The Word of God is infinitely superior to all the words of man. It is truth. Man’s words are lies as Romans 3:4 says, “Let God be true but every man a liar.” The Word of God is to be valued above all things. This is illustrated by Jesus when He quotes Deuteronomy 8:3 which says, “...man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.” Job expressed it as his highest priority when he said in Job 23:12, “I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.” Respect for the supremacy of Scripture is what Paul had in mind when he cautioned the Thessalonians not to despise prophecies.
The word “despise” Gr.exoutheno carries the strong meaning, “to consider as absolutely nothing,” “to treat with contempt,” “to look down on” (MacArthur), “to reject” (UBS), or “to make light of” (Friberg). Paul states this verb as a present active imperative which means he is commanding them to stop an action that is currently taking place. You could phrase this way: “Stop counting as nothing” (Robertson) prophecies.
The word he uses for prophecies or as the NASB says “prophetic utterances” is the Greek word propheteia. It can refer either to “spoken words or written words” (MacArthur). This “suggests the public proclamation or preaching of the Word of God” (Believer’s Study Bible). It means “forth-telling rather than fore-telling” (Robertson). The verb form of propheteia is the word propheteuo. It means, “to speak or proclaim publicly” and is “Spirit-endowed skill of publicly proclaiming God’s Word” (MacArthur). Sometimes New Testament prophets “delivered brand-new revelation directly from God (Lk.2:29-32 cf. v.38; Acts 15:23-29)” or they merely “reiterated a divine proclamation that was already recorded” (Lk.3:5-6; Acts 2:17-21). So Paul is saying, “Stop counting as nothing” the “preaching of God’s Word.” “Stop making light of it” because it is supreme over man and it is to be honored above man.
I believe we hear a statement like this and believe it and shout “Amen” but when it comes right down to it we don’t honor it in that way by the way we handle it. Some days we can go without it. Other days we think we don’t need to hear a portion of it taught because we think we already know it.And in context to this passage we are quenching the Spirit’s Word. J. Vernon McGee shares a testimony regarding this: He says, “Do not look down upon Bible study as something that is beneath you. Do not be indifferent to the Word of God. We have a lot of folk who are in Christian service, but they are ignorant of the Bible and they look down on Bible study. Occasionally I hear such a person saying, "You just spend all your time in Bible study and you don't do anything. What you need to do is get out and get busy." Well, what is needed is to get busy studying the Word of God, and after you do that you will see how to get busy and really be effective.
We had a Bible study downtown in Los Angeles, averaging fifteen hundred people every Thursday night over a period of twenty-one years-what a thrill that was! What a privilege that was! But sometimes folks would make a remark like, "You need to get out and do something, not just go to sit and listen to the Bible." The interesting thing is that those people who came to sit and listen to the Bible did go out and do something. There are several hundred of those people who are out on the mission field; there are several hundred who are witnessing for God; and there are several hundred in the ministry. I notice that the boys who do not study the Word of God run down like an eight-day clock. Their ministries don't last too long” (Thru the Bible).
Paul’s command not to despise prophecies takes us in 1 Corinthians 14 where prophecies is held to be more superior than the gift of tongues. Paul says in verse 3 that “he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men,” whereas all tongues could do was edify oneself but “he who prophesies edifies the church” (v.4). Tongues without interpretation had no value – no one was edified but with the gift of prophecy all were edified. Paul stated in verse 12 and at the end of verse 26 that the purpose of the gifts were to edify the church. Consequently verses 23-25 illustrate why the church is to exercise the gift of prophecy and not despise it.
Now as we think this further there are two basic reasons why we are not to despise prophecies. The first is because of Scriptures essential character. Scripture is infallible (Ps.19:7), inerrant (Prov.30:5), complete (Prov.30:6), authoritative (Isa.1:2), sufficient (2 Tim.3:15-16), and effective (Isa.55:10-11). The second is because of Scripture’s generous benefits. Scripture is the source of truth (Tit.1:3) and is the truth (Jn.17:17), and as such it is the source of true happiness (Lk.11:27-28), victory over sin (Ps.119:9, 11), spiritual growth (2 Pet.2:1-2), guidance (Ps.19:8), and hope (Ps.119:116).
How are you responding to the Word taught or preached? Do you say, I’ve heard that before, I don’t need to hear it again? Be careful how you respond. Your response will either quench the Spirit or be one of submission to the Spirit.