In 1 Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul lists nine supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. One of these manifestations of the Spirit is called “discerning of spirits.” I believe that this is a vital gift for the church today.
I would define discerning of spirits in the following way: the supernatural ability to perceive what is happening in the spiritual realm and to judge between the Holy Spirit and demonic spirits.
Sometimes this gift may function in recognizing the activity of the Holy Spirit. The Bible says that John the Baptist “saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him” (John 1:32). John was given supernatural insight into what was happening in the spiritual realm, and “saw” the Holy Spirit come upon Jesus.
This gift can also make us aware of the presence of angels. In 2 Kings 6:14-17, the prophet Elisha perceived that he was protected by a heavenly army. This caused him to not fear the physical army that was trying to capture him.
And discerning of spirits also operates in exposing the presence and/or the identity of evil spirits. This can be for an individual who is in need of deliverance, or for a place that is influenced by a demonic spirit.
Like other gifts of the Holy Spirit, discerning of spirits can operate in a variety of ways. For example, it can come through God opening your eyes to see what is happening in the spiritual world, but it can also come as a strong impression or physical sensation. It can come through the voice of the Holy Spirit or through a vision. Some have reported discernment coming through the sense of smell.
Hebrews 5:14 says, “But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Notice that our senses can be “exercised” to cultivate discernment over time. We can grow in our sensitivity to what is happening in the spiritual realm.
In whatever way that this gift functions, it is very significant for the body of Christ. With New Age and occult counterfeits in the world, and mixture creeping into the church, we need discernment like never before. With so many in need of deliverance, we need this gift to help recognize the presence and influence of demons. We also need to be able to recognize the moving of the Holy Spirit so that we can cooperate with Him in His work.
So let’s ask for the Lord to release the fullness of His gifts among us, including the gift of discerning spirits!
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I have experienced the gift of discernment but didn’t recognize what it was until I talked to my mentor. She explained to me and told me to seek God on what I’m sensing and what to do. Thus, I’m praying and researching about it more.
Thanks for sharing, Shontel. Glad you have a mentor to help guide you on the journey!
I have experienced the spirit of discernment for years, and am really starting to realize it’s power. I am also incredibly thankful for this gift. One powerful experience that I’ve had was when I was in college and went to downtown in the morning to volunteer with a group on Saturday. We volunteered pretty early, got there at 8am, and also left early, around 11am. Still driving through the city, I saw about 20 people standing around on the street, and also people in orange vests. My initial thought was, wow, there’s like an event or a party going on! Then, there was this feeling of dread, and like literally someone was dying. I got a VERY major migraine (I never get migraines! Ever!), I had to shut and rub my eyes for a second. I asked the driver of the car, “what is that?” “nothing” she said(she had no idea either). I looked over again and I couldn’t help but ask “What is that”, a little annoyed, she said “nothing” again. When I went back to my dorm I slept for 4 hours(I never take naps) because I was so drained for some reason. Later, I found out that place is an abortion clinic, and during that time, they were doing abortions.
Thanks for sharing that experience, Elena. I pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to show you how to use that gift!
While I was driving for Uber, I picked a woman who was from Nepal. The Holy Spirit told me to start a conversation about God. I asked her what the major religions were in Nepal. She
gave a list. Then I asked her if Christian are persecuted in Nepal. She denied it. Quietly I asked the Holy Spirit what He
wanted to say. He said , “Tell her when she was a young girl, she thought it would be nice to know God”. I repeated it, and asked her if it was true. She didn’t deny it and smiled. Then I said, “I could not have known that unless God was in me telling her that”. Again she said nothing. Then the Holy Spirit gave me another word of knowledge. I said, “When you were a little girl, you thought it would be nice to know Jesus”. The Holy Spirit told me to say nothing more, so she
could think deeply about those words of knowledge. Then I dropped her off at her Nepalize restaurant on Orange St.
Thanks for sharing that, Gary!