There are two types of preachers in the world today, even as there were two types in centuries past: true and false. As we saw in the first part of this series about A Prophet’s Perspective About Preachers, God is quite clear about how His people can know whether a preacher speaks truth or a lie. His standard is extremely high – to the degree that one false prophesy was grounds for death.

God has given His people an important protection against lying preachers. I think of it as a “spiritual filter.” Think about the many kinds of filters in your home, office and car: air filters, air conditioning filters, furnace filters, oil filters, gasoline filters, water filters, aquarium filters, electronic filters, vacuum filters, camera filters, lens filters, color filters, light filters.

What is the purpose of a filter? At its root a filter discriminates. A filter discriminates between what is wanted and what is not wanted. A filter also removes. A filter removes what is not wanted. A filter also reveals. A filter reveals what is not wanted. What do you see when you check a filter? If the filter is working as it should, you should see what you don’t want. You should be able to hold the filter in your hands, look at the waste material you do not want, then dispose of it so that it never poses a threat to you again; whether it’s a threat to your health or house or car or anything else you own.

Most people give little thought to the importance of filters in their lives, but what if we did not have filters? What if we did not discriminate against pollutants and toxins? What would happen to the health and wellbeing of our families and friends if we did filter dangerous elements from our air, water and food supplies? We would become sick and possibly die. That’s how important filters are in life.

With those three things in mind – filters discriminate, remove and reveal – let’s look again at what God tells His people about preachers.

The Prophet JeremiahLook up the words “discriminate” and “discrimination” in modern dictionaries and you’ll see this:

  • to unfairly treat a person or group of people differently from other people or groups (Merriam-Webster)
  • treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit: racial and religious intolerance and discrimination (Dictionary.Reference)
  • unfair treatment of a person, racial group, minority, etc; action based on prejudice (Word English Dictionary)
  • to single out a particular person, group, etc, for special favour or, esp, disfavour, often because of a characteristic such as race, colour, sex, intelligence, etc. (Collins English Dictionary)
  • to make a distinction in favor of or against a person on the basis of the group or class to which the person belongs, rather than according to merit (Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary)
  • action that denies social participation or human rights to categories of people based on prejudice. This includes treatment of an individual or group based on their actual or perceived membership in a certain group or social category, “in a way that is worse than the way people are usually treated” (Wikipedia)
  • unfair treatment of one person or group, usually because of prejudice about race, ethnicity, age, religion, or gender
  • the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex: ‘victims of racial discrimination,’ ‘ discrimination against homosexuals (Oxford Dictionary).

Interestingly, the Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary of 1991 defines the word “discriminate” as – “to mark or perceive the distinguishing or peculiar features, to distinguish by discerning or exposing differences, to distinguish from another like object, to make a distinction, to use good judgment.” It is not until the last definition in the 1991 version that we read – “to make a difference in treatment or favor on a basis other than individual merit.” Webster’s Ninth defines the word “discrimination” as “the act of discriminating, the process by which two stimuli differing in some aspect are responded to differently, the quality or power of finely distinguishing.” It is a later definition in the 1991 version that we read – “the act, practice, or an instance of discriminating categorically rather than individually, prejudiced or prejudicial outlook, action or treatment.”

Modern synonyms for discriminate and discrimination include: bigotry, favoritism, hatred, inequity, injustice, intolerance, prejudice, unfairness, partiality, and wrong ( The 1988 version of Roget’s II New Thesaurus lists these synonyms for “discrimination” – refinement, selectiveness, selectivity.

I began studying for a career in journalism almost 50 years ago. Most of the words I learned in the mid-1960s held their meaning until the end of the 20th century. It has been in the last 15 years that many words have taken on new meanings in both journalism and common use. The ability to discriminate between things or ideas used to be held in high esteem. However, the word has taken on a negative connotation in the last decade and a half.

The English words “discriminate” and “discrimination” were first used in the 17th century AD and came from the Latin word discretus (to distinguish). The original meaning of distinguishing between things is still the correct definition, even though the 21st century concept has changed the word from a positive skill for recognizing differences to the negative attitude and behavior of prejudice.

The ancient Greeks used several words to express the idea of discrimination, perception or discernment. They viewed the idea of discernment and discrimination as important in their search for wisdom and truth. Let’s see how God has directed His people to discriminate and discern.

Aisthesis (perception, discernment, understanding, cognition) –

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:9-11

Anakrino (to distinguish, to judge, separate out so as to investigate, examine, scrutinize, question) –

Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men.” Acts 17:10-12

These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For ‘who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 2:13-16

Diakrino/Diakrisis (to separate, a clear discrimination, a distinguishing, to determine, decide, discern) –

There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-11

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Hebrews 5:12-14

Kritikos (critical, ability to judge or discern, that which relates to judging) –

Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things arenaked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” Hebrews 4:11-13

Do you see it? God calls on His people to look to His Word and to spiritually gifted people committed 100% to His Word to be a “filters” concerning preachers and teachers. God calls on His people to exercise their senses to “discern both good and evil.” He gives the spiritual gift of “discernment” to His people for the purpose of being able to tell what kind of “spirit” is behind the preaching of the preacher and teaching of the teacher. God wants His people to compare spiritual things with spiritual in order to discern whether the words of the preacher are the teaching of a man or the teaching of the Holy Spirit. God wants His people to be able to use His Word to divide soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and discern the thoughts and intents of the preacher’s heart.

The process of spiritual “filtering” (discriminate, remove and reveal) should happen in a Christian’s local church. If you are fortunate enough to have preachers or teachers in your local church with the gift of discernment and skill of filtering out false doctrine, thank the Lord and take every advantage of learning from them.

If you are not sure if you have preachers or teachers in your church with the gift of discernment and skill of filtering out false doctrine, please stay with us. We have a lot more to share in the next part of this series that will help equip you to know truth from lies. We’ll look at ways you can discern truth in your church, your denomination and the preaching and teaching you see and hear in the media (e.g. radio, television, online). Media preaching and teaching is the most “unfiltered” type and I’ll explain why and what you can do about it.

“Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”