What is discernment?
Hebrews 5:14 suggests that:
… those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish what is good from what is evil. (Hebrews 5:145)
C.H. Spurgeon explained,
“Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right.”
Discernment is a gift of the Holy Spirit. The Greek word used for discernment in Hebrews is the same word used in 1 Corinthians 12.
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 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 12:7-10)
Among the spiritual gifts, one of them is an ability to distinguish between spirits. 1 John 4:1 says:
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.
Not every spirit is from God and we are to test the spirits for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
It’s popular to think of discernment as recognizing false teachers. But more specifically, it is spiritual warfare.
…by this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:6)
We must remember that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces. (Ephesians 6:12)
We are the correct opponents with gentleness, for it is God who grants repentance leading to the truth and away from the devil’s snares.
…correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant repentance…(2 Timothy 2:25)
All Christians should be discerning. But some, by a gifting of the Spirit, are more discerning than others. They are a benefit to their church. At least they’re supposed to be.
Like all spiritual gifts, even discernment can be abused.
We often think of the Apostle Paul rebuking the Corinthians for behaving like wild “charismaniacs”, but he also rebuked them for boasting in their knowledge.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains but have not love, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-2)
It is because of God that you are in Christ Jesus, Who became to us wisdom from God. So that as it is written let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.
And because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness, sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31)
This knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. (1 Corinthians 8:1)
So let us use our gifts from God in loving service to one another…
…when we understand the text.