1 Thessalonians 5:20
Despise not prophesyings.
Prophesying in the ordinary sense means the foretelling of future events. Here the term denotes exposition of the Scriptures.
1. Because some who do not despise the office itself may be disposed to cast contempt on particular ministers, Paul forbids a Contempt of prophesyings in general, lest by particular instances of neglect the office itself should be brought into disrepute. Ministers have peculiar gifts. One is learned, another eloquent, another argumentative, etc., but there is no faithful minister, whatever his gifts, from whom we may not reap some advantage. Those who hear with prejudice will never hear with profit, let the preacher be who he may.
2. But the apostle forbids us to despise prophesyings, intimating that an undervaluing of the one will lead to a contempt of the other. For our own sakes we are to receive the message, for His sake who sent him the messenger. Lydia's heart was open to the one, and her house to the other.
I. THE CAUTION. Ministers are required to magnify their office, and to so discharge their duties as to preserve it from contempt (1 Corinthians 14:39). The exhortation, however, applies more particularly to hearers. Whatever be our attainments there is always room for improvement. Those despise prophesyings who —
1. Refuse attendance upon a preached gospel. Some are so openly profane as to make the Sabbath a day of worldly business or indulgence. Others pretend that they can profit more by prayer and meditation at home. Those who in former times forsook the assembling of themselves together, as the manner of some now is, did so from fear. But whatever the cause, such souls famish and are accessory to their own destruction. "Woe is me," says Paul, "if I preach not the gospel"; and woe is the man who refuses to hear it (Proverbs 28:9; 1 Corinthians 9:16).
2. Attend the gospel but with improper disposition. Part of their time is spent in drowsiness or trifling inattention, observing their neighbours instead of the preacher. Hence when they come home they can tell more of what passed in the seats than in the pulpit. Others are not contented with plain truths; wholesome truths must be garnished to their taste. Paul represents such as having "itching ears"; and though they "heap to themselves teachers" running from one church to another, they get but little good.
3. Are apparently serious in their attendance on the Word, but who neither receive it in love, mix it with faith, nor reduce it to practice (Ezekiel 33:31, 32). The gospel is also despised when it is attended to for unworthy purposes: to hide some iniquity, to silence conscience, to raise our reputation, or promote our worldly interest (2 Peter 2:1, 2).
II. THE REASONS.
1. The weakness or wickedness of those who dispense the Word of God.
2. Familiarity on the part of the hearer. Scarcity creates a longing, but plenty breeds contempt. The Word of God is "precious" when it is scarce.
3. Insensibility and unbelief. Sinners are at ease in their sins and love to be so.
4. Profaneness and desperate wickedness. The Word reproves such, and they cannot bear it. Knowledge aggravates sin and raises a tempest in the soul.
III. THE SIN AND DANGER. None but fools despise wisdom, and to despise the wisdom that cometh from above is still more dangerous presumption (Proverbs 1:7; Jeremiah 11:10, 11). Those who despise prophesyings —
1. Despise what God has honoured and will continue to honour (Isaiah 55:10, 11).
2. Are guilty of despising the Divine authority (1 Thessalonians 4:8).
3. Injure their own souls (Proverbs 8:34-36).
4. Will bring down contempt at length upon their own heads (Psalm 50:22; Hebrews 12:25).
(B. Beddome, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Despise not prophesyings.