1 Corinthians 12:10, “To another distinguishing between spirits…”
The seventh spiritual gift is the “gift of distinguishing between spirits.” The gift of distinguishing (or discerning) between spirits is, “a supernatural revelation about the origin of a spirit and its characteristics.” Consequently, there are four different kinds of spirits in the world, which are, (1) the Spirit of God, (2) angelic spirits, (3) evil spirits and (4) human spirits.
Sometimes Christians believe God is speaking to them, but really it is their own spirit (or imagination). Other times, people have visions and hear voices they think are from God, but they are really evil spirits trying to deceive them (2 Corinthians 11:4). The Bible says that if we’re not careful, we can be deceived by Satan, who “masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14)!
The gift of discerning of spirits is God’s way of letting you know the source and purpose of every spiritual encounter and message.
A biblical example of distinguishing between spirits would be the time when a young girl who could tell the future followed Paul and kept shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved!” However, by the gift of distinguishing between spirits, Paul knew that the spirit inside of her was of a demonic origin. As a result, Paul cast the spirit out of the girl and set her free (Acts 16:16-18). Likewise, this gift is used often in association with casting out demons.
Sometimes people confuse the gift of distinguishing (or discerning) between spirits with being judgmental and spreading gossip. Or people think this is the gift of “discernment,” like one uses in apologetics. Both are incorrect. The gift of distinguishing between spirits is not given to slander, nor is it for defending the faith against doctrinal errors; rather the gift of discerning of spirits is meant to help people avoid deceptive tactics from the devil, to know the characteristics of man’s spirit and cast out demons.
A modern example of this gift in action was when I was saw people trying to pray for a demon-possessed man on the streets in New Orleans. They thought the man was drunk, however, God told me he was demon possessed and so I commanded the evil spirits to leave him. At once he was in his right mind and was able to praise God. They thought he was drunk because of his erratic behavior; however, his problems were spiritual in nature. Another time a person with schizophrenia asked me to cast demons out of them because they were hearing voices. However, God told me it was a physical illness affecting their spirit and not an outside demonic attack. After going to see a doctor my insight was confirmed. Remember, we should never assume things that God hasn’t told us and even if we believe God is giving us spiritual discernment, we should always act in grace and love.
Lester Sumrall wrote, “The discerning of spirits gives members of the body of Christ insight into the spirit world, a realm that their five physical senses— feeling, hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting— cannot enter. The telescope can reveal the amazing stars in space. The microscope can bring to light the intricate mysteries of microscopic life. But it takes the gift of discerning of spirits to penetrate to the dividing of soul and spirit within a person.” When the gift of distinguishing between spirits is used properly it can be powerful and life changing both in and outside of the church!
- Recall a time you have seen demons cast out.
- Ask God to give you the gift of distinguishing between spirits next time you encounter a spiritual battle or situation.
- Test every spirit and only follow the Holy Spirit (1 John 4:1).