This morning let’s look at the third gift, the Discerning of Spirits within the first Classification: The Gifts of Revelation. The gift of discernment is limited in scope to a single class of objects – spirits. That is in the spiritual realm only. This is supernatural revelation, or insight into the realm of spirits to detect them and read even the thoughts of the mind. Its purpose is to give an insight into the spirit realm and reveal the kind of spirit working in and through a person and to make known thoughts and motives.
Discernment of things outside the spirit realm is the work of wisdom and knowledge. The power to discover the faults of others is not a work of true discernment, for no supernatural power is necessary to do this…as stated in the scriptures, Matthew 7:1, 15-20, judging others is not to be part of the Christian life. We are not to condone sin…pointing out sin is not judging as long as we do not do it in a condemning way…love has to be in everything we do.
The use of the gift of discerning of spirits is:
- to help deliver from demons (Mark 5:5; Luke 9:39; Acts 5:16; 8:1-8; Matt 12:22.),
- to revel the servants of Satan (Acts 13:9-10),
- to defeat the work of demons (Acts 16:16),
- to expose error (1 Tim. 4; 1 John 4:1-6);
- to unmask demon-inspired miracle-workers (Acts 8:9-22;2 Thess. 2:8-12;Rev. 16:13-16). This gift merely discerns, does not cast out, hence other gifts become necessary.
The gift of discerning of spirits is a supernatural enablement, permitting identification of the nature and character of spirits, seen and unseen. These include:
1. Angel spirits
2. Demon or satanic spirits
3. Human spirits
4. The Spirit of God
What discerning of the Spirits…IS NOT: discerning of the spirits IS NOT ability to see faults in others but of SPIRITS. There need to be no spiritual gift to uncover human failings, but there needs to be a good deal of Christian (Christ like) love to cover them.
The Purpose of the Gift: With this gift, God’s people can discern good spirits as well as bad spirits. In Acts 9:7 Apostle Paul saw a vision of the Lord…yet those who were with him saw nothing…He was able to see what others could not. To see within the spirit world. This gift enables one (as God permits) to see into the spiritual realms and perceive spirit beings… (Kings 6:16)
To discern evil spirits. (1 John 4:1-3) Sometimes evil spirits will present themselves to be the Spirit of God and will deceive Christians. When Christ was on earth, He would always unmask these demon spirits and cast them out of their victims.
In the beginning, Eve’s failure to recognize Satan in the serpent’s lie, an act which led to a great calamity for her as well as for the human race. The gift of discerning of spirits enables one to instantly detect the presence of an evil or seducing spirit.. Paul gives us an example in Acts 16:16-19.
To discern evil and hypocrisy among God’s people. As stated earlier, the tricks of magicians, palmists, fortune tellers, etc., and their demonstrations of reading the mind, real or faked, have nothing in common with the gift. However, there are times when men of God need to know what evil men are planning, if left unchecked, might work great harm. Examples of this gift in operation in the Scriptures where hypocrisy and lying were detected and dealt with, such as the cases of Achan, Gehazi, Ananias, and others. It is evident that such a gift as this is much needed in the church today.
To bring forth repentance… The previous gifts discussed; the Word of Wisdom, the Word of Knowledge, and today’s letter on Discerning of Spirits are gifts that work together in many cases to bring forth repentance An example of this in the Scriptures was with the Samaritan woman at the well with Jesus. (John 4)
In the Scriptures, there exists two distinct worlds…the natural and spiritual.
1.) The natural…our physical senses in which we can perceive natural creation, there is no contact with the spiritual world. It is only through some supernatural enablement, such as the gift which we are considering, makes it possible to pierce the veil that divides the two, and see things which cannot be perceived with the natural eye.
Originally, man was created to be a citizen of both worlds. I believe the time is here when believers will once again be able to flow in both realms. Christ came to free us from the bondage of sin. As stated in Genesis, God provided him a home in the Garden of Eden, where man was given the lordship of the natural creation. In the evening, or cool of the day God would come down and walk with him, until sin caused man to hide from God…for no more could the natural eye look upon its Creator, nor was it possible for the spirit of man to enter into the abode (or abiding place) where the almighty dwelt.
This is where a veil or wall came between the two worlds. Through Christ’s redemption, this broken communion has been restored. Yes, the veil has been torn, allowing man to once again commune with God, although man’s contact with the spiritual world has not yet been fully restored. For it is this gift, the gift of discerning of spirits that once again gives man the ability, at least on occasion, to have a glimpse into these realms.
2.) The spiritual…It has been customary to limit this gift to the discerning of evil spirits.
- As stated in Rev. 12:4, actually, there are more good spirits than evil spirits in the universe.
- As we see in Hebrews 1:14, these good spirits, usually called angels, have a special responsibility to the redeemed. But angels are only servants. They are spirits sent from God to care for those who will receive salvation. These celestial beings, we are told, are constantly in attendance of the righteous.
- Psalm 34:7, For the angel of the LORD guards all who fear him, and he rescues them. Jesus said that even God’s little ones have guardian angels (NLT).
- Matthew 18:10, “Beware that you don’t despise a single one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven, their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father (NLT).
- Genesis 3:24 After banishing them from the garden, the LORD God stationed mighty angelic beings to the east of Eden. And a flaming sword flashed back and forth, guarding the way to the tree of life.
Now through Christ, man is given a new access to this Tree of Life, which will become in its fullness at the end of the times. Because of the fallen state of man, God placed angels to guard man and protect him until that day when he actually partakes of its fruit as stated in:
- Revelation 2:7, Anyone who is willing to hear should listen to the Spirit and understand what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Everyone who is victorious will eat from the tree of life in the paradise of God.
