The Sign Gifts – Discerning of Spirits

God’s Spiritual Gifts to Believers at the Beginning of the Church Age

1 Corinthians 12:1-11


I.         Introduction


A.      Working our way through the first of three sets of Gifts that the Holy Spirit has given to Believers since the cross

B.       All of the Gifts are not always available – some pass away – some remain

C.       Some Christians have a real problem with this – but not the Bible believer


1.        Many put experience above the Bible’s teaching


a.        Seen visions – apparitions

b.       Experienced miracles

c.        Heard powerful teachings on these things


2.        Many put personal beliefs above the Bible’s teaching


a.        Wouldn’t believe in a God that did still do such miracles

b.       Same as with people who won’t believe in a God that sends people to hell


3.        But the Bible believer constantly adjusts his or her beliefs by what they learn JUST from the Bible. Faith is believing what God SAID, not what you have seen or experienced!


D.      Biblical Principle:


1.        We need believers to both know their spiritual gifts, and use them in this church

2.        But they need to make sure that the gifts they have are


a.        Not talents,

b.       Not natural abilities (no matter how special),

c.        Not demonic abilities (Luke 9:55)

d.       but they are actually gifts that God said He would give His Church


3.        In other words, It is not for Christians to convince themselves that they have a set of gifts that just don’t exists today


E.       1Cor 12:1-10 lists Sign Gifts – special Holy-Spirit given gifts to people for the purpose of winning the Jews and starting the Church


1.        Word of wisdom (wisdom that now is in the Bible)

2.        Word of knowledge (knowing things not yet written down in the Bible)

3.        Faith (an ability to believe God for things that had not been limited yet by the Bible)

4.        Healing (ability to heal anybody, without fail)

5.        Working of miracles (special signs proving what was being preached was of God, before the Bible was completed)

6.        Prophecy (Ability to tell the future before it was written down in the Bible)

7.        Discerning of spirits (the fail-safe ability to tell the difference between good and evil spirits in a person)

8.        Tongues (the ability to speak the Gospel in a known language – it was unknown to the speaker, but not the hearer)

9.        Interpretation of tongues (the ability to interpret for everyone what someone was preaching)


F.       These have passed away since the end of the first century (1Cor 13:8-10). Sign Gifts have Passed Away


1.        Passed away with the dying of the Apostles


a.        Healing stopped

b.       The need for miracles ended with the completion of the Bible


2.        For the purpose of winning the Jews – not for the church to edify itself


II.       Message - Discerning of Spirits – vs. 10


A.      Meaning of the Discerning of Spirits


1.        To Judge – to perfectly judge (not flippantly) hearts, thoughts, purposes, secrets, and spirits behind events and people

2.        There are four levels of Discernment


a.        General Discernment (2Sam 19:35; Jonah 4:11)

b.       Wise Discernment (1Kg 3:9; Ezek 44:23; Matt 16:3)

c.        Spiritual Discernment (1Cor 2:14)

d.       The Discernment of Spirits (1Cor 12:10)


3.        This was the supernatural ability to perfectly distinguish various kinds of spirits.


B.       Discernment of Spirits – Then and Now


1.        Then (30 AD – 95 AD)


a.        Jesus Mt 16:21-23 towards Peter

b.       Jesus Mt 9:4 towads the scribes

c.        Peter Acts 5:1-4  towards Ananias, and Sapphira

d.       Peter Acts 8:18-24 towards Simon

e.        Paul Acts 13:6-12 towards a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus

f.         Paul Acts 16:16-18 towards a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination


2.        Now (95 AD to the Rapture)


a.        There are spiritual forces behind events and people (Eph 6:12)

b.       There are demonic spirits behind churches, and preachers and teachers

c.        Test them (1John 4:1; Rev 2:2)

d.       Only normal spiritual discernment available today – but we have something far better – the absolute and perfect word of God


III.     Application – How to Discern Spirits Today


A.      By a Literal Interpretation of the Bible – it will limit deception (Gal 1:6-8)

B.       Be cautious about “spirits” – they are good at counterfeiting (2Cor 11)

C.       Verify EVERYTHING you hear and experience by the clear teaching of the word of God (2Cor 10:5)


1.        Every feeling

2.        Every emotion

3.        Every vision/dream

4.        Every fear

5.        Every teaching - doctrine

6.        Every person


D.      Pray for wisdom (James 1:5)

E.       Seek wise counsel from your authority (Pr 24:6)

F.       Walk in obedience to the Word, and you will be led right


IV.    Conclusion


A.      Don’t try and analyze spirits without the clear teachings of the Bible. No amount of “gifting” will enable you to know what is going on inside someone else – only the Bible now can reveal that (Heb 4:12)

B.       Be very cautious about being guided by feelings and senses that seem spiritual

C.       Be very aware that the devil LOVES to counterfeit spiritual things


Craig Ledbetter

Bible Baptist Church

Ballincollig, Cork, Ireland