The spiritual gift of discerning spirits – What is it?
First Corinthians 12 provides a list of spiritual gifts. Verse 10 shares that one of these gifts is "the ability to distinguish between spirits." Many call this the spiritual gift of discerning spirits. What is this spiritual gift?
It is clear that all Christians are to grow in discernment. Hebrews 5:14 shares, "But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil."
However, some believers have had the ability to more clearly discern spirits than others. First John 4:1-3 offers this wisdom: "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God." Spiritual discernment includes identifying whether a spiritual teacher's message is truly from God based on his or her teachings.
Jude serves as one clear example of a believer who could identify false teachers and their teachings. Jude 1:3 notes, "Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints." He desired to write about salvation, yet wrote to warn his readers against false teachings that were attacking the early church.
Still today, many inaccurate and unhealthy teachings confront the church. All believers are called to stand against false teaching, yet some believers are more gifted in this area than others. What are some examples of false teaching? From 1 John 4 mentioned above, the clearest examples are teachers who claim Jesus did not physically come to the earth in human form. Those who deny the coming of Jesus to earth are one example of changing a clear biblical teaching regarding the Savior.
Other examples include those who deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus, who deny salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), those who seek to add to or take away from Scripture (Revelation 22:18-19), and those who claim to be Christians yet use His grace as an excuse for sinful living (Jude 1:4).
Spiritual discernment is certainly needed in today's churches, including those gifted in discernment. The best way to grow in this area is to study God's Word for yourself, since, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
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