The Spiritual Gift Called Discerning Of Spirits

Learn what the spiritual gift of discerning of spirits is and how God will use this gift in your life.

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This study is part of a more extensive series on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I wanted to make you aware of this entire resource before getting started.

The Gift Of Discerning Of Spirits

Today we are going to talk about what is commonly called the gift of discernment. The Bible calls it the gift of discerning of spirits.

There is a big difference between what many people think is the gift of discernment and what is the gift of discerning of spirits.

There have been a lot of people who have been taught that the gift of discernment is talking about discerning between right and wrong, sin and righteousness, and whether people are right with God or unsaved or backslidden.

This is not the gift of discerning of spirits but more than likely stems from a critical or judgmental spirit.

Rarely have I seen a person who claims to have the gift of discernment and to use it in this way come from a motive of love but instead they seem to have a hidden emotional need to look better than others.

The Real Definition Of The Gift Of Discernment

The gift of discernment is not about discerning the hearts of people but about recognizing the source of something.

When you are operating in the gift of discernment, you are recognizing where the driving force behind an action is coming from.

Many times, the actual motivational force behind people’s actions and behavior are not apparent. This is where the gift of discernment comes in.

3 Categories Of Spirits Discerned By The Gift Of Discerning Of Spirits

The Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God is living in the inside of born-again believers in Jesus. This is recognized by the evidence of the fruit of the Spirit talked about in Galatians chapter 5. The human spirit. Man is a triune being created in the image of God. He has a body, soul, and spirit. The spirit of man usually can be recognized by a self-centered or egotistical point of reference. Demonic spirits. These are the fallen angels of whom; Satan is the leader. They are not all knowing, or all-powerful, or have other attributes only attributed to God, but they are powerful and dangerous. You can tell if you are dealing with a demonic spirit by the fact that they are always in opposition to the advancement of the kingdom of God. They will oppose the advance of the kingdom of God in the life of an individual or in the region of humanity they are in charge of.

image of a woman that needs the gift of discerning of spirits

Examples Of Discerning Of Spirits In The Bible

The Gift Of Discerning Of Spirits In The Life Of Jesus

I personally love the Apostle Peter. He reminds me a lot of myself. At one moment he gets something right and is on the top of the world, and the next moment, he sticks his foot in his mouth and eats another bite of humble pie.

This is the case in the example I am going to show you about the gift of discernment in the life of Jesus.

In Matthew’s gospel chapter 16, we have the incident where Peter has just had the revelation that Jesus is the son of God. He is flying high on the accolades of being the first one to understand this.

Then Jesus tells them that He is going to be put to death. Peter responds by saying “Lord this shall never happen to you!”. Jesus responds by saying “Get behind me Satan!”

This is a prime example of the gift of discerning of spirits. Jesus rightly discerns the motivating force behind Peter’s words.

Jesus was not calling Peter Satan but was addressing the spirit influencing Peter at the moment. That spirit was in opposition to the advancement of the rule and reign of Jesus over the earth thus it was a demonic spirit and in this case, Satan himself.

Another example of this gift in operation is at the last supper. Although it is not explicitly shown, you can gather from the context that it is in operation.

In Luke’s gospel chapter 22, we see the story of the last supper. It says that Satan had entered the heart of Judas Iscariot. During the last supper, Jesus tells the disciples that one of them is going to betray him, and then subtly points him out. He then tells Judas to do what he must do.

It is evident to me that Jesus picked up on the change in Judas, and the plot ahead and discerned what Satan was up to. This again is the gift of discerning of spirits.

The Gift Of Discerning Of Spirits In The Early Church

In the book of Acts chapter 8, we have the story of Simon, the sorcerer. He was a recent convert to Christianity and was amazed at the signs and wonders that were done in the name of Jesus.

When Peter and John arrived and started laying hands on the believers to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, he offered them money so he could have this gift.

Now here is a prime example of how we need to discern the difference between what is coming from the human spirit and what is coming from a demonic spirit.

Peter and John did not call him Satan, or try to cast a demon out of him, but instead rebuked him and told him to repent. The motivation was coming from his human spirit. It was out of a desire for fame and power. It was self-centered and egotistical.

Later in the book of Acts, we see the Apostle Paul do something that on the outside looks strange.

In Acts chapter 16 we have the report of a woman following Paul and Silas and Timothy around proclaiming that “These men are from the most high God and are telling the way to be saved.” She kept this up for many days.

Now on the outside, this seems to be okay. She is telling the truth. However, Paul discerned that the motivation behind the woman’s words and actions is demonic. He casts a spirit out of her. The commotion she was causing was disruptive and counter-productive.

How many times have you seen someone who was spouting what sounded like the truth but had the fruit of chaos?

This is why it is essential to know the difference between the gift of discerning of spirits and what people call discernment. Many times those that are spouting truth but have no love are not motivated by the Spirit of God.

image of a woman set free from demonic possession due to the gift of discerning of spirits

Understanding The Gift Of Discerning Of Spirits In The Modern Church

Having this gift in operation in the local church is imperative.

We miss the boat so many times in how we deal with people. We try to cast devils out of people that have no devils but are giving in to the natural man with things like lust and greed and a desire for power.

We try to counsel people who are demonically influenced. We allow people in positions of leadership based on their knowledge of truth and unwittingly enable demonic influence into our church boards and pulpits alike.

Too many times I have seen both shepherds and church leaders on the local level operate in ungodly ways. Shepherds who herd the sheep like cattle, rather than lead the sheep like a servant. Boards who want control and be the defenders of the doctrine and protectors of the property.

It takes the discernment of spirits to understand what is going on and the proper method of dealing with these situations. Those motivated by their human spirits need to be led to a place of repentance. Those being influenced by demonic spirits need to have that spirit cast out, and that is done with much prayer and fasting not having congregational votes or stirring strife.

Recently I had an experience where it was a clear operation of the gift of discerning of spirits.

We had a lady attend church. All of a sudden the only thing anybody could hear during the worship time was this woman singing. She was louder than the PA system!

Soon she started trying to get ahead of the worship pastor and lead the congregation herself. This was a demonic influence going on. We had to stop and take control of the situation.

May God grant us all the wisdom to discern the difference between His Spirit, the human spirit, and demonic spirits.

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Duke Taber
Pastor Duke Taber is an alumnus of L.I.F.E. Bible College and Multnomah Biblical Seminary. He has been in pastoral ministry since 1988. Pastor Duke specializes in healing hurting churches and bringing revival, renewal, and restoration of the presence of God to the body of Christ in America to make the church spiritual again. Pastor Duke has a few limited dates available to speak in other churches. If your church needs a fresh move of the Spirit of God or has gone through a painful and wounding season, click here. Today he is the owner and managing editor of 3 successful Christian websites that support missionaries around the world. He is currently starting a brand new church in Mesquite NV called Mesquite Worship Center.
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