“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” What does it mean? Is there any substance to the idea that truth which is initially proven can be reproven? What if “reproven truth” differs from original truth?
No Bible teaching is more certain than the fact that to understand God’s Truth one must be called of God! Our Lord said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him. . .” (John 6:44). While it is true those who sincerely seek God may find Him, this, too, is contingent upon God’s mercy and upon His purpose for each individual (Matthew 7:7, Romans 11:7). Whether one is ever called and chosen —depends on God (Acts 2:38–39).
Paul said, “. . .we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Therefore, the knowledge of God’s Truth comes by divine revelation. Truth does not come by “scholarship,” superior human intelligence, or “research.” These may aid in Bible understanding—but without the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit leading the individual to perceive spiritual concepts, they are of little value. Many brilliant theologians and philosophers today are as much in ignorance of the real meaning of God’s Word as are those who have never been exposed to it. Bible truth is revealed! It comes only by divine revelation!
Jesus said, “. . . many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14). Those who are chosen are chosen “through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (II Thess. 2:13). God’s Spirit, working on their minds and setting them apart, leads them to perceive and believe what they hear or read. They are called to a knowledge of the truth which they believe and practice (II Thess. 2:14).
Those called understand and apply the rules of Bible study. They know all Scripture is inspired (II Tim. 3:16). They know the Bible does not contradict (John 10:35). They know all Scripture on a given subject must be put together in order to fully understand doctrine (Isa. 28:9–10). They realize no scripture of the Bible is of any private interpretation (II Pet. 1:20). Their minds are fully capable of proving what the Bible says. But they know this is only a part of proving God’s Truth.
Truth Is Absolute
Divine truth is absolute. It does not change. The same truth applies to all generations. The standard never alters. The truth revealed yesterday is the same truth today. There is no progressive revelation in the sense that “new insight” invalidates original truth. “New insight” adds to and complements that which precedes it (II Pet. 3:18—”grow” is auxano, meaning “increase or add thereto”).
Pastor Russell wrote:
“A new view of truth never can contradict a former truth. “New light” never extinguishes older “light,” but adds to it. If you were lighting up a building containing seven gas jets you would not extinguish one every time you lighted another, but would add one light to another and they would be in harmony and thus give increase of light: So is it with the light of truth; the true increase is by adding to, not by substituting one for another.”
“New insight” never contradicts or disagrees with original truth. To say truth is subject to change is to say there is no such thing as absolute truth. If this is true, God’s Word is meaningless. Those who advocate doctrinal changes on the basis of “new insight” and “scholarship” have repudiated truth persay. If truth can be altered, it was never truth in the first place! Original, revealed truth cannot be altered.
Those who call themselves Christians — while advocating doctrinal changes — are in effect admitting they were never Christian, because the basis of true Christian doctrine is divine revelation (I Cor. 2:10)! Jesus said that revelation could never change (Mark 13:31)!
Truth Absolute to Every Individual
Furthermore, divine revelation is absolute to every individual. The idea that what is truth is truth for that individual only, is not sustained in Scripture. The Bible says there is one faith and one faith only (Eph. 4:5)! There is no allowance for each individual to decide for himself what truth is. Man is going to be judged on the basis of God’s Word, not on the basis of what he thinks God’s Word is (John 12:48). Truth, therefore, is not individualistic truth. It is absolute truth which applies the same way to each individual.
Since divine truth is spiritual, it can come only from a spiritual source. That spiritual source is God’s Spirit. Jesus said, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Spiritual truth, as well as full spiritual understanding, is divinely revealed (I Cor. 2:10). It cannot be ascertained through physical means! It is only by the Spirit of God that the hidden things of God are made known (I Cor. 2:11). The natural man cannot receive them (I Cor. 2:14). Therefore, proving God’s Truth begins with the understanding that through God’s Spirit one can understand truth. But this comprehension is only the initial step.
