How Can You Discern Biblical Truth From Those Teaching Errors?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Satan is very clever in mixing truth with error, so how can we discern the difference between right doctrine and almost right doctrine?


Satan is very clever in mixing truth with error, so how can we discern the difference between right doctrine and almost right doctrine? The late Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon said, “Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It’s knowing the difference between right and almost right.” When a pastor or church has small doctrinal errors that you can see when reading Scripture and you know it’s wrong because of what you’ve read in the Word of God, you should bring this up to the church leadership. Sometimes it’s more difficult to spot when some of false teachers mix mostly truth with only a tiny bit of error. Of course, changing the gospel in any way makes it another gospel entirely, and really, not the actual gospel itself, so we must have discernment when we listen to or read the teachings of others. Satan is a very clever and deceptive teacher. False apostles and teachers can appear as angels of light, when in reality, they are full of darkness, because their main objective is to grow an audience and fleece or devour the flock.

Truth and Error

The Apostle Peter warned the church that “false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction” (2 Pet 2:1). Jesus also warned us to “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matt 7:15), and we all know what wolves can do to sheep. These false teachers can and do appear in sheep’s clothing, or as a member of the church, the flock, but “inwardly,” they minds are set on devouring the sheep. A half-truth is a whole lie. As far as teachings go, if it’s new, it’s not from God; if it’s from God, it’s not new!

The Last Days

One of the signs of the last days were that “false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect” (Mark 13:22). They will deceive many, but not the elect, for it’s not possible if they are Christ’s and students of the Bible. The Holy Spirit and the Bible actually helps their discernment, but notice, Jesus is saying it’s not possible for the elect to be deceived, “but for those who believe a lie, God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false” (2 Thess 2:11). We must use good discernment today because “in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep” (2 Pet 2:3).

Test the Spirits

We ought to test every teaching against what the Word of God says, and “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). There are other spirits not of God that are essentially teaching doctrines of demons. The Apostle Paul wrote that “the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” (1 Tim 4:1). Jude himself was an eyewitness, noticing that “certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:4). That’s why we too, like Jude, must earnestly contend for the faith that was originally delivered in the Bible through the Apostels and Prophets (Jude 1:3), and in these last days, He has spoken through the Son of God (Heb 1:1-2).


Every single one of us has practiced discernment at one time or another in our life. Maybe it was when we were buying a car, or buying or renting a new house or apartment, or even looking for a new pair of shoes. We typically estimate whether something is worth the money or it’s not. We try to discern whether the investment is a good idea or it’s clearly not, so we use certain factors to discern what to do…and we base our decisions upon what we’ve discerned. Discernment can also be an acute judgment based upon whether something is true or not or whether someone is telling the truth or not. If we study the Bible long enough, we should “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).


How then can we develop good, biblical discernment? The answer is, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15). Hebrews 5:13-14 tells us that “everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil,” so it takes effort in reading and studying the Word of God. Many Christians find that a good study Bible goes a long way in discerning what is right and what is almost right. It can be a very fine line between truth and error, but if error is mixed with the truth, the truth is lost and becomes all error, but God’s Word is always true and that should be the greatest standard of what is right and what is wrong. Being “almost right” is not good enough. That’s why we must contend for the faith once delivered and make sure it’s the whole truth…and nothing but the truth.

Here is some related reading for you: What is the Spiritual Gift of Discernment? How Do You Know if You Have It?

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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