“To another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.” – I Corinthians 12:10 NKJV
One of the signs Jesus said would follow the believer is the casting out of demon spirits (Mark 16:17). One of the gifts of the Spirit is the discerning of spirits (1 Corinthians 12:10).
These realities shows the completeness of God’s gifts to the believer. If he is to cast out demons, he must know how to discern spirits.
What does it mean to discern spirits? Sometimes, to know the meaning of a concept, one needs to know what is it not.
Discernment of spirits is not suspicion. It is not in the observation of patterns. A person possessed of a demon may or may not exhibit any strange behaviour. It is not mind reading. Discernment of spirit is not just the discernment of demons.
Discernment of spirit is by the Holy Spirit. It is the divine ability to see the presence of what spirit motivates a human being, good or bad.
In Acts 16:16-18, the story of Paul and his travelling companions is told concerning a little girl who followed them on their way to prayer.
She cried out after them, saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” And this she did for many days.”
“But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And he came out that very hour.” It was a demon spirit, specifically, a spirit of divination (Acts 16:16).
Isn’t it interesting that though the words of this girl was correct, the source of her knowledge was evil? How did Paul know? By the discernment of spirit!
If it were by observation only, he might have concluded that she was doing them the service of free advertisments. Afterall, he and his brethren were traveliing missionaries.
Whether by the Spirit or by the word, a believer must be discerning, especially these last days. Else he will befriend his enemy or make an enemy out of a sincere friend, or worst still, be deceived by false teachers and teachings (Matthew 24:25, 1 Timothy 4:1).
Therefore, the believer should endeavour to study the word regularly and pray with this in mind from time to time.
We have discernment by the Spirit!