Your session will end in  seconds due to inactivity. Click here to continue using this web page.
The Study Bible - A Bible that gives you instant access to all of John’s teaching on the passage you’re reading.
Thursday, May 15, 2014 | Comments (20)

by John MacArthur

True biblical discernment isn’t developed by osmosis. It’s cultivated over time, as a believer matures in faith. The last few days, we’ve been considering the essential ingredients for discernment, including consistent prayer, the pursuit of godly wisdom, moral integrity, and the necessity of faithful Bible teaching and teachers. But none of those elements can function properly apart from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Depend on the Holy Spirit

The Spirit of God is ultimately the true Discerner. It is His role to lead us into all truth (John 16:13). First Corinthians 2:11 says, “The thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.” Paul goes on to write:

We have received . . . the Spirit who is from God, so that we might know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. (1 Corinthians 2:12–15)

Discernment ultimately depends on the Holy Spirit. As we are filled with and controlled by the Spirit of God, He makes us discerning.

Study the Scriptures

It cannot be overemphasized: True discernment requires diligent study of the Scriptures. None of the other previously stated steps is sufficient apart from this. No one can be truly discerning apart from mastery of the Word of God. All the desire in the world cannot make you discerning if you don’t study Scripture. Prayer for discernment is not enough. Obedience alone will not suffice. Good role models won’t do it either. Even the Holy Spirit will not give you discernment apart from His Word. If you really want to be discerning, you must diligently study the Word of God.

God’s Word is where you will learn the principles for discernment. It is there you will learn the truth. Only there can you follow the path of maturity.

Discernment flourishes only in an environment of faithful Bible study and teaching. Note that in Acts 20, when Paul was leaving the Ephesian elders, he warned them about the deadly influences that would threaten them in his absence (Acts 20:28–31). He urged them to be on guard, on the alert. How? What safeguard could he leave to help protect them from Satan’s onslaughts? Only the Word of God: “And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32).

Let’s look once more, closely, at 2 Timothy 2:15: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” Notice what this mandate to Timothy implies. First, it suggests that the discerning person must be able to distinguish between the Word of Truth and the “worldly and empty chatter” mentioned in verse 16. That may seem rather obvious. But it cannot be taken for granted. The task of separating God’s Word from human foolishness actually poses a formidable challenge for many today. One look at some of the nonsense that proliferates in churches and Christian media will confirm that this is so. Or note the burgeoning stacks of “Christian” books touting weird views. We must shun such folly and devote ourselves to the Word of God. We have to be able to distinguish between the truth and error.

How? “Be diligent.” Being diligent pictures a worker giving maximum effort in his or her work. It describes someone driven by a commitment to excellence. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God.” The Greek phrase literally speaks of standing alongside God as a colaborer worthy of identifying with Him.

Furthermore, Paul says this approved workman “does not need to be ashamed.” The word “ashamed” is very important to Paul’s whole point. Any sloppy workman should be ashamed of low-quality work. But a servant of the Lord, handling the Word of Truth carelessly, has infinitely more to be ashamed of.

What Paul suggests in this passage is that we will be ashamed before God Himself if we fail to handle the Word of Truth with discernment. If we can’t distinguish the truth from worldly and empty chatter, if we can’t identify and refute false teachers, or if we can’t handle God’s truth with skill and understanding, we ought to be ashamed.

And if we are to divide the Word of Truth rightly, then we must be very diligent about studying it. There is no shortcut. Only as we master the Word of God are we made “adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17). That is the essence and goal of discernment.

(Adapted from Reckless Faith.)


You have 3000 characters remaining for your comment. Note: All comments must be approved before being posted.


#2  Posted by James Allen  |  Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 9:29 AM

Comment deleted by user.
#3  Posted by Charles Williamson  |  Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 5:04 PM

How can we discern between what is right and who is wrong?

There’s only one way, we behold continually Him who is right and true; only then can we understand what is wrong and false.

So often we focus on what is right and who is wrong, therefore we err in discernment.

#4  Posted by Mike Dalgleish  |  Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 7:02 PM

God bless you John and all those at Grace Community Church,

I wholeheartedly agree with what John wrote. And I'd like to expound on what John wrote a little.

