What is the Gift of Discerning of Spirits?

the gift of discerning of spirits

The gift of discerning of spirits has been so misinterpreted and misused in the Body of Christ over the years that a huge amount of damage has been done to so many people within the church. Therefore, I am going to break down the teaching on this gift into a couple of blog posts, as there are so many areas to explain. Let’s take some extra time and delve into this specific gift a little bit deeper.

Understanding the Gift of Discerning of Spirits

Right off the bat and I going to make a bold statement. This gift was given for believers to be able to detect the presence of God, not just the demons they see behind every chair leg!!! There ya’ go; I’ve said it. Too many Christians have used this gift in the name of detecting demons and the motives of people they believe are wrong.

Why is the use of this gift in this way so dangerous? It gives more credence and power to the enemy than that of the Godhead, the resurrection power of Jesus and the supernatural omnipotence of the Holy Spirit! I’m sorry if I have upset or offended you. The church becomes powerless when it gives more precedence to the devil’s work in their circumstances than to what God Himself has done.

Remember, this gift is called the discerning of spirits, and the word “spirits” is plural because there are different spiritual realms to discern. God has given us an incredible gift that we are able to discern “all spirits” correctly, not just the demonic ones. We need to remember that this gift operates out of the love of God and not from any other motivation. I will share more on this later.

Other Misunderstandings of This Spiritual Gift

Now the second radical assertion I am going to make is that this gift, as all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, lead us towards God. They radiate towards Him and emphasize who He is. Scripturally, it says in Philippians 1:9 (NKJV),

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment.”

This means we have been given not just a little bit of discernment, but ALL discernment!

Another major area of confusion when using this gift is that it is a spiritual discernment and is not a human discernment:  1 Cor 2:14 says,

“But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

Understanding the Different Meanings of “Discernment” in the Bible

Did you know there are three Greek root words for discerning?

  • Firstly, there is “anakrino,” which is spiritual discernment.
  • Secondly, there is “dokimazo,” which means to test or prove (spirits in 1 John 4:1, and prophecies in 1 Thessalonians 5:21).
  • Thirdly there is the word “krino,“ which means to judge or condemn (Matt 7:1-2). However, this definition represents one type of discernment are we NEVER to operate in. We must look at the situation or the person through the eyes of the Spirit of Truth and not through our own human eyes or assessment.

Now let’s look at how the term “the discerning of spirits” is used in the Greek in 1 Corinthians 12:10. I would suggest there are at least four spiritual realms to the Greek concept of discerning. The Greek word for discernment is daikrisis. It means to distinguish between or judicial estimation. The discerning of spirits is the supernatural ability to recognize and distinguish between not only good or bad, but various classes of spirits (more on this below).

I like how Francis Frangipane describes this gift. He says,

“Spiritual discernment is the grace to see into the unseen. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit to perceive what is in the spirit. Its purpose is to see into the nature of that which is veiled.”

The Different Classes of Spirits

The four classes of spirits we have been given the ability to discern are as follows:

  1. Holy Spirit
  2. Heavenly spirits – angels
  3. Human spirits
  4. Demonic spirits

I am going to take a little bit of time to unpack the above areas concerning the classes of spirits in our next blog post. However, before I end this particular post, I want to tackle what the discerning of spirits is NOT. I want to come against the ways in which this gift has been used in the past against other Christians and even others trying to seek Christ all the while putting a “God” stamp on it.

People think it’s OK for the Body of Christ to enter into these particular discussions and create division between them. Let’s face it. The meaning of Diablos in English means “the devil or divider”. Come on Church!! We need to wake up and stop using spiritual witchcraft to divide the Body of Christ. We need to go back to loving and looking at others through the eyes of Jesus!

What the Discerning of Spirits is Not

The discerning of spirits is not:


As We Continue…

In our next blog post on this particular gift, I will cover the individual spiritual areas, how to discern prophetic words and also differences between true and false prophets. I will also cover the purpose of this God given gift. Finally, we will look at some practical filters on how to discern the spiritual realms of the times we are living in.

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