The priests of ancient Egypt had the task of examining every white bull offered as a sacrifice to Apis, the bull-god of Memphis. Is any hair black? Is the tongue normal? Do the hairs on the tail grow naturally? Only when the bull was thoroughly tested would they mark it “approved” for their god.
The Greek word for this kind of testing was dokimazo (dock ih MAHDZ oh). This same word was just right to describe what the assayer did, when he tested gold or silver in a crucible to see if it was genuine (as in 1 Pet 1:7). Likewise, when a man sought public office in Athens he was examined to see if he was fit for the job (as in 1 Tim 3:10). Even the oxen of Jesus parable need to be proved, to find out if they could pull a plow (Luke 14:19).
In the testing process, however, some things were found to be worthless. Then they were called adokimos (ah DOCK ih moss). Plato spoke thus of counterfeit coins and Aristotle described the Athenian way of branding the jaw of a horse found unfit for service. In the New Testament, things “tested and found worthless” include: the reprobate mind (Rom 1:28), the castaway preacher (1 Cor 9:27), the counterfeit faith of corrupt men (2 Tim 3:8), and the rejected land that produces only thorns and briers (Heb 6:8). Lest we ourselves should ever be found “detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good deed” (Titus 1:16), let us examine ourselves and hold more tightly to the faith (2 Cor 13:5-6; 1 Cor 11:28). Then in that day when our works are tested by fire (1 Cor 3:13), we will have nothing to fear.