Contributor: Isekhua Evborokhai
In our previous lessons, we dealt with two of the three “Revelation” gifts. Gifts that reveal something: the gifts of the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge. In this lesson we will cover the third revelation gift: the gift of DISCERNING OF SPIRITS.
“To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues.” (1 Corinthians 12:10 KJV)
Understanding Discerning Of Spirits Gift
What It Is Not: Discerning of spirits is not a kind of spiritual mind reading, it’s not psychological insight, nor is it mental "penetration." It is not the power to discern the faults of others. It is not the spirit of “suspicion”. It is not a spiritual gift to uncover human failures (1 Peter 4:8). As a matter of fact, it’s not the discerning of PEOPLE but SPIRITS. Finally, it’s not the same as “testing all spirits” that 1John 4:1 talks about as we will see later in the study.
What It Is: To discern means to see or perceive, identify or distinguish. It is a supernatural ability enabled by God's Holy Spirit that allows a person to determine the source of a spiritual manifestation, whether it emanates from God, the Devil, or man. It is the ability to detect the presence of and the identity of spirits; giving supernatural insight into the realm of “spirits.” It’s not just a discerning of devils or evil spirits, but a discerning of both good and evil spirits. Discerning of spirits therefore, deals with three kinds of classes of spirits: divine, satanic, and human.
Why Is This Gift Important?
1. Because we live in a spiritual world: We are all spirit beings. We also know that things first exist in the spirit realm before they manifest in the physical. Without being spooky, we know that there's a spirit working behind "all" manifestations on earth. Ephesians 6:12 (KJV) says:
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
We will be walking blind into the wrestling bout without the gift of discerning of spirits. Many people held in different bondages today are actually possessed by evil spirits. (See Mark 5:1-10 (unclean spirit), 9:17-26 (deaf and dumb spirit)).
2. There are false prophets all over the world: 1John 4:1(NIV) says: "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." Emphasis mine.
The emphasis on this verse of scripture is that there are "false prophets all over the world" (not that discerning of spirits means testing it). My belief is that with the gift in manifestation we are able to distinguish and differentiate between true and false spirits. But if we do not have the gift, then we should test it based on the yardstick in verses 2 and 3 (Expanded Bible):
“This is how you can •know [recognize] God’s Spirit: Every spirit [ a teacher/prophet claiming inspiration from the Spirit] who •confesses [acknowledges] that Jesus Christ came •to earth as a human [in the flesh] is from God. 3 And every spirit who •refuses to say this about Jesus [does not confess/acknowledge Jesus] is not from God [2 John 7]. It is the spirit of the •enemy of Christ [ antichrist; 2:18, 22], which you have heard is coming, and now he is already in the world.”
Also see Jeremiah 14:14, "And the Lord said to me, 'The prophets prophesy lies in My name. I have not sent them, commanded them, nor spoken to them; they prophesy to you a false vision, divination, a worthless thing, and the deceit of their heart." And Ezekiel 13:7 & Ezekiel 21:29
3. There are evil spirits in disguise all over the world: There are evil spirits that could take over people and use them against you. Remember the old prophet in 1 Kings 13? He was taken over by a lying spirit as we see in verse 18. Even well-meaning believers could be negatively influenced by evil spirits without their knowing if they are not careful. Matthew 16:23 (KJV):
“But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men"
Jesus discerned the spirit that was speaking through Peter and rebuked it
4. Supernatural manifestations can come from different sources: It is good to have a genuine manifestation of the Spirit of God, but we must realize that all supernatural manifestations are not necessarily a demonstration of the Spirit of God. If the discerning of spirits is in operation, we can know the spirit behind a given manifestation or operation. We will recall the story about the possessed girl in Acts 16.
“And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.” (Acts 16:16-18 KJV)
Paul discerned that it was a foul spirit of divination manifesting through the girl and dealt with the spirit.
The fact is, there are people who receive supernatural revelation from the devil (though they don't usually understand that he is the source). They call it names like "second vision", "the gift", "the sight", etc. This is really a form of divination or witchcraft that unbelievers practice today. Many are fascinated by it but we should as Christians should be discerning.
How Does The Gift Manifest?
Sometimes the person actually physically sees the evil spirit at work in the person or situation. There have been instances where during ministrations, ministers see demons manifesting from within the bound person. The Bible tells us of one in Acts 8 where Peter exercised discerning of spirits when he encountered Simon the Sorcerer. Simon had believed in the gospel but when he saw the Holy Spirit given through the laying on of hands he wanted to buy that power from the apostles. Peter saw his heart and said; "For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity." (Verse 23) In the natural we might have guessed that greed for power was the underlying motivation but Peter saw that the true root was bitterness and iniquity.
The greatest trick of the enemy is to make the world believe that he does not exist; so that he can ride on their ignorance, control and destroy them. He executes his plans by employing various demons who carry around all sorts of evil spirits. And although we cannot perceive the spirit world with our natural senses, the realm of the spirit (both positive and negative) is very real. Discerning of spirits is such a vital gift to the body of Christ. The enemy has gotten away with a lot of demonic manifestations in church services because the gift of discerning of spirits was not in operation. God has provided the gift of discerning of spirits to give the Church supernatural insight into this spiritual realm, as His Spirit wills. And when rightly used, is a great protection to the body of Christ; better equipping us to wage war against the wiles of the enemy. Contributor: Isekhua Evborokhai