There is a difference between discernment and disqualification. The Bible calls us to discern all things; to know what is right and wrong; to chose what is right and reject the wrong. I Thessalonians 5:21-22 – “Test all things. Hold on to what is good. Separate yourself from every form of evil.”
Over the past few years in Israel, I have seen several of our precious brothers, who were leaders in the Body, sin and cause damage to themselves and those around them. I had “sensed” in my heart earlier that something was amiss. I talked with them casually, but was not able to bring the problem to full confrontation. In looking back, what I had sensed in the spirit turned out to be true.
I Corinthians 12:10 – “And to this one the discerning of spirits…”
There is a gift of discernment of spirits. We need to develop this gift, be aware of spiritual dangers, and know how to respond. I wonder whether I should have done more to warn or reach out to those brothers. Often when we perceive there may be a problem, there is one. If we “smell something fishy,” there may be something rotten.
When we have discernment of something wrong, we need to pray for the person. We may reach out to them personally as the Lord gives opportunity. Or we may need to separate ourselves from them, and “get out of the way.”
On the other hand, we have to be careful not to “disqualify” a brother or sister whom we are called to work with. Everyone has problems of sorts, and when we work closely with a person, we become painfully and frustratingly aware of those shortcomings. Their character flaws may “scream” at us all day.
There is a danger of disqualifying a brother altogether, when he may be doing his best to serve the Lord. Perhaps he needs ongoing exhortation and encouragement. However, we can end up considering that person unworthy of our love and hardly a “brother” at all. This happened to Yeshua many times in His generation. Here are some examples, primarily from the gospel of John:
Background – Some disqualified Yeshua because He came from the wrong background. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” – John 1:46. (Compare John 7:41.) In their eyes His accent, lifestyle, and upbringing were all wrong.
Familiarity – Some thought He couldn’t be very special because He was just the local carpenter; and everyone was familiar with His sisters, and the rest of His family. “Is not this Yeshua, the son of Yoseph, whose father and mother we know?” – John 6:42. “Is this not the carpenter’s son? …And His sisters, are they not all here with us?” – Matthew 13:55-56. (What minister wants to be judged by the way his younger sisters are behaving?)
Motives – Even Yeshua’s brothers doubted His motives. They thought He was motivated by a desire to be famous. “No one does things in secret while he himself seeks to be known by many” – John 7:4. Sometimes we see a brother pushing through a certain project, and we assume he is doing it for the wrong motives.
Accreditation – Sometimes we judge a brother according to whether he is approved by other well-known individuals. “Has any one of the leaders or the Pharisees believed in him?” – John 7:48. The fact that someone has a degree or is highly esteemed does not necessarily mean he is doing the Lord’s will. Other people’s approval does not determine our evaluation, whether for good or for bad.
Rumors – Yeshua was disqualified by many because of the rumors of sexual immorality concerning His mother. Most people didn’t “buy” the story that He had been born of a virgin. “We were not born of fornication” – John 8:41. Apparently innuendos that He had been conceived out of wedlock pursued Him all through His childhood. (Compare John 9:34.)
Psychological Problems – While we understand that everything Yeshua did and said was from God, many of those around Him thought He was crazy, demon-possessed, or psychologically imbalanced. “He has a demon and is insane” – John 10:22. (Compare John 8:48-52.)
Tradition – Yeshua was accused of breaking the Sabbath, which was a transgression of the Ten Commandments. “This man is not of God, because he does not keep the Sabbath” – John 9:16. It was not that Yeshua did not keep the Sabbath. The problem was that He didn’t keep it the way they expected Him to. They considered that as sin. Sometimes we think a person has sinned, when he is not behaving according to the norms we have set.
If a person is actually sinning, there is a biblical order to handle that sin. Matthew 18:15-17 – “If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him between you and him alone… If he does not listen, take with you one or two others… If he does not hear them, tell it to the congregation. And if he does not hear the congregation, let him be to you as a Gentile and tax collector.”
The disciplinary process described in 5 verses in the middle of Matthew 18 is surrounded by almost 30 verses demanding unilateral forgiveness of others. This is a warning against falling into a condemning and accusatory spirit. There is a balance suggested here for our own attitudes.
If the disciplinary process is carried out to the full, the person in violation can be “dis-fellowshipped” by the ordained leadership, operating together as a board. No one of us has the right to “excommunicate” someone personally in our heart. Some have actually disqualified and dis-fellowshipped everyone in the body, and therefore can’t go to a congregation of believers anywhere in their city.
Let us have the grace and courage to use discernment against wrong spirits, cooperate with the disciplinary process, and guard against disqualifying brothers and sisters in our hearts.
Asher serves as president of Tikkun Global family of ministries and congregations, dedicated to the dual restoration of Israel and the Church. He is founder of the Revive Israel five-fold ministry team, and oversees both Ahavat Yeshua and Tiferet Yeshua congregations in Israel.
He and his wife Betty share a passion for personal prayer and devotion, local evangelism and discipleship in Hebrew, and unity of the Body of believers worldwide.
Asher was raised in a conservative Jewish home and holds degrees from Harvard University, Baltimore Hebrew College and Messiah Biblical Institute. He has authored numerous books, tracts and articles.