Word of the Week: Transcendence

Mail Call #1: Why don't they check against the Bible?

Hawkeye on the TV show M*A*S*H on Mail Call day
I receive questions and emails about theological topics from readers, as most bloggers do. My email address is listed in the 'About This Blog' tab. Sometimes someone will ask a question in a comment. There's a comment in the queue in which someone asked me a great question that I haven't posted yet. I will, I am working on an answer.

One particular question I frequently receive is on the topic of discernment. Some people have been given the spiritual gift of discernment. All Christians are supposed to exercise discernment, whether they have the gift or not. (Acts 17:11, 1 Thessalonians 5:21, 1 John 4:1). However, for the edification of the local and global body, as an early warning system, the Spirit has given an extra measure of discernment. The folks possessing this gift can detect false doctrine or a false teacher. People with this gift can detect whether the spirit working in a person is the Holy Spirit or another spirit. They can spot a counterfeit, or detect something off in a person's life, teaching, or words. And so on.

People with this gift see truth so clearly, cling to it so tightly, and react so joyfully, it's sometimes hard for them to understand how or why everyone can't see what they see, understand what they know, detect what they detect. it's perplexing to them. They love the scriptures so much they wonder why any and all Christians don't leap into truth every chance they get. So the discerning person will gently point out that a certain teacher is false. They'll share that the teacher is using them as merchandise, or is promoting an ungodly agenda. And the reaction of the hearer will be one of dismissal, apathy, or anger. In most cases, there will be a refusal to even go to scripture and hear out the case. And here comes the mail call question.

Q. Are they misinformed (as I once was) because they absolutely rely on misinformation and will not seek to find confirmation for or against a teacher who says questionable things?

It's heartbreaking to see loved ones in one's family or church or work life pursue ungodliness by following false teachers. It's even worse when they decide to cling more tightly to that false teacher instead of investigating the issue. In discernment discussions, we often refer to Acts 17:11. I'd like to point out something in the verse that isn't discussed much- the comparison

Paul noted in Acts 17:11 that "these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so."

What this tells us is that, just like today, not everyone checked the scriptures to see if what Paul was telling them was so. Not all people hear and then eagerly check. He said the Bereans were "more" noble, which by virtue of the word more, we understand the Thessalonians were "less" noble. The Bereans were more noble than the Thessalonians because they checked, and the Thessalonians didn't.

The scriptures record that in Thessalonica some did believe, but others (the Jews) were incited by the scriptures and mobbed Paul and forced him out of the city down to Berea. This tells us that not only do some people fail to test scripture but that some hold onto their version of scripture so hard they become varying degrees of enraged when their pet theories or philosophies are exposed.

Other times when they refuse to listen to you or to check to see if it is so, it’s because of a situation called ‘deception by investment.' A believer has followed the false teacher for so long, or invested so much personal worth, (money buying their books, travel time to their conferences, etc) or have staked their own personal credibility in promoting this teacher, that they do not want to face the fact that they might have been wrong all this time. So their pride won’t allow them to check against the Bible and they continue on in their deception.

If this is hard to believe, remember, unsaved people suppress the truth very well despite the fact of the existence of the earth telling them every minute that God’s invisible qualities are readily seen. (Romans 1:18-19). For saved people or false converts, it’s the same thing. They suppress the truth that a certain teacher is false. We creatures are good at suppressing. It happens all the time, every day, to the saved and the unsaved.

The difference between a false convert refusing to have an ear to hear and the saved person who initially has a bad reaction to the news their favorite teacher is a false one, is the Spirit in them. If the person has the pagan spirit in them, over time they will continue to follow the false teacher.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14)

However, the Holy Spirit in a person will never allow them to continue sinning, and following a false teacher is sin. He will alert them by giving them ears to hear, and soon enough, the words you've shared will enlighten their mind and begin the transformation by virtue of being carried by the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit's ministry is to point to Jesus, who is Truth. He will not allow a person to continue pointing to the false. So even if you initially receive a bad reaction (hopefully not a mob chasing you out of your town or your church!) if the person is truly saved, they will respond soon enough by repenting and falling away from that false teacher, or false doctrine, or false practice.


Further Reading

What is discernment and why is it important?

How to identify false teachers


  1. This has been an extremely edifying and encouraging post. My husband and I both have the gift of discernment... not always the most welcome gift in the church today, as you indicated, but again as you said, if the Holy Spirit is truly in someone, eventually He will give them eyes to see.

    Acts 17:11 and 1 John 4:1 are very important verses.

    Thanks Elizabeth!


  2. Wow, you just described my sister and mother perfectly. I left the catholic church when I was saved (I have the gift of discernment too) and they're still there. They refuse to listen to me and my sister grows very angry if I mention anything. The reaction is almost scary - it comes on so hard and fast. I long to show them articles like this one and others I've read and to encourage them to read the bible. It makes me so sad because I know where they're headed for all eternity if they don't repent and believe. Please say a prayer for them that the Holy Spirit will remove their blinders so they can see clearly.

    I can't remember how I stumbled onto your blog but I'm glad I did! You have taught me so much and I really appreciate you sharing your gifts.


