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Bible verses about Discernment, Spiritual
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Deuteronomy 13:1-5

This is the earliest formal warning to God's people that attacks against their faith would take place within the fellowship of His children, and the pattern has occurred repeatedly. God raises up a prophet or minister to instruct His people. Opposition arises, usually in the form of ministers who see things differently, who force the people to choose which way they will follow. Understand, God is not passively watching. He actively tests His children's loyalties through such calamitous situations.

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Sovereignty and the Church's Condition (Part Two)


 

Deuteronomy 13:1-5

The first factor added here is that God recognizes that false prophets, through the power of Satan, can accomplish signs and wonders. The magicians of Egypt imitate Moses' staff-into-a-serpent miracle before Pharaoh (Exodus 7:8-12). The end-time False Prophet will do similar signs as the Two Witnesses, causing most of the world's population to worship the Beast (Revelation 13:11-15). Paul warns in II Corinthians 11:13-15 that Satan's servants are clever counterfeits of Christ's. Signs, wonders, and miracles, then, are not conclusive proof that a prophet is from God.

The second factor Deuteronomy 13 adds is our need to recognize the spiritual message accompanying the prophet's signs and predictions. This is the essence of the apostle John's admonition, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (I John 4:1). No matter how impressive or accurate a prophet's miracles or prophecies, his credibility hangs on whether he leads people toward or away from God.

The following questions, then, must all be answered before we judge a person as a true or false prophet:

1. Does he claim to prophesy in God's name or in a false god's name?
2. Do his prophecies come to pass?
3. Does he do signs and wonders?
4. Does he teach the truth based on God's Word?

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Was Herbert Armstrong a False Prophet?


 

Psalm 11:4-5

God clearly shows that, just because He makes something available to us—even things that might ordinarily be considered as good—it does not mean that it will be good for us, His called and chosen people. God's eyelids look at the sons of men. He is always testing us to see whether we understand how intimately He is working with us. We are to be a self-controlled people. Our conduct is to be motivated by faith, because we are a distinctive people summoned by the great God for His purposes and His purposes only. God is drawing us into His oneness with Him, and this is why there is so much stress in His word on His one way.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 7)


 

Matthew 5:8

This beatitude, like all the others, has both a present and future fulfillment. Paul says in I Corinthians 13:12, "For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known." To "see" God is to be brought close to Him. In this instance the sense is that what we are far from cannot be clearly distinguished. That, as sinners, we are far from God is proclaimed in Isaiah 59:2: "But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He will not hear." Thus James 4:8 admonishes us, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you."

The pure in heart are those who with all their being seek to remain free of every form of the defilement of sin. The fruit of this is the blessing of spiritual discernment. With spiritual understanding, they have clear views of God's character, will, and attributes. A pure heart is synonymous with what Jesus calls a "single" (KJV) or "clear" (NKJV margin) eye in Matthew 6:22. When a person has this mind, the whole body is full of light. Where there is light, one can see clearly.

The sense of this beatitude's promise to see God carries over into the Kingdom of God. In one sense, all will see God, as Revelation 1:7 prophesies: "Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they also who pierced Him. And all the tribes of earth will mourn because of Him." They will see Him as Judge.

Jesus' promise, though, is stated as a blessing, a favor. Revelation 22:4 says of those who will inherit God's Kingdom, "They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads." I John 3:2 reads, "We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." To see someone's face is to be so near as to be in his presence. In this case, the term indicated the highest of honors: to stand in the presence of the King of kings. Certainly David understood the greatness of this: "As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness" (Psalm 17:15).

God places great value on being clean, especially in terms of purity of heart. Also, we can easily become defiled, whereas remaining clean requires constant vigilance, a determined discipline, and a clear vision of what lies before us to serve as a prod to keep us on track. Since it is sin that defiles, this beatitude demands from us the most exacting self-examination. Are our work and service done from selfless motives or from a desire for self-display? Is our church-going a sincere attempt to meet God or merely fulfilling a respectable habit? Are our prayers and Bible study a heartfelt desire to commune with God, or do we pursue them because they make us feel pleasantly superior? Is our life lived with a conscious need of God, or are we merely seeking comfort in our piety?

