Documentation Published on Friday, 14 April 2023

A spirit of discernment: As Christians are bombarded with a false gospel on a daily basis, a spirit of discernment is more important than ever.

A spirit of discernment

As Christians are bombarded with a false gospel on a daily basis, a spirit of discernment is more important than ever

This lesson is the result of two different groups that I recently attended and interacted with, and in both the value of discernment was discussed. I told both groups that today, more than anything else, we should ask God for a spirit of discernment in our lives so that we can be prepared to ward off onslaughts. Moreover, we need a spirit of discernment to encourage fellow believers. Let is look at both. First, let us see where in the Bible discernment is first mentioned. In 1 Kings chapter three, we read that the Lord appeared to Solomon and asked him what he desired. He replied that he needed to discern between good and bad in order to rule over Israel. Read this chapter and then continue here.

Discerning false spirits, false prophets, and false teaching

We read about spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12. We understand by studying Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that there was a great deal of haughtiness and arrogance about the use of the various spiritual gifts in the Corinthian church. Paul addresses this and states the existence of the various gifts, but also how they should be used. He mentions the various gifts:

4Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. 6And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. 7But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. 8For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: 11But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. – 1 Corinthians 12:4-11

Tucked away in the list of gifts, and highlighted here, is the discerning of spirits, or what we call the spirit of discernment. Firstly, this means that we should be able to see when something is from God and when not. If it is not from God then it is of the world, controlled by the devil. There are no other options.

Paul’s advice to the church in Philippi is this:

9And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; 10That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; 11Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God. – Philippians 1:9-10

He uses the words “approve” and “excellent”, and in other translations “approve” is rendered as “test”.

The apostle John later states that we should test the spirits:

1Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. – 1 John 4:1

The purpose of “trying” or “testing” spirits is to determine their origin. Today, many malicious things are happening in the world, and worse, in the church. Some people are scared by what they see; others are swept away by what they see; and others have the ability to sense that what they see, or experience is wrong, and they stay away from it.

John states that we need to test spirits before we accept them as true. Failing to recognise false spirits allows false prophets and teaching to deceive you. John mentions false prophets – this should be a familiar topic as we have addressed this on numerous occasions: there are no true prophets today. The ones who claim to be prophets, are all false. See False Apostles and False Prophets.

We identify false prophets because their teaching is contrary to the Word of God, no matter how nicely they wrap their evil presents. We see this in many of our churches today. Often, a show is presented that looks wonderful, but real, life application teaching from the Word of God is not found. We are only able to identify false teaching if we know and study the Bible. Sadly, this is where many Christians stumble. Lack of knowledge leads people astray. Hosea warned about this and while some may claim that Hosea 4:6 is not relevant because it refers to Israel and not the church, God has given you the Word to study it, gain knowledge from it, and thus discern between true and false, right and wrong.

Listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit

The second form of discernment is one that many believers are scared of – that feeling that God wants you to say something to someone, but you do not, because you fear that you may make a fool of yourself. Has this ever happened to you? We often think that a thought we get about praying for someone, or saying something to someone, are our own thoughts, and not that of God. However, this is the way that the Holy Spirit works. Someone else may be asking God for wisdom, and you may be the one who has to give them the guidance they are looking for. Your failure to be obedient to God’s voice leads to them not getting the breakthrough they desperately need.

As believers we need to support one another more than ever before. Praying for others, and supporting them in whatever way the situation requires, is critical. You can learn to have a Spirit of discernment firstly by living close to Jesus. Ask God to reveal people in need to you. Let Him speak to you through the Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. As a simple step in the right direction, simply ask someone in your church if you can pray for them. You may not know what their real need is, but often it is not the knowledge of the situation, but your presence in the situation, that gives them the strength to overcome the situation.

Sometimes though, God will actually reveal parts of the situation to you and when you then share this with the intended person, they experience it as coming from God, through you, as most likely you are revealing information about their situation that they had not shared with you.


The days we live in are evil. Pray for discernment – for wisdom and understanding.

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