The word ‘test’ is used three times in the New Testament, once in the New Testament alone (in the opening paragraph of the third chapter of Hebrews 11:1-2) and once in Romans 5:12. The meaning of the word as applied to testing is clear. The way by which something is tested or assessed; a certain method or procedure for testing.
The first person is the person who is being tested or the subject of testing. In the case of Paul and Silas they are God and Jesus. In the other person the subject is God, the test is God. The subject’s identity is never revealed, but the person being tested has knowledge of it. It is the consciousness of sin that impels one to the place of testing.
Secondly, the object of the test is known. In the case of theses Paul and Silas the object of the test is themselves; but it is God that are being tested here. When a moral judgment is involved this knowledge belongs to the subject of the judgment.
Thirdly, the means of the test is not known. When we say that Paul was tested by his knowledge of Christ, we imply that there was some external test. In this sense we presuppose that knowledge and faith are the means of the test. This is a mistake because faith and knowledge belong to the person in question and not to the person being tested.
Fourthly, the method of the test is not known. No external test can be known. Only the inner test of the will to do what is right can be known. God willed that Peter should be a Jew, that Jesus should be a Jew, and that John the Baptist should be a Jew. This does not mean that there was no external test to make these persons become Jews. But, just as the will to do what is right is the test and the grace given by God to save lives, so is the internal test of our obedience to our Creator.
These are the four ways in which we test a person. Each has its peculiarities and the degree to which it bears the relation to each will depend upon the person’s nature. For instance, knowledge is the only way to know the truth. If you are ignorant of what is good and evil and of the true nature of things, your search for the good and the true is only temporary. But if you are conscious of the truth and the reality of things, your search is for the good and the true permanent. A Christian may well be conscious that he is a sinner, yet he is still a son of God and His love for mankind is not wavering.