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Read Introduction to 1 Corinthians


“to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.”


to another discerning of spirits,

“Discerning of spirits” is the gift of identifying false doctrine. The root of the word “discerning” means to judge through. The basic idea is to separate or make distinctions. The idea is to sever through something to form two distinct parts. “Discerning of spirits” is the ability to give an immediate evaluation of a speaker as to whether what is said is of God or not. The person with this gift can spot religious phonies. He can distinguish between what is true and what is false. This gift is the ability to test certain claims against what the Bible says.


It is important to distinguish truth from error.


The gift of discerning spirits is a watchdog for God’s Word. The Devil is a great imitator or counterfeiter. He makes divine currency look as close to the real thing as possible. That is why he deceives so many “sincere” people. “Many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 Jn 4:1). There are as many liars from pulpits and books today in North America as anywhere. Some people are so gullible that they swallow anything. They have little spiritual perspicuity. They swallow anything hook, line, and sinker as long as it is from a pulpit or Christian book. Sometimes the imitation looks better than the real thing. The ultimate measuring stick is the Word of God. Anything that runs counter to the Word is spurious.

Christians today are so illiterate in God’s Word that, when falsity comes along, they do not recognize it. Post conservative, postmodern, so-called evangelicals have undermined the foundations of faith, and hardly anyone recognizes it because of an appalling state of biblical ignorance today. Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christian and A Generous Orthodoxy undermine biblical Christianity. The reason people have not identified his teaching as deviation is the appalling state of the evangelical ignorance of God’s Word today. There is little knowledge of Bible doctrine or substantive truth among evangelicals. Most evangelicals are so pragmatically oriented or experientially oriented that they cannot distinguish between the things that differ. A person with the gift of discernment will identify what is spoken as to whether it is of God or not.

Someone might say that this capacity for discernment and calling out false doctrine is not “the spirit of Jesus.” Nothing could be more the spirit of Jesus than to rebuke false doctrine and teachers as He did throughout the gospels (Jn 8:44). Jesus even rebuked Peter for indicating that Jesus should not go to the cross (Mt 16:22-23).

Many people today make claims of biblical authority that are totally off base. These are counterfeit teachers. Almost all of them have some truth, but that makes them dangerous. They have a mixture of truth and error, and some evangelicals cannot distinguish the error. People with the gift of discernment can stop them quickly. People with this gift are to use it even when dealing with those who have the gift of prophecy (14:29). The person with the gift of discernment compares claims of truth with the Scripture.

There is a danger in this gift of becoming proud and arrogant, thinking that “I am the only one who can sniff out an error and that my estimation is the only right one.” Such a person can become critical of others and self-righteous. We cannot find this “gift of criticism” in the Bible! That is a gift they should give back!