area of water that wends its way through the Colleges and grounds of the University area. As we boarded the punt someone had to make sure that we stayed moored to the bank – a small chain held us fast. During a thunderstorm we sheltered beneath one of the lovely bridges – once again we needed to be held fast to the wall of the bridge – and of course when it was time to land, the punt needed holding fast so that we could safely disembark.

We get the picture of this word – hold on and cling to something.

What are we to hold on to! The second word – KALOS – which means simply GOOD. It is a word that refers to anything that is intrinsically good – synonyms such as goodly, fair and even beautiful have translated from KALOS – and good in the sense of genuine as opposed to counterfeit is also part of KALOS.

There are other words in Greek which mean good. AGATHOS is another and we came across it in verse 15 of this chapter –

15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.

Good in this verse was referring to the good that is done to others – that is AGATHOS.

Whereas Paul uses this different word in verse 21 to make a point. He is speaking about Prophecying. So “good” here refers to the quality of the teaching in itself.

Paul wants the Thessalonians who heard God’s word preached and taught to HOLD IT FAST because of its very nature – GOOD!

“Hold fast that which is good” is a direct reference to God’s word – which is good in every way.

Let us consider some of the ways that the Word of God is GOOD.

1. The Word of God is Good in that it proclaims the Character of God – who is Good. Creator

No less than 7 times in the first chapter of the Bible we are informed that God’s creation was good – indeed very good.

Genesis 1 v 4 And God saw the light, that it was good:

10 And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.

12 And the earth brought forth grass, herb yielding seed and the tree yielding fruit… and God saw that it was good.

18 And God made the sun moon and stars to rule over the day and over the night…: and God saw that it was good.

21 And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

25 And God made the beast and cattle, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth and God saw that it was good.

31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

Could a bad creator create a good universe? No He could not. From Genesis to Revelation God’s holy, perfect and righteous character shines through. The goodness of the Triune God is plain to see. God is good!

A nineteenth century hymn by John Gurney goes like this

Yes God is good; in earth and sky; From ocean depths and spreading wood, Ten thousand voices seem to cry – God made us all and God is good. The sun that keeps his trackless way. And downward pours his golden flood, Night’s sparkling host, all seem to say, In accents clear that God is good. I hear it in the rushing breeze; The hills that have for ages stood, The echoing sky and roaring seas, All swell the chorus – God is good. Yes, God is good, all nature says, By God’s own hand with speech endued; And man in louder notes of praise, Should sing for joy that God is good. For all Thy gifts we bless Thee Lord; But most for Thy redeeming blood, Thy pardoning grace, Thy quickening word, These prompt our songs that God is Good.

Paul says this in Romans 11 v 22

Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.

This good God is able to bring good out of bad situations. We recall the way that Joseph was treated by His brothers – hated and rejected – and despatched to Egypt. Yet years later when the famine struck Joseph was their saviour – and Joseph testifies to God’s goodness towards them as a family –

Genesis 50 v 20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

God indeed is good.

God is the chiefest good. The old Anglo Saxon word for God is THE GOOD. God is the greatest of beings – and the best of beings.

Psalm 52 v 1 His goodness endureth continually

Psalm 119 v 68 Thou art good and doest good.

Psalm 107 v 8 Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness – and for His wonderful works to the children of men.

And we find these truths principally in the good Word of God – the Holy Scriptures. There are so many more that we could cite – but even these few that have been quoted proclaim how good God is in His character.

2. The Word of God is Good in that it proclaims the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ – who is Good. Saviour

The Lord Jesus Christ who is God is good. He is called good –

John 10 v 11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.

One man called Jesus “Good Master”. He earned a rebuke for the Lord Jesus Christ for calling him that. The rebuke was needed because the rich young ruler was not acknowledging Jesus as God – yet he called Him good – for only God is Good. This is in Matthew 19.

Some people thought Jesus to be a good man –

John 7 v 12 And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people.

After His death and resurrection the Bible tells us about Him – like this, from the mouth of one of His disciples –

Acts 10 v 38 How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.

After the Lord Jesus Christ ascended to heaven He sent His Holy Spirit – His presence into the world to live in His believing people. The nature and characteristics of the Lord Jesus Christ are manifested by His spirit in His people – and one of them according to the list in Galatians 5 is GOODNESS.

Jesus goodness is seen in His utter holiness –

Hebrews 7 v 6 For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;

There was no other good enough – says the children’s Hymn – to pay the price of sin. This perhaps is the supreme way that the Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated His goodness – in dying for sinners. He needed to be spotless to be qualified to die on behalf of others – perfectly good! And our saviour was! Hallelujah!

It is the good word of God that tells us these things about the Lord Jesus Christ.

This leads us to the next area where the word of God is good –

3. The Word of God is Good in that it proclaims the Gospel – which is Good News.

Romans 2 v 4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

None of us could know salvation unless the Lord God in His goodness had quickened us and led us towards repentance of our sins. He had to put up with us – our rebellion and our wicked transgressions of His laws. Yet he led us to repent – how good is the God we adore!

We heard of Christ through the scriptures – of His redeeming love – His saving grace – we heard it through the preaching of the Good word of God. Perhaps in the open air – perhaps in Sunday School or in a young people’s meeting – or in the proclamation of the gospel in the gathered church. The goodness of the Lord to us sinful human beings came in the gospel – which is Good News!

Romans 10 v 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

The Gospel is the Word of God and the Word of God is the Gospel. The Lord Jesus Christ is the mediator of that Gospel – and He himself is the word made flesh.

