You may never have heard of this gift before and to be honest it isn’t one that is talked about as much as some of the others like speaking in tongues or prophecy. Or maybe you have heard of it but never really understood what it was all about, so I am going to try and demystify it here for you.
It’s right there in the list of spiritual gifts as set out in 1 Cor 12, which is the famous verse that lists the 9 main spiritual gifts.
7: Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
10: to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.
Before we get into it you might have noticed that in this scripture it is called the distinguishing of spirits but it’s also commonly known as the discernment of spirits and it basically means the same thing, so I just wanted to clear up any confusion from the get go.
The Greek word for the discernment of spirits means to judge, distinguish or decide and this may be about a situation, a person, something you read or hear or even the environment you are in. Like me you may be thinking, what are the spirits this passage is referring to because there’s obviously more than one?
But first, a bit of an overview of the gift. You may or may not be surprised to learn that every believer has some discernment in the spirit and as you mature this naturally develops.
When you were a baby you only needed milk to live but as you grow you need solid food to prosper, so it is with spiritual things. You mature in faith and deepen your understanding through the word of God and through your relationship with Papa.
Heb 5:14 says, Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.
So, as you mature you gain a deeper understanding of what is good and what is evil and this means we all have some level of this discernment but as with many of the gifts there are those who have it as an actual gift. This means that they are able to distinguish between what is from God, Satan, the world or even us (sometimes called the flesh) in any situation. When it refers to ‘flesh’ it just means the natural desires we have to do what we want above anything else, even from what God wants for us.
This gift can be so helpful for the church as a whole as people with this gift can warn believers of danger and the risk of being led astray by false teaching. False teaching is something that has been prevalent since the first century and nothing has changed there. The fact that not everybody can discern when teaching may be off track illustrates how subtle the danger can be and why we need people with this gift around us as a church family. This gift does not mean they get a word from God, audibly or otherwise but that they are so familiar with the word of God that they recognise when things don’t line up. They are able to test the spirits to see which line up with God and which are opposing forces.
1 John 4:1-3 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
Thankfully God in His infinite wisdom decided to distribute the gifts in such a way so that we would be like a body that has many parts and so that no one could boast about being more important than another because we need all the parts to form a healthy body. The body also speaks of family and needing each other which is so perfectly modelled to us in the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Roms 12:5 so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.
Whatever gift you have just know that you are valued, needed and you are part of God’s plan. In fact, we are God’s plan A for the world and He is never wrong!
If you are still unsure what your spiritual gifts are you can take this Spiritual Gift Test (adult version) or youth version. Remember it’s only a guide and not a definitive answer to what your giftings are. You could also talk to someone at church, your youth leader or even Christian friends who are already moving in different giftings and may be able to guide you on identifying your own areas of gifting.
To read my other Gifts of the Spirit series;
Discerning of Spirits