Discernment is the ability to shift through truth from error and right from wrong. Spiritual discernment doesn’t begin and end with a specific theology. And spiritual discernment should be used for everything including your own life.
(10) The brothers[b] immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. (11) Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
The Bereans are described as noble. And they were noble because:
- They studied the Law. They were students of God’s Word. We cannot know God apart from knowing His Word. If you truly love Jesus, you will want to become a student of Him.
- They received the gospel with ready minds. The Bible says we are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind.
- They tested what they heard by the Scriptures (they checked the Messianic promises of the Old Testament).
3 Reasons Why We Need Discernment
- So we will not be like little children tossed about by every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14). There is a big difference between a childlike faith and a childish faith.
- So we will be ready for the unsound doctrine of the last days (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
- So we can grow spiritually mature (Hebrews 5:11-14).
7 Common Criticisms of Discernment
- Don’t judge.
Judge not lest you be judged (Matthew 7:1-5). However, we are warned against hypocritical judging. We are warned against judging someone for doing something that we are really doing ourselves. Rather we are called to judge matters of doctrine and theology safely within Biblical parameters. It is our duty. Every single book of the New Testament talks about false teaching.
- You shouldn’t name names.
On several occasions the Apostle Paul publicly called out people by name, so there is a Biblical precedent. Now it should not be done lightly.
- You are being divisive.
However, it is false teaching that divides the Church. In Romans 16:17, Paul warns us to “watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught.” Truth does divide, but it divides the sheep from the goats. But within the Body of Christ, truth always unites. What causes division is false doctrine.
- We should just follow Gamaliel’s advice.
Gamaliel was a Pharisee. In Acts 5, Peter and the apostles were preaching the gospel but were then arrested, told not to preach the gospel, miraculously released, and then began preaching the gospel again. The Pharisees didn’t like it, but Gamaliel suggested that the apostles should be left alone because (1) if they aren’t of God, they won’t last, and (2) if they are of God, then we’d be guilty of criticizing God. It sounds like good advice, but it isn’t because false religions abound. Why do we still have Islam? Why do we still have Buddhism?
- Touch not God’s anointed!
That is Scripture out of context. The phrase is in the Bible a few times. In Psalm 105, the “anointed ones” refer to the Patriarchs and their descendants rather than today’s modern preachers. And the word “touch” refers to physical harm rather than speaking what is true. And as a side note, there are 3 New Testament passages that refer to all Christians as the anointed.
- You are not being loving.
The truth is love. If you love someone, you will tell them the truth. If you saw a blind man walking towards a cliff, you wouldn’t say nothing for fear of offending him. But don’t we do that and even far worse when we see someone in spiritual danger, and we know the truth but say nothing? It is not your responsibility how they receive it, but you are responsible to speak it lovingly.
- They might be wrong, but aren’t they sincere?
Sincerity is not the issue. Truth is the issue. The men who flew planes into the World Trade Center were sincere, but they were sincerely wrong.
Jude 3 admonishes us to earnestly contend for the faith because there are people who will creep in and distort Christianity.