How good it is to have this good news in our hands this morning – in the Good Word of God the Bible.

4. The Word of God is Good in that it proclaims God’s standards of behaviour for us – which are Good. A Good and perfect way.

God has shown us the way to live in His word – this good word of God. His rules are clear and they are good. They lead to a peaceful and satisfying life; a life of joy and freedom to love and serve God by keeping His commandments. It is a good way to live. Paul says to Timothy in 1 Timothy 1 v 8

But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; 9 Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane,

If only we all could see how good it is to keep the law of God! It is a good and perfect way to live.

Consider this. It is estimated that over the next 30 years 200 million people across the world will die from AIDS.

Yet if everyone in the world obeyed the 7th Commandment, Aids would be eradicated from the entire world within the same time span – 3 decades.

Will people give up their immoral lifestyles of adultery, promiscuity and homosexual behaviour so that innocent people are not infected? It seems not!

Yet consider this contrast. In the Spring of 1996 the news broke that a few tragic deaths from CJD were recorded with a possible link with BSE or mad cow disease. What was the reaction? Most of the world gave up eating British beef! People will change their behaviour when they want to – because they feel threatened with death from a disease which is the result of eating something – which is not against the law of God.

But when a disease comes that IS a result of direct disobedience of the law of God – people choose to carry on in sin.

God’s law is Good – the keeping of God’s law is good and safe. Psalm 19 says about the laws of God

10 More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. 11 Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.

The word of God is good as it tells us how to live.

A Good Creator, a Good saviour; Good News in the Gospel and a good and perfect way to live – next

5. The Word of God is Good in that it proclaims the glorious future for us as believers – who is Good. Good Hope

In the next letter to the Thessalonians we find this in chapter 2 v 16

Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, 17 Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.

What a future we Christians have? A Good future in heaven – not a bad one in hell!

Rejoice in glorious hope, Jesus the judge shall come, And take His servants up to their eternal home, We soon shall hear the archangel’s voice, The trump of God shall sound rejoice!

And we will not review the many wonderful passages that speak of the glorious future of believers when the Lord Jesus Christ comes again – it is a sure and certain hope of the resurrection and heaven for all eternity.

But it is recorded here in the good word of God.

6. The Word of God is Good in that it builds up the Church.

A brief mention here of 1 Corinthians 14 v 3

But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. 4 He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.

The scripture, the good word of God is good because it builds us up! It builds us up as individuals and as a church. Regular exposition, explanation and interpretation of scripture is good for us. We need it! We depend upon it to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Do we have the desire for the good word of God my friends? Are we at the preaching and Bible Teaching meetings as often as our circumstances allow? Are we thirsty for the good word of God to be received and to be digested in our souls?

This then is “that which is good” in our text this morning. The Good word of God – the prophecy that must not be quenched and at the same time proved and tried and tested.

But how are we to hold it fast once we have got it? Hold fast that which is good?

1. We are to KNOW what is good.

We do not see it nowadays as frequently as in days gone by – the practice of checking to see whether a coin was counterfeit or not. Men used to put the coin in the mouth and bite it hard. If it was a fake coin being made of some soft metal, then a tooth mark would appear and the coin would be exposed as not genuine.

I was fascinated last year to come across a colour photocopier that was so accurate that a 10 pound note was reproduced very faithfully so that it was hard to tell the difference. It was only printed on one side so that I was not accused of seeking to deceive.

The point is that it is relatively easy to miss discerning what is genuine and what is not – if we are not alert. We can tend to become lazy and not pay close attention to what we hear. Discernment and recognition of what is good is vital for our soul’s sake.

Therefore we have to know what is good.

We have spent much time thinking about what is good.

Assuming then that we know what is good – we now have to hold it fast – to firmly accept the good – with no half measures.

Are we ready to do this my friends? Are we ready to hold this truth fast in the face of opposition? Are we ready to hold the Good word of the Lord fast in the face of those who wish to change His words with their blasphemous alterations of God’s word in scandalous so called translations?

Are we ready and willing to hold fast against the opponents of the Gospel, against those who would wish us to dumb down the message of the scriptures, the Good word of God?

Having discerned and discovered what it is -

2. Then we are to KEEP the good word of God safely.

The first way of keeping it safe is to actively and energetically pursue what is taught when we know that it comes from God – and decisively reject it when it does not.

The second way of keeping it safe is to realise that the word of God is seed that is sown into good ground. When the Lord Jesus Christ explained the well known parable of the sower he told his disciples what sort of heart the four kinds of soil represented. When he got to the good soil, well ploughed up by the law of God, he said this in Luke 8 v 15

But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.

The phrase KEEP IT in this verse is the same as our text – hold fast – CATECHEO – retain it in the mind and soul.

Will you keep the word in your soul today my friend?

Paul says to Timothy –

2 Timothy 1 v 13 Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.

And to Titus in 1 v 9

Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

The Lord Jesus Christ commended the church at Pergamos in Revelation 2 like this –

13 I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith,

The believers there knew Christ by His Name – and held fast to Him even to martyrdom.

And to Thyatira he said this –

25 But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.

This is for us too my friends – we already have so much. We have learned much of Christ – let us hold on to it?

We have learned much about His providence – let us hold on to it? We have felt his nearness and presence – let us hold on to it? We have His precious word – let us hold on to it? We have His powerful salvation in our souls – let us hold on to it? Indeed let us all here today

21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

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