John 1:14; Acts 9:16, 22; Rom 5:1-2, 15-21; Rom 12:3-8

Phil 2:5-7

I believe we are to walk in faith and live in grace. I also believe that by the same power/strength and desire/motive (God's grace) that was in Christ to live and please the Father is also available to us and vital for God to work in those who claim Christ as Lord. However, only through faith can grace come. Since Christ is the Living Word of God, Jesus was perfect in faith and therefore perfect in God's grace. In Phil 2:5-7, Christ made Himself nothing/emptied Himself when He obeyed the Father to come down and die for our sins. Jesus had to rely on the Fathers grace to live and die the way He did. I believe this is the same for us. Jesus, scripture says, was made in the likeness of man. Jesus willingly put Himself in the same position before God as we are to be the perfect sacrifice for our trespasses through perfect righteousness (obedience)....and that by the grace God provided in Christ.

However, unlike Christ, we need our faith increased. And that only happens by having the word of God influence our thinking. and thereby, influence how we live. We know that faith comes by hearing the word of God, so it only stands to reason, that the more of the Word you hear/read the more faith you will have to walk in. And it's through that kind of faith God works (His strength and desire) in, I'm convinced. This includes having faith to discernment to rightfully dividing the word of God to living for God. All good things come from the Father. All good things are for His good work to which we were called in Christ Jesus.

God has used John to pastor me many times from hundreds of miles away in my christian walk. It has been through his straight preaching style that the Holy Spirit took and developed a deep conviction in the things I believe. My respect and trust in Grace to You Ministries is not without reason. John has shown over and over again that he rightfully divides the word of God according to his faith. Given the amount of time and energy into God's word as John McArthur has, it's not surprising to see God's grace work in his life in a great way and touch so many people.

God bless you all


#5  Posted by Mike Dalgleish  |  Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 7:36 PM

My apologies, I just now realized that I've been spelling John MacArthur's name wrong. sorry.

#6  Posted by Susan Comis  |  Friday, May 16, 2014 at 6:11 AM

I have been a Believer for many years and yesterday I became so disappointed and confused. Speaking of discernment.......I was visiting a Facebook Page of a Preacher/Teacher that I really respect. On the page it said there was a 43 minute video that was worth watching it was from a man who had been a member of John MacArthur's church. So I watched it. After watching I was heartsick because this man called out many well respected Preacher/Teachers who I would never consider false teachers, false teachers. It all pertained to the Gospel concerning Lordship Salvation, that Lordship Salvation is not the right Gospel. That the book by

John, The Gospel According To Jesus portrayed error and what John teaches regarding the Gospel is in error. Scriptures were provided to support what this man was saying but then there are Scriptures to support John's view. Both views make sense, many of the Preachers/Teachers who I thought were sound and well respected are calling each other false teachers. All this is doing is causing confusion to those of us who are truly seeking discernment. Why is this happening? I questioned the Pastor who allowed this particular video to be on his Facebook page and said that it was unloving and this was his response "I agree with John MacArthur on practically everything except his view of the Gospel. I posted the video because it explains why. It is not unloving to protect people from false doctrine, particularly in this very important area of Soteriology. " I guess my next question to this Pastor should have been, Why would you look to John for anything else if you don't agree with his view on the Gospel! The Gospel is the main thing of it all! The Pastor who allowed the video from the ex-Grace To You member is not an easy believes ism Preacher/Teacher and teaches Eschatology right in line with what John teaches. So someone is right and someone is wrong, right? If all the Preachers/Teachers are allowing the same Holy Spirit to teach lead and guide them, then why don't they all agree with each other? Why do they call each other false teachers or claim they have false doctrine? Why don't they just call each other on the phone and call out each other that way and in love, instead of causing confusion and doubt for those of us who are seeking and hungry for the meat of the Word. This shouldn't be, should it? Please help me to understand....please.