Proving Means Practicing
After the individual Christian is called, recognizes the call, accepts the knowledge revealed to him and is baptized, he must put to practice that truth. He must walk worthy of his calling (I Thess. 2:12). While the truth generally comes as a result of hearing others preach God’s Word, it is plain to the true Christian that what he heard was indeed the Word of God (I Thess. 2:13, II Thess. 2:13–14, John 10:4). While the same message applies to everyone, the true Christian knows what is said has been revealed to him specifically. When Peter said, “. . . Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ. . .” (Acts 2:38), he was saying that spiritual truth must be applied individually! He did not say spiritual truth applies to each individual as he interprets it. Rather, truth applies to each individual as God specifically reveals it. Thus, each individual —called of God—must live up to what is revealed to him!
Levels of Truth
Revealed truth, therefore, does not differ from one individual to another in the sense of variety, but only in the sense of quantity. To each individual, then, truth is not a matter of diversity but rather of measure (Rom. 12:3). The more knowledge and understanding one has, the greater the responsibility placed upon him (Luke 12:47–48). At any given moment of time, each individual must live up to the truth revealed to him. Thus, when referring to spiritual truth in its application to individuals, we are referring to levels of truth. We are never talking about variations of truth. Truth does not vary from individual to individual, but the level of understanding each person has at a given moment of time does! Spiritual babes obviously cannot comprehend and apply what older, mature Christians can (I Cor. 3:1). But they must grow in knowledge and understanding until they, as mature Christians, reach a level acceptable to God (II Pet. 3:18, Eph. 4:12–15).
Thus, spiritual growth is the acceptance and practice of new revelation! Paul said, in Philippians 3:15, that God continually reveals what needs to be known to help His true children grow spiritually. But this new revelation never contradicts previous revelation! If new revelation contradicts previous revelation, then one or the other is incorrect. Either it is the old, or it is the new. If it is the old, then truth was not revealed initially. If it is the “new” that is incorrect, then what is called “new revelation” is obviously error. In order to be true revelation, “new light” cannot contradict that which was previously revealed. New revelation will augment or add to previous truth, but will never oppose it. One cannot change a belief and claim “new insight” as justification—unless it can be proven there was no divine revelation initially. Either the old is wrong, or the new is wrong. Both cannot be divinely revealed, nor can both be correct, there is no such thing as “old light”, for God does not reveal error. God reveals only truth! Those who believe doctrinal changes can be justified on the basis of “new revelation” should ask themselves if what they previously believed was revelation also.
Character Proves Truth
Paul wrote in I Thessalonians 5:21, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” How is it possible to prove anything without first trying it out? Common sense tells us the definition of “prove” demands a test! The Greek dokimazo used in I Thessalonians 5:21, means “to put to the test, to prove by testing.” Suppose you purchase an item which carries a guarantee. The product is warranted to perform a certain service. How does one tell if the item will perform according to promise? Obviously, by trying it out!
It is one thing to read the manufacturer’s promise of what the product is supposed to do, as opposed to testing the product to see what it will do. One can never know what a product will do until he tests it.
Why should the Truth of God be any different?
The Greek dokimazo and its cognates, often translated “prove” or “proof” in the King James Version, demonstrate clearly the meaning of “prove”—”to put to the test.” It is even translated as “experiment” in II Corinthians 9:13. It means to prove a matter by putting it to the test! Dokimee is translated “experience” in Romans 5:4.
Proving God’s Truth means putting it to practice in one’s life. “Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord” (Eph. 5:10) can be accomplished only by obeying God’s Word and observing the results in one’s life. This requires a change of mind and attitude which, in turn, leads to a willingness to perform spiritual service—rather than conforming to the desires of this fleshly life (Rom. 12:1–2).
It is only then that one is able to “prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Make no mistake about it—one is not righteous unless he practices righteousness (I John 3:7). Likewise, one has not proven God’s Truth until he practices it. When he practices God’s Truth until it becomes habit, he has built character. Character cannot be built without two considerations. First, one must be able to distinguish right from wrong; and second, one must always choose the right in opposition to the wrong.
