Spiritual Gifts Discernment

In Paul’s list of spiritual gifts discernment of spirits is among those listed, (1 Cor. 12:10). What is this particular gift of the Spirit and how was it used? Clarke’s commentary says it is a gift by which the person so privileged could discern a false miracle from a true one; or a pretender to inspiration from him who was made really partaker of the Holy Ghost. It probably extended also to the discernment of false professors from true ones, as appears in Peter in the case of Ananias and his wife. (Adam Clarke, First Corinthians, p. 259, emp. his)

Barnes says it referred to the ability to search into the secrets of the heart; of knowing what were a man’s purposes, views and feelings. (Albert Barnes, First Corinthians, p. 231). Wherever there is something genuine and of value there will always be that which is counterfeit and fake. There is the true God and there are false gods. There is the true Messiah and there are false Christs. There were genuine miracle workers, prophetic teachers and healers and their were fake ones.

Examples of the Use of the Gift of Discerning of Spirits.

One of the most prominent is that in the Old Testament in the case of Daniel and the astrologers in Babylon. When Nebuchadnezzar dreamed but could not remember the dream, he sought for an interpreter. However, Nebuchadnezzar was no fool. As a wise king, he refused to accept anyone’s claim that they could interpret his dream. He wanted validation that the proposed interpreter could in fact interpret his dream.

How did he determine that? He asked them to first “reveal” his dream. Nebuchadnezzar knew that if a person were smart or gifted enough to interpret his dream correctly, i.e. if he possessed such powers, he should also be able to reveal the dream. He reasoned that it was no less an act of supernatural power to reveal it as to interpret it. By so doing, he smoked out all of the fake and counterfeit wise men in his kingdom.

At last Daniel came forth and revealed the truth. Only God could both reveal secrets and interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Daniel was inspired by God to do so and the rest is history. See Daniel chapter 2. Without this ability, we would never know what was in Nebuchadnezzar’s mind.

Spiritual Gifts Discernment – We Cannot Read Minds

Most all have seen the exposure of the fake mind-readers on TV such Miss Cleo. A lot of so called mind-reading preachers, prophets and prophetesses (?) could be added to the list. As a matter of fact, I watched one out of curiosity one night before retiring for bed. He was trying to read this callers mind and he kept missing it. It was so horribly fake that he even laughed at himself. I was surprised that the woman stayed on the line until he finally guessed closed enough that she was willing to accept it.

According to the Bible, humanly no one canĀ  read other people’s minds anymore than one can read God’s mind and determine His or their motives and intents. “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. (1 Cor. 2:11)

Thus, there were only two ways a person’s mind could be read. (1) Either the man himself revealed his mind, or (2), God or a person endowed with the miraculous spiritual gifts discernment could do so.

Spiritual Gifts Discernment

Use of this gift in the New Testament helped the saints to:

  • determine falseĀ  prophets or teachers (1 John 4:1-2)
  • understand the mysteries of the Spirit, (1 Cor. 13:2)
  • identify the beast of Revelation (Rev. 13:18)
  • determine when people’ s motives and words were false (Acts 5:1-11)
  • prevent being mislead by all sorts of false doctrines, (Eph. 4:14)

They Were Never Wrong

Those who possessed these gifts were never wrong or mistaken. They got it dead right on every time. Some examples are those as in the cases of Ananias and Sapphira and Elymas the Sorcerer, (Acts 5, 13).

The spiritual gift of discernment was limited to the first century church. It was needed to help establish Christianity as a divine religion much the same as Judaism was established by the miracles during the Exodus to separate it from paganism. Once the break between Christianity and Judaism was complete and the latter city and religion destroyed in the A.D. 70 Roman destruction, the miracles ceased. There are none performed today. There is no need.

Unless and until Christianity becomes outdated and God creates a new religion, He will not need to perform signs and miracles to establish a new one.