In an era of great deception, Christians ought to be armed with discernment. A good place to start is to define what discernment is.
What Is Discernment?
The ability to think with discernment is synonymous with the ability to think biblically.
“Well, I can quickly tell you that the antidote to deception is discernment. In an era like ours where great deception abounds with false teachers, and false prophets, and false pastors, and false apostles, and false teaching of various kinds the solution to deception is discernment.”
Topics & Timestamps
1:05 – Robert Bowman’s definition
1:45 – Tim Challies’ definition
2:03 – John MacArthur’s definition
2:43 – Charles Spurgeon’s definition
3:27 – The Bible on discernment
3:56 – Jesus on discernment
4:18 – Paul’s call to the Ephesian elders
4:52 – False teachers are not obvious
Top Quotes: What Is Discernment?
“The ability to think with discernment is synonymous with the ability to think biblically.”
“The whole Bible and especially the New Testament points out the need and the urgency of practicing discernment in light of the deception that surrounds us.”
“1 John 4 :1, “Do not believe every spirit but test them.” The ability to test, to watch out, to be diligent, to be on guard is what the Bible calls discernment.”
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Greetings to you my name is Rodgers Atwebembeire from the Africa Centre For Apologetics Research. Our mission is to equip God’s people for discernment, for the defence of the faith and for cult evangelism.
Now you notice one of the key things is discernment in our mission statement. But what is discernment really? And why is it very important especially for believers like you and me today?
The antidote to deception is discernment
Well, I can quickly tell you that the antidote to deception is discernment. In an era like ours where great deception abounds with false teachers, and false prophets, and false pastors, and false apostles, and false teaching of various kinds the solution to deception is discernment. And that is why it is important for us to understand what discernment is, what the Bible says about it and why you and I need it.
Robert Bowman’s definition
So, by means of definition what is discernment? One cult researcher Robert Bowman has written a book entitled ‘Orthodox and Heresy’ and he defines discernment as a means to identify the true nature of a spirit, or doctrine, practice, or a group to distinguish between truth and the error. Extreme error from slight error, the divine from the human, and sometimes the demonic. Discernment really is the skill of understanding and applying God’s word with the purpose of separating truth from error, separating right from wrong.
Tim Challies’ definition
And this is from Tim Challies another author who has written on discernment – ‘The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment.’ He says that it relates both to the knowledge one has about God and one’s way of behaviour and life as modelled by what one knows about God.
John MacArthur’s definition
John MacArthur also a very famous pastor has also commented saying that, “Discernment is the process of making careful distinctions in our thinking about truth.” In other words, the ability to think with discernment is synonymous with the ability to think biblically. That discernment has to do with what we believe and why we believe what we believe. It is not just a question of saying, ‘I am a Christian. But why are you a Christian? Could you have been something else? And now that you are a Christian, so what and how does that translate in your day-to-day life?
Charles Spurgeon’s definition
But Charles Spurgeon has even taken it much further by saying that discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between what is right and what is wrong. That the difference between what is right and almost right is what usually discernment is about. You see, right and wrong are obvious. Black and white are very clear for everyone to notice. But what about the grey areas that are neither white nor black – that’s what Charles Spurgeon is saying. That in most cases false teaching does not come to us obviously – it comes looking like, almost like, but really not. And that’s why discernment becomes extremely important.
The Bible on discernment
The whole Bible and especially the New Testament points out the need and the urgency of practicing discernment in light of the deception that surrounds us. There are so many Bible passages that not only warn us about the reality and danger of false teachings but call believers to practice discernment. It’s like Jesus and the Apostles are saying that the medicine for deception is for believers to practice biblical discernment.
You will see for instance in Matthew 7 Jesus warns and says watch out for false prophets. In 1 John 4 – John says, “Do not believe every spirit but test them.” The ability to test is what we call discernment. That ability to watch out, to be diligent, to be on guard is what the Bible calls discernment.
In Acts 20, in Paul’s final address to the Ephesian elders, not only does he remind them of the gospel he preached, and the fact that savage wolves are coming to divide the flock, and that even men within their own congregation will be deceivers and draw men away from the truth, but he says, “Be on guard, stand on guard, watch out!”
False teachers are not obvious
So, there is no doubt whatsoever that discernment is a necessary discipline especially in the face of deception today. False teachers are not going to make it easy for us. They will not knock on our doors and tell us that they have formed a new cultic group that is loving but really can end us in hell and then they invite us in. A false teacher is not going to say, “Hey friends! Would you come and we sacrifice some chickens or goats to the devil?” They will not be that obvious. They come secretly. They try to blend in. They tiptoe. They take advantage of the unsuspecting.
But those with discernment will not only be able to identify error but they will also be able to expose it. And that’s what discernment really is about. Believers grounded in truth or discipled. Believers able to distinguish, to differentiate between what is right and what almost looks right but actually is not. And discerning discipled believers who are able and, in a position, to defend their faith from deception that always almost looks like, but actually is not. And that’s what the biblical discernment is really about.