Gifts of the Holy Spirit 7
The Discerning of Spirits

by Pastor John Hamel


We have come to the third and final Revelation Gift.  


Remember, Revelation Gifts always reveal something. 


I should immediately point out that this Gift is not called the “Gift of Discernment.”  Some use this erroneous name.  We should call this Gift what the Bible calls it.  The Bible calls it the “Discerning of Spirits.” 


Also, this is not the “Gift of Criticism.”  Some meddling individuals are always sticking their noses into the business of others, claiming, “I have the Gift of Discernment.  I just want to help.”  These folks actually have a critical spirit.  Fortunately, having a critical spirit is not the unforgivable sin


The Discerning of Spirits is a Supernatural revelation from the Spirit of God, which opens one’s eyes to the activities of the Spirit realm.  


Through the operation of this Gift one can see Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the similitude of God, angels, Satan, demons and any other spirit beings, objects or spiritual activities.  


The Greek word used for "discernment" is "diakrisis."  This word also describes the ability to distinguish, discern, judge or appraise a person, intentions, statements, situations or environment. It is the supernatural ability to judge between good and evil, including good spirits and evil spirits. (Hebrews 5:14)


It must also be noted that this Gift has nothing to do with the delusions of the mentally ill.  It has nothing to do with the delirium of the drug or alcohol-induced or addicted.  The Discerning of Spirits is unrelated to psychic phenomena or mind-reading.  This Gift has nothing at all to do with the natural mind, sober or inebriated.  


This Gift is Supernatural as are all of the other Gifts of the Holy Spirit.


Anytime an individual experiences a Holy Spirit induced inward vision, open vision, trance or dream in which the Spirit realm is looked into, the Discerning of Spirits is in operation.  


An Old Testament Example of Discerning of Spirits


The King of Syria sent his army to capture the Prophet Elisha.  Elisha was supernaturally revealing to Israel whenever and from wherever Syria planned to attack.  


The King of Syria planned to put an end to this supernatural sabotaging of his plans by capturing Elisha.


Early one morning Elisha's servant stepped outside to discover the Syrian army encompassed round about the city with horses and chariots.  


He panicked and said to Elisha, "Now what do we do?"


"Elisha answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray Thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha." (2 Kings 6:16-17)


Elisha's servant was allowed to see into the Spirit realm through an operation of the Discerning of Spirits.  What he saw was the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire surrounding and protecting Elisha the Prophet.


One man who attended our services for a number of years once reported having seen no less than thirty angels surrounding me in a half-circle one Sunday morning as I stood in the pulpit preaching.


Mary and Joseph Were Visited by Angels 


“…the angel Gabriel was sent from God … to a virgin … the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.  … And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.” (Luke 1:26-31)


Here the Virgin Mary’s eyes were opened to the presence of the angel Gabriel.  This was the Discerning of Spirits in operation.  


Gabriel informed Mary that she had (past and present tense) found favor with God.  This was the Word of Knowledge.  


Gabriel also informed Mary, “Thou shalt conceive …” (future tense).  This was the Word of Wisdom.  


Here we find all three Revelation Gifts operating together; the Word of Knowledge, the Word of Wisdom and the Discerning of Spirits.  


The Gifts of the Spirit frequently operate together.


An angel later appeared to Mary’s fiancé, Joseph, in a dream.  


The angel told him that Mary’s conceived and soon to be born child was from God and that he should not reject her. (Matthew 1:19-21)  


This was also the Discerning of Spirits operating together with a Word of Wisdom and a Word of Knowledge.


I Have Experienced the Discerning of Spirits


I have experienced the Discerning of Spirits frequently operating with the other Revelation Gifts on many occasions.  


I have had visitations of Jesus and angels through open visions, trances and dreams.  


One evening God’s angel appeared to me in a dream, even as he did to Joseph.  He said to me, “You will place your feet on the soil of no fewer than 35 nations of the world and preach the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”  This was the Discerning of Spirits operating in conjunction with the Word of Wisdom and/or Prophecy.


I have seen multiple dramatic demonstrations in the spirit realm through the operation of this precious Gift.


The Holy Spirit Supernaturally Bears Witness with the Spirit of Men


The Discerning of Spirits also enables the possessor to discern the power, good or evil, which prompts certain behaviors in other living beings.  It is the supernatural ability to discern the source of spiritual manifestations.  It is an operation of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness with the human spirit, to inform whether or not something or someone is coming from the Spirit of God or by influence of Satan, the world and the flesh.


Jesus discerned that Peter was yielding to Satan when Peter rebuked Jesus for saying He would die and raise again in three days. (Mark 8:31-33)


Jesus discerned Nathaniel's spirit of honor and integrity and told him so. (John 1:45-50)


Jesus discerned that Judas was yielded to Satan and demon powers. (John 6:70-71)


The Apostle Peter discerned that the man crippled since birth had faith to be supernaturally healed. (Acts 3:1-16)


The Apostle Peter discerned that Ananias and Sapphira had conspired to lie to him in order to deceive him. (Acts 5:1-11)


The Apostle Peter discerned that Simon the Sorcerer was in the gall of bitterness and bound in iniquity. (Acts 8:9-24)


The Apostle Peter discerned that three men who came looking to take him to Caesarea to preach to the Gentiles were sent to him by the Holy Spirit. (Acts 10:9-20)


The Apostle Paul discerned that a certain damsel who followed him to prayer had a spirit of divination and cast it out of her. (Acts 16:16-18)


The Discerning of Spirits in operation gives supernatural insight whereby the Holy Spirit reveals the plans and purposes of Godly or Satanic forces, to guard and to protect the Believer in Jesus Christ. When in operation this Gift provides the supernatural ability to discern the source of all spiritual manifestations, operations and demonstrations.


The Discerning of Spirits is a tremendous Gift indeed.  Through its operation comes protection, direction, correction, connection, revelation, emancipation and provision.


It is fascinating to realize that when the Holy Spirit wills it to be, even an animal can supernaturally see into the spirit realm. Not only did the false Prophet Balaam see into the spirit realm, but Balaam's donkey saw the Angel of the Lord standing before him, three times, with His drawn sword in hand.


The Holy Spirit not only opened the eyes of Balaam's donkey to see into the spirit realm, He also opened the donkey's mouth to rebuke Balaam for wrongly smiting him. (Numbers 22:22-34) 


A microscope enables one to see the minutest atoms and molecules of our world. 


A telescope enables one to see into the mysteries of other worlds. 


However, only the Discerning of Spirits can enable one to see directly into the spirit world. 


This Gift brings great Glory to God, advancing His Kingdom in the Earth.


In our next lesson we will study the first of the three Utterance Gifts, the Gift of Prophecy.


Be Blessed … John and Barbara Hamel



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