Discernment is rooted in maturity in Christ

by Mike Ratliff

11 Καὶ αὐτὸς ἔδωκεν τοὺς μὲν ἀποστόλους, τοὺς δὲ προφήτας, τοὺς δὲ εὐαγγελιστάς, τοὺς δὲ ποιμένας καὶ διδασκάλους, 12 πρὸς τὸν καταρτισμὸν τῶν ἁγίων εἰς ἔργον διακονίας, εἰς οἰκοδομὴν τοῦ σώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ, 13 μέχρι καταντήσωμεν οἱ πάντες εἰς τὴν ἑνότητα τῆς πίστεως καὶ τῆς ἐπιγνώσεως τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ, εἰς ἄνδρα τέλειον, εἰς μέτρον ἡλικίας τοῦ πληρώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ, 14 ἵνα μηκέτι ὦμεν νήπιοι, κλυδωνιζόμενοι καὶ περιφερόμενοι παντὶ ἀνέμῳ τῆς διδασκαλίας ἐν τῇ κυβείᾳ τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ἐν πανουργίᾳ πρὸς τὴν μεθοδείαν τῆς πλάνης, Ephesians 4:11-14 (NA28)

11 And He gave some apostles and some prophets and some evangelists and some shepherds and teachers 12 for the equipping of the saints to the work of ministry to the building up of the Body of Christ 13 until we all arrive at the unity of the faith and of the fuller knowledge of the Son of God, to complete maturity, at the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ 14 that we should not longer be infants tossed by waves and carried around by every wind of doctrine by the cunning of men with craftiness leading to the scheming of deception. Ephesians 4:11-14 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In 1887, Robert Shindler, a fellow pastor and close friend of Charles Spurgeon, wrote in Spurgeon’s publication, The Sword and the Trowel: “It is all too plainly apparent men are willing to forego the old for the sake of the new. But commonly it is found in theology that that which is true is not new, and that which is new is not true.” If we think deeply and honestly on those searing words with all humility and willingness to repent of what God shows us about ourselves, I am certain that each of us must repent of falling for the fallacy of seeking that which is new or different in our theology. If we are honestly seeking the will of God that is both good and right, but if we are looking to have itching ears tickled or are pursuing the subjective or experiential as the means of fulfillment then all we are really doing is falling for some lie and are revealing that we are indeed just infants in the Lord who are being tossed by waves and carried around by every wind of doctrine by the cunning of men with craftiness leading to the scheming of deception. I doubt if any one reading this really wants that. 

Here is v14 (from above):”ἵνα μηκέτι ὦμεν νήπιοι, κλυδωνιζόμενοι καὶ περιφερόμενοι παντὶ ἀνέμῳ τῆς διδασκαλίας ἐν τῇ κυβείᾳ τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ἐν πανουργίᾳ πρὸς τὴν μεθοδείαν τῆς πλάνης”

Here is my translation: “that we should not longer be infants tossed by waves and carried around by every wind of doctrine by the cunning of men with craftiness leading to the scheming of deception

The word I translated as “cunning” is the noun κυβείᾳ or kubeia, “(a “cube”, that is, die for playing); gambling, that is, (figuratively) artifice or fraud: – sleight. Paul is not just speaking of gambling by the throwing of dice, but being involved with those who entice people to play a crooked game that they can not win because it is rigged. Paul is using this analogy of false teachers who by “slight of mouth” trick the unwary without their even knowing it because they are gullible and overconfident in their knowledge. Remember those who fall victim to these wolves are the prideful. Wolves are continually attacking the flock. Even among our own visible ranks arise some, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them (Acts 20:29-30).

The word I translated as “craftiness” is the noun πανουργίᾳ or panourgia, “trickery or sophistry: – (cunning) craftiness, subtilty. This speaks of one, a false teacher, who will do anything, stoop to any level needed to manipulate error, to make something look like truth and thereby lead others away from truth. An example of this is The New World Translation Bible, which is the Jehovah Witness “bible.” In John 1:1 its translators deliberately and dishonestly alter it for the express purpose of denying the deity of Christ. It says, “In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God and the Word was a god.” They give the explanation for this rendering that it is based on the “oldest manuscripts” for the Gospel of John, which is a lie and has been proven to be so. The truth is that it was translated from German by Johannes Greber in 1937. He was a former Catholic priest turned spiritist who claimed the translation came from God’s spirits. Thus is the nature of πανουργίᾳ.

