In our time as born from above Christians, we strive for and really have learned (all via God's Holy Spirit and Word / no credit to us) to discern (biblically) all doctrine, ideas, people and groups we come across as to not be deceived or swept away into spiritual error ourselves. Like us once, many people we encounter need to learn this valuable skill and so we wanted to do a post about it to point out some of the basic tools to help others in their own biblical discernment. Many people don't seem to understand this important topic, why we focus on discernment or why we feel the need to expose error and lovingly correct it for solid doctrines of the faith. One reason could be that they are not "made new" themselves in Christ but are false converts. Our Rock must be eternal life in Christ via the biblical gospel. You can read or listen to that here to make sure your in Him today:
Next, we know that God's Word tells us to discern so let us look at a few scriptures that point us to always strive for His truth:
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.
1 Thessalonians 5:21-22
Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.
But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
The basic root/foundation of discernment is to know God's Word and Truth so that is the place to start once you're in Christ through faith and repentance. Without the knowledge of the Word you can't really discern much of anything your feelings, the culture and other people/groups will influence you. That will never turn out well in God's Truth or eternity will it?
2 Timothy 2
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness.
Sadly, man made denominational religion and its leaders are not focused on teaching biblical discernment as they are not discerning or even fully biblical themselves. This makes a situation where the religious blind are leading the blind into many ditches (Matthew 15:19) that our website documents that often as a warning in godly love. Discernment is not really hard once it is learned.
While our list of discernment basic points could be huge, we have complied the main ones we feel have been a mainstay for us and allowed us to test and then refute many false groups and ill teachings so they have never affected us in our walk for Christ. The list would be as follows and then we will explain them one by one for you:
1) What does God's FULL Word say about it? (does it pass the scripture test)
2) Don't ever take the bait until the complete DEEP testing of it.
3) Who are those proclaiming it and who are they untied with?
4) Is it in biblical context?
5) Did they use proper exegesis to get there?
6) Can scripture EVER contradict scripture?
7) Is it apostolic? (did the first century saints teach and live it)
8) It their timing correct?
9) What does History teach us about them or it?
10) Is there anything new under the sun?
1) What does God's FULL Word say about it? (Does it pass the scripture test?)
All true believers would agree that God's Word is our sole source of truth so this must be our number one discernment tool. While this may seem so simple and basic, trust us that it can get very in depth so please beware. Notice we said the FULL Word of God needs to be in play here. Many groups or people will have a doctrine that seemingly meets a part of God's Word but when you take in ALL of God's Word, it cannot stand. Your solid testing will always expose this. A good example may be universalists (who believe everyone will go to heaven) who use John 3:16 as their proof text. (God so loved the world He gave His only Son) If you were to read just that verse they could deceive many but if you just test it to all of God's Word it fails as a poor devilish teaching and it is not in line with the Word. So number 1 is to scour God's Word to find all relevant scriptures about that topic and test it to them. Obviously to do this you must be in the Word and know it well or you can be deceived. This is why it is biblical to be gathering with those who are more mature than you and they can disciple you in this process. Just make sure you test them along the way and please; test us as well at every turn will you?
2) Don't ever take the bait till the complete DEEP testing of it
If you hear of a new teaching you don't know or a practice some claim you must do as a Christ follower use wisdom first and don't just run into doing it. Jesus told us to be wise as serpents didn't He? (Matt 10:16) We fell into a little bit of this when we were first new in Christ as we had no one to guide us at all. So when a new concept is brought to you, please do not chase after doing it until you have taken the time to test it out completely using good discernment. Also make sure you look into each topic deeply and not at just a surface level. We have had many discussion about things (like lady head coverings) that are so very important and we find people only scratch the truth surface when they need to go deep. That is why we see the need for our site as it is is designed to do that for others and all for God's glory.
3) Who are those proclaiming it and who are they united with?
Often when we hear of a teaching, idea or a doctrine that we have not read in the Holy Word the next thing we do is to test who is teaching it and who are they united with. This is just good common sense. Often this can save you much time in determining if this a real truth teller to consider or does it need to be tossed out as error? Once again this is only as good as your ability to know who is biblical and who is not. This only comes with time and practice as you research groups and religious organizations to God's Word. If you have a more mature believer who has that knowledge and experience you can lean on, that is a real blessing indeed so take advantage of that as well.
But let's say you hear about a friend or family member that is listening to a man teach and they really like him and he has a teaching such as: you must attend services on Saturday as that is the true Holy day of God. You can and should research the Saturday Sabbath topic but you can also go and see who this man is and who does he link to? Often we find these men are linked to other VERY unbiblical and heretical groups so we can easily toss him out as a man NOT to be trusted. Paul said in Romans 16:17 to NOT associate with those who leave sound doctrine. So test not only what they are saying but who they are at their core and it will tell you a lot. We at dontperish.com do not belong to any organization and will only point you to God's Word alone.
4) Is it in biblical context?
The next good discernment tool is to check on biblical context. This just means to make sure what is being taught is in the correct contextual situation in God's Word. Many will pull out a concept from Gods Word but they miss who it was for, when it was taught and did it change. A example of this would be teaching tithing for today. While it is in God's Word it is NOT for gentile believers now as it was for the Israelite's (it was not money but was produce/food and it was to go to the Temple and priest). This is a wrong context teaching that must be rejected. (Go to our discernment site for detailed article on many of the examples we gave here: http://spiritandtruthdiscernment.blogspot.com/) So make sure in your testing you are looking for context and that it is correctly being applied in all things.
5) Did they use proper exegesis to get there?
