Discerning of spirits is the third of the revelation gifts: the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge are the other two. It is a divine ability imparted by the Holy Spirit so we can penetrate the spiritual realm and distinguish between the spirit of Satan (evil spirits), the Spirit of God, and the human spirit. By it we can discern the origin of certain actions, teachings, circumstances, etc., that have been inspired by spiritual beings.

This gift is more limited than the other two revelation gifts. The revelation given in this instance is limited to the origin of the behavior in question. Nonetheless, the discerning of spirits is just as supernatural in its operation as are any of the other eight gifts. It supplies the Church with information available no other way.


 A. The Nature of Demons

To deny the existence of demons is to refute the Bible. Throughout its contents, demons are named, described and taught about in both the Old and New Testaments. There are many and varied views with regard to their origin. The New Testament doesn’t teach about their origin; it only presents examples of how to deal with them.

  1. Demons are spirit beings without bodies of their own.
  2. Demons are limitless in their capacity to indwell other objects.

In the Scriptures, demons are said to dwell in the heavenly realms, the air, on the earth, in the sea, in humans, in animals and in inanimate idols. (Job 1:7; Matt 8:32; 12:43; Mark 5:13; Luke 11:24; Eph 2:2;6:12; Jude 6; Rev 16:14)

  1. Demons are inherently evil.

It is important we know this because it isn’t always obvious that demonic spirits are incapable of anything good or constructive. Anything they inhabit or influence is spiritually defiled.

  1. They can produce serious physical and mental derangement (Matt 9:32; 15:22; 17:15; Mark 5:1-13; Luke 13:16)
  2. Demons often influence our thoughts and speech though wholly unsuspected and undetected by us (1 Timothy 4:1,2).

B. Demon Activity Among Christians And In The Assembly

In certain of the grosser manifestations of demonization, little discernment is required to identify the hellish source of the activity involved. However, in the context of the Church it is quite a different thing. Here, demonic activity is veiled and subtle, insinuating evil into the life of the Church by counterfeiting God’s activity. Entering the gathering place through either an unfortunate, unsuspecting victim or a compliant agent of evil, demons seek entrance into many Christian gatherings with the aim to disrupt, hinder, confuse or render a meeting powerless.

C. The Problems With Demons Among Christians And In The Church

Demons are intelligent, personal spirit-beings. They think, know, and remember. We err if we think of them as “things.” Although Jesus Christ has given us the power and authority to trample demons without feet, they aren’t to be trifled with or made fun of. They are responsible for countless incidents of harm in the Church.

The most serious difficulty with demonic activity is that it is impossible to see it by natural means. Since demons are unclean, evil spirits, only one sensitive to the spiritual realm and knowledgeable of spiritual things can deal effectively with them. This is why God has equipped the Church with the Holy Spirit’s gift of discerning of spirits.