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Walking in Spiritual Discernment

With one look at what’s happening in the world, the government, or the church, it’s easy to see that we are living in a time where discernment has never been more important.

As prophetic words are released concerning end times, how are we to know if it is from the Spirit of God? Discernment is necessary for the body to be able to decipher the truth versus a falsehood and what is good versus what is evil. The Word tells us to test all spirits. “Beloved do not put faith in every spirit, but prove (test) the spirits to discover whether they proceed from God; for many false prophets have gone forth into the world,” (1Jn 4:1 AMP).

Discernment is defined as the ability to judge well. The Merriam-Webster dictionary says it is the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure — an act of perceiving or discerning something. In Christian context it is the perception in the absence of judgment with a view to obtaining spiritual guidance and understanding. [1] 

There has always been a pull of the will of our soul.

A “spiritual battle” in which the soul is pulled either toward good or evil.

There has always been a pull of the will of our soul. A “spiritual battle” in which the soul is pulled either toward good or evil. It’s the classic picture of the guardian angel sitting on one shoulder while the devil sits on the other, both speaking to the conscience of the person. The angel pulls us toward truth and goodness, while the devil tries to persuade with lies and evil thoughts. Therefore, discernment is given to judge the spirits at work, as it says in Corinthians, “To another the working of miracles, to another prophetic insight (the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose); to another the ability to discern and distinguish between [the utterances of true] spirits [and false ones], to another various kinds of [unknown] tongues, to another the ability to interpret [such] tongues,” (1Co 12:10 AMP).

“Discernment of spirits” is the term given to the judgment whereby it is possible to determine from what spirit the impulses of the soul emanate, and it is easy to understand the importance of this judgment both for self-direction and the direction of others. [2] If we look at Fausset’s Bible dictionary, it says, “discerning of spirits” is the discerning between the operation of God’s Spirit and that of the evil spirit, or unaided human spirit claiming to utter the dictates of God’s Spirit. [3] 

The Apostle Paul tells us that these spiritual gifts are given to each, one of this kind and one of another (Ref 1Co 7:7). These gifts are given to the body to perform in the church, and each gift is to serve the good of others, to build up the church. Though all diversified, the goal is the same: the inner cleansing and sanctification of the soul. [4] If the church doesn’t believe in the spiritual realm and know how demons operate, what will they do when they manifest? Can they even tell if someone is operating under the power of God or a demonic entity? This charisma or gift was granted in the early church and in the course of the lives of the saints.

Origen, an early church father, says,

The human soul, while in the body, is subject to the influence of various good and evil spirits. Blessed are those whose mouth God opens for them to speak. However, there are some whose mouth is opened by the devil…without the grace of the Holy Spirit it is not possible to distinguish between mouths and words of this kind. [5]

2,000 years ago, the Pharisees accused Jesus of operating under the power of Beelzubub, the prince of demons, after they saw how He healed the demon-possessed man. They couldn’t see the true Spirit of God and how the kingdom of God had come upon them (Ref Matt 12:24, 28). Jesus didn’t look like them or operate as they did, and because they didn’t understand His nature, they believed He was working for Satan. They had the scriptures and Torah memorized, but they lacked a spiritual understanding and therefore had no discernment. 

They had the scriptures and Torah memorized, but they lacked a spiritual understanding and therefore had no discernment. 

On his way to Philippi, Paul encountered a slave girl who was demon-possessed. She followed them, proclaiming them to be slaves of the Most High there to reveal a way to salvation. While she spoke the truth, Paul knew the demonic spirit operating in her and cast it out (Ref Acts 16:16-18). She was speaking the truth, so how did Paul know she was under demonic oppression? Even the demons know who God is and tremble at His name (Ref Ja 2:19). Paul had been given wisdom and discernment by the Spirit of God to know the powers at hand. He knew his authority came from a higher realm. The Spirit of the Lord was with Paul, therefore he was confident of that help, and he cast the demon out. As Jesus said, “And these attesting signs will accompany those who believe: in My name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new languages” (Mark 16:17).

It is not just intuition but supernatural. It is given by the Holy Spirit so no one can manipulate or abuse the power. With 40,000 different Christian denominations, it is imperative that believers are walking in spiritual discernment. The early church was unified in their understanding and teaching of the Truth. Do we see the same unity today? Each denomination is preaching a different message of salvation. There are people claiming to be prophets, but they’re not truly hearing from the Lord. If the church isn’t able to discern the spirits, they risk being led into false teachings. The scriptures tell us, “The [Holy] Spirit distinctly and expressly declares that in latter times some will turn away from the faith, giving attention to deluding and seducing spirits and doctrines that demons teach,” (1Timothy 4:1 AMP).

The discerning of spirits derives from the activity of the spiritual senses.

The discerning of spirits derives from the activity of the spiritual senses. As we have five physical senses (touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing) that alert us to what is happening, we also have five spiritual senses that correlate. These spiritual senses help us with our discernment of good and evil. Our natural senses cannot be used in the spirit realm. We cannot touch or hear the spirit with our natural hands or ears. Therefore, we must put aside the natural and exercise our spiritual senses to guide us. This can only come through a death-to-self process and killing those natural senses. It comes through a circumcision of our hearts, having eyes that can see the spiritual meaning of the scriptures, prayer, and fasting. Origen says, 

As long as those to whom he comes are not closed off and their ability to see clearly is not impeded by their passions, God makes himself known and leads those illuminated by him to a knowledge of other spiritual things. For the Spirit of God rests upon those who are “pure in heart” and upon those who purify their souls from sin…because of the purity of heart and integrity of mind the Holy Spirit rests on them. [5] 

It is time for the true church to walk in greater discernment. They will expose the seducing spirits who try to bring the body into covenant with lies. They will remove the wolves in sheep’s clothing. They will not talk to demons, but they will cast them out by the power and authority given of the Holy Spirit. They will obey what Paul said to the Thessalonians,

But test and prove all things [until you can recognize] what is good; [to that] hold fast. Abstain from evil [shrink from it and keep aloof from it] in whatever form or whatever kind it may be. And may the God of peace Himself sanctify you through and through [separate you from profane things, make you pure and wholly consecrated to God]; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved sound and complete [and found] blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ [the Messiah] (1Thes 5:21-23 AMP).


  1. Merriam-Webster Dictionary-Discernment
  2. Debuchy, Paul. “Discernment of Spirits.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 17 May 2020
  3. Fausset’s Bible Dictionary-Discern
  4. Wilhelm, Joseph. “Charismata.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 18 May 2020
  5. Von Balthasar, Hans Urs. Origen: Spirit & Fire. Washington, D.C. The Catholoic   University of America Press, 1984. Print.
  6. Scripture References: NKJV and AMP versions

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