by Mike Ratliff
2 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· [ὀψίας γενομένης λέγετε· εὐδία, πυρράζει γὰρ ὁ οὐρανός· 3 καὶ πρωΐ· σήμερον χειμών, πυρράζει γὰρ στυγνάζων ὁ οὐρανός. τὸ μὲν πρόσωπον τοῦ οὐρανοῦ γινώσκετε διακρίνειν, τὰ δὲ σημεῖα τῶν καιρῶν οὐ δύνασθε; (Matthew 16:2-3 NA28)
2 But He answered them saying, “When evening has come you say, ‘Fair weather, for the sky is fiery red.’ 3 And in the morning, ‘Today stormy weather, for the sky, being overcast, is fiery red.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but not the signs of the times? (Matthew 16:2-3 translated from the NA28 Greek text)
The lack of spiritual discernment is a plague in the visible Church in our time. We see this in so-called “church leaders” going after every form of “entertainment” in order to increase numbers in their “churches.” We see this in calls from so-called “church leaders” attempting to reconcile historically protestant denominations with the Roman Catholic Church. We see this with deliberate attempts to cause confusion about Sola Scriptura, the Sovereignty of God, the Holy Trinity, election, you name it. If a doctrine of the Church is used by God to bless His people and draw them into a holy and growing relationship with Him then it is under attack by the enemies of the truth and those with little to no discernment become confused. This has been going on for quite a bit longer than most believe.
Carefully read the passage at the top of this post. The word “discern” in v3 translates the verb διακρίνειν or diakrinein the Present, Infinitive, Active case of διακρίνω or diakrinō, “to make a distinction.” Jesus was telling his accusers they were unable to do this while many or possibly even most professing Christians in our day will not do. This word is also found in 1 Corinthians 14:29 in the context of the regulations for tongues and other sign gifts. Paul tells the Corinthians in that passage to let the prophets speak and the let the other ‘judge’.” This is a safety valve of sorts, which guarded against false doctrine since others listened to what was being taught and “made a distinction.”
We also see this in Berea. The Bereans listened to Paul and Silas and “were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” The example of the Bereans was true discernment and is what is desperately needed in the Church today.
14 ψυχικὸς δὲ ἄνθρωπος οὐ δέχεται τὰ τοῦ πνεύματος τοῦ θεοῦ· μωρία γὰρ αὐτῷ ἐστιν καὶ οὐ δύναται γνῶναι, ὅτι πνευματικῶς ἀνακρίνεται. 15 ὁ δὲ πνευματικὸς ἀνακρίνει [τὰ] πάντα, αὐτὸς δὲ ὑπʼ οὐδενὸς ἀνακρίνεται. (1 Corinthians 2:14-15 NA28)
14 But a natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him and he is not able to know them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 Now the spiritual man discerns all things, but he himself is judged by no one. (1 Corinthians 2:14-15 translated from the NA28 Greek text)
Those who discern correctly are spiritual not carnal. Who are the carnal? Professing Christians who look at everything from their own perspective rather than God’s are carnal. I would wager that most people have not considered that definition before. In fact, the most conflict I have had on my blog has come from this quarter. These people are religious. Some of them are far more educated in than I am. They have various seminary degrees and may even be head of well-known ministries, but when their fleshly, self-focused idol comes under attack through a God focused examination of His Word these people can become quite vicious and un-Christlike. On the other hand, I have also witnessed the working of God’s truth causing the tearing asunder of false teachings held close and with great anguish, people coming to the throne of grace to repent of many things that they assumed were serving Him when all along they were simply being religious.
12 Ζῶν γὰρ ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ἐνεργὴς καὶ τομώτερος ὑπὲρ πᾶσαν μάχαιραν δίστομον καὶ διϊκνούμενος ἄχρι μερισμοῦ ψυχῆς καὶ πνεύματος, ἁρμῶν τε καὶ μυελῶν, καὶ κριτικὸς ἐνθυμήσεων καὶ ἐννοιῶν καρδίας· (Hebrews 4:12 NA28)
12 For the Word of God is living and effective and sharper then every doubled edged sword, and penetrating as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to discern the thoughts and insights of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 translated from the NA28 Greek text)
As mentioned above, when God’s truth is used correctly, it can crush asunder all false teachings and split apart those closely held idols. It can and will cause much grieve, weeping and, of course, repentance at the throne of grace to those who truly belong to the Lord. On the other hand, it also reveals the evil residing in the enemies of the truth who react like evil men act when their evil deeds are exposed to the light. They run for cover as they try to inflict as much pain as possible on the one who exposed them. That’s part of the cost of being discerning. Perhaps that is why so few want to do it.
21 πάντα δὲ δοκιμάζετε, τὸ καλὸν κατέχετε, 22 ἀπὸ παντὸς εἴδους πονηροῦ ἀπέχεσθε. (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 NA28)
21 But prove all things; hold fast to what is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 translated from the NA28 Greek text)
A discerning Christian is one who seeks to walk in repentance for he or she will be in a constant state of self-examination. I pray that all reading this will take this to heart, draw near to God and do as He shows you through He Word.
Soli Deo Glora!