10 Examples of Discerning of Spirits in the Bible

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In your spiritual journey, it is crucial to develop the gift of discernment, the ability to perceive the spiritual realm. The Bible is replete with examples of discerning of spirits, from Solomon’s wisdom to Paul’s discernment in spiritual warfare.

By exploring these examples, you can learn to recognize the presence of good or evil spirits in your life. This article will delve into ten instances where discernment of spirits is demonstrated in the bible.

Solomon’s Wisdom to Discern Good and Evil (1 Kings 3:9)

One of the earliest examples of spiritual discernment in the Bible can be found in 1 Kings 3:9, where Solomon asks God for an understanding heart to judge his people and to discern between good and evil.

This demonstrates the importance of seeking divine discernment when faced with difficult decisions.

Through Solomon’s request, we see that discernment requires wisdom and humility, acknowledging that our own understanding may be limited or flawed.

When we turn to God for discernment, we open ourselves up to a deeper understanding of the world around us and are better equipped to make wise choices.

As the table below shows, Solomon’s wisdom to discern good and evil impacted his reign as king of Israel in many positive ways.

DescriptionReference
Solomon judges between two women claiming to be a child’s mother1 Kings 3:16-28
Solomon wisely rules on difficult cases and gains renown throughout the world1 Kings 4:29-34
God gives Solomon wisdom to build the temple and rule justly1 Kings 5-8

As we can see, Solomon’s discernment not only impacted his personal life but also had a positive impact on his kingdom and beyond.

Seeking God’s wisdom and discernment can have a far-reaching impact and help us make wise choices that benefit not only ourselves but those around us.

Elisha Discerns Gehazi’s Deceit (2 Kings 5:25-26)

When Naaman, a commander of the Syrian army, came to Elisha to be cured of his leprosy, the prophet instructed the foreigner to dip himself in the Jordan River seven times.

After completing the task, Naaman’s leprosy was cured, and he offered Elisha a gift as a token of his gratitude. The prophet, however, refused to accept it, stating that he served God and not material possessions.

But Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, dishonestly followed Naaman and asked him for a portion of the gift. Naaman, grateful and unaware of the servant’s duplicity, gave him two talents of silver, which Gehazi greedily took and hid.

Elisha discerned his servant’s deceit and questioned him about his whereabouts and actions. Knowing he has been caught, Gehazi admitted to Elisha that he had lied and taken the gift, expecting no punishment due to his master’s well-known piety.

However, Elisha declared that Naaman’s leprosy would now cling to Gehazi and his descendants forever as a consequence of his sin.

Elisha discerning Gehazi's deceit

The Importance of Honesty and Humility

Elisha’s example reminds us of the importance of honesty and humility in our actions, even when faced with temptation or greed. It also shows that true discernment of spirits demands awareness of hidden motivations and actions, even in the context of close relationships and personal interests.

“And he said to him, ‘Did not my heart go when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? Was it a time to accept silver and garments, olive orchards and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male servants and female servants? Therefore, the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever.’ So he went out from his presence a leper, like snow.”

2 Kings 5:26-27 (ESV)

Jesus Discerns the Hearts and Thoughts (Matthew 9:4; 12:25; Luke 5:22)

Jesus had an incredible ability to discern the thoughts and intentions of those around him, demonstrating a deep understanding of the human heart and spirit.

In Matthew 9:4, when a paralyzed man was brought to him for healing, Jesus discerned the negative thoughts of the Pharisees, who accused him of blasphemy for forgiving the man’s sins.

In Matthew 12:25, when the Pharisees accused Jesus of driving out demons with the help of Beelzebub, Jesus responded by pointing out the fallacy in their logic and discerning their true intentions.

Similarly, in Luke 5:22, when Jesus forgave a man’s sins, the teachers of the law accused him of blasphemy, and Jesus knew immediately what they were thinking.

Jesus’ ability to discern the hearts and thoughts of those around him speaks to his divine nature and shows us the importance of cultivating spiritual discernment.

By following the example of Jesus, we can develop a deeper sense of understanding and insight into the hearts of those around us and better discern the truth.

The Power of Discernment

Jesus’ ability to discern the hearts and thoughts of those around him was not just a special power reserved for him alone. As believers, we have access to the gifts of the Spirit, including the gift of discernment (1 Corinthians 12:10).

This gift enables us to recognize and distinguish between the spirits of truth and error and to navigate the complexities of spiritual warfare.

“Test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” -1 Thessalonians 5:21-22

By testing everything against the Word of God and paying attention to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, we can refine our ability to discern the truth and distinguish it from lies and deception.

Peter Discerns Ananias and Sapphira’s Deception (Acts 5:1-11)

Peter, one of Jesus’ closest disciples, demonstrated his spiritual discernment when he discloses Ananias and Sapphira’s deceitful act.

The couple had sold their land and brought a part of the proceeds to the apostles, claiming they had donated the entire sum.

Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, perceives their dishonesty and rebukes Ananias, who falls dead at his feet. Shortly after, Sapphira also lies, meeting a similar fate. (Acts 5:1-11)

This passage highlights Peter’s ability to discern the spirits, perceiving the intentions behind the couple’s actions. He was able to see through their lies and expose their deceitful hearts, revealing the true nature of their donation.

“Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?” (Acts 5:3, NIV)

This story serves as a reminder of the importance of honesty and integrity in our interactions with others. It also emphasizes the significance of possessing spiritual discernment in determining true intentions and motives in both ourselves and others.

Peter discerns Ananias and Sapphira's deception

Paul’s Discernment in Spiritual Warfare (Ephesians 6:12)

In the book of Ephesians, Paul reminds you that your struggles are not solely against flesh and blood but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, the need for spiritual discernment in Christian life is crucial.

Spiritual warfare can take many forms, whether through temptation, doubt, or fear of the unknown. Paul’s discernment shows that even though it may seem like a physical battle, the root of the issue is often spiritual in nature.

To face these battles, you need to develop your spiritual discernment through prayer, reading the Bible, and seeking guidance from wise leaders in your community. With the Holy Spirit’s guidance, you can have the power to discern the truth and make wise choices.

Paul's discernment in spiritual warfare

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” – Ephesians 6:12

Discerning False Prophets and Spirits (1 John 4:1)

As a believer, it is crucial to exercise spiritual discernment when it comes to false prophets and spirits. The Bible warns us that many false prophets have come and will continue to arise in the world. Therefore, we are advised to test the spirits to see whether they are from God.

False prophets may disguise themselves as genuine messengers of God, but they ultimately serve their own interests and can spread confusion and falsehoods. It is up to us to use the gift of discernment to identify them and protect ourselves from their deceitful ways.

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”1 John 4:1

Testing the spirits involves examining the message proclaimed by the supposed prophet or teacher.

We should measure their words against the truth of Scripture and compare their actions with the fruit of the Spirit. A true prophet will always confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh and will not contradict the teachings of the apostles.

As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:10, discernment is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, available to all believers. By exercising discernment, we can avoid the traps of false teachers and grow in spiritual maturity.

Discerning false prophets and spirits

Paul Discerns Elymas’ Intentions (Acts 13:9-10)

In Acts 13:9-10, Paul encounters a magician named Elymas who opposes his teaching. Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, discerns Elymas’ true intentions and rebukes him, saying, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?”

This powerful moment demonstrates the importance of spiritual discernment in identifying those who seek to turn others away from the faith.

Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Paul was able to recognize the deceitful spirit within Elymas and confront him, emphasizing the necessity of discernment in navigating spiritual warfare.

As believers, we too can look to Paul’s example and seek the discernment that comes from God, enabling us to see beyond surface-level appearances and perceive the true intentions of those around us.

Paul discerns Elymas' intentions

“You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?”

Jesus Warns Against Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing (Matthew 7:15-16)

Jesus warns his followers to be wary of false prophets who come in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves, as seen in Matthew 7:15-16.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. You shall know them by their fruits.”

This passage reminds us that appearances can be deceptive, and we must be discerning in our spiritual lives. It’s not enough to trust someone simply because they appear to be righteous or claim to speak for God – we must look at their actions and the fruits of their words to discern whether they are genuine or not.

Jesus warns against wolves in sheep's clothing

Jesus’ warning is still relevant today, as false teachers and prophets continue to deceive people with their false doctrines and promises. It’s important to be discerning and test every spirit to ensure that what we believe and follow aligns with God’s truth.

Spiritual Gifts, including Discernment (1 Corinthians 12:10)

Paul lists several spiritual gifts in his first letter to the Corinthians, highlighting the diversity of gifts and their purpose within the body of Christ. Discernment of spirits is among these gifts and is crucial for the proper functioning of the church.

Having the gift of discernment means being able to distinguish between various spirits and the motivations behind them.

This can include identifying false teachings and false prophets, as well as recognizing the presence of demonic activity. It is an essential tool for navigating the spiritual realm and maintaining purity in one’s own spiritual walk.

Through the manifestation of this gift, Christians are able to exercise wisdom and make important decisions regarding the direction of their lives and ministries. It also allows for greater sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s leading and a deeper understanding of God’s will.

In a world filled with deception and confusion, the gift of discernment is more important than ever. By cultivating this gift and utilizing it for the glory of God, you can contribute to a healthy and thriving church community.

spiritual gifts including discernment

How Do the Examples of Discerning of Spirits in the Bible Compare to the Examples of Bearing Fruit?

The examples of discerning of spirits in the Bible demonstrate the ability to distinguish between good and evil influences. In contrast, the examples of bearing fruit highlight the importance of producing positive and impactful outcomes in our lives. Both concepts emphasize the importance of spiritual discernment and positive actions.

The Testing of Spirits at Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29)

Thyatira was a city in ancient Greece known for its trade guilds. The church in Thyatira had a commendable quality, which was its love, service, faith, and perseverance.

However, the church was allowing a false prophetess named Jezebel to teach and deceive the congregation, leading them into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.

Jesus addressed the church in Thyatira, saying that He knew their works, love, service, faith, and perseverance, but He had this against them: that they tolerated the false prophetess, Jezebel. He warned that He would cast her and her followers into a sickbed and great tribulation unless they repented of their deeds.

In Revelation 2:24, Jesus told the faithful in Thyatira that He did not place any additional burden on them, except to hold on to what they had until He comes. He encouraged the overcomers and promised to give them authority over the nations, just as He had received from His Father.

Testing the spirits, as advised in 1 John 4:1, is essential for believers. It ensures that they do not fall prey to false teachings like the church in Thyatira. In conclusion, discerning of spirits is essential to avoid being misled by false prophets or spirits in the church.

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Allan Wilson is the creator of the Scriptural Thinking Affirmations Package. Featuring over 200 minutes of mp3 audio Bible affirmations complete with background music. The package comes with the original affirmations PDF ebook and many bonus affirmation Bible studies as well. The affirmations are designed to help you call to remembrance all of the wonderful benefits of being in Christ and the marvelous privilege of being a child of God.