    1. I'm sorry about your family, Kristen. I'll say a prayer.

  3. I have taught senior adults, men and women who had been every day folks and/or successful, famous, and even infamous. The people who really did not like me--I have the gift of discernment--were those who sent money to, and were fans of, false prophets. I would often respond to questions about matters of false teaching. "My favorite false prophet whom I send money to, said this . . ." sort of scenario. Or we'd have a speaker come to church who began to things like, "We, the Church are the New Israel," or, "The Lord has set aside the Jews." (I am a pre-trib, Premill believer. Amillinnealists really dislike my views. The difference between Pre-trib Premills is substially this: Amills leave a lot of room for misinterpretation because of their method of interpretation that relies heavily on figures of speech. As well, they often disparage the study of prophecy, preferring to believe that the emphasis of the prophets and eschatology is ethics.) So, people with the gift of discernment are often in hot water.

  4. Perhaps it's my comment you're working on :) I think I commented anonymously before. Perhaps I have the gift of discernment, I'm not sure. I've always had a 'feeling' certain teachers or traditions weren't right but I hadn't yet come across any discernment blogs or sermons so I had no clue just how corrupt the mainstream church is. I see from everyone else who has commented that there seems to be a lot of pain associated with discernment.. has the Lord removed this pain from you Elizabeth? I have lost a bible study group of friends I was a part of for 5 years.. and with them a host of other friends. It is hard because of course I warn them out of love, but they can't see that for whatever reason. I have started turning down birthday party invitations that these former friends will be at because I simply can't bear another like the last party I went to. I have deleted my facebook and try to stay off.. it's hard to explain, but something in me just HAS to share the information I've learned. Every time I get back on facebook I share articles that 'get me in trouble'. I've lost so much in earthly terms this year.. but I've gained SO much spiritually, and for that I'm thankful. God has been gracious to me and opened my eyes when I did not deserve it. I was one of the most 'spiritual' people you'd ever meet.. I had no idea I was completely off track. Anyway, thanks for this article. I could have cried when I opened the page! So many of my struggles seem to be shared by those who also possess discernment so this article and the comments were encouraging to me.

  5. When I say has the Lord removed this pain from you I mean has he removed the feeling of defeat and heartache when someone comes against you and is upset by what you've shared out of love.

    1. Hi Emily, I'm so sorry for your losses. They do hurt, don't they? I praise Him that He has opened your eyes!! He comforting to know we are on track and growing in His grace and wisdom! The Lord has promised for all we have endured, we will receive a hundredfold in heaven.

      Mark 10:29-30, "“Truly I tell you,” said Jesus, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for My sake and for the gospel 30will fail to receive a hundredfold in the present age — houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and fields, along with persecutions — and to receive eternal life in the age to come."

      We are in a war, a spiritual battle, and battles hurt. They cause casualties and wounds. I've been hurt too, deeply, with heartache and defeated feelings. I'm no different than anyone else. But I don't dwell on the heartaches because I keep my eye on the prize ahead, Jesus and being in His presence one day. The wounds we receive here on earth are for a good cause and a good reason, and they will be removed from our memory when we get to heaven. So I just pick myself up and go on. I leave the people who have rejected Him (because they are not rejecting me, they are rejecting Him in me) behind and leave their judgment to Him.

      I focus on the fact that for those who have rejected Jesus totally and have no faith, nothing will be worse than when they die and at the judgment they realize their eternal fate. So I have compassion. There but for the grace of God, go I.

      And for those who think they are saved but aren't, I can't think of a worse moment than in Matthew 7:21-23 when they who did these things are confronted with the reality that they were never saved after all and will suffer torment in all eternity. There's no emotion or act I can ever do against them in real life or on my mind that will be worse than that. So I leave them alone in my mind and focus on His justice and holiness and be grateful for the things He has done.

      For those who are saved but have acted terribly toward me, I think of the losses they will endure at the Bema Seat, a reduction in rewards and their sadness as they see their works burned up. This thought also helps me, too, because no doubt I will suffer loss, as my own works are burned up that I though were so great but I discover they never were for Jesus after all! So overall, there is a sense of compassion and personal humility when we think of our wounds and hurts.

      Finally, dwelling on them just saps my energy to do good and pursue holiness so I just don't. :)

  6. Thank you so much for your reply! We have just found a biblically sound church in our area (Praise God!!!) and I'm excited to see where that leads. My husband and I talked with the pastor a little bit about our background in the charismatic church when he kept talking about allowing God to "speak to you" during the service. He was shocked that people actually think God speaks to your mind, he thought it was a given that he meant let the word speak to you during the service. It was an interesting conversation! That was the thing that tipped my friends over the edge, when I started questioning God speaking to our minds. I have more peace now than I ever have because the mystery has been taken out of following the Lord. Instead of wondering if that voice in my head is me or God I can just open up His word. When asked to explain this voice in their head most people just say that the more you grow as a Christian the easier it is to recognize whether or not it's God. Part of what makes me so sad is what you mentioned above.. when I heard good teaching I cried, I just knew I had found truth. My heart was soft towards it, thanks be to God. The fact that their hearts are so angry and they won't even try to listen or research the truth is what's so scary. I continue to pray for them!

  7. Praise the Lord you found a good church! I'm SOOOO thrilled! The Spirit does lead us, but we're not aware of it happening when it's happening, and certainly not thru a voice, you're right. He has spoken though His Son, and His word is the Bible. Yay for you and your husband!


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