To discern the Lord’s body means “to acknowledge those who labor among you, and who rule over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them as highly as possible in love because of their work” (1Thess. 5:12–13). Elders who rule well are worthy of double honor (1Tim. 5:17), but if we fail to recognize who is ruling well, we will fail to count them worthy of double honor, and we may give double honor instead to an elder who is not ruling well. To discern the Lord’s body also means to “warn the disorderly, encourage the faint-hearted, help the weak” (1Thess. 5:14). But how can we warn the disorderly if we do not discern what unruliness is? Or how can we encourage the feebleminded if we fail to discern who they are? Or how can we help the weak if we do not know which saints are weak?
Judgments of some of God’s people are of more value than the judgments of others. Some of God’s people are spiritually mature and able to be fed the “hard sayings” of the gospel, while many others “are not able to bear it.” Some “walk worthy” of their calling in Christ Jesus, while “many walk”, as Paul said, “whose end is destruction . . . who mind earthly things.” It is imperative that we discern whose judgment is sound and whose judgments are in vain. Will the body be edified if “babes in Christ” are choked with teachings they are not able to bear, or will the body increase “with the increase of God ” if those who are ready for spiritual meat are not given it? Or will the body grow in grace if the disorderly are not warned, the feebleminded are not encouraged, and the weak are not helped?
Without discerning the body of Christ, God’s children live in mass confusion, hurting one another while trying to do good. Paul said that failure to discern the body brings on sickness, and even premature death (1Cor. 11:29–30). Only by discerning the body of Christ do we know what to do or say to whom, and when. In other words, we truly do good to one another when we know one another, discerning each one’s spiritual condition and acting and speaking accordingly.