Tue 22 May 2012
Understanding the Gift of Discernment
There seems to be a great deal of curiosity and confusion about the spiritual gift of discernment.
And this is not surprising. For those of us who have the gift, it can be a complex and lonely journey as we work out what we are sensing, why God has given us this ability, and what to do with it. 
For leaders in church life, it can be difficult to know how to respond to or lead those with the gift of discernment—not to mention the question of what we should do (if anything) with the insights that discerners share with us. 
Discernment is a gift that, due to lack of information and guidance, has been vulnerable to error. It is vital that we establish a Biblical basis for the spiritual gift of discernment and how to exercise it.
Today I am going to look at the gift of discernment in the context of the Apostle Paul’s instruction about spiritual gifts to the Corinthian church.
5 Things Paul Teaches About the Gift of Discernment
‘But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit… to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits’ (1 Cor 12:7-10)
1. It is the Ability to Distinguish Between Spirits
‘…to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits…’(1 Cor 12:7-10)
The spiritual gift of discernment (or discerning of spirits) is the ability—given and empowered by the Holy Spirit—to distinguish the spiritual source of something. This can include, but is not limited to:
- an atmosphere
- a person’s action
- something seen or perceived
- a circumstance
- something spoken
The Greek word translated discerning is ‘diakrisis,’ from ‘diakrino’, which means to separate thoroughly.
A Christian believer using the spiritual gift of discernment can perceive whether the source of something is God, or whether it is of human or demonic origin.
There is a misconception that discernment has to do primarily with perceiving what the enemy is doing.
The highest and best use of the gift of discernment is to perceive the anointing of the Holy Spirit—to see what God is doing.
2. The Gift of Discernment is from the Holy Spirit
The source of the spiritual gift of discernment is the Holy Spirit—God Himself.
The Holy Spirit is both the giver and enabler of this spiritual gift.
It is not based in
- our minds or personal intuition
- a suspicion or opinion
- a personal ability or history of being able to sense what is happening in the spiritual realm
3. Discernment is a Revelatory Gift
‘But the manifestation of the Spirit is given’ (1 Cor 12:7)
The spiritual gift of discernment is a revelatory gift. In other words, the Holy Spirit is making known something that cannot be perceived by natural means.
The Greek word translated ‘manifestation’, phanerosis, means to make visible, and it comes from a root word meaning to uncover, lay bare and reveal. 
‘For we know in part and we prophesy in part.’ (1 Cor 13:9) In the wider context of Paul’s teaching about spiritual gifts, discernment, like prophecy, is subject to being weighed up. (1 Cor 14)
4. The Gift of Discernment is for the Benefit of the Church
‘But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all’ (1 Cor 12:7)
The purpose of the spiritual gift of discernment, as empowered by the Holy Spirit, is to benefit the church.
The Greek words translated ‘for the profit of all’—pros sumpheron—mean ‘towards the profiting’, or as modern translations put it, ‘for the common good.’
When we understand this, ‘benefiting the church’ becomes our standard for the operation of the gift.
If something purporting to be discernment does not profit the church, i.e., if it results in confusion, or fear, or division—either of two things may be out of order:
1. The discernment may not be from the Holy Sprit. Or—
2. It may be true discernment that is not being used in a Biblical manner; a way of grace that honours God, the church and its leadership.
In order to be of benefit, the spiritual gift of discernment requires the operation of other gifts alongside it, such as leadership and wisdom. It should be developed and used in the context of the church community. (see 1 Cor 14) 
5. Discernment is a Good Gift from God
‘Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.’ (1 Cor 12:4)
The word used for gift is charisma, meaning a gift of grace.
The spiritual gift of discernment is a good, helpful and strategic gift, and it is given for a purpose—to benefit the church.
We sometimes need to be reminded of this, because of the challenges that discernment can bring.
God’s gifts are good in nature, just as He is. (James 1:17) The spiritual gift of discernment has the ability to bless the church, set individuals free, protect the integrity of what God is doing, and assist in times of spiritual warfare. May we embrace the gift of discernment with gratitude and use it in the way God intended.
 For further insights about the gift of discernment, see the following:
 I have written an article about exercising discernment in the life of the church here:
 References: VINE, M.A. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. 1985. Virginia: MacDonald. STRONG, J. Strongs Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. 1996.
Now in the David McCracken Ministries e-store.
You may have the spiritual gift of discernment.
The gift of discernment of spirits is a powerful weapon in times of spiritual warfare, and can be of great assistance when ministering freedom to individuals.
And yet many who have the gift of discernment have difficulty knowing what to do with what they are feeling or sensing.
‘Unlocking The Gift Of Discernment’ incorporates and enlarges upon material in Enliven Blog. The e-book includes additional valuable material on how to be protected as a discerner in times of spiritual warfare.
© Helen Calder Enliven Blog – Prophetic Teaching
On team with David McCracken Ministries: Prophetic Ministry That Empowers The Church
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