Recently we did a post on using proper exegesis and not eisegesis in our biblical studies. Here is a link to that post that has great detail on it. http://spiritandtruthdiscernment.blogspot.com/search/label/Eisegesis%20or%20Exegesis
For this post we will just say that good exegesis means you go to God's Word to find ALL the truth and then you form your doctrine on that information. A poor Eisegesis goes into God's Word and only finds what you need to make your current doctrine work as you ignore other truth that defies your doctrine. Obviously this is like only following some of the traffic laws in your town. You may make it half way through town but eventually the police will be in your future and you will be a lawbreaker. Jesus said we live by every Word out of the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4) so make sure you're using good exegesis as most today are not doing that and that puts them in great danger.
6) Can scripture EVER contradict scripture?
This is a trick question as the answer clearly is no. God's Word never goes against itself so a good tool to discern any teaching is does any of the Word refute that or go against it directly? This is often the case we find and because people are only using part of the Word thus they can't see the full truth. If someone asks "can I attend a violent worldly NFL football game?" and they read Philippians 4 (I can do all things in Christ) the answer would be yes they can go to the game. But if the look at other verses like 1 Peter 1:15 (be holy in all your conduct) or Romans 12:2 (don't conform to the world) they will see God's Word cannot contradict itself at all and they are not to partake in the world's ways as a true believer. The point is, many teachings people will offer you are a contradiction of scripture and our job is to find where it is and expose it, in godly love. (Would you leave a dangerous deep pit open for others to fall into?) We encourage you to use many scriptures to fully root yourself in and not just ones that seem to approve of certain doctrines and ways.
7) Is it apostolic? (Did the first century saints teach and live it?)
This is one of our favorite discernment tools in realizing that Jesus Christ started His church in the first century and via His Spirit and Word it functioned correctly. Yet most teachers/denominationalism today look NOTHING like the early biblical church. So why has man been allowed to change it so much over time and pervert it into his own false system today? If the early Apostles and Jesus did not teach it or practice it we have no biblical grounds to hold to it today. One example of this may be the modern pastors role we see all over America. It is not found in the bible (one man doing all the teaching and in total control on a box/pulpit) and so it must be rejected for God's better way of many men stepping up to teach and use their gifts vs one specially trained man. (1 Corinthians 14:26) See our link to test your body here with 10 biblical points:
So this is a great test for you and for us. Why is anyone doing spiritually today what the first century church never did or taught? Please test what you do and believe to their holy teachings and you will be on the narrow road to eternal life in Christ and spirit and truth worship.
8) Is their timing correct?
This is very simple and it involves looking at the teaching/doctrine to see if it has a timing issue in God's Word. Many things that were taught once in God's Word are no longer for today. When was the last time you sacrificed an animal for your sins? You don't as Christ fulfilled that for us. What if someone told you that you must be circumcised today? You can read about it in the Old Testament yes, but a quick reading in the New Testament where Paul says (Galatians 5:2) it is now about Christ and that refutes any false teaching on the matter. A doctrine must be correctly taught in God's perfect timing and not man's, so beware will you? We are in the New Testament today and focusing on this will help you avoid discernment pitfalls.
9) What does History teach us about them or it?
Now this point you must be very careful in using it at all the times. While history can be a good source of information it is NOT God inspired and it can be faulty and even rewritten to deceive. But it can give us a window into some areas that aid in exposing false teaching as well. If history does line up with the inspired Word; we are to embrace it as the truth. A common example of this one is ladies head coverings. Not many are willing to study and be fully obedient to this teaching and often they will just say "it is a woman's hair or her husband". We can go right the 1 Corinthians 11 where Paul tells us it is indeed a "veil covering" and then using history; we can see in the past for 1900 years that the people that called themselves Christian's taught the veil as a doctrine till feminism changed it all just recently. This supports the biblical teaching of head coverings and in this case it aids in your discernment skill task at hand. A quick history study will also help you refute various religious groups/abhorrent groups that have sprung up and often have very questionable un-biblical pasts. Always be cautious if it is not found in the Word; as man's history has no authority or bearing on us who follow Jesus Christ and His Truth.
10) Is there really anything new under the sun?
We believe the 9 points given above will get you well on your way to correct biblical discernment in all things. On this last one #10 we simply desire to leave you with is the fact that you must know that there is nothing new under the sun. We are told this is the book of Ecclesiastes 1:9
The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
The point here is if someone or any group brings you some "new" spiritual teaching (or one that just sprang up in the last few hundred years or so) you can just ask yourself: is this a new truth and is there any such thing as NEW truth at all? God's Word says no there is not! So a good discernment tool is to test where was this truth was since the early New Testament church existed and was God keeping men in the dark all that time till now? The answer is no He wasn't and the truth is someone is just making up new ways and teachings (maybe satan himself) to deceive and destroy more people. Don't be led astray by this. God's Holy Word is NOT new and so no teachings or ways are new either. Cling to His Word as it is eternal and rest assured in what Gods has said and done!
"If you do not biblically discern what is theological junk; you end up living a spiritual pigsty"
We hope these points will set you on a course of more biblical discernment and that you use it in all things and often. The bible tells us to contend for the faith once delivered (Jude) and to do this you must remain fully rooted in it and not be led astray in trickery or deceit easily. The dangers are all around us are they not? We at dontperish.com are standing on His Word boldly, discerning all things fully and until someone comes by to knock us off of that stance (using His Word to correct us) here we will shall stand for God's glory! We pray that is where you want to stand today. We also pray you will remain there boldly as you grow your biblical discernment. This world is getting very dark spiritually, it lacks truth and the ONLY way we who are His will remain strong unto salvation to the end (Matthew 10) is if we are walking in His LIGHT having tested out "all the darkness and un-biblical ways" that could be in us and certainly are all around us; for His glory.
Let us know how we can assist you in anyway at all.
For God's Glory