To examine our motives honestly can be a daunting and shaming but very necessary discipline, but considering Christ's promise in this beatitude, it is well worth whatever effort and humbling of self it takes. It is good for us to keep Paul's admonishment found in II Corinthians 7:1 fresh in mind: "Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 6: The Pure in Heart


 

Matthew 10:16

Christ's mandate to us that we become "wise as serpents and harmless as doves" implies that we must develop discernment, the ability to detect motivation and the spirits that motivate. The gift of discerning the spirits will become increasingly important as we approach the end of this age because deception will be the hallmark of these extremely dangerous times.

In the Olivet Prophecy, the disciples ask Jesus to reveal the sign of His return. Jesus does not give one sign but several. At the top of the list, he warns the disciples of deception, and follows it up with warnings of false prophets, false miracles, and the warning not to be deceived (see Matthew 24:4-5, 11, 23-26).

We deduce from this last warning that false "Christian" ministers and ministries will have the capability of performing convincing lying wonders and signs. These false ministers will demonstrate power—occult power—for the specific purpose of leading all people astray, including the most sincere believer.

We have a clear warning from the apostle Paul that the battles we face on a daily basis cannot be won by conventional weapons that we can attain from the world. The weapons we must seek should be spiritual, having the power to destroy arguments and every false claim that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and God's Word (II Corinthians 10:3-5).

David F. Maas
The Gift of Discerning Spirits


 

1 Corinthians 2:9-10

The source of the vision most of us receive is through the Spirit by our calling. God gives it just as surely as He gave Paul's, but it is a gradually accumulating one in which the pieces that complete the picture are added through the normal processes of study, comparing, analyzing, and applying what we learn.

Consider how the revelation of God changes the course of a person's life. If those who killed Christ had the vision to know who He was, they never would have killed Him. Why? They would have had an entirely different perspective of the consequences of their actions. That foresight would have generated prudence in them, and they would not have permitted themselves to kill Him. Notice also how verse 9 shows us that what God has done gives us a perspective involving things not literally seen, yet in verse 10 they are nonetheless revealed.

Through the entire section concluding in verse 16, Paul tells us that, because of God's gracious action in giving us His Holy Spirit, He has predisposed, enabled, or granted us the foresight or vision to make right choices in spiritual matters. God's Holy Spirit gives us discernment as to where spiritual and moral choices will lead. This is wonderful, but something further must be understood. This quality, ability, or skill must be developed. It must grow. It does not instantly and miraculously appear upon conversion.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Two): Vision


 

1 Corinthians 2:9-10

The reason the rulers of the world did not understand (verse 8), did not put into the proper perspective, did not grasp what they saw in the Lord of glory is that God did not reveal to them who Jesus was, what He was doing, or why He was doing it. Those things cannot be discerned by physical means - eye, ear, nose, mouth, the senses - but they have to be revealed. A spiritual miracle must take place for a person to understand and to see these spiritual things.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 3)


 

1 Corinthians 2:9-16

The verb Paul uses in verse 10, translated "revealed" (Greek apokalupto), is a strong term, usually used in the New Testament to indicate divine revelation of certain supernatural secrets or with the resurrection and judgment of certain people and events. These verses in I Corinthians 2 stress the work of the Holy Spirit in revealing the wisdom of God.

In verse 14, the verb anakrino, translated "discerned," is the same verb translated "judges" and "judged" in verse 15. The idea in each case is to make intelligent, spiritual decisions. Anakrino, though meaning "examine," includes the decision following the examination.

Members of God's church are to examine all things ,including our own lives, with the help of God's Spirit, and then we are to make an evaluation as to what our strengths and weaknesses are. Then we decide what we are going to do about them. No one in the world has a right to examine and evaluate us on spiritual matters because, without the Holy Spirit, they canno rightly and justly understand or evaluate. There is no need to feel slighted or put down by anyone in the world who disagrees with God's truth or with your obedience to God's truth. The same holds true in all judgments and criticisms from the world - that is, those without God's Holy Spirit - who try to tell us our doctrines are wrong.

This is a major reason the Worldwide Church of God went into apostasy, because the leaders believed and accepted the criticisms of the worldly churches. They accepted judgment from people without God's Holy Spirit and from organizations without a spiritual foundation of truth.

