In 1 Corinthians 12:7-10, the apostle Paul lists nine supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. One of these manifestations of the Spirit is called “discerning of spirits.” I believe this gift is incredibly vital for the body of Christ today.
I would define discerning of spirits as the supernatural ability to perceive what is happening in the spiritual realm and judge between the Holy Spirit and demonic spirits. Sometimes this gift may function in recognizing the work of the Holy Spirit. The Bible says that John the Baptist “saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him” (John 1:32). John was given supernatural insight into what was happening in the spiritual realm, and “saw” the Holy Spirit come upon Jesus.
The gift of discerning of spirits can also make us aware of the presence of angels. In 2 Kings 6:14-17, the prophet Elisha perceived that he was protected by a heavenly army. This caused him to not fear the physical army that was trying to capture him.
Discerning of spirits also operates in exposing the presence and/or the identity of evil spirits. This can be for an individual who is in need of deliverance, or for a place that is influenced by a demonic spirit.
Like other gifts of the Holy Spirit, discerning of spirits can operate in a variety of ways. For example, it can come through God opening your eyes to see what is happening in the spiritual world, but it can also come as a strong impression or physical sensation. It can come through the voice of the Holy Spirit, through a vision, or other ways.
In whatever way this gift functions, it is very significant for the church. With New Age and occult counterfeits in the world, and “mixture” creeping into the church, we need discernment like never before. With so many in need of deliverance, we need this gift to help recognize the presence and influence of demons. We also need to be able to recognize the moving of the Holy Spirit so that we can cooperate with Him in His work. So let’s ask for the Lord to release the fullness of His gifts among us, including the gift of discerning spirits!
Do you have any experience with the gift of discerning of spirits? Have you ever seen an angel or demon? How did you recognize the activity in the spiritual realm?