Note: In the current series of posts, I am using a revised version of an old article, one that I had written in 2001 for the youths. In this particular post, I would like to introduce the subject of biblical discernment. In the next few posts, I will explain what discernment is not, and I will also address the various reasons for the absence of discernment in the Church today.
Christianity today is a confusing hodgepodge of differing opinions and notions. With the plethora of contradictory interpretations of Scripture, how would the believer discern truth from error? This requires spiritual discernment. Discernment can be defined as the spiritual faculty of a born-again believer to delineate scriptural truths from unbiblical beliefs and falsehood. The problem is, spiritual discernment is greatly lacking in Christendom today.
Any attempt to discriminate between truth and error is quickly met with resistance. The zeitgeist of the age demands that we accept all perspectives as constituting Truth. Militancy for the truth is often labeled as “judgmental-ism,” narrow-mindedness, or extremism. But we are commanded to “prove all things (1 Thess 5:21)” and to “reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine (2 Tim 4:2).”
No teacher of Scripture should be spared from scriptural scrutiny. Not even the Apostle Paul was excused from such biblical examination (Acts 17:10-13). Nevertheless, our ecumenical, New Evangelical brethren had insinuated that we should abandon our spiritual faculty of discernment, reject the practice of separation from false teachers, and begin dialoguing with unbelieving wolves and apostates. And all these are to be done in the name of love.
Should we, then, love the wolves more than sheep? According to some, we are to emulate our “noble”, “loving,” and “accommodating” New Evangelical brethren, who are, of course, noble, loving and accommodating according to their own standard and definition.
The Bible recounts to us that the Christians in Berea were noble because of their diligence in searching the Word of God to verify what the Apostle taught. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Luke praised the Bereans (Acts 17:11) as being “more noble” than those in Thessalonica. Here, we read that even the Apostle Paul was not spared from scriptural scrutiny. The Bible, therefore, commends the exercise of biblical discernment.
Contrariwise, New Evangelicals seem to suggest that the separation of truth from error is too critical and pharisaical. According to them, we should embrace aberrant doctrines as variant interpretations of Scripture.
The Word of God commands us to judge all doctrines and practices (1 John 4:1, Matt 7:15-16, Romans 16:17-18, 1 Thess 5:21, Isaiah 8:20, 1 Cor 2:15, 10:15, Luke 7:43), and to reprove, reject and separate from all false teachings and teachers (2 Cor 6:17, 2 Tim 3:5, 2 Thess 3:6, Eph 5:11, Romans 12:9, 2 John 10-11).
New Evangelicals, however, reject God’s mandate to separate from errors and false teachers. By dampening the spirit of discernment, contemporary Evangelicalism is becoming more and more accommodating to various falsehoods and ecumenical lies. Apparently, the spiritual faculty of discernment is urgently needed to preserve apostolic doctrines and truths for churches today.
True believers are capable of spiritual discernment
It is taught in Scripture that the Holy Spirit guides born-again Christians into all truth. “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come (John 16:13).” What a privilege it is to be taught by God Himself. The Word of God is the very instrument, which the Holy Ghost utilizes to teach believers. While we may learn much from men, we are not entirely dependent upon them. We have the divine Teacher, the Holy Ghost. We will never know the Truth until we are thus taught. No matter how much the education, the knowledge of ancient near eastern literature (e.g. Assyriology), and the amount of time spent in mastering the biblical languages, we will never know the truth unless the Holy Ghost teaches us.
The Bible says, “the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you (John 14:26).” The Comforter will bring to remembrance all the teachings of Christ our Lord. He will teach each and every born-again believer the truth concerning God’s Word. “But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him (1 John 2:27 ).”
Again, we read in 1 John 2:20, “But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things”. Good teachers are excellent sources of knowledge, but we must realize that they are not an infallible authority. Mature believers are able to discern truth from error through the diligent study of God’s Word; the Holy Ghost guides them via the Scriptures. In fact, the ability to discern the true gospel from false ones is what sets true believers apart from others.
The present generation of Christians has probably forgotten that it is their responsibility to discern right from wrong, truth from error, and prophets from false teachers. They are so reliant on others to teach them when they should be studying the Word conscientiously for themselves (2 Tim 2:15). They become gullible victims of wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15) as they are “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Eph 4:14).
The apostle wrote, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor 2:9-14).”
From 1 Cor 2:9-14, it is clear that the Holy Spirit reveals to believers the deep things of God which are hidden from the natural man. God’s Word is foolishness to the unbeliever, because he is spiritually dead (Eph 2:1-9). Indeed, the only way for one to know spiritual truths is through the tutelage of the Holy Ghost. Is it not marvelous that the Author of divine revelation is our Interpreter as well?
The Psalmist prayed, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law” (Psalm 119:18). It is, indeed, a grave error to believe that we can comprehend spiritual things with mere natural or carnal understanding. As much as a paint manufacturer is not qualified to teach Art just because he is an expert on paints, a Hebrew and Greek linguist is not qualified to teach God’s Word just because he knows the original languages. The Modernists with their rationalistic theory of higher criticism are extremely qualified according to man’s standards. Nevertheless, to put the Modernist on the pulpit is tantamount to spiritual suicide.
We need to recognize the utter insufficiency of human wisdom, and to humble ourselves to be taught by the Spirit. “Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise (1 Cor 3:18).” The philosophy and scholarship of this world should never be used as a yardstick to measure God’s Word. Conversely, we must bring “into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5).”
Much of human wisdom and rationalism have only produced spiritual retrogression and decay. The naturalistic theory of Neo-Darwinism mocks the creation account of Genesis 1 as Jewish myth and superstition. Carnal pragmatism compromises scriptural injunctions for statistics, filthy lucre and “church growth.” This compromise may even impinge upon gospel truths itself. The philosophy of feminism has placed on our pulpit preachers in skirts and petticoats. Fundamental doctrines such as biblical inerrancy are repudiated with the most peculiar exegetical gymnastics. Plain Scriptures are apparently explained away with the “original” Greek and Hebrew. Such are the fruits of better “scholarship” and “higher learning.”
To be continued