By Rev Tan Eng Boo
The apostle Paul warned the Christians in Ephesus “that they no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph. 4:14 ESV).
Doctrinal deception is an on-going reality in the Church since the days of Jesus Christ and the apostles. It is on the same level with other worldly schemes and deceptions. We should be cautious when we listen to preachers and read a host of writings from the internet. How many people have been swayed and persuaded by them! The church is not spared from deception as we see how a Christian boy was influenced to bear arms against Islam:
“A 16-year-old boy has been detained in Singapore for allegedly plotting to kill Muslims in two mosques on the Christchurch attacks anniversary. Influenced by Christchurch killer Brenton Tarrant, the teenager had allegedly planned to knife his victims and livestream the attack. The 16-year-old Singaporean, who has not been identified but has been described as a Protestant Christian, is said to have been "motivated by a strong antipathy towards Islam and a fascination with violence," said the country's Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA)”
(BBC News 28 Jan. 2021)
Be a discerning Christian
Whether it is a theological/doctrinal issue or some things you read on the internet because your friend said this is “for real,” some discernment must be exercised. Fake news abounds in social media. Many people pick it up and pass it on not realizing that it is fake news. It can be dangerous to read it and spread it if it is untrue. It is equivalent to spreading rumours.
This is the same with doctrinal teaching when it is not faithfully taught or if there is an ulterior motive to teach it. When I was in Bible College someone said, “The pearl of great price is not a unique pearl.” Is it? (See Matthew 13:45, 46). Here is the need for discernment. We better find out properly what is being said rather than simply accepting and swallowing it as truth. How can we understand discernment?
John MacArthur’s definition of discernment:
“In its simplest definition, discernment is nothing more than the ability to decide between truth and error, right and wrong. Discernment is the process of making careful distinctions in our thinking about truth. In other words, the ability to think with discernment is synonymous with an ability to think biblically”
In Deuteronomy 13, Moses warned of false teachers who would make predictions and claim to perform miracles. Moses tells us not to follow those teachers even if their predictions come to pass and miracles seem to occur. This is because they are proclaiming a false God. The standard of truth by which all teachings should be measured is the teaching of Scriptures. We should always ask, “Is what is said about God scriptural?” This type of questioning helps in the process to determine doctrinal accuracy.
Jay E. Adams says, “The Christian faith demands much of the listener. It requires him to think, to be on the alert, to know his Bible well, to weight and evaluate all that he is exposed to.” Jonathan Edwards says, “… knowing the Scriptures is the business not just of the clergy but of every Christian.”
Learn to discern
Every Christian has some measure of discernment. We need to put it into practice regularly. May I suggest that we do the following if we are going to discern what is right and wrong as we live in a world of deception.
1. Ask God to help you to be discerning so that you will be able to uncover His truth as you should. As you listen to a preacher or read something from social media please pray for discernment. Listen and read carefully.
2. Take time to read the Bible and make an effort to study it. Suppose someone said that “the pearl of great price is not a unique pearl” you need to read Matthew 13 and do a study on it because this sounds suspicious. If you have not been reading the Scripture this saying will be accepted easily. There are also lots of prophetic teachings today by “famous end-time preachers.” They sound convincing. Because they are “famous” we cannot take their words for granted. When Paul preached in Berea, “they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11 ESV).
When we turn away from the truth, we deceive ourselves, and will finally believe anything even though it is false. Let us keep ourselves from being deceived. May I encourage you to join the church Bible class to study the Bible together so that “we will not be tossed to and fro from by every wind of doctrine … by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph. 4:14 ESV).
“Our best defence against false teaching is the personal, systematic study of Scripture. We have access to the Word of God and the ministry of the indwelling Spirit. Let's exercise our privileges” (A. W. Tozer)
A prayer from Tozer:
O Lord, teach me from Your Word in these days of erroneous interpretation, mistaken contextualization and misapplication.