How to Discern Truth from Error
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life:
no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
The verse above tells us that apart from Jesus Christ there is no truth, for he is the truth.
When a person is saved, God the Holy Spirit comes to live within them. The Holy Spirit is specifically called “the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13). Because the Holy Spirit is God and Jesus Christ is God, and God indwells every saved person, then in this sense every saved person has all of God’s truth within them. We read about this in the passage below:
These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.
I John 2:26-27
It is important not avoid jumping to conclusions based upon a partial understanding of the passage above. The immediate context of this passage suggests to me that the words “any man” refer to those whose teaching is false and seductive. The broader context (the entire New Testament) shows that there are godly people who teach the truth and that we are wise to take heed to their teaching. Still, the Holy Spirit is the ultimate teacher of truth. Consider how he teaches:
The Holy Spirit teaches through the scriptures:
For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
II Peter 1:21
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
The Holy Spirit teaches through godly servants of Christ:
And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, II
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
Because none of us have “arrived” God uses teachers to protect his people from deceivers:
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
We can distinguish false teachers from those who teach the truth based upon whether their speech is worldly or godly, and whether those who pay attention to their words are worldly or godly:
Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.
I John 4:4-6
We gain discernment by diligently applying our hearts and minds to God’s word:
I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
II Timothy 2:15
Discernment comes from obeying God:
If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.
I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.
We can be certain of God’s words of truth:
Have not I written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge, That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth; that thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee?
It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.