#9  Posted by James Allen  |  Friday, May 16, 2014 at 10:48 AM

Comment deleted by user.
#25  Posted by Ron Carlson  |  Monday, May 19, 2014 at 6:44 AM

I believe that no one has all the answers and we should not get hung up on a few minor points or opinions, but I would stick with those teachers that get it right 98-99% of the time, rather than 60%. I went to a charismatic church years ago and couldn't believe how they misinterpreted scripture. They were part of the Kenneth Hagin "name it and claim it" following. All I can say is that the whole time I was there, my spirit wrestled inside of me with such inaccurate interpretations. So unless you are following some really lousy teacher, I wouldn't let one minor disagreement bother you. The main thing is to get in the word and obey! And as long as you have a strong relationship with Christ, that's all that matters.

#7  Posted by Ben Enders  |  Friday, May 16, 2014 at 6:26 AM

I have a question regarding grace. I always thought it was pretty simple. Chen in Hebrew and charis in the Greek, nothing fancy there. I always understood it to mean unmerited favor. We don’t deserve eternal life with Christ, but through God’s sovereign will some of us have been chosen and received the gift of grace (unmerited favor). I guess I should add in, “through faith” since I don’t want to start a debate on free will. I know that lexicons have different meanings listed for the word such as favor, blessing, goodwill, etc. Are these just different terms for unmerited favor? If they are they are not any good in my opinion. If they have a different meaning then I really don’t like it considering the importance of the word in the context of salvation. The reason I bring this up is because it seems that the word is overused. Christians unholster it like a gunslinger draws his gun in an old western. So when Mike says, “Jesus had to rely on the Fathers grace to live and die the way He did”, I don’t get it.

A little help here please.

#19  Posted by Mike Dalgleish  |  Friday, May 16, 2014 at 7:44 PM

Good day and God bless, Ben.

I agree with you on that grace is unmerited favor. But that can be said about anything from God. For what has man done that God should owe him? And, again, I agree that grace is overused.

What I meant when I stated, "Jesus had to rely on the Fathers grace (strength/power and desire/motive) to live and die the way He did”, is that when Christ "emptied" Himself (Phil 2:5-7) and took on the form of man, He did completely. Not once did Jesus didn't rely on His Deity while He walked the earth. In essence Jesus is God, but for practical purposes Jesus was also fully man. Jesus could have called on an army of angels to take Him off the cross, but He didn't. Jesus told Peter to cast his net on the other side of the boat when Peter, and those with him, were catching nothing. I'm certain God the Father was speaking though Christ then. I say that because Jesus said, "I can say nothing or do anything on my own". I believe what Christ meant is that He does nothing or says anything independently of the Father. I also believe that includes Jesus coming down to earth as a man. Not only did Christ, living before God fully as a man and yet being perfect in obedience (our righteousness), prove an acceptable sacrifice for our sins but also gives us a perfect example of how we are to walk before God the the grace of Christ. So that the Father gets all the glory.

I'm convinced, from my time in the word of God, that the same grace that Christ had to be obedient and empowered is not only the same grace available to us today, but it's the only way to become obedient and empowered for God. And that through faith. Scripture teaches that faith come from the word of God (which Christ is). We all have different measures of faith because we have different measures and understanding of God's word in our lives. And therefore, having different measures of God's grace in our lives. Where as, because Christ was fully the Word of God, so was Christs' faith.

God bless you, Ben


#20  Posted by Mike Dalgleish  |  Friday, May 16, 2014 at 9:31 PM

Blessings Ben, just some added thoughts I've had.

It was because of the grace of God (the Father's strength/power and desire/motive) that the Father worked in Christ (John 14:10-14; 5:30)through the Holy Spirit that Christ lived like no other man. Because of the grace of God at work in Jesus, the works Christ did were enough to believe and be saved (John 14:11). We can see God grace not only in the works of Christ in His ministry, but, also at the time just before His arrest in the garden through an angel (Luke 22:43). So we are truly saved by grace through faith (believe and trust) in Christs' righteousness (obedience) unto death, even death on the cross.

This is what my life needs to be like through a transformed mind and attitude.

Hope this explains it better for you, Ben. God bless you.


