The Gift of Discernment
By Dr. Ray Melugin


Though every believer is responsible for discerning the spirits, some have a special ability to distinguish between the spirit of truth and the spirit of error; the ability to unmask Satan's false teachers and false teachings.

"...To another discerning of spirits;" I Corinthians 12:10 (See John 4:1-4)


I. Examples of Discernment in New Testament Days

A. Peter recognized that Christ was deity. (Matthew 16:16-17) "...Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father..."

Note: Later, when Jesus rebuked Peter for talking about His coming death, Jesus discerned the satanic source of Peter's words. "Get thee behind me Satan..." (Verse 23)

B. Discernment enabled Peter to see through the deception of Ananias, Sapphira. "...Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost..." (Acts 5:1-10)

C. Peter discerned evil in the heart of Simon of Samaria when he sought to buy the power of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8:20-23)

D. Elymas was stricken with instant judgment when he tried to keep the governor from hearing the gospel. (Acts 13:6-12)

E. Paul recognized the girl in Philippi was possessed with a spirit of divination. (Acts 16:16-22)

F. The church of Ephesus tried professing apostles and discerned them liars. (Revelation 2:2 they received a commendation)

Note: The church at Pergamos and Thyatira were rebuked for allowing false teaching to continue in the church (Revelations 2:14,20)

G. Discernment may have had greater significance in the apostolic age.
1. New Testament not yet completed.
2. Needed ability to distinguish between the divine and the demonic.
3. The church needed protection against wiles of Satan using false teachers.


II. The Need for Discernment Today

A. Scriptures clearly teach the existence of a spirit world.
Note: Demons are spirit beings, without body, invisible, intelligent, opponents of God, and oppressors of man. (Matthew 8:28; I Peter 5:8; Genesis 3:4-5)

1. The U.S. currently has over 10,000 full-time, and 175,000 practicing astrologers.
2. Two-thirds of U.S. newspapers have astrology columns.
3. Forty million Americans dabble in the occult.
4. The First Satanic church of San Francisco has more than 10,000 members.

B. Believers are forbidden to traffic in spiritism. (Deuteronomy 18:9-14)
1. False teachings are called "doctrines of devils." (I Timothy 5:1)
2. The Christian's battle is a spiritual battle. (Ephesians 6:12)
3. When identifying spiritual powers, they must not be trusted, but tested. I John 4:1 "...Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God:"

Note: This is done by the scriptures that change not, that way you have a final authority for faith and practices.


III. Areas in Which Discernment Operates

A. The prophets ways (his life)
1. Impure intentions, as status-seeking Ananias and Sapphira. (Acts 5:1-4)
a. Ananias and Sapphira adhered readily to apostolic doctrine, though intentions were impure.
b. Discernment extends to the motive as well as the message.

Note: In the first century A.D., one would be marked as a false prophet if he stayed more than three days in one place, took anything with him except bread, or asked for money from his host. Even if he spoke the truth he was stilled marked as a false prophet.

B. The prophets words (his teaching)
1. Some prophets claimed to be sent of God when they were not. (Jeremiah 23:21)

2. Multitudes of people have been drawn to trust in a lie. (Jeremiah 28:15)

3. Peter warned of false prophets. (II Peter 2:1-3)

4. false prophets will never identify themselves as such. (Matthew 7:15-16)

5. Paul promised there would be false prophets in the "latter days." (I Timothy 4:1)

C. The Acid Test to Determine Truth and Error.
1. Maintaining the honor of Jesus Christ ( I John 4:2-3)

Note: In the above verse, "Jesus" refers to the historical person, "Christ" refers to His Deity, (I John 2:22-23) "is come" refers to His preexistence, "in the flesh" refers to His human nature. Relegating Jesus Christ to an inferior position less than the incarnate Son of God identifies that spirit as not being of God.

2. Christ (His Person and work) provides the crux of truth found in I Timothy 3:16.

"And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh (incarnation), justified in the Spirit (deity declared through the resurrection), seen of angels (resurrection attested), preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory (ascension and glorification, the divine seal of his finished work)".

3. Paul uses the strongest language imaginable concerning those who would preach another gospel. (Galations 1:8-9)


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