Spiritual Gift of Discerning of Spirits:
The spiritual gift of discerning of spirits is a special ability given by the Holy Spirit to individuals within the church. Those with this gift possess keen insight and sensitivity to discern the presence and nature of spiritual influences, whether they are from God, human, or demonic in origin.
Individuals with the gift of discerning of spirits can perceive beyond the surface and recognize the spiritual dynamics at work in various situations, people, or teachings. They are equipped to distinguish between genuine manifestations of the Holy Spirit and deceptive or counterfeit expressions.
Example from Scripture:
In Acts 16:16-18, Paul encountered a young woman with a spirit of divination. By discerning the spirit’s presence, Paul cast it out, setting the woman free from its influence.
When the Gift is Present in the Church:
When the spiritual gift of discerning of spirits is present in the church, it safeguards the congregation from false teachings, deceptive practices, and spiritual manipulation. This gift plays a vital role in ensuring the purity and authenticity of spiritual experiences within the community.
When the Gift is Absent in the Church:
In the absence of the gift of discerning of spirits, the church may be susceptible to false teachings, divisive spirits, and spiritual confusion. Lack of discernment can lead to harmful practices and hinder the growth and health of the church.
What It Looked Like in the Life of Jesus:
Jesus demonstrated the gift of discerning of spirits during His earthly ministry. In Mark 5:1-20, He encountered a demon-possessed man in the region of the Gerasenes. Jesus discerned the unclean spirit’s presence and authority, ultimately delivering the man from its grip.
Practical Ways to Implement and Develop the Spiritual Gift:
- Prayer and Scripture: Seek God’s wisdom and insight through prayer and the study of His Word. A strong biblical foundation enhances discernment.
- Holy Spirit Dependency: Rely on the Holy Spirit for guidance and revelation. Develop sensitivity to His promptings and leading.
- Mature Christian Fellowship: Engage in fellowship with spiritually mature believers who can offer insights and mentorship in discernment.
Examples from Church History:
- St. Antony of Egypt (c. 251-356) – As one of the early desert fathers, St. Antony was renowned for his discernment and spiritual insight, guiding many seekers toward a deeper relationship with God.
- Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) – A prominent preacher and theologian of the Great Awakening, Edwards exhibited discernment in addressing false teachings and promoting genuine revival.
- Smith Wigglesworth (1859-1947) – A British evangelist and healer, Wigglesworth demonstrated discernment in recognizing true spiritual manifestations during his ministry.
- Does the gift of discerning of spirits only apply to spiritual matters? – While it is primarily focused on spiritual discernment, the gift can also extend to discerning motives and intentions in human interactions.
- Can discernment be misused or misinterpreted? – Yes, discernment needs to be exercised with humility and love, avoiding judgmental attitudes and using discernment responsibly.
Ways to Grow in the Gift:
- Submission to God: Stay surrendered to God’s leading and continue seeking His discernment in all aspects of life.
- Practice and Feedback: Regularly apply discernment and seek feedback from trusted spiritual mentors to grow in accuracy and understanding.
- Spiritual Warfare: Equip yourself with knowledge of spiritual warfare and the tools to combat deception and falsehoods.