Question: “What is the spiritual gift of discerning


Question: “What is the spiritual gift of discerning
spirits?”

Answer: The gift of discerning spirits, or
“distinguishing” spirits, is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit described in 1 Corinthians
12:4-11
. Like all these gifts, the gift of discerning spirits is one of the

gifts believers are given by the Holy Spirit, who disperses these gifts to
individuals for service in the body of Christ. Every believer has spiritual
enablement and capacity for a specific service, but there is no room for
self-choosing. The Spirit distributes spiritual
gifts
according to the sovereignty of God and in accordance with His plan to

edify the body of Christ.

When it comes to the gift of discerning
spirits, every born again believer has a certain amount of discernment which
increases as the believer matures in the Spirit. In Hebrews 5:13-14 we read that a believer who has matured
beyond using the milk of the Word as a babe in Christ is able to discern both
good and evil. Not only is the maturing believer empowered by the Spirit of God
through the Scriptures to tell the difference between good and evil, but also
between what is good and what is better. In other words, any born again believer
who chooses to focus upon the Word of God may be enabled to be spiritually
discerning.

There are certain individuals, however, who have the
God-given ability to distinguish between the truth of the Scriptures and
erroneous and deceptive doctrines propagated by demons. Although we are all
exhorted to be spiritually discerning (Acts
17:11
; 1 John
4:1
), some in the body of Christ have been given the unique ability to

“spot” the forgeries in doctrine that have plagued the church since the first
century. But this does not involve a mystical, extra-biblical revelation or a
voice from God. Rather, the spiritually discerning among us are so familiar with
the Word of God that they instantly recognize what is contrary to it. They do
not receive special messages from God; they use the Word of God to “test the
spirits” to see which line up with God and which are in opposition to Him. The
spiritually discerning are those who “rightly divide” (2 Timothy 2:15) the Word of God in a thoughtful and
diligent manner.

As the Apostle Paul writes, there may be diversities of
equipping in the body of Christ, but those diversities are meant for the
edification and building of that body as a whole. And the success of that body
is dependent upon all parts of the body faithfully fulfilling their place in the
body as God has enabled them. No spiritual gift should be used to “lord it over”
others or claim for oneself a special anointing from God. Rather, the love of
God is to be the basis of how we use our spiritual gifts to edify or build up
each other in the Lord.

Recommended Resource: The Wonderful Spirit-Filled Life by Charles Stanley.

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