Bible Reading: Acts 8:14-25; 1 John 4:1-6
In 1 Corinthians 12:10 the manifestation of discerning of spirits is strategically placed between prophesy, speaking in tongues and the interpretation of tongues. It is significant that the discerning of spirits is set between the three gifts of utterance. This would suggest that the discerning of spirits is a vital part of testing and weighing of utterances that are purported to be from God.
Quite clearly all prophecies are to be tested and we are only to hold fast to what is good [1 Thessalonians 5:20-21]. We will look more closely at testing a prophecy when we consider the gift of prophecy. However, it should be said that we should test the spirits whether they are of God. John gives us a simple test of what does and does not come from God – what the person says about Jesus [1 John 4:1-3].
Knowing God’s Word will also help us to discern if a prophecy, a tongue, or an interpretation of a tongue are genuinely from God. My stepfather was both a freemason and a spiritist and was angry that I had become a Christian. One day he came into my room and prophesied to me of all the evil things that would happen to me if I continued to follow Jesus. This did not require a gift of discernment because I clearly understood that what he was saying was in contradiction to God’s Word.
God wants to protect His people from deception. Some people decide to take an easy way out and reject the gifts of the Spirit. This is very sad because something very powerful is then lost to the church. For every true gift of the Spirit there are counterfeits. People of religions other than Christian are known to speak in tongues and prophesy. A tongue might come from the Holy Spirit, an evil spirit or the human spirit. I remember some years ago someone speaking out loud in tongues in a meeting. It wasn’t evil but it wasn’t meant for the whole church. The pastor recognised that the man was praising God in tongues, and said, “Let’s join in praising the Lord with our brother.” How did the pastor know? It was because the Spirit of God had given him discernment. This often begins with a sense of dis-ease and a lack of God’s peace.
In conclusion, Derek Prince writes, “The gift of discerning of spirits…. results in believers recognising the presence of the Holy Spirit and the ways in which God is working, it reveals the character and motivations of human hearts, and it identifies when evil spirits are the cause of sickness and strife. When the discerning of spirits is operating on a full scale in the body of Christ, it will bring remarkable ministry to the church and world” [“The Gifts of the Spirit”, page 103].
Why is it important that the gift of discernment is placed in Scripture between the gifts of prophecy, tongues and the interpretation of tongues?
What is the difference between testing the spirits in 1 John 4:1-3, discernment by knowledge of the Bible and the gift of discerning of spirits?