Ordinarily, these guardian spirits are invisible to human eyes…Yet, there are times when communication between angels and humans is desirable and they must either take on physical form or the person with whom they wish to communicate must receive a special gift of spiritual perception as seen throughout the Bible.
As an example, from my own personal experience…Several years ago, I was delivering mail to a restaurant on my route, and I had stopped to eat lunch. I sat down at the counter and ordered a cup of coffee, sandwich, and soup. I struck up a conversation with a gentleman, on my right, next to me, about God’s Word. Another gentleman came in with long hair and wearing a (London fog trench coat). He took a seat at the counter on my left, 2 seats over. The waitress asked this gentleman what He would like as I looked over to Him. He said,” I would like what He has” as He pointed to me. There was an indescribable presence about his mannerisms and his presence. She proceeded to get Him a cup of coffee. When she came back, the gentleman was gone.
The waitress asked us if we had seen him leave, and we both acknowledged that we did not see him leave. She said she could not understand; for if He had left, she would have seen him leave because he would have to go by her where she was getting the coffee. She and the both of us thought it very strange. She then asked us what we were talking about, and I proceeded to continue talking to the man on my right and her about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Later that evening, my wife and I concluded it must have been an Angel…letting them know that what I had was for them. The waitress that I was speaking to was moving the very next day out of state and was very much interested in what I was discussing with her about the Gospel.
Such powers are closely related to the discerning of spirits. When these visitations occurred in the Bible, it was always in connection with some important event in the unfolding of the divine plan. These occurrences brought a tremendous impact upon the individual. Out of desperation and hunger for God’s love, many times we see God’s divine will unfold for man’s life. I am convinced that when you die out to sin and cry out to God…it is the beginning of a new life.
I believe God has a specific ministry for each person…for you and me…It’s time for a deeper walk…a new life in the extraordinary/ supernatural.
- Hebrews 13:2, Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! (NLT). In this Scripture, it is apparent that angels resemble human beings in appearance. Their solemn manner and conversation usually caused them to be recognized as men of God.
Let’s look into the Scriptures at some of these occurrences that the Bible records with Angelic Beings. These visitations changed their life from that moment on;
Visitation with Abraham – One of the three visitors, however, was the Lord, and He revealed to Abraham not only His identity but also the purpose of His mission.
Genesis 18:17 “Should I hide my plan from Abraham?” the LORD asked. This was a life-changing event for Abraham…from that time on, He became a great intercessor. (Genesis 18:23-33 – Lot and the city of Sodom)
Moses – became a man of two worlds…this outstanding experience took place on the Mount of God, where he hid himself away from human companionship and interceded for people who had jeopardized their existence as a nation. God not only accepted Moses’ intercession but also granted him the privilege reserved for a few men…for He was permitted to see God’s form and glory from a hidden place in a rock.
- Exodus 33:11-23, When Moses went down from the mountain, his face shone with divine glory. He was now a man of two worlds, NLT.
Joshua and the Messenger –He became Moses’ successor…Deuteronomy 34:9 Now Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel obeyed him and did everything just as the LORD had commanded Moses.
Gideon and the Angel – Judges 6:15, 22; 7:10,11…The Lord granted him special signs…it was through these visitations of the angels that Gideon was changed from a fearful man into one that could and did perform heroic deeds!
Manoah and His Wife and the Angel –the birth of their son Samson. Judges 13:6 -7 The woman ran and told her husband, “A man of God appeared to me! He was like one of God’s angels, terrifying to look at. I didn’t ask where he was from, and he didn’t tell me his name. But he told me, ‘You will become pregnant and give birth to a son. You must not drink wine or any other alcoholic drink or eat any forbidden food. For your son will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite from the moment of his birth until the day of his death.”
Daniel and the Unseen World –for nearly three-quarters of a century, the prophet was a confidant of kings and princes, always ready with the word of wisdom necessary for the time and place. On one occasion, the archangel Gabriel appeared to him. Daniel 10:6-7 His body looked like a dazzling gem. From his face came flashes like lightning, and his eyes were like flaming torches. His arms and feet shone like polished bronze, and his voice was like the roaring of a vast multitude of people. I, Daniel, am the only one who saw this vision. The men with me saw nothing, but they were suddenly terrified and ran away to hide. Yes, it is clear that Daniel had a gift that others did not possess.
Angelic Ministry in the New Testament:
- The angel of the Lord appeared unto Zacharias to inform him of the birth of John the Baptist…
- Gabriel appeared to Mary, the mother of Jesus… (Luke 1:26-38) informing her that she was to become the mother of the Son of the Highest!
- A band of angels appeared to the shepherds…(Luke 2:9-20)
- An angel of the Lord appeared to the apostles while they were in prison and released them…
- An angel appeared to Cornelius while he was praying (Acts 10:6).
- An angel came into prison where Paul was kept in custody, bidding him rise and dress, then taking him through the gates of the prison which opened of their own accord, setting him free so he could continue his ministry.
- An angel of God stood before Paul when he was on board a ship, driven in the storm (Acts 27:24). There are many evil spirits in the loose in the spiritual world. The Apostle John warns us that we must be ever alert to them.
1 John 4:1-4 Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. This is the way to find out if they have the Spirit of God: If a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ became a human being, that person has the Spirit of God. If a prophet does not acknowledge Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist. You have heard that he is going to come into the world, and he is already here.
The conclusion of the matter is that the gift of discerning of spirits is associated with both spirits and the ministry of angels. With this gift, many men of God in both the Old and New Testament times were able to perceive beings of the unseen world and thereby receive strength, encouragement, and guidance to accomplish the tasks entrusted to them.