The Gifts Part 63
Discerning of Spirits
Recently I was in the midst of a theological discussion with a pastor friend of mine, when out of nowhere he asked, ‘if you could pray for any of the nine gifts, which would you pray for knowing the hour in which we are living?’ Since he’s always been an introverted person,( I think that’s one of the reasons we get along so well), I didn’t bother asking what had brought on this line of questioning, but after thinking about it for a few seconds I gave him an honest and forthright answer. Although I would heed Paul’s counsel and desire to prophesy, with all requisite honesty, the gift that I would most earnestly desire in today’s day and age would be the gift of discerning of spirits. It is the one gift of the Holy Spirit that is the perfect, never fail, always accurate counterfeit and deception detector.
The gift of discerning of spirits is the supernatural ability given by God to certain believers that makes them able to know with certainty the source of a certain message. This gift goes beyond what we are all able to do as far as checking whether or not a message or an activity is in harmony with the Bible, or if it glorifies Christ, by searching out the source of the word even when to human reason it seems as though its origins are divine.
The purpose of this gift is an obvious one; it is God’s way of protecting His work from error, and from things that are done in His name that bring no glory to Him. God’s desire is that His work is pure, and toward this end He pours out the gift of discerning of spirits to protect the spiritual work within the household of faith from error, and deception. Through the manifestation of the gift of discerning of spirits, God also discourages false spiritual works, deceiving spirits, and false manifestations. If the gift of discerning of spirits, or as it is more readily known today the gift of discernment is operating and active within a congregation, than deception has no hope of worming its way in, no matter how disguised it is. This gift goes to the heart of the matter, to the source of the message, and roots out whether it truly came from God, or if it came from another source.
Acts 16:16-18, “Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, 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.”
To me, this is one of the greatest examples of the gift of discerning of spirits anywhere within the word of God. Here was a girl that on the surface was saying nothing wrong. In fact, she followed Paul and the rest of the Disciples of Christ, and only had glowing words to speak on their behalf. This girl already had an established reputation in her city, for she had brought her masters much profit by the fortune-telling she performed due to the spirit of divination that possessed her. The people knew her, knew of her abilities, and here she was praising Paul and the others saying that they were the servants of the Most High God, who proclaimed the way of salvation.
As I said, there was not a thing wrong with the words that she spoke, they were even true, but the gift of discernment that operated in Paul, knew the origin of these words, and knew that there was a hidden agenda in this girl’s praise of them.
There is so much practical truth to glean from this exchange between Paul and the slave girl, but there is also the undeniable truth that the gift of discerning of spirits is indispensable within the congregation of God.
The first practical truth that we glean from this scripture passage is that not everyone who praises you is your friend, nor is everyone who challenges you, your enemy. If you are easily swayed by the words of men, if your heart swells with pride each time someone praises you, or your efforts, or your words, be certain that the enemy already knows of this weakness, and will readily attempt to exploit it to his nefarious ends. Honeyed words, words of flattery, words of praise, are all easy to come by, easy to speak, even easier to hear, but when someone begins to praise you take a moment and think about why it is that they’re doing it.
By praising Paul and those who were with him, by associating itself with them, the spirit of divination within the girl knew that it would eventually be given credibility among believers if all went according to plan. If Paul had not rebuked the spirit, if Paul had simply tolerated it because it was good press, and there’s no praise like the praise of a seemingly neutral third party, the believers in Philippi would have associated the slave girl with Paul, determining that if he, the Apostle of Christ had given her a pass, and had received her praise and adulation, they should likewise receive her and hear what she has to say.
By rebuking the slave girl, and commanding the spirit to come out of her, Paul spared the church at Philippi much heartache, much disillusionment, and much deception. This would not have occurred if the gift of discerning of spirits were not operating in Paul because by her words alone, the slave girl was just another who testified positively of the men who had come to preach Christ to the Philippians.
Beware the praise of the godless, beware the fawning and adulation of those who hate your Master, for if they hate Jesus yet love you, only one of two scenarios can be true: Either the world sees itself in you, and is drawn to their own likeness, or they despise and hate you in secret for having the likeness of Christ, and feign love only to set a snare so that once you have fallen in, they might point and laugh and mock.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.