#8  Posted by James Allen  |  Friday, May 16, 2014 at 9:21 AM

Comment deleted by user.
#10  Posted by Susan Comis  |  Friday, May 16, 2014 at 11:57 AM

Thank you James and I understand what you are saying. It's just that I learned a lot from John MacArthur, Todd Friel, Kirk Cameron, Paul Washer, Francis Chan and others and these men including RC Sproul are being called False Teachers and they are teaching a wrong Gospel of Lordship Salvation. So I guess my question is, should a Christian continue to listen to these men and then rely on the Holy Spirit to take in what is sound and then disregard what you believe the Holy Spirit is leading you to know what isn't sound? Is it appropriate for me to put the link in here so you can listen or is this a no no? I never did the Blog scene before so I don't want to do anything to stir up trouble.

#13  Posted by Jeremiah Johnson (GTY Admin)  |  Friday, May 16, 2014 at 1:26 PM


It's times like this when it is most important to be like the Bereans and test everything we hear against Scripture. Our faith can't simply be bound up in John MacArthur's teaching, or that of any faithful servant of the Lord. Each of us is accountable for what we believe and how we act on what we believe. In this particular case, it seems like now would be a great time for you to do your own study on the issue of lordship salvation. Get a copy of The Gospel According to Jesus and read it carefully, with your Bible open to see if what John teaches is truly what God's Word says (if you don't have a copy, I'll happily send you one free of charge).

Don't let divided loyalties bounce you back and forth between disagreeing preachers. Cling to God's Word, and test their teaching against the testimony of Scripture.

#16  Posted by Todd Farr  |  Friday, May 16, 2014 at 3:03 PM


If I can offer any help here, I'd like to point to Romans 10:9-10:

"if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved."

While there are certainly those who confess Jesus as Lord who have "not" been justified (Matthew 7:21), the Bible does not speak of salvation apart from knowing Jesus as Lord. I don't even understand the argument anyone could make against Lordship salvation. Is someone actually going to claim that they have been saved by God's grace but reject Jesus as Lord? How does that work? "Yes, I am a part of the Kingdom of God but Jesus is not my Lord." That doesn't make sense and I'm not sure how to interpret that kind of thinking.

Hopefully this isn't something that troubles you too much, Susan. As Jeremiah said in post #13, test this against Scripture to see if there is any other type of salvation besides knowing Jesus as Lord. And as you said in #14, "Come, O Lord!" (if I knew how to italicize, I would italicize "Lord"!)

#17  Posted by James Allen  |  Friday, May 16, 2014 at 3:18 PM

Comment deleted by user.
#12  Posted by Brad Kennedy  |  Friday, May 16, 2014 at 12:12 PM

Susan (#6), The Cripplegate has today (5.16.14) posted an article by a TMS graduate, Lyndon Unger . I reccomend you read the article. He examines the charachteristics of those who teach what is false. As I was re-reading it, I wanted to make you aware after reading your comment. I was provoked to write this to you at the moment I read (from Lyndon's post) that part of the orthadoxy of false teachers is that "they oppose those who legitimately speak for God."

#14  Posted by Susan Comis  |  Friday, May 16, 2014 at 1:59 PM

Thank you all, I appreciate your help! Until the trumpet sounds......Maranatha.....Perhaps Today! (John Walvoord)

#22  Posted by James Allen  |  Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 2:42 PM

Comment deleted by user.
#23  Posted by Brad Kennedy  |  Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 12:18 PM

In post (#12), the statement "He examines the characteristics of those who teach what is false" could be more accurate and reflective of the referenced article had it read, "He examines the characteristics of those who falsely claim to be pastors and teachers."

#24  Posted by Ron Carlson  |  Monday, May 19, 2014 at 6:38 AM

This is so true, I run into so many Christians that watch Christian television and mix in all of these strange and unbiblical bible beliefs about the anointing, etc. The more you speak with them, the more you realize that they misinterpret scripture, take it out of context, or don't read the whole entirety of the scripture. I have seen in my own life that I cannot just read little bit's and pieces of the bible, I need to consume it and make it a very serious matter.

With all of these light-weight preachers out there like Joel Osteen, etc. and the large following that they have, you realize how many people are misled and not into the word. America is not a Christian nation, furthest thing from it. We might be borderline apostate with all of these lousy teachers out there that many follow. Thank-God for John MacArthur and David Jeremiah. I read a lot of J Vernon McGee's commentaries and what a great teacher he was. I never understood the word of God until I really spent hours a day consuming it! We need to pray for this country that they start turning back to the word, like they did in Nehemiah!