by Mike Ratliff
Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. (1 Corinthians 14:29 ESV)
For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. (Matthew 24:5 ESV)
Not long ago I posted a piece titled Proclaiming Christ Crucified. I believed at that time, and I still do, that this must be the number one focus of the Church. We must preach it. We must hold it and guard it by defending it against all attacks. These attacks come from every direction. Some are direct, but most are subtle and easy to overlook if we are not vigilant and discerning. Christ and Him crucified is the gospel. It is constantly under attack for that very reason. What tells us the truth throughout about this? Isn’t it Sacred Scripture? This is why there are so many assaults on its inerrancy and completeness.
A local Christian bookstore where I live was recently bought out by Lifeway. I have visited it only once since then. Prior to this there was a corner of the store dedicated to Biblical doctrine. That is no longer there, but they do have a prominent display of the novel The Shack. The writer, William P. Young, presents a manifestation of the Trinity in this book in which God the Father is a large Afro-American woman, God the Son is a Jewish man, and the Holy Spirit is an Oriental woman. This book is a repackaging of Christianity into a New Age form. In this reforming of Christianity God is subject to man. He is not precise, but loves uncertainty. Gone is God’s sovereignty. Berit Kjos has done a very good review of this book. Here is another review at Herescope.
In both of these reviews we see Biblical discernment in action. Biblical discernment is a process whereby a teaching or doctrinal statement or ministry is tested. This testing is to determine if what is “taught” is truth or error. To do this there must exist a plumb line or basis that God gave us in order for us to wisely “test the spirits.” These consist of two tests. The first test is Christological, “Is this true of Christ and exalts His Person and Work?” The second test is Bibliological, “Does this come from the Word or the world?”
When we witness an interview on TV with a noted “Evangelical” who has a growing, dynamic ministry and he stumbles all over himself trying to avoid being precise about the true nature of Christ and why the second person of the Holy Trinity was incarnated as a man, then a red flag should go up in our hearts concerning this man and his ministry. A compromiser will profess Christ, but will shave off the offensive edges of His work on the cross. The compromiser will avoid topics such as the doctrine of Total Depravity. These are the cracks into which our enemy will insert the subtle teachings diminishing the importance that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. I know a lot of Christians do not consider doctrine important, but I desperately urge all reading this to get past that and see that unless we are discerning our enemy will deceive us.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:1-6 ESV)
Fads are something we must learn to avoid as if our lives depend on it (because they do). God’s Word does not change. God’s truth is unchanging. God is precise and uncertainty is not part of Him. However, untold numbers of professing Christians are following after every wind of doctrine because it is new and exciting. However, John tells us here not to believe every spirit, but test them. To give us these orders implies that we have standard to compare them against. We test these things by asking, “Is this true of Christ and exalts His Person and Work?” and “Does this come from the Word or the world?” If a “fad” fails either of these tests then we know that it is of the spirit of the antichrist.
What do we do then? We let our brethren know the truth. We go to our Pastors and tell them. We raise the alarm. Remember, this is all done prayerfully never vindictively. We should always begin in prayer and pray for wisdom and discernment all through it.
Some of the attacks that we must learn to recognize have to do with the mission and nature of Christ as we have already seen. There are “trends” and “fads” right now that are subtly attacking our Lord by presenting “another Jesus” that was only our example on how to get plugged into God. No my brethren! Our Lord Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man and His mission was to become our propitiation. His death on the cross atoned for the sins of all who believe. Any attempt to turn the incarnation of Christ into anything else is heretical. How do we know this? The Bible screams this to us throughout. These false teachings can only be supported from Biblical passages taken out of context or misinterpreted, but more often than not, they are based on philosophy and are geared to be man-pleasing.
My brethren, let us not run from being the discerning Christians we are all called to be. I know that to stand against the rage of the enemy can be very tough, but we must never forget that we are all going to stand before our Lord and give an account. I do not want to have to explain why a false teaching was not confronted when He made sure I came to learn of it. I know when the Lord is directing me to probe and write about these things and sometimes the backlash can be quite severe. However, are we to be man-pleasers or obedient servants of the Most High God?
Soli Deo Gloria!