Acts 5:1-5 (ESV) 1 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” 5 When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it.
There are 3 key purposes to the Discerning of Spirits; to discern manifestation of the Holy Spirit; to discern motives of the human heart or the spirit by which people do things; to discern the presence of an evil spirit. In the above scripture, the motives of the human heart is discerned. We also see the Word of Knowledge activated.
Discerning of Spirits is a divine revelation into the realm of the Spirit world – be it with Godly things or ungodly things. It’s the Holy Spirit giving you supernatural insight into the Spirit world. To discern means to perceive by seeing or hearing.
In John’s vision while on the Isle of Patmos – the vision that brought about the book of Revelations, that vision encompassed all of the 3 Revelation gifts, with the most prominently used gift being the Discerning of Spirits. In fact, any vision or dream that pulls you into the spirit realm has the discerning of spirits as a key element.
The discerning of spirits is not a gift to uncover human failures. It is not a discerning of people’s character faults – it is not a discerning of people, but of spirits. Some people have thought the discerning of spirits is some kind of spiritual mind reading or some form of mental penetration. No, that is Hypnosis and Crystal gazing which is the devil’s counterfeit of the discerning of spirits.
Why does God let us see into the realm of the spirit? 1.) So that we can receive further instruction for the future or 2.) So that we can dig to the root of a spiritual problem and deal with it accordingly – bind it and cast it out if necessary.