Front Page
Series Contents
Series Theme: The Gifts of the Spirit
























1. The Gift

2. General NT Teaching

3. Tests

4. Concluding Comment
















1. The Gift

2. General NT Teaching

3. Tests

4. Concluding Comment




Title:   7. The Gift of Discernment of Spirits


A Series that considers the Gifts given by the Holy Spirit to Believers


This page is one of a number that seeks to provide basic study material for the Christian who wishes to see what the Bible says about the gifts of the Spirit.

We follow the 'standard' pattern for these pages of defining the gift, then seeing it in the Old Testament, in Jesus' ministry and then in the Acts. We then move on to include some more general and tests found in John's first letter.



1. The Gift

Discernment Definition: a supernatural knowledge of the source of activity, whether it be divine, demonic or human.

The gift of discernment of spirits, enables you:

  •  To see how or when the Holy Spirit is moving.

  •  To see when angels or demons are present.

  •  To see when the purely human is operating and when wrong motives are present.

Examples of discernment of spirits in the O.T.:

  •  Jeremiah & Hananiah the false prophet Jer 28:1-11

  •  Young prophet who didn't use it! 1 Kings 13:18 -

Discernment in Jesus' Ministry:

  •  Describing Nathaniel Jn 1:47

  •  Identifying demons Lk 8:26 -33

  •  Identifying divine revelation Mt 16:17

  •  ? Knowing nature of thoughts Mt 9:4, 22:18

Examples of discernment in Acts:

  •  Saul & Elymas 13:8-10

  •  Paul & the slave girl 16:16-18 



2. General New Testament teaching

  •  Hospitality to strangers is taught in the N.T. (1 Tim 5:10, Heb 13:2, 3 Jn 5-8) yet some might come with wrong teachings (2 Jn 7-11,  2 Thess 2:1-4)) and with a wrong spirit (1 Jn 4:6). We need to be alert. 

  •  We are told to “test the spirits” to counter false prophets (1 Jn 4:1).

  •  Satan can counterfeit power and seek to deceive the church which needs discernment in the spirit not to be deceived (2 Thess 2:9,10,  Mk 13:22 ,  2 Tim 3:5,  Col 2:23,  Jas 3:15,  2 Pet 2:1).

  •  The fact that the Holy Spirit enables a person to declare that Jesus is Lord (1 Cor 12:3) does not mean that every person who declares Jesus is Lord is speaking the truth and inspired by the Spirit (Mt 7:21).



3. Tests of a Person's Motivation from 1 John

1. Test of righteous obedience to Jesus (2:4 & 3:8)

  •  living in sin indicates deception

2. Test of brotherly love ( 2:11 , 4:20 , 3:16 ,17)

  •  a Christian who hates another is in darkness.

3. Test of Confession of Christ

  •  that Jesus is the Christ ( 2:22 , 5:1)

  •  that Father & Son are distinct ( 2:22 )

  •  that Jesus came in flesh (4:2)

  •  that Jesus came from God (4:3)

  •  that Jesus is the Son of God ( 4:15 )

4. Test of openness to truth (4:6)

  •  bigotry & refusal to listen to alternatives are a sign of possible deception.

5. Test of overcoming the world (5;4, 4;5, 2;15-17)

  •  love of the world indicates possible deception.



4. Concluding Comment

  •  These are tests that we all need to apply with our mind and understanding to those who might come, holding high office, appearing good, yet questionable.

  •  The gift of discerning of spirits allows us to know in the spirit if the person before us is not of God.

  •  To develop the gift we need

    a) to spend time in the presence of God,

    b) seek to be obedient to God and

    c) seek to be responsive to God, at all times.


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