When God reveals spiritual truth to the individual, the first step is underway in the process of character building. But without the second necessary step, there can be no character. One can agree with what is right, but that does not build character. And it does not prove the truth. One must put the revealed Truth of God to practice in one’s life before any character can be built, and before truth is absolutely proven. The day is coming when every man’s work will be made manifest (I Cor. 3:12–15). It is then that all will know whether those who professed Consecration really believed it. Those who believed and proved it put it to practice in their lives!
Trials Enforce Truth
God allows trials or tests to befall His children. The reasons should be quite clear. So valuable are trials that James wrote, “. . . count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience” (Jas. 1:2–3). He then added, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive a crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him” (v. 12). Peter wrote, “. . . 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 honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 1:6–7). These apostles knew the purpose of trials. They knew trials enforce and build character in the life of the overcomer. They knew tribulation and trials were not intended to destroy character, but to help in the character-building process. But they also knew this could be accomplished only as each individual was able to act as a free moral agent. This is why, in the early Church, there was not the kind of enforced regulation that began to be practiced in more recent years.
For example: after the death of the Pastor in 1916, those who readily accepted the doctrinal changes—which were different from what they first believed—had never exercised true free moral agency in the character-building process. They did not prove what the Bible said. They did not prove where the Lord’s people were. But they did not prove God’s Truth by living according to their own personal convictions. They allowed the Organization to regulate their lives, actions, and convictions to the point where they were willing to accept anything they were told! Proving God’s Truth—by the kind of personal participation required to build character—did not take place in the lives of most of the brethren.
Many of those who left the organization, left because they were disillusioned with the leadership. Many among them were not convicted of God’s Truth, so they readily accepted the doctrinal changes advocated by the various leaders of the schisms. Those who remained in the organization after the doctrinal changes merely accepted what was taught—because they had been led to believe the Organization was now “God’s chosen vessel”, “Jehovah’s visible organization” on earth. And those who left AFTER the doctrinal changes, did so with much of that baggage in hand. In neither case was the necessary conviction present to hold fast to the Truth.
Many were led to believe the Organization as a “divine channel” had the right to “change doctrine” and that these changes were “new light.” But what these brethren were not told was that these doctrinal changes were brought about to sustain the lifestyle of some in the leadership, who wanted to continue unscriptural practices. It never occurred to many at the time that the acceptance of these changes was the rejection of what had been Truth for some forty years!
Thus, the doctrinal confusion we witness today among the Lord’s people—a trial necessary to test His people—became the stumbling block for thousands who had never developed the necessary character to endure trials (Deut. 13:3). Had God’s people exercised free moral agency on their own—without the kind of pressure forced on them by the Organization—they would have been able to withstand the assault of Satan. But they didn’t. This trial—the enforcement of character and conviction—became the means for thousands to stumble and to reject divine revelation!
Must Prove Self in Relation to Standard
“Proving the truth” means not only coming to understand doctrine as revealed by the Holy Spirit, but also putting this truth to practice in one’s life. Thus, the basis for conviction is the unchanging standard of God’s revealed Word! “Proving the truth” means proving self in relation to that standard. “Proving the truth” never means changing, or attempting to change, that standard! It is not our responsibility to challenge the truthfulness of God’s Truth. It is not possible to legitimately change revealed doctrine. Original truth cannot be “reproven” when doctrine is being changed. If one has the conviction and faith to believe that God did reveal truth, then further study substantiates it. If one does not believe truth is divinely revealed or never had the conviction to develop living faith in relationship to it, then “reproven truth” will indeed differ from original truth. But it will not be legitimate! It may be called “truth,” and arguments may be advanced to make it seem plausible—but it will not be truth!
