The Acid Test

Ann Spangler
Ann Spangler
2015 19 May

Suppose you inherited a necklace from your great-aunt. You’ve admired it all your life, but you’re uncertain of its value. It looks like gold, but you’re not sure. How can you tell if you’ve got the real thing? You could try this simple test—placing a drop of nitric acid on it. If the acid starts bubbling or fizzing when it hits the surface, too bad, because it’s not gold. If the metal is unaffected, then it’s the real deal. This little procedure is known as the “acid test.”

Let’s try another acid test. This time it’s about you, not a piece of jewelry. But don’t worry—we’re not going to use nitric acid on you. We aren’t going to test for gold either, but for the precious presence of the Holy Spirit in your life.

Paul Tripp points out that what we say and how we say it tell a great deal about what’s controlling us. “Words are spoken,” he says, “that should never have been uttered. They are spoken at the wrong time, in the wrong place, or with emotions that are raging out of control. Words are spoken when silence would have been a more godly, loving choice. They are more driven by personal desire and demand than the purposes of God or the needs of others.”(1)

We know that self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit. It’s an indicator of how much we are being controlled by the Holy Spirit. So out-of-control speech problems are a kind of acid test that reveals who or what is driving us. As Tripp points out, “If my words don’t flow out of a heart that rests in his [the Holy Spirit’s] control, then they come out of a heart that seeks control.”(2) It’s as simple as that.

When it comes to the way we speak, not one of us is perfect. But all of us are being perfected, assuming, of course, that we are daily submitting our lives to Christ. Join me today in praying for one of the most forgotten fruits of the Holy Spirit—the quality of self-control. 

1. Paul Tripp, War of Words (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2000), 230.

2. Ibid., 71.

(Image courtesy of greschoj at