The mainstream Christian churches are worldly, are not led by people with the Holy Spirit, and they do not base their doctrines on truth. Two cases in point: neither the Sunday Sabbath nor the being that is called the Holy Spirit of the Trinity can be proven honestly and truthfully with God's written Word. Do not be fooled by mainstream Christianity's false piety! They are not God's people. They are not baptized members of God's church. They do not have God's Holy Spirit. This is not to say that there are not wonderful people in some of these churches in the world. In addition, when they do follow some of God's laws, blessings will automatically accrue to them.

Martin G. Collins
The Law's Purpose and Intent


 

1 Corinthians 2:9-13

Because of the action God took once Adam and Eve sinned - they were cut off from the Holy Spirit - all of the cultures of mankind have been built on reasoning apart from God's Spirit. Man has been doomed to produce the kinds of cultures that are based on his own reasoning, because access to God's Holy Spirit was closed off, and therefore there is a missing dimension in mankind's reasoning processes.

Thus, the separation can only get wider - unless God acts to heal the breach. Mankind is unable to bridge the gap because spiritual things are not physically discerned; eyes, ears, nose, mouth cannot sense and understand spiritual things. So mankind is trapped - he is doomed in that regard. Even though God created mankind with a spiritual capacity, it is so limited that it cannot find the true things of God. Man, therefore, is easily overpowered by Satan.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Reconciliation and the Day of Atonement


 

1 Corinthians 2:11

Notice the contrast in verse 14, "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." The "natural man"—as opposed to the spiritual man—is one who is governed and influenced by natural instincts and drives. His senses and lusts motivate his behavior and choices in opposition to godly reason, conscience, and obedience to God's law.

Martin G. Collins
Comparing Ourselves Among Ourselves


 

1 Corinthians 11:1

How can one imitate both Christ and Paul unless he can discern they are both living by the same code of behavior? How can one study God's Word for instruction in righteousness without self-evaluation? The Bible instructs us, "Test all things; hold fast what is good" (I Thessalonians 5:21). Doing this requires judgment, discerning what is good from evil.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Judging Our Brothers


 

2 Corinthians 4:7-8

No matter how thoroughly we were counseled for baptism or how vividly we were told that Christian life might prove difficult, very few are dissuaded from being baptized. This is, of course, good. However, most of us are also full of misplaced confidence. Though none of us is ever sure of what we will have to experience to be prepared for what God has in store for us in His Kingdom, we are sure God will be there for us in our times of trial. He will indeed, but will we be ready to face our discouragement over what we come to see in ourselves?

As we become educated in God's way, as we grow and become more discerning, sin becomes more apparent everywhere we look. The discouraging aspect is that the sin is not necessarily in others but that we see it in ourselves. We may even reach a level of outright despair because, everywhere we turn, every angle we view ourselves from, we see "little" deceits. We become aware of envy rising, jealousy, anger, and sometimes even rage and hatred. We attempt to bottle them up to keep them from breaking out.

Yet, they always seem to be just below the surface, ready to leap out in a foolish act. Sin is like a cancer, invisible most of the time but silently working to destroy us. Sin desires to return us to our former state. We may have even imagined that, when we began to grow in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ, life would become continually easier - we would grow in holiness, and life would become an unending pleasure. Too frequently, it seems to work in the opposite direction.

This course, however, is good. First, the older and more mature we become in the faith, the more of the filthy corruption of sin we can discern. Our discouragement can turn to thankful encouragement because, even though we perceive the filthy corruption in ourselves, our ability to discern it more clearly is evidence of growth.

Second, it is encouraging to understand that for us to overcome sin and grow, we must first be aware of the corruption.

Third, it is wonderful to understand that our merciful God has covered even all this accumulated sin that we have been completely unaware of. Christ's blood is sufficient to cover the sins of the whole world! That we can see more of the evil aspects of human nature should help us also discern of the implications of Christ's sacrifice.

Fourth, these things should motivate us to cry out to God, "Your Kingdom come! Your will be done!" and help us yearn for the time we will be free of the pulls of the flesh.

The removal of ignorance is a wonderfully rewarding gift. Even so, despair sometimes comes easily because we have allowed ourselves to be deceived into trusting our own works to keep us in good standing with God. If we fail to conduct ourselves properly even according to our own standards, it is not difficult to become guilt-ridden and full of despair.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Seven): The Sin and Trespass Offerings


 

Galatians 4:6

Because we have been adopted, because God has redeemed us from our former father/owner, He gave us a measure of the same Spirit—that vital, animating essence that He and the Son share (John 15:26). The Holy Spirit links our mind to God's (Romans 8:16; I Corinthians 2:10-16) and allows us to begin to see things as He sees them—to discern spiritually.

David C. Grabbe


 

Hebrews 5:12

In context, God tells us one of the purposes of His revelation to mankind. The writer of Hebrews scolds his audience for being "dull of hearing" (verse 11). Using an analogy of milk, the nourishment of children, against "strong meat" (KJV), the fare of those "who are of full age," he laments that he needs to "go back to the basics," the first principles of God's revelation. Not using that revelation to exercise their senses "to discern both good and evil" (verse 14), they had failed to grow up.

The purpose of God's revelation is to provide the nourishment, the food, by which we come "to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13). It is God's revelation, His oracles, which allow us to "go on to perfection" (Hebrews 6:1).

Charles Whitaker
The Oracles of God


 

1 John 2:27

Clearly, he is not saying that these people had no need for someone to teach them the difference between truth and error. They did need it! That is why John wrote his epistle! What they did not need was for anyone to teach them the church's basic doctrines, nor did they need human logic or philosophy to help them understand God's nature.

John had known, seen, heard, and touched Jesus Christ personally. Christ had taught him intensively for three-and-a-half years, and in turn, the aged apostle had taught them the same truth throughout his own ministry. The members of God's church had no need for any heretic to teach them.

As true sons of God, they had received His Holy Spirit, which had opened their minds and led them into the truth (John 16:13). They had been thoroughly grounded in the truth regarding the nature of Christ and God and the very purpose of life itself. God's truth had not changed, so what need did they have to relearn it?

In the rest of I John 2:27, John encourages them to allow the Holy Spirit to lead them and keep them faithful to what they had been taught from the beginning. Their original knowledge was true and no lie: "But as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him."

Do we need teachers? Of course! John's epistle is an excellent example of why teachers are needed in the church. When false doctrine threatened members of the true body of believers, John found it necessary to spell out to them the dangers in it, even though the brethren had been thoroughly grounded in the truth. To reassure them that their foundational beliefs were true, he felt he needed to explain the truth to them again. He also saw that they could use some encouragement to trust the Holy Spirit to lead them into the truth.

This is exactly what a true minister of God is to do! The author of Hebrews instructs us to respect the ministry because they are given to us to protect us. "Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account" (Hebrews 13:17).

Many New Testament examples show us our need for teachers. Philip's experience with the Ethiopian eunuch clearly illustrates how we need experienced and educated teachers to explain and expound the Word of God (Acts 8:26-38). As Philip approaches him, the eunuch is reading an Old Testament prophecy that foretold Christ's sufferings. When asked if he understands the passage, the eunuch has the humility to admit he needs help. He replies, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" (verse 31). Philip then explains to him how this prophecy was fulfilled in the suffering and death of Jesus of Nazareth. This results in the eunuch's baptism (verse 38).

In dealing with the many problems in the Corinthian church, Paul had to send Timothy to refresh them in the truth that Paul had preached.

Therefore I urge you, imitate me. For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church. (I Corinthians 4:16-17)

In his letters to Timothy, Paul instructs the young evangelist about various principles that he should teach the people. "These things command and teach.... Teach and exhort these things" (I Timothy 4:11; 6:2).

In addition, the apostle tells him to train others to be teachers. "And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (II Timothy 2:2). Besides this, an elder must be "able to teach" (I Timothy 3:2). The very purpose of the ministry is to help in perfecting the saints (Ephesians 4:11-12, KJV).

Throughout the New Testament, God continually emphasizes the need to provide spiritual food to the church. Jesus says that His servants will be providing "food in due season" to His people (Matthew 24:45). "Feed My sheep" is one of the last things Jesus tells Peter (John 21:17). Paul writes to Timothy, "Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching" (II Timothy 4:2).

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
For the Perfecting of the Saints


 

 




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