1 Corinthians 12:7-11 says, “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to everyone for the common good. To one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But that one and very same Spirit works all these, dividing to each one individually as He wills.“
It is the wonderful Holy Spirit who gives these gifts empowering people to share God’s grace. Each spiritual gift is for the “common good,” meaning they’re for the body of Christ. The chapters following this list in 1 Corinthians are elaborating on how spiritual gifts are used within the local Church. They’re expanding how each gift is needed for us to grow as a Church into Jesus.
Within this list of spiritual gifts is the “discerning of spirits.” This spiritual gift needs to be understood and practiced as well as the others in our day and age. Especially more so now as culture seems to be influencing and mixing within the church and sermons become more motivational rather than Biblical. As a spiritual gift, discerning spirits cannot be neglected but must be correctly used.
Biblical Context of Discerning Spirits Revealed by the Apostle Paul
In the context of 1 Corinthians 12, discerning spirits knows the moving of the precious Holy Spirit. It also distinguishes counterfeits to the move of God. However, we need to be taking into consideration that the Corinthians were a Spirit-filled church. But they needed correction in their practice of spiritual gifts.
Paul was revealing that not every preacher or prophetic utterance or message in tongues originated in the Holy Spirit. Some people were competing for accolades and were operating in the flesh, or demon influences. Paul was setting processes and protocols in place for discerning and judging prophecies and manifestations (1 Corinthians 14:29).
A Discerner’s Foundations Are in Christ
The use of this gift is centered in Christ. Discernment operates with the Holy Spirit. It recognizes where He is moving and what He wants to do, flowing from our friendship with Him. Being firmly grounded in Scripture, discerning spirits leads people to be more intimate with the Savior of the world. All the while glorifying Him, canceling evil trying to stop God’s work or the interference of man’s selfish agenda within the church. Discernment is part of making sure the Spirit of God has His way.
A discerner identifies the presence of God, but is also identifying where the Lord’s presence needs to manifest. And the discerners are conduits for God’s power.
Discerners are loving Jesus so much that His mercy and grace is flowing out of them toward others.
4 Points to Grow in Spiritual Discernment
When applying these four points you will grow in your spiritual gift of discerning spirits:
1. Spend time with God every day. You need to cherish and value His presence. And the fruit of the Spirit must be evident in your life. Discerning spirits is exciting as you know your identity in Jesus, operating in love. Our posture is one of victory because Jesus won at the cross.
2. Read and study the Bible daily. Scripture is God’s Word, we need to be reading daily (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Immersing daily in Scripture makes you more sensitive to the wonderful Holy Spirit. When a person knows the Spirit of Truth, they’re quickly identifying evil sources that are attacking. Then they follow Biblical guidance and locally established procedures ensuring Jesus is glorified.
3. Make everything a place for God’s presence. Be intentional in saturating your home and car with worship music, teachings, Scripture and interactions with others (Ephesians 5:19-21). This keeps your heart pure as you’re seeking the presence of God. The discerning person knows how to continue praising and worshipping God, breaking enemy attacks.
4. Be an active member within a local church. Discerning spirits benefits your local church. Your gift will grow as you’re maintaining relationship to your local church (Hebrews 10:24-25). It is upholding truth in the church’s message and methods. It is also protecting the church from any people the enemy will try to use to malign the ministry. As a discerner you must be actively engaging with ministry, humbly serving. As you grow in maturity in this spiritual gift you’ll begin to know the processes set in place by the leaders while enhancing the move of God.