Doctrinal changes cannot be the result of divine revelation if truth is revealed initially. For example, If the doctrinal changes made by Paul S.L. Johnson, the DAWN and other brethren are legitimate, then God never revealed truth in the first place! But God did reveal truth. It is impossible for Him to lie (Titus 1:2). Therefore, He revealed truth! If we assume God left the church in error during the forty years of Pastor Russell’s ministry, then Jesus was derelict and professing Christians of the world were right all along! But Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would guide His followers into all truth (John 16:13). If Jesus did not keep His promise, then we have no Savior! The blessings and growth the Lord’s people enjoyed during the Pastor’s ministry did not diminish until doctrinal changes were made. God does not make mistakes! It is human beings who make mistakes—and the biggest mistake of our time period is the attempt to change revealed doctrine under the guise of “new insight.”
“Proving the truth” means living it! As a result, two things are accomplished: (1) The self is proved in relationship to the unchanging standard of God, and the results are clearly seen in the individual’s life; (2) one proves whether he is called or not. Paul said those who are reprobates are those who have failed to exercise the Spirit of God in their lives (II Cor. 13:5). They did not live up to their calling.
As long as there was doctrinal agreement among the brethren, the majority did not forsake the doctrine. But the moment a choice which seemed legitimate was made available, thousands could find no reason for remaining loyal to original truth.
The question: Were they ever convicted in the first place?
Had they proven themselves in relation to the unchanging standard of God, and had they really seen the results of God’s Way in their lives, they would not have been so eager to change. Those who jumped on the “bandwagon of doctrinal changes” have lost for the most part, the purpose and meaning of life. Ecclesia meetings and conventions have become largely a social involvement, to which personal conviction and faith no longer have significance. Most brethren would now readily accept any new doctrinal change, no matter how bizarre for the sake of unity. Those who think they wouldn’t change have no idea how badly damaged their character and convictions really are!
How Can You Know?
Can the Consecrated really know if they are following God’s Truth and living according to it?
Let Jesus give 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). This text states those who are willing to obey God will have no trouble understanding the true doctrine! Here again, we see the necessity to put God’s Truth to practice in one’s life in order to confirm its meaning. Jesus said one can know the truth by living it!
But knowing is not merely thinking one knows. Those who agree with true doctrine but do not put it to practice do not really know the truth. They think they do, but during a time of trial they would soon yield to temptation. One who thinks he believes a doctrine—but does not practice it—does not really believe it. For those who really believe a doctrine practice it.
In the acquisition of knowledge there are those who drink in knowledge and there are those who gargle it. Those who agree with doctrine intellectually—but do not put it to practice—are the garglers. They do not really take the truth into their lives. They play with it for a time, then eventually discard it. They do not really believe it and they are not really convinced. They do not know the truth! It is by experience only that one can truly know. It is one thing to know by instruction—and another to know by experience. When God said of Adam and Eve, “. . . Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil. . .” (Gen. 3:22), He was referring to man’s experience in sin. Adam and Eve had now learned by experience, what sin was—and the results were disastrous. Knowing is knowing by experience. Those who experience God’s Truth—by living it—are the ones who really know it. There is no other way!
Faith in God’s Truth
A manifestation of God’s spirit is faith (Gal. 5:22). Paul said that without faith it is impossible to please God. Whoever comes to God must believe in His existence, as well as in His Word (Heb. 11:6). God’s Word is the Bible. When one is called and his mind is opened to Bible truth, he must not only believe the Bible to be God’s Word—he must also believe the truth revealed to him from the Bible. And Christ is that Word personified. We are Christians when that same Word lives in us. The Christian must have faith in the revelation of doctrine. The Christian who does not manifest faith in the revealed doctrine of God is like a wave tossed on the sea. He does not know what to believe! Spiritual stability means believing and adhering to the true doctrine (Eph. 4:14). In order to have any basis for his faith, one must have faith to believe God reveals true doctrine.
The Christian must have faith in the faith!
