Discernment

I was dismayed recently, when reading through the comments on a somewhat controversial blog post, to see that when one commenter tried to bring the Scriptures to bear on the topic, he was called legalistic and judgmental (and this by other professing Christians.)

Conversely, the Bible says the Bereans “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” (Acts 17:10). Searching through the Scripture to see if what was being said lined up with what was there was considered a noble thing.

A couple of nights ago, the evening reading from Daily Light on the Daily Path contained several verses on this topic:

The ear trieth words, as the mouth tasteth meat. Job 34:3

Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. I John 4:1

Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. John 7:24

I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say. I Corinthians 10:15.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom. Colossians 3:16a

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith. Revelation 2:29

He that is spiritual judgeth all things. I Corinthians 2:15a

Take heed what ye hear. Mark 4:24a

I know thy works, … and how thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars. Revelation 2:2

Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. I Thessalonians 5:21

Several of those verses that speak of judging. Someone might say, “Whoa, wait a minute…I thought we weren’t supposed to judge.” That’s one of the most misunderstood concepts from the Bible. We’re not supposed to judge in the sense of condemning someone on the assumption that we know what what their motives are, condemning someone’s actions that might be different from ours when there is not a Scriptural principle involved, acting as if we’re superior in some way, etc. But to exercise discernment, to judge whether this or that statement or action is in line with Scripture (especially when the one saying or doing says it is but seems to be a little off-base) is another thing entirely.

According to a Greek lexicon the word used for “judgeth” in Acts 17:11 and I Cor. 2:14-15 quoted above means:

examine or judge

  1. to investigate, examine, enquire into, scrutinise, sift, question
    1. specifically in a forensic sense of a judge to hold an investigation
    2. to interrogate, examine the accused or witnesses
  2. to judge of, estimate, determine (the excellence or defects of any person or thing

I’ve linked back to some of the other definitions in the verses themselves so as not to be too lengthy here.

Sometimes what another person advocates won’t seem major, but as one pastor put it, if you’re taking a trip and start off on the right path, and then turn just ten degrees the wrong direction, it won’t look like a big difference at first, but if you keep going you’ll find yourself way off course.

Of course, there are some areas where Christians can have differences of opinion and practice, where the Bible doesn’t speak directly or in clear principle, and we should allow each other the grace to do so (Romans 14). But many today are taking Christian liberty to mean “I can do whatever I want and other Christians shouldn’t judge me for it,” when Romans 14 teaches the exact opposite, the reigning in of one’s freedom so as not to cause others to stumble. And even the premise there is wrong: we’re not free to do “whatever we want” as Christians.

I was stunned recently when a blogger I read and love linked to another’s post advocating a certain position that is controversial in the church today, and the author of this post effectively swept away all the New Testament arguments against her position by saying the N. T. is about attitudes rather than rules. That should raise a number of red flags to any discerning reader.

The Bible has many warnings against false prophets. Paul warns that it is not just those from the outside, but even some from within the church will lead some astray: “ For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20: 29-30). But he goes on to say in v. 30, “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.”

Soak in the Word of God. Hold it to a higher esteem than anyone else’s words. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom” Colossians 3:16a.

For more on this topic, see also:

Tension.
Controversies.
Analyzing vs. criticizing.
Just what does “judge not” mean, anyway?
Does niceness really matter?
Doctrine.

4 thoughts on “Discernment

  1. As always, Barbara, a well thought-out post that drives us to Scripture. Thank you!

    I recently heard a man speak who is a former judge. We were studying James 4 and 5, and he was talking about the right to judge. The ultimate right to judge is for the judge! In this case, the ultimate Judge, the One Who has the right to judge, is God. We have the right to judge in accordance with God’s Word, but the ultimate Judge is God himself. (He said it a lot better than I can, but it made such an impression on me. A judge judges. The Judge judges. A blessing!)

    May we all be discerning, according to what God would think!

  2. Pingback: A bloggy look back at 2012 « Stray Thoughts

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