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Basic Biblical Principles of Discernment

The biblical principles of discernment are based on the seven foundation blocks of the previous chapter: Discernment is God-given, Christ-centered, Spirit-guided, prayer-saturated, Scripture-based, corporately-confirmed, divinely-balanced. Eight biblical principles of discernment, based on the acronym DISCERNS, include the following:

Image: Bourne Baljit

  1. Discover Biblical Precedent.
  2. Investigate for Scriptural Harmony.
  3. Scrutinize for Sound Doctrine.
  4. Confirm with Experience.
  5. Examine the Fruit.
  6. Receive Supernatural Discernment.
  7. Note Examples and Lessons from the Past.
  8. Sift and Weigh for Divine Equilibrium.

As we look at these principles, to make it simple, spiritual discernment is a bit like driving a car. We need to learn when to press down the accelerator, apply the brakes, or continue to move forward with alertness and caution. The illustration of approaching a traffic light while driving helps to picture the process of discernment: Green Light means Go for discernment. Red Light means Stop; go no farther. Yellow light means slow down and get ready to stop. A blinking yellow light is a modified green light when crossing some busy intersections, meaning continue to proceed with caution, looking both ways in case there are crosswinds or someone else wasn’t paying attention to the lights.[i]


Discernment Principle 1: Discover Biblical Precedent

Is the teaching, practice, or manifestation clearly found in Scripture? “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17). Biblical precedent may be demonstrated in one of three ways: 1) Commands—a direct command to do or not to do something (for example, the Ten Commandments); 2) Principles—guidelines for common or normal practice (for instance, most of the proverbs are observation of life truth, not commands); 3) Examples—demonstration through something that is said or done or not said or done (illustrations, real life instances, patterns, experiences). Based on these, we then can ask two questions:

  • Do any biblical commands, principles, or examples clearly question or condemn this teaching, practice, or manifestation? This is an automatic red light.

About the Author: Paul L. King holds a D.Min from Oral Roberts University and a D.Th. from the University of South Africa. He served for 16 years on the faculty of Oral Roberts University as Coordinator of Bible Institute programs and Adjunct Professor in the College of Theology and Ministry. Author of 12 books and more than 60 articles, he was ORU 2006 Scholar of the Year. He has also served as Scholar-at-Large for the D.Min. program at Alliance Theological Seminary, Doctor of Ministry Mentor for the Randy Clark Scholars program at United Theological Seminary and Global Awakening Theological Seminary, Leadership and Church Ministry Consultant and Trainer, an ordained pastor with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, Interim Consulting Pastor for the Plano (Texas) Chinese Alliance Church, and Faculty Director of Purdue Ratio Christi/Christian Faculty and Staff Network. His books include God's Healing Arsenal: A Divine Battle Plan for Overcoming Distress and Disease (2011), Anointed Women: The Rich Heritage of Women in Ministry in the Christian & Missionary Alliance (2009), Only Believe: Examining the Origin and Development of Classic and Contemporary Word of Faith Theologies (2008), Genuine Gold: The Cautiously Charismatic Story of the Early Christian and Missionary Alliance (2006), Binding & Loosing: Exercising Authority over the Dark Powers (1999), and A Believer with Authority: The Life and Message of John A. MacMillan. Twitter: @PaulLKing.

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