There is only one faith (Eph. 4:5). Unless the Christian comes to know that faith—believes and practices it because he knows it is the revealed truth—he has no real spiritual foundation! The exercise of faith in the Christian life, means believing and putting to practice that doctrine originally proven to be God’s Truth. The Christian must have confidence in the truth. He must not allow anyone to subvert the faith and conviction he has in that truth. He must maintain confidence and belief in the divine revelation! If he believes the Bible to mean what it says (and it says God reveals truth by divine revelation), the true Christian will not be swayed by those who would have him believe otherwise. Faith in the faith is a manifestation of God’s Spirit and is a proof of true Christianity!
Truth Revealed Once Only!
In conjunction with divine revelation is the realization that truth is revealed only once! The Truth of God, which encompasses the entire message of salvation, applies once only to each called and chosen son of God. After that, it is the responsibility of each “called out” Christian to hold fast to it. Jesus Christ was not sacrificed repeatedly to allow those who fall away to return again and again. Jesus Christ was sacrificed one time—and one time only (Rom. 6:10, Heb. 7:27; 9:26–27; 10:10; I Pet. 3:18). Therefore, His shed blood applies to each Christian one time only! One cannot accept that shed blood, repent, live God’s Way, and then later repudiate it with the idea he can return to God any time he likes.
The truth is: Once one turns from God’s Way and the truth revealed through divine revelation, it is impossible to return! This is what Paul said in Hebrews 6:4–6. Paul said it was impossible for those who fall away to come to repentance again. This is because the shed blood of Christ applies only once to each individual, and the divine revelation of this truth comes once only! The unpardonable sin is unpardonable because the individual who rejects divine revelation—revelation which leads to a knowledge of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ—is never given revelation again!
When Jude admonished the brethren to contend for the faith once delivered, he knew it was the faith delivered one time only. It would not be revealed again (Jude 3)! God’s Truth cannot be treated lightly! Those who have accepted doctrinal changes are tampering with the very Truth of God! They are on dangerous ground! Of course, many do not know what they are doing. They assumed they have the prerogative to change doctrine. This is true only if that doctrine was not revealed! But if, indeed, that doctrine was revealed—then what has transpired with regard to doctrinal changes, has been the rejection of that revelation! Paul said this is a dangerous step—on the way to the unpardonable sin (Heb. 6:4)!
Requirements in Proving
In relation to “proving the truth,” there are certain requirements. We prove the truth by living according to the divine standard of God, given by revelation. This is not accomplished by agreeing only. This is accomplished by putting it to practice. It is only by living the Christian experience that one can know the results of God’s Way of life. This is the only way each called and chosen servant of God can truly know! This is the only way the Christian can prove the truth!
Understanding the Bible is one thing, but putting it to practice is another matter entirely. Character cannot be built on the basis of knowledge alone. Character can be built only by being forced to make a choice. The man who refuses to act on divine truth has already made a choice. Indifference is a negative response! Indifference accomplishes nothing. But understanding God’s Truth, and putting it to practice in one’s life, does. It is one of the requirements of proving the truth!
The truly consecrated will be living up to that truth to the best of their abilities. They will not be perfect, but they will not attempt to change doctrine in order to sustain questionable lifestyles. They know revealed doctrine does not change and they know they must live up to it.
“Proving the truth” never means to question, to challenge, or to change revealed doctrine. Those who feel they had a right to do so are saying “That Servant” never had the truth initially. We prove it by living it! We prove its value in our lives by the benefits derived. Without putting it to practice there is no way to evaluate the results. But obedience to the truth must be done by a willing desire on the part of each Christian. Obedience is of little value if done through fear, peer pressure, the desire to belong, or by being “carried away” by the charisma of an individual. For the most part those who accepted doctrinal changes proved—by their willingness to change—they did not have the proof of God’s Truth in their lives!
