Friday, January 30, 2015


Heb. 5:14—

But strong meat belongs to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

This verse brings us to the basis for this entire series on discernment and deception. It is the premise, the foundation upon which all the rest is built.

Notice that the process of growing spiritually is dependent upon one’s use of their senses for more than the simple pleasures they bring to the human.

Actually, I am being somewhat facetious here with this verse, because of the word “senses.”

Many of the modern translations retain this word while just as many reject it in favor of something else. “Senses” is at best a weak translation (due to the average reader’s limited vocabulary), for it leaves one with the idea of using their taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing to recognize the difference between good and evil.

This is only partly true. One must certainly learn not to touch hot things nor eat spoiled things, and that knowledge usually comes through the experience of the corresponding sense organ.

In ancient Greek, prior to the writing of the New Testament, the word translated “senses” (αἰσθητήρια = aisthētēria) carried three possible meanings: a) sensual perception; b) perception generally, but especially spiritual discernment; c) intellectual understanding. (Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. 1, p. 187)

This particular word is found only here. Its cognates are found in Lk. 9:45 (perceived, KJV) and Phil. 1:9 (judgment, KJV) In each of the three cases, the idea of intellectual understanding seems paramount.

So, let’s be perfectly clear—we are talking of more than just sight and sound, ie, what you see or what you hear; though both of those senses are used in true discernment.

The writer says that this spiritual sense, this intellectual understanding must be “exercised.” This word is translated “trained in many of the more modern versions of the Bible, and rightly so.
It is the word γεγυμνασμένα (gegymnasmena), the root of which is γυμνάζω (gymnazo), from which we get our word ‘gymnasium.’ A gym is where we ‘train’ ourselves.
The idea here is that discernment doesn’t “just happen.” It is something that is developed through repeated exercise. If this is done, then the ability to discern becomes stronger and stronger.
Is it not possible that the reverse could also be true? The failure to exercise discernment results in the inability to discern at all? Of course it will.
Notice that it is the ability “to discern both good and evil”. Some translations use the more modern idea of discerning good from evil. Either way, the idea is the same.
However, it is that word “evil” that may give us some problems.
Evil, for the most part, has taken on a somewhat religious tone, or is often used to refer to something more spiritual that is in opposition to God or the things of God.
In my experience, which is admittedly limited, most Christians feel that they have this down pat, because evil is so obvious. They recognize that pornography, for instance, is evil, and can make the distinction between pornography and fine art.
Digging a little deeper though, reveals that this is not the intent, nor is that ability a mark of a mature saint.
The word most often translated from the Greek as “evil” is the word πονηρός (poneros), from which we get our word for pornography. But the word translated “evil” in this verse of Hebrews is the word κακὸς (kakos).
A single word definition or translation of kakos would be rendered as ‘bad.’
According to R. C. Trench in his work on the synonyms of the NT, kakos “affirms of that which it characterizes that qualities and conditions are wanting there which would constitute it worthy of the name which it bears.(retrieved from Blue Letter Bible, online at (Jan. 18, 2015)
In other words, "kakos" indicates that there is something wrong with what appears to be good.

For our purposes, then, may we allow that we are to discern between the good and the not so good?

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