Discerning Disciples

In the city of Thessalonica, Christians were externally troubled. Their neighbors proved not to be very interested in Jesus Christ. They were not inclined to keep his lawful commands; neither were they passionate about his Gospel promises. Consequently, as the weeks turned into months, the townsfolk about the church became increasingly hostile. The church was required to join Christ in drinking the cup of persecution and suffering.

To make matters worse, Christians in Thessalonica were also internally troubled. They were being sinned against by spiritual counselors who harmed them by delivering false messages. Prophets, apostles, teachers, and preachers were proclaiming the Lord had already come, that he had already gathered some of his saints and had left the rest behind. Bottom line, the church in Thessalonica reasoned they had missed the Second Coming, and they were “quickly shaken in mind” and “alarmed.”

Well, Paul loved his friends, and he proved his love by teaching them properly. (This is one of the primary responsibilities of all elders; they are called to shepherd, feed, encourage, and protect the flock of God.) Therefore, Paul wrote:

2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.

Paul theologically loved them. They were not to believe the Second Coming had already occurred.

Paul practically loved them. They were not to quickly and carelessly trust prophets, apostles, preachers, teachers, and brothers. They were not to easily be swayed by theological communicators — regardless of whether they appeared with a spirt, a spoken word, or an apostolic letter. They were to know that false teachers abounded in their midst and forever would be found in their circles. As wise worshipers and leaders, they were to exercise great patience and discernment in receiving spiritual messages from men.

So, how can this help us today?

Friends, some of you believe different things regarding the ongoing communication of God. Within the Christian family, there are those who believe God communicates:

  • Audibly – in language that can be easily and immediately understood
  • Audibly – in language that needs to be interpreted
  • Visually – in vision and dreams
  • Penned – in the Word of God
  • Humanly – from brothers and sisters sent with a word of knowledge
  • Patriarchally – from fathers preaching and teaching
  • Conceptually – from impressions left upon the mind in prayer
  • Providentially – through interpreting circumstances

For today’s purposes, defending or refuting these various channels of communication is not the purpose of this blog.

So, what is my point?

Many of us are hearing different messages from prophets, preachers, and teachers. Before us are prophetic utterances and sermons regarding 2020, Bill Gates, Donald Trump, the Antichrist, Peace in Israel, the European Union, Bitcoins, Russia, China, Babylon, California Fires, Gulf Coast Hurricanes, the Coronavirus, and Vaccines. Yes, messages are coming our way from pulpits, books, the television, the internet, and even mass gatherings in Washington DC. And what would God have us do? He would have all of us — cessationists and continualists alike — carefully evaluate the messages we are hearing, and know that not all communications are true to the Word, wisdom, and will of God.

So, let us be careful and not necessarily trust our heart or gut. Our hearts and minds are still tainted by sin. We are prone to wander, and our hearts will constantly lead us astray.

Let us be careful and not necessarily trust the stated supernatural experiences of ourselves or others. Men can be and are deceived. Some are even deceptive liars seeking to manipulate. Let us remember the devil and his demons can operate as angels in disguise. There is the “dark side” that has ability to perform signs, wonders, and miracles.

Let us be careful and not necessarily trust circumstances. Sure, circumstances do show the will of God as one looks behind them. It is a good rear-view mirror to show what the Lord has providentially directed. But circumstances do not advise as to the why. And circumstances give not aide in the what to do next. For example, who knows if an open door has been made such by Satan or God. Is it divine direction or devilish temptation. Just because one can do something, that does not mean one should.

Let us be careful and not necessarily trust prophets, apostles, preachers, teachers, and brothers. Many are ill-informed. Many are lazy and sloppy in executing and comparing scripture with scripture. Even the best of us get it wrong sometimes. For example, in the church today, legalists and licentious ministers abound. Many are well-intentioned but deceived, and some are even intentionally deceptive and devilishly damning.

Let us be careful and not necessarily trust our historical fathers. Let us not whole-hearted swallow their sermons, writings, creeds, and confessions. There are no men who are infallible. All grew in maturity as they continued to study the Word and ways of God. And today, any teacher can find some church fathers to advance their false doctrines.

Instead, let us be like the Bereans. Their testimony is found in Acts 17:11, and it is said of them, “They were more noble than those in Thessalonica: because “they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” Yes friends, in this day of wacky events and even more wacky sermons and prophecies, let us be focused upon the Word of God — for it alone is our only infallible rule of faith, practice, and any other ongoing inklings sent us by the Spirit. And as we meditate on God’s Word and allow it to be the filter through which we evaluate all spiritual messages. As we do so, we will be kept from being deceived and “quickly shaken in mind or alarmed.”

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