The phrase “scheming of deception” translates μεθοδείαν τῆς πλάνης. I could have translated it as “lie in wait to deceive.” To lie in wait or scheme comes from μεθοδείαν from μεθοδεία or methodeia, “travesty, (trickery): – wile, lie in wait. These apostate or false teachers operate according to a settled plan or system. There is a deliberate scheme behind those who teach false doctrine.

The word “deceive” translates πλάνης the Genitive, Singular of πλάνη or planē, “objectively fraudulence; subjectively a straying from orthodoxy or piety: – deceit, to deceive, delusion, error. What makes these deceiver’s job a lot easier in our time is that there are so many professing believers who are gullible and will believe almost anything and follow practically anybody as long as they mention God or Jesus regardless of what else he or she says. I marvel when I go to a “Christian” bookstore nowadays. Some are better than others, but even in those that carry the good reference books I look for, there are some right next to them that should be used for kindling.

A huge issue right now in the visible church centers on homosexuality. My stance is clear as presented here. God’s Word is the arbiter. It must be the one and only source of our truth in matters such as this. If we take this topic and then look back at the word study we just did on Ephesians 4:14 then look at the tactics of those who are continually working to validate homosexuality as a valid lifestyle that is not under the judgment of God then we must understand that those doing so are wolves, false teachers, and apostates. Can it be any clearer?

Go back and reread the entire passage I placed at the top of this post.  God gave the Church godly men to lead, teach, and build up the Body of Christ. Why? It is so we will arrive at the unity of the faith and of the fuller knowledge of the Son of God, to complete maturity, at the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ that we should no longer be infants tossed by waves and carried around by every wind of doctrine by the cunning of men with craftiness leading to the scheming of deception. That means that when we mature like this, we will have no trouble recognizing false doctrines and those who espouse them. We will know what to do when we encounter them, which is to turn from them, warning the flock to flee from them, to turn to the truth and away from what is false. This is discernment.

Soli Deo Gloria!

3 thoughts on “Discernment is rooted in maturity in Christ

  1. There is another issue that goes right along with this, and that is when long time Christians fall under the spell of a false teacher. This problem has arisen in my church where two very wonderful Christians who have been members for decades, have recently been shown their favorite teacher is teaching false doctrine (Circle making nonsense). I was amazed at the response made by them and others. It was a “let it go, they are Christians, and strong members of the church. What is it hurting?” type of response. Now nobody wants to say anything for fear of offending a brother or sister. I think that is a dangerous position to take.

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  2. I am overcome with anguish; and I utter prayers for my pastor and fellow members at church that God’s Holy Spirit, in overwhelming might, reveals absolute Truth to each of them individually about the false teachers/teaching they listen to, agree with, dally with or follow, or kind’a follow. I ask in Jesus name the same for the entire, world-wide body of Christ. Here I interject and confess that I too have been guilty of overreaching “emotionalism” buffered by Scriptural ignorance. I am so grateful to our God that He has mercifully made me very aware of this overreaching sin I learned as a child and have practiced into adulthood.

    Our discernment is mandatory in these latter days. As you’ve stated, it is only attainable through each of our being mature in Christ. Maturity in Christ cannot be attained through the “words” of those who deal in “emotionalistic” and “experiential” events/experiences or vain imaginings developed out of their fleshly “self” and “perceived” knowledge.

    Oh, I pray for all of the redeemed (and those who think they are, but are deceived) to make a concerted and greater effort to choose and believe God’s Word over the words of men and women whose teachings are so deceptive and antithetical to Scripture! I pray for their blindness to be removed and their ears to be opened and to repent and turn (or return) to the One who provides real salvation and absolute truth about His Gospel.

    Thank you Mike for standing in and expressing thoroughly God’s Truth!

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