Discernment is needed these days as much as it ever has been. Are you exercising your gift of discernment?

I did I children’s talk about the importance of telling the truth and told them the story of the boy who cried wolf. I asked them to listen carefully because afterwards I was going to ask them a question.

I recounted the story of a young boy who had the job of protecting the town’s sheep. The sheep resided in a field at the bottom of a mountain next to a scary forest. It was a lonely job.

One day the boy, because he was lonely, and, no doubt, thought it would be fun, decided to pretend that he saw a wolf. As he shouted ‘Wolf’ at the top of his voice, the townspeople ran to help him, to protect the sheep, only to find there was no wolf. As you can imagine, the people were not at all happy with him.

A short time later, when he was once again feeling lonely, he decided to cry ‘Wolf’ once again. As he did, the townspeople again came running to find that there was no wolf. This made the people even angrier with the boy.

Sometime later, whilst the boy was watching the sheep, he really did see a wolf about to attack the sheep. He cried ‘Wolf’ at the top of his voice, but no help came. Now here is my question to you: ‘Why did none of the townspeople come to help him?’

Who Can We Trust?

There are some people we feel we should be able to trust. In that category we might say are the Police, the Doctor, the Politician (I said those we should be able to trust), our Parents, and those who claim to be representing God. Of course, none of these people are infallible, they can all make mistakes, but what if, like the boy who cried wolf, there develops a pattern of lies and broken promises, should we continue to trust them?

Test All Things

Are we breaking the Lord’s injunction to not judge when we exercise discernment, question the sincerely held beliefs of others? We often hear that charge. You can Read more here.

The Bible warns us that we should test all things.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.’ (1 John 4:1)

Scripture warns us that there are some whom we should not trust, they are liars. Clearly, we should not just believe those who claim to represent God, those who say, ‘we have heard from God’, or who claim to be speaking for God. Such ones need to be tested, but how are we to go about this exercising of discernment?

Discernment and Testing the Spirits

John continues to give advice to believers:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world… We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.’ (1 John 4:1,6)

John here points out that a way to test if the message is from God, is to see if what is being said agrees with that taught by the apostles of the Lord Jesus. Any message contrary to what they teach is a false gospel. The apostle Paul speaks about such:

But if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed’ (Galatians 1:8)

Discernment and The Bible

Where can we find what the apostles of the Lord Jesus taught? In the Word of God – The Bible.

In these days the Bible is under attack like never before, discernment needed as much as ever. The attack not only comes from the usual suspects, those outside of the church, but also from those within. If a person denies the Word of God, then how can they test all things? All teachings must be tested against that which the apostles wrote in the inspired Word of God.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.’ (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.’ (2 Peter 1:21)

All Things

I came across this quote the other day:

It is far better to have questions that you cannot answer, than to have answers you cannot question’.

This is so true. Truth should never be afraid of questions. In hearing a message or a teaching, we should ask questions. Does it line up with the Word of God? Is the message from a trusted source? Paul cautions us, ‘…test everything; hold fast what is good.’ (1 Thessalonians 5:21)

We read of the Jews of Thessalonica:

Now the 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.’ (Acts 17:11)


How many times do we hear on the news of a crime being committed by someone no one suspected? We hear people say things like: ‘I am in total shock. I have known him for many years and always believed him to be a moral and upstanding member of the community. I cannot believe it’. Jesus said these words:

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.’ (Matthew 7:15)

Those claiming to be representing God do not look like wolves If they did, the flock would run as fast as they can, and the shepherd would leap into action. But if wolves don’t look like wolves, no one is going to cry ‘Wolf’, they are going to believe that the flock is safe and so will not sound the alarm.

The Bible warns us that false prophets, and false spirits don’t always look malicious. They are not always going to be easy to spot:

And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.’ (2 Corinthians 11:14-15)

A True Prophet

Warning of false prophets, Jesus urges us to test those who claim to be God’s voice to the church. He says that we will ‘recognise them by their fruit’ (Matthew 7:16). What would the fruit of a false prophet be?

Just as an apple tree would produce apples, and an orange tree would produce oranges, what would a false prophet tree produce? False prophecies.

But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him. (Deuteronomy 18:20-22)

But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. (Deuteronomy 13:5)

As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet. (Jeremiah 28:9)

This is very clear. A false prophet is one who claims to speak for God, yet what they say does not come to pass. We can find numerous examples of this amongst groups we would call non-Christian cults, but it is becoming increasingly common to find those who falsely prophesy in the church. Again, Jesus warned this would be the case:

And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray… And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray…For false Christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand.’ (Matthew 24:4-5,11,24-25)

The word Christ is not Jesus’ surname. It literally means ‘anointed one’. How often do we hear, in these days, people in the church talk about being anointed? I hear people all the time say of speakers; ‘O they are so anointed’. Courses are offered that we may receive the anointing and then be taught how to prophesy.

Note that Jesus says that these anointed ones, these prophets, will be able to perform great signs and wonders, to lead many astray. If we are dazzled by the signs and wonders we may be fooled, but if we look to see if what they teach is in accord what the Lord’s apostles taught, what the Word of God teaches, we will be protected from falsehood.

Discernment and Division?

Have you ever had someone challenge you regarding the truth of God’s Word? I was recently told that, by calling false prophets to account, I was causing division. ‘How so?’ I enquired.

It is strange isn’t it, that those who stand on the truth of God’s Word, are the ones said to be causing division. This is not what the Bible says.

The Apostle Paul spoke about this to the church at Rome:

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve. (Romans 16:17-18)

Paul says that those who cause division do so by teaching doctrine contrary to that which the apostle’s taught. His advice is to avoid them.

If there are those who, whether within or without the church, teach doctrine contrary to the Bible, they are not of God. The Bible tells us that God is not the author of confusion, so anything that comes from Him cannot contradict previous truth and, if a so-called prophetic word is given, it must come to pass.

‘…and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.’ (1 Corinthians 14:32-33)


Therefore, having said all this, any idea of a spiritual witness of truth, a feeling that God has spoken to me, a belief that something is true, must be tested. All things must be tested against that which the apostles taught, and we find this in the Word of God – the Bible.

A biblical false prophet was a servant of the devil attempting to lead people away from the truth. Walter Martin

Scratching people where they itch and addressing their ‘felt needs’ is a stratagem of the poor steward of the oracles of God. This was the recipe for success for the false prophets of the Old Testament. R.C. Sproul