“Proving the truth” never means that you, as an individual, can decide its validity. God has already decided that! The only prerogative you have is to decide whether or not you will obey. If God gave you the right to decide its validity you would be superior to God! We know better than that. Yet, when doctrinal changes were foisted upon the brethren under the guise of “new light,” a committee did indeed, set itself above God. God’s Spirit—as a source of inspiration to lead us to truth, as well as a source of power by which to overcome—was rejected. The doctrinal changes brought about by the Organization were an abandonment of the high standard of righteousness which Christ said Christians must eventually attain.
Truth is a revelation—given only to those called of God. Initial receipt of that truth
is a miracle in itself.
What about the necessity of proving that way? Most people have falsely assumed Acts 17:11 requires them to determine—prove—the veracity of God’s Word. Such a concept is totally unscriptural. Acts 17:11 states, “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” Were the Bereans “checking out” the veracity of God? Obviously not! Let us carefully note. They “received the word with all readiness of mind. . . .” How does one receive the truth?
Compare Acts 8:14, I Thessalonians 1:6, I Thessalonians 2:13, and II Thessalonians 2:10. In Acts 8:14, the apostles in Jerusalem learned that Samaria had received the Word of God. How did they receive it? Carefully read the story of that miracle, in verses 1–12.
Through the inspired preaching of Philip, those of that geographic area were made recipients of God’s great blessing to man. They received it because God gave it. In I Thessalonians 1:6, the Thessalonians became followers of the apostles and of Christ because they received the Word! How? Through the Holy Spirit. Notice the last part of the verse. In I Thessalonians 2:13, Paul makes this point clear. We read,”For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.” Note very carefully, they did not receive it as the word of men—but as the very Word of God. Now, let us be honest! If one receives the Word of God, will he feel compelled to check the veracity of it? Not at all. That is how we would treat the word of men. But in the case of the Thessalonians, they received it not as the word of men.
Continuing our comparison, let us consider the last text listed above. II Thessalonians 2:10 states, “. . . with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth. . .” What is the problem encountered by those who have lost their way? They did not receive the love of the truth! What truth? The one and only truth which those called of God receive by revelation. That truth accepted by faith—the faith once delivered.
Note again Acts 17:11. The Bereans received the Word. Did they not search the Scriptures to see if those things heard were so? Indeed! But what does it mean? The word “searched” is the Greek word anakrino. This same word is used three times in I Corinthians 2:14–15. Paul was inspired to write: “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.” The order of spiritual understanding is obvious. The natural man cannot receive God’s Truth. He cannot understand spiritual things. Therefore, God must first call. Then, after the call the truth is given. Once it is given the spiritually-oriented man understands.
From the above principles it is very easy to understand Acts 17:11. The called of God residing in Berea received the Word of God. It was accepted. They were now capable of understanding the recorded Word—the Bible. This process cannot be reversed. That is, natural man with a carnal mind cannot choose to read God’s Word, understand it and then—from this basis of understanding—evaluate (prove) God. To accept such an idea simply implies that physical man can understand God’s Word and is capable of evaluating God.
Therefore the conclusion of the matter is this: Let us shore up our faith in that way initially revealed. To fail this responsibility is to reject the Spirit—the very means by which the truth was sent to us and we received it.
The Christian Continues to Prove
The process of “proving” God’s Truth must continue throughout life. The converted servant of God must live God’s Way continually. He must constantly evaluate himself in the light of the true doctrine—checking himself daily (II Cor. 13:5, I Thess. 5:21). This is an individual matter between each Christian and his Creator (Gal. 6:4). The Christian must constantly, through study, drink in of God’s Word (II Tim. 2:15). And he must pray regularly (I Thess. 5:17).
This process must continue until the servant of God dies, or until the return of Jesus Christ—whichever occurs first. Those who die in Christ look forward to the resurrection. What a glory awaits them! This is because they accepted the Truth of God when it was revealed to them and they held fast for the remainder of their lives. It is this process—and this process only—which builds character. Any other way is an attempt to “enter in through the back door,” which Jesus said was impossible (John 10:1). It is those who recognize the Truth of God revealed to them—and who continue to practice it the remainder of their lives—who really prove the truth!