1 Corinthians 12:10 … to another discerning of spirits …
Among the many Spiritual Gifts the Spirit gives to the church is the Gift of Discernment. What exactly is this gift and how does it operate?
David Francis describes the Gift of Discernment as the ability to – ‘distinguish whether an idea, goal, teaching, action or proposal, purported to be of God, is actually motivated by (1) God, (2) self, or (3) Satan.’ (Spiritual Gifts, pg. 91)
The need for such discernment is extremely important to the church.
First of all, the church needs discernment in order to help keep its doctrine pure. Jesus said that Satan is ‘a liar and the father of it.’ (Jn 8:44) Therefore we are told – 1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. The church needs discerning people who can help protect us from false teachers or those who have been sent by Satan to disrupt the church.
In addition, the church needs discernment in order to help keep its efforts practical. For instance, someone with the Gift of Mercy can get caught up in their emotions and fail to use wisdom when it comes to reaching out to those in need; or someone with the Gift of Faith might be so blinded by their vision that they fail to use wisdom when it comes to beginning a new project.
Those with the Gift of Discernment should give great effort to studying the Bible and to walking in the Spirit. Spiritual discernment is more than common sense or human logic. It is special wisdom that comes from God that requires great sensitivity to the Spirit. Here are some of the ways the Gift of Discernment might have operated in the early church –
- In establishing ministries to meet needs
Acts 6:1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. 2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business;
- In detecting impure motives among the church members
Acts 5:1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. 2 And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?
- Discerning the movement of the Spirit
Acts 13:2 As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.
Without gifts such as Mercy and Faith, the church might become dry and stale; yet without the gifts such as Discernment, the church might become deceived or act foolishly.
1 Corinthians 12:4 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:
14 For in fact the body is not one member but many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? 18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. 19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.