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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: What Is the Gift of Discernment of Spirits?

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Don Stewart

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The Bible speaks of the gift of discernment of Spirits:

To another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits (1 Corinthians 12:10).

Clue To Function

Discernment of spirits is mentioned after the gift of prophecy, which provides an immediate clue as to its function. It is the ability to determine between genuine revelation from God and that which is false. When someone uttered a prophecy, it was necessary to determine whether or not that prophet was speaking from God. The Lord supernaturally gifted some individuals to determine whether the message was from Him, from that persons own imagination, or a false message from Satan. The Bible warns us of Satans deceptions:

And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).

The gift of discernment could also be exercised by individual believers when confronted with those bringing false doctrine.

Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also (1 John 2:22,23).

The believers were not allowed to associate with those who had accepted this false doctrine.

If anyone come to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him (2 John 10).

Church To Exercise

The churches were directed to exercise the gift of discernment. The church at Ephesus is applauded for practicing the gift.

I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars (Revelation 2:2).

The church at Thyatira was slack in the practice of the gift.

You allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and beguile My servants to commit immorality and to eat things sacrificed to idols (Revelation 2:20).

Test Spirits

The Bible encourages believers to test the spirits.

Test all things; hold fast what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

The Apostle Paul provides an example of the proper exercise of the gift.

Then Saul, who is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, "O full of deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease, ing the straight ways of the Lord?" (Acts 13:9,10).

Still Available?

As with other gifts, the gift of discernment is believed by some to have been necessary only until the Bible was complete; once the New Testament was finished, the gift was no longer needed because revelation from God became complete. However, this is not indicated in the Bible. It seems more accurate to assume that God could give the same gift today to Christian leaders, to help them determine whether certain messages or teachings are from the Lord. Indeed, the gift of discerning spirits is even necessary for the church today - to test the spirits to determine if they are from God to make sure the messages are consistent with New Testament revelation.

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