The Gift of Discerning of Spirits
The gift of discerning of spirits is the ability to discriminate between godly and counterfeit inspiration. It is one of the gifts of the Spirit. Paul wrote, “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit…to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits…” (1 Corinthians 12:4,10,11). God does not want His church to be gullible. For this reason, He bestows on it the gift of distinguishing between true and false spirits.
Because of this gift, the apostles in the early church had the ability to distinguish between true and false preachers and professors of Christianity (Acts 5:1–10; 13:9–11). There was need for this gift when there were many pretenders to possession of these gifts. Satan has ever been ready to counterfeit the true, and often supports the false claims of pretenders by supernatural miracles (2 Thessalonians 2:9; Revelation 13:13, 14)
Test the Spirits
The messages of teachers who make the claim of being sent by God should be tested by the Scriptures. “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20). The Bereans gladly listened to Paul, but they studied the Scriptures to see whether he had been teaching truth (Acts 17:11).
- The true prophet must confess Christ in action as well as in word (1 John 4:1–3). He will accept and confess Christ’s deity (1 John 2:22, 23).
- His teachings must be in line with the teachings of Scriptures (Acts 17:11; Galatians 1:8, 9).
- The fruits of his teaching must be good (Matthew 7:18–20).
Hold on to the Truth
The believer is not only to test spiritual gifts, but, having discerned the difference between the true and the false, the good and the bad, he is to hold the good, to retain it, in spite of all temptations to let it go. It is the duty of each believer to apply to everything that he reads and hears the test of the inspired writings of prophets and apostles. Only so can the church resist the deceptions of false doctrine; only so can each believer have his faith based upon God and not men (1 Peter 3:15).
The Lord warned His church that false prophets would arise, especially in the last days, and all should be ready to reject such false teachers: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many” (Matthew 24:4, 5, 11, 23–25).
These false prophets will also perform “signs” as proof of their authority, and these signs will be seen by the people as “wonders” (Matthew 12:38, 39). However, these false miracles and signs will be performed by Satan. “And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).
Likewise, the apostle John warned, “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. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world” (1 John 4:1–3).
In His service,