Everything we are taught about the Holy Scripture needs to be tested against Holy Scripture. We do not blindly believe everything every preacher or religious teacher states; but why? God calls us to test everything and rightly judge. This leads us to truth and emboldens our faith; but how? This article will go over all the who, what, when, where, and why of testing, discerning, and rightly judging.
What is testing, discerning, and rightly judging?
This is where Christians are given the liberty to come to understand what is right and wrong, truth and lie, when compared to what God has declared. Matthew 7:1 is the most abused out of context verse in modern culture. It is used to silence people to appease other people living in sin and teaching things that contradict what God has declared. We have all heard the phrase “don’t judge me”. In its entire context, it is about hypocritically judging (Matthew 6:2, 5, 16; 7:3–5). Where you place yourself in a righteous seat over someone else when both are sinners before God in a particular situation. That would be like a Christian pointing out someone is in the wrong for getting drunk, when they themselves get drunk. That’s hypocritical judgement. But what if that Christian is a recovering alcoholic who does not drink anymore?
In that same chapter, Jesus goes on to tell us to discern ‘dogs’, ‘pigs’, and false prophets. How can we do that if we can not make a judgement call? Clearly we are called to make a right judgement and not a hypocritical judgement. If that does not make sense, Jesus declares in John 7:24 to not judge hypocritically but to judge rightly. The correct way to judge is to compare the subject against what God declares and not by yours or anyone else standards.
Essentially, when not judging hypocritically, all we are called to do is compare the worlds teachings and actions against God’s Word. We are not inventing a standard but only agreeing and reiterating what God has already declared.
Also read Don’t Judge Me | God’s Truths are Not a Matter of Opinions | Your Feelings Do Not Determine Truth | Follow Your Heart?
How do we rightly and correctly test, discern, and judge?
First, we do not judge based on appearance (John 7:24). God judges the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). We may not be able to see the heart but Jesus makes it clear that we can still recognize a heart for the Lord, or a heart not for the Lord. The heart produces good or bad fruit. Jesus declares we can recognize the fruit produced by the heart (Matthew 7:16).
To recognize the fruit, we must test and investigate and not jump to ignorant prejudice conclusions and assumptions (Proverbs 18:13). We look at the whole counsel of God which is the completeness of Holy Scripture (Acts 20:27; 2 Timothy 4:2). We must understand that good fruit of the spirit are the characteristics of God and reflections of Christ Jesus; forgiving, merciful, selfless love, abundant giving, kindness, gracious, honest, peace seeking, patience, self control, and faithful (
Galatians 5:22-23). In contrast are bad fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:19-21). To rightly judge is to compare what is being tested against God and his Word.
The recovering alcoholic who quit drinking simply reiterates what God has already declared about getting drunk. The point is to address the heart problem of why some feel the need to get drunk and not the drinking itself. Getting drunk is the bad fruit of the heart and like a double edged sword, God’s word can pierce the heart (Hebrews 4:12). The standard of a righteous judgement is God’s Word and the motives for the judgement is heart change, love, and God’s Glory.
Why do we rightly and correctly test, discern, and judge?
To restore those whom we love and for spiritual growth, maturity, and soundness in teachings. In gentleness we are to confront and restore (Galatians 6:1). Jesus himself lays out a disciplinary process for trying to restore someone who is in sin (Matthew 18:15–17). In everything we do in our Christian lives, truth must always be present. Whether we are showing truth with love (Ephesians 4:15) or when we see truth and Grace (John 1:17). Even when we worship God, it is in truth and spirit (John 4:24). We see that in EVERY situation in life, truth must be there because Christ is truth (John 14:6). Truth is the absolute necessity in all reality. This is why we must test claims, discern it, judge it so we can rightly know truth. In the process of rightly discerning truth; we expose lies (Ephesians 5:11).
Also read Hyper Spiritualism | Spiritual Legalism | Guard Your Heart | Repentance | Hyper-Grace theology | The Errors of The Modern Prosperity Gospel | If Your Not Fighting Sin, Your Living It. | The Joy of TRUTH
When an issues is tested and scripture is silent on that issue, than the right judgement is to agree to disagree and to follow your own conscious. It would be wrong to judge other people over a disputable matter because you would be using YOUR standard and not God’s. But if scripture is explicit and the issue can be known in scripture, than it is not disputable and we can rightly judge what God has declared and desires.
Where do we rightly and correctly test, discern, and judge?
We DO NOT test and rightly judge to humiliate or belittle people! We do not do it to shame them. The humiliation and shaming will come from God in his time and by his will. After testing the issue and determining it to be contrary to Holy Scripture, the person should be gently and lovingly approached privately. If the person is not a believer than just a gospel presentation is needed. We can not expect nonbelievers to understand spiritual truths when they are spiritually blind. We must always remember they are victims of sin. This is why we do not apply spiritual disciplines to non-believers (1 Corinthians 5:12). If they profess to be a believer in Jesus Christ, than Jesus himself lays out what he expects for Church Discipline.
When a believer is found to contradict Holy Scripture and in sin Jesus gives the following process for an absolute attempt at repentance and restoration (Matthew 18:15-20):
- go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone (v15)
- if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses (v16)
- If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church (v17a)
- if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector (17b).
Paul applied this church discipline and due to continued sexual sin in a member of the Corinthian church and their rejection of the efforts of Paul and church members they were ultimately excommunicated (1 Corinthians 5:1–13). Just as Jesus instructed (Matthew 18:17). BUT the excommunication then ultimately lead to his repentance and Paul encouraged the church to bring him back in (2 Corinthians 2:5–8). In our society this seems ‘harsh’ and is labeled ‘unloving’ but remember, this comes from our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ.
The purpose of these steps of discipline is to lead sinners to repentance in a tangible way accompanied by the convictions of the Holy Spirit. It is NOT hateful or unloving. Rebuking, correcting, and excommunication done in truth and love Glorifies God. It is not easy, and does not always look pretty, but neither did Jesus hanging on the cross. Yet, that is the greatest display of love. It really comes down to if you fear the opinions of man and let your feelings and emotions lead you; or if you stand by the principles and truths in Holy Scripture despite how you feel and others opinions.
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When Truth Hurts
When we test, discern, and rightly judge something that is contrary to truth; sometimes people’s feelings get hurt. You may expose the fact they have been believing a lie or maybe they even enjoy living in the lie. And no matter your efforts to be loving and gentle, they will still get hurt or offended. Is that wrong? No. In 1 Kings 19:10 and Nehemiah 9:26 it is recorded that the prophets were murdered because they were calling out the people for believing in lies. Jeremiah was sought to be put to death for making people feel guilty (Jeremiah 38:4). The absolute most loving person, Jesus, was murdered by his own people. Only one Apostle died at an old age, the rest were murdered. All of this because of truth. When we can avoid offending someone, we should (Matthew 17:27); but when it comes to righteous judgements and truth, some times it is unavoidable (Matthew 6:60-66). Hurt feelings and feelings of being offended are not because of your righteous judgement but are actually because of their rejection of God’s truths. Those who righteously judge will be hated and persecuted (Matthew 10:22, 24:9) because the truth of Jesus came as a sword that divides (Matthew 10:34-35).
The Process of Righteous Judgement;
- Listen to the issue
- Understand the issue
- Look at the fruit the issue produces
- Compare the issue to Holy Scripture
- Is the Issue explicitly addressed?
- Is Holy Scripture Silent on the issue?
- Determine the issues comparability to Holy Scripture
- What is declared about the issue and its fruit?
- Is Holy Scripture contradicted?
- Make a right judgement
- Is it a disputable matter?
- Is it contradictory to Holy Scripture?
- What is Holy Scripture’s judgement on the issue?
- Privately Correct the person about the issue
- If they are not a Christian:
- Explain why you believe what you believe
- Present the gospel
- If they claim to be a Christian: Apply Church Discipline process.
The Systematic Tests to help lead people to rightly judge truth:
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