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What Is the Spiritual Gift of Discernment? The Discernment of Spirits

As one of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, discernment is a crucial part of following the teachings of the Bible and leading a successful life in this fallen world. Discover the Biblical meaning and importance of the "Gift of Discerning Spirits." Editorial Staff
What Is the Spiritual Gift of Discernment? The Discernment of Spirits

But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil -(Hebrews 5:14).

What Is Discernment?

Discernment is defined, in the modern secular sense, as “the faculty of discerning; discrimination; acuteness of judgment and understanding” by Fundamentally, discernment is the ability to judge well. Whether its choices we make or the people we interact with, discernment is the gift of recognizing the moral and practical consequences of our decisions.

Discernment has historically been praised as a valuable trait, allowing those who possess it to avoid costly mistakes or misfortune. Furthermore, discernment was primarily a biblical doctrine occurring in the collection of Gifts of the Holy Spirit as the “Gift of Discerning Spirits, the gift to recognize whether or not something is truly from God or in accordance with righteousness.”

What Are the Gifts of Spirit?

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are unique skills and abilities given by the Holy Spirit to faithful followers of Christ to serve God for the common benefit of his people, the church. A listing of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 mentions wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, speaking in tongues, and interpretation of tongues.

Paul instructed that "We have different gifts, according to the grace given us... let [us] use [them] in proportion to [our] faith," Romans 12:6.

As states, “The gifts of the Spirit are simply God enabling believers to do what He has called us to do. 2 Peter 1:3 says, "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." The gifts of the Holy Spirit are part of the "everything we need" to fulfill His purposes for our lives.”

The Spiritual Gift of Discernment

According to, “The spiritual gift of discernment is also known as the gift of “discernment of spirits” or “distinguishing between spirits.”  The Greek word for the gift of discernment is Diakrisis. The word describes being able to distinguish, discern, judge, or appraise a person, statement, situation, or environment.  In the New Testament, it describes the ability to distinguish between spirits as in 1 Corinthians 12:10, and to discern good and evil as in Hebrews 5:14.

The Holy Spirit gives the gift of discernment to enable certain Christians to clearly recognize and distinguish between the influence of God, Satan, the world, and the flesh in a given situation. The church needs those with this gift to warn believers in times of danger or keep them from being led astray by false teaching.”

According to John of Damascus, the virtue of discernment "is greater than any other virtue; and is the queen and crown of all the virtues".

Discernment in the Bible

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, ESV).

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2, ESV).

But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil (Hebrews 5:14, ESV).

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ (Philippians 1:9-10, ESV).

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12, ESV).

To another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:10, ESV).

Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people? (1 Kings 3:9, ESV).

But test everything; hold fast what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21, ESV).


Originally published July 30, 2019.