by Mike Ratliff
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:4-16 ESV)
Biblical discernment is not legalism. It is not being a know-it-all who just rains on everyone’s parade, taking all the fun away from those exploring new ways of “experiencing God” or “expanding their faith.” No, it isn’t that at all. First and foremost it is done from the context of maintaining unity within one body and one Spirit through speaking of truth in love so that all truly in Christ will grow up in every way into Him who is their head. Those who exercise this discernment from this motive may at times appear to be focusing on the shortcomings of certain “Christian leaders” to the chagrin of those who follow them. Well, the reason we do that can be quite exasperating on our part I assure you. Why? Those who are deceived by these deceivers DO NOT LISTEN.
I read a comment thread the other day before I went on my short sabbatical in which people were discussing Rick Warren’s invitation to speak at John Piper’s conference this fall. Within the first 10 or so comments the reasons why he should never have been considered were plainly laid out by several of the commenters. It was in plain black and white. However, the more comments I read, the more I kept encountering those who obviously either refused to read those very well documented reasons or they either had no idea what real apostasy is or did not care. One kept saying that no one could come up with real reasons why Rick Warren should be disinvited when I had just read dozens of them in the same comment stream. I was amazed as I witnessed solid, discerning Christians get attacked by these people for speaking the truth. Truth was seen as an evil affront by these people because all that mattered to them about Rick Warren’s orthodoxy was that Rick Warren said he was orthodox so that meant he was orthodox.
From the passage I placed at the top of this post, here is Ephesians 4:15 from the ESV and the GNT:
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, (Ephesians 4:15 ESV)
ἀληθεύοντες δὲ ἐν ἀγάπῃ αὐξήσωμεν εἰς αὐτὸν τὰ πάντα, ὅς ἐστιν ἡ κεφαλή, ὁ Χριστός,
Here, the word translated in the ESV as “speaking the truth,” ἀληθεύοντες is a nominative plural masculine present participle. This verb tense yields the idea of “continually speaking the truth.” Paul is telling all believers, especially those who are gifted by God to serve in roll in the Church with the speaking gifts to speak the truth. This is why it is so tragic when Christian leaders compromise and speak that which is anything but. Also, and this speaks to why so many compromise here, speaking truth at all times can actually make enemies of some. The only other instance of a form of this word in the N.T. Is in Galatians 4:16 where Paul asks, “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” It is rhetorical. Yes, the answer is always yes to this. The truth is the only thing the Christian should speak, hence the big fuss about the Ergun Caner “crisis” at Liberty Seminary.
Yes, the truth is to be spoken. Why? Why is it imperative that we never include error or our own opinions in there with it? This is to keep error out of the Church and preserve others from error. However, we all know that this is not the norm and has not been for quite some time. The church’s vocabulary today is politically correct catch-phrases, sentimental expressions, and psychobabble. Instead of confronting false teachers with their error, we embrace them with such schmaltziness, as, “I’m going to ask him to speak and lay his cards on the table and find out what makes him tick.” Never mind that he is a heretic and the gospel he preaches is incomplete and false. “After all, our brother is entitled to his own ideas, and we should be open to it.” Uh, no, we are supposed to speak the truth.
A survey of the visible church in our day will reveal showy churches and glitzy ministries, but shunned is the preaching of truth. I find it amazing that when you hear some of these fellows talk and read some of what they write it becomes painfully obvious that they think they know more than God, more than the inspired Paul, more than many great leaders in church history. What will be the result? We are already seeing it. It’s called shipwrecks.
Soli Deo Gloria!