by Mike Ratliff
4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore He says:
“When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men.”
9 (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. Ephesians 4:4-16 (NKJV)
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, when we do that it can be quite exasperating on our part I assure you. Why? Those who are deceived by these deceivers DO NOT LISTEN.Several years ago John Piper shook evangelicalism up very much by inviting Rick Warren to be a key speaker at his annual conference. I remember it like it was yesterday. I have become convinced that God, being sovereign, allowed this to happen and used it to further clarify those within the visible Body of Christ. What am I saying? One example was a comment thread I followed for several days after the invite in which the discussion was ONLY that. 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 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 remember being completly 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 NKJV and the NA28:
15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— Ephesians 4:15 (NKJV)
15 ἀληθεύοντες δὲ ἐν ἀγάπῃ αὐξήσωμεν εἰς αὐτὸν τὰ πάντα, ὅς ἐστιν ἡ κεφαλή, Χριστός, Ephesians 4:15 (NA28)
Here, the word translated in the NKJV 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, which, when you think of the secular nonsense in politics and the media we see that the truth there appears to be “relative.”
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.” Think of Dr. Michael Brown and his association with Dr. James White. 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!