Contend Earnestly: The Spiritual Gift of Criticism, Not Discernment

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Spiritual Gift of Criticism, Not Discernment

I was having coffee with a friend the other day and we were speaking about life and what's going on with our walks with Jesus, etc. He brought up the fact that he, and another one of my friends, had a meeting with someone who disagreed with them highly on how they are serving Jesus in a particular area. This guy started off like this...first thing out of his mouth:

I have the spiritual gift of discernment

My buddy said..."I knew it was going to be a long meeting after that first remark." When my friend was speaking to his pastor about this, his pastor remarked, "This guy doesn't have the spiritual gift of discernment, but the spiritual gift of criticism." I thought that was actually a very good observation and figured I would put out some thoughts on those people who believe they have some magical gift of discernment.

1. You Are Not the Holy Spirit's Bat Phone

The first thing is the fact, unless I am overlooking a verse in the bible, that there is no such thing a special gift given to some for discernment. It is actually given to all believers and Hebrews speaks to those who are "mature" in the faith.

For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
Hebrews 5:13-14

We are all called to discern. It is not only given to those who have some special gift, so the Holy Spirit can use you to be the bat phone to the world to spew forth what is good and what is evil. It is for all believers, because all believers have the Spirit. Look what Paul says to all the believers in Philippi:

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:9-11

One of the marks of an elder is to make sure that he is mature in the faith, so that he can discern and defend the truth (Titus 1:9; 1 Timothy 3:6-7), but this doesn't mean that they are the only ones with this understanding of discernment. Maybe you should realize that you are God's gift to the world, but the Holy Spirit actually does guide and direct other saints within the fold on how to serve their culture for the glory of God. You might want to get over yourself, and submit yourself to God's wisdom and glory.

2. Discernment is Grace Filled, Not Spiteful

The one thing that has been blatantly obvious to me with every single person who says that they have this "gift" or are a part of discernment "ministries" is that they all come across very angry and spiteful. Know that when you tell someone you don't agree with how they are living their life, it is always going to be difficult to do, but it shouldn't be with the spirit of hatred. Actually, because of the spirit of hate that comes across with these "ministries", it just shows how much they aren't filled with the Spirit, but with something else.

Discernment should be used in accordance with the idea that Paul brings across in the term "admonishment." This term doesn't mean to yell at people and tell them that they are simply wrong. The term means to walk alongside someone and show them the truth within relationship, not by yelling or provoking someone from afar. The term is closely related to the term "exhort" which literally means to "summons to one's side." Here is how the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament puts it:

His (Paul's) pastoral work in a congregation is retrospectively presented as a special, inwardly motivated cure of souls by means of indefatigable exhortation with a view to correction and amendment (Ac. 20:31). His sharp criticism in letters is simply the corrective word of a father to his children (1 C. 4:14 f.). Similarly a congregation admonishes or corrects whether by its pastors (1 Th. 5:12: τοὺς … νουθετοῦντας ὑμᾶς) or by the reciprocal brotherly ministry of the members exercising pastoral oversight with a sense of congregational obligation (1 Th. 5:14; R. 15:14;16 Col. 3:16).
Kittel, Gerhard (Hrsg.) ; Bromiley, Geoffrey William (Hrsg.) ; Friedrich, Gerhard (Hrsg.): Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. electronic ed. Grand Rapids, MI : Eerdmans, 1964-c1976, S. 4:1022

Paul shows this clearly when he is about to correct the Corinthians. This church in Corinth is jacked, yet look at his opening remarks to this exudes love and grace:

Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

1 Corinthians 1:1-9

This is how discernment should be love and grace, not hatred. If you desire to just tear down brothers and sisters in Christ...then you don't have the gift of discernment, but of criticism.

3. The Gospel is What We Are FOR, Not What We Are Against

What defines you? Do more people know what you are for or what you are against? I still remember when a friend was teaching about the dangers of the "Purpose Driven" movement and he started with this:

When in heaven and you are sitting down and speaking to Paul and Rick Warren, you don't want it to go like this:

Paul starts to speak about his ministry to the Gentiles and the ways that he gave up some of his freedoms for their sake, how he journeyed all over for their salvation, and how he was serving the church. He then looks to Rick Warren and asks him to share. Pastor Warren speaks about the different ways he was desiring to see people saved and bringing them in to hear the word of God, how he was trying to take the AIDS epidemic head on and his work overseas and also in his own culture. Then Paul looks to you and asks for you to share how you were desiring to call people to follow Jesus. You simply point at Rick Warren and say, "My ministry was to fight against him."

The Gospel is good news to be given in both word and deed. Followers of Jesus are called followers because this is an action. It is something we do, He is someone we are for...fully. We need to be more about who we follow, not what we disagree on. If you read the New Testament, especially Paul's writings, you'll notice that most of his epistles start with everything he is for and it is mostly about Jesus and his death and resurrection. This should be what defines us, not what we are against. So called "discernment ministries" are defined by what they hate and are against...this is not the Spirit of God, but something totally different. We are told to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9) and have the spirit of unity ...I am not sure how any of these discernment ministries defend their actions with these teachings in mind.

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Ephesians 4:1-3

Notice, what the fruit of the Spirit is:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.

Galatians 5:22-26

I would hope that when we look to correct each other, we do it with the understanding of how Paul corrected. Let us truly show the gift of discerning what is good and evil and how to come along side each other to show them the truth. Let us trust in the Spirit and the sovereignty of God and not become mere critics, but true family who cares for one another. Also, if you read these discernment websites or ministry newsletters, start to truly discern yourself whether or not they have the Spirit of God, or another of hate. Do not give them an ear, but ask that God would unify all of us and that He would make us peacemakers of the truth, instead of divisive.


Ken Silva said...

"So called 'discernment ministries' are defined by what they hate and are against...this is not the Spirit of God, but something totally different."

Really; "something different." Do tell, what exactly is that, hmm.

And apparently you're defined by being against "so-called 'discernment ministries.'"

Works both ways you know.

Seth McBee said...

Go ahead and read more of the'll see that my blog isn't defined by discernment ministries. I have written very little about them. This post was defined by them...sort of. It was more of how to correctly understand what discernment is and isn't.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

I hope you're well.

Ken Silva said...

I know who you are. And I didn't say your blog is defined, etc. etc.

I said you personally, by lumping all "So called 'discernment ministries'" together and saying they are not operating in "the Spirit of God" have defined yourself as being against them.

That's a pretty serious charge you've leveled there. Might wanna think it through Seth, and repent.

Anonymous said...

Ken, you are one of the least spiritual, least Christlike, least discerning, least knowledgeable people on the that a serious enough charge for you?

I wonder why is it that you never need to repent...

Even when you are right you support your points with lies (or you are stupid...but lets give your intellect the benefit of the doubt...)

also how do you "Know who Seth is" that sounds ominous....

Ooooo Ken sees you when you are sleeeeping....

Ken Silva said...


And I personally feel that you are one of the least spiritual, least Christlike, least discerning, least knowledgeable people on the internet spreading lies about me.

So there you go.

FX Turk said...

Seth --

You don't understand: unless every single heretic and heresy is exposed and decimated (by amonymous people and people who cannot be held accountable the way the Bible says they should be), three things must be true.

[1] All apologetics and apologists are therefore named pesona non grata. It's an insurmountable barrier to discussion that you must throw out James White, Greg Koukl, Chris Rosebrough and Ken Silva if you throw out the sniper in the pew and the anonymous watchblogger. The reasoning is that if you condemn ranting and anonymous "discernment", you have denied the biblical mandate to be like the Bereans, the biblical command to give an "apologia", and the biblical example of Paul all over the place.

[2] You yourself must be one of the suspect wolves in sheep's clothing. You are one of the one who has crept in, and are likely to make shipwreck of your faith (and probably everyone else') (except the elect, of course) (if there are any elect left).

[3] It's your heart that must be wrong to point out, for example, that it's in the book of Galatians that Paul recites what the fruit of the Spirit is as the remedy for the error of the Galatians.

So repent, yo. Repent before your whole scheme of subverting all truth and all faith through rap music and outreach to underpriviledged kids is exposed for the Gospel-destroying mess that it is.

Something like that.

FX Turk said...

Just for the record, when we start taking statement from someone who calls himself (herself?) "poopemerges" with any degree of seriousness, we are off the rails all 'round.

Ken Silva said...

"Just for the record, when we start taking statement from someone who calls himself (herself?) "poopemerges" with any degree of seriousness, we are off the rails all 'round."

You see Frank, here's where you show your ignorance of this whole subject. I happen to know, and have a history with, Pastor Dave of G-Rap who had a blog named Poop is emergent too but who now blogs here:

Just as I personally know Coram Deo, have personal phone numbers, and have spoken with this person many times. There's a lot about doing this line of work Frank that you simply do not know.

I think you would be best served to refrain from commenting about it. It's tough enough doing what we do without taking "friendly fire."

Darlene said...

Each Lord's Day at Divine Liturgy I am reminded of my need to call upon the mercy of God. In each Liturgy the words of our Lord Jesus are sung, "Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy." And before I partake of the Eucharist I, along with all others partaking, confess, "I believe, O Lord, and I confess that Thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the living God, who camest into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first."

Why do I mention this? Because the focus is first on me and my sinfulness before the Sinless One, Christ our God. I recall the days when I would look to find what was wrong within others, whether they be Christians or non-Christians. My life became an exercise of rooting out what was wrong with others, while neglecting to "work out my own salvation with fear and trembling."

Our Lord said "The eye is the lamp of the body. If the eye is sound the body is full of light." However, I have found that I am not yet complete nor full of light. There are dark areas within me that need to be swept clean with Christ's Light. As I mingle and communicate with my family and friends who are everything from atheists, agnostics, Pentecostals, Evangelicals, Calvinists, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, vegan, Clairol Christians {only God knows for sure :)}etc., I pray that I might be Christ to each one of them. I pray that I might have His Life living in me to such an extent that they will be drawn to Christ. Msy it not be said of me that I scandalized our Lord by doing or saying something that caused another to stumble or sin.

Speaking about the Christian way is easy. Living the Christian way as a genuine follower of Christ is hard. There is a struggle in the latter that should humble me before the throne of grace. May we each follow the words of the blessed Apostle, St. John, who said, "Brethren let us not love in word and speech but in deed and in truth." May we take in and embrace this truth and live it in His presence each moment of the day, those of us who call ourselves Christians.

FX Turk said...

It's funny how many times I can say all the cognates of "Ken Silva is not the problem" and group him with credible people as a non-watchblogger, he still sees me as sending "friendly fire" his way.

As for how we will all be best served, when there are no longer Christian lynch mobs in the blogosphere, we will all be best served and best serving to Christ. This includes the flocks of harridans who are not accountable to their local pastors because they are all far more spiritual than any man they have met, ordained or not -- a category pf heresy Ken has yet to do any in-depth study of.

I am sure it is next on his list, and I look forward to his endeavors in that field.

Ken Silva said...

"It's funny how many times I can say all the cognates of 'Ken Silva is not the problem'."

Well Frank, that might actually have some impact were it not then followed by sentences like this:

"a category pf heresy Ken has yet to do any in-depth study of. I am sure it is next on his list, and I look forward to his endeavors in that field."

Arthur Sido said...


You have a knack for drawing them out of the woodwork.

Seth McBee said...

You don't know know my writing on the internet...unless you do follow me around or use a different name on the internet ;)

I also don't know you, I only know how you treat people over the internet and how you write posts and seem to always (notice I said seem, as I don't read everything you write) belittle others and tell them to repent. Just by your comments here you have proved my point some.

My post wasn't actually about you, but more about the gentleman that met with some of my close friends. It was more about how to discern, instead of going after guys like you. Were there a few jabs? Yeah...there was a couple. But, I don't think it was over the top.

Seth McBee said...


No joke.

Seth McBee said...

Also Ken.

Frank is a lot more on your side than you think. Not with his overall thinking on the subject of discernment ministries or blogwatchers, but you specifically.

Just might be a little nicer to those who got your back.

elderchild said...

Discernment shared with those who have not received "the love of The Truth" becomes but criticism or at worst "judgment", yet it is their own conscience criticizing and/or condemning them ;-(

Sadly, such is the state of those who are held captive by the religious systems of this wicked world ;-(

"Come Out of her, MY people"!

Father Help! and HE does.......

Ken Silva said...


Follow along carefully, k. I said that I know who you are; I did not say that I know you, so what you said really has nothing to do with the fact that I am aware of who Seth McBee is.

As far as "going after" guys like me, here's what you said: "So called 'discernment ministries' [all] are defined by what they hate and are against...this is not the Spirit of God, but something totally different."

Since I have one of the more prominent "so-called" online apologetics and discernment ministries, I'd say your opining that I, as a pastor-teacher called by Christ, am not in line with the Spirit of God, "was over the top."

I'm not speaking in anger; I don't take it personally, it goes with my turf. However, that statement is just as "hateful" as anything all the discerment ministries you lumped together may have said.

Food for thought, no. I'll not trouble you further.

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