Although all of the supernatural abilities given to the elect are important and necessary for the work of the church, some are essential in the performance of the ministry and on a personal level for many of the elect in this age. One of these is the ability to discern the difference between good and evil, including the ability to recognize good or evil spirits, an evil influence, or an evil presence in a person, place, or thing.
The biblical record shows that through the use of lots the Creator God revealed knowledge and insight about people, things, events, and his will in specific situations. And this method was in common use by those whom God had authorized as the civil and spiritual leaders of his people. The apostles also used this method to determine who was to replace Judas. But, this is not the gift of discernment Paul wrote about to the elect at Corinth. This ability is much different than the use of lots in that no device is used:
"But the manifestation of the spirit is given to each one to profit. For to one is given by the spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same spirit; To another faith by the same spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another kinds of languages; to another the interpretation of languages: But all these work that one and the same spirit, dividing to each one severally as he will" (1.Cor.12:7-11 KJV Para.).
The English word profit is translated from the Greek word sumphero, which in the context of verse 7 means to contribute. Later in chapter 12, Paul explains that, in order for the church to function as it should, each person must contribute.
In verse 10, the English word discerning is translated from the Greek word diakrino, which can mean to separate thoroughly, to discriminate (by implication, decide) i.e., recognize a distinction. The contribution of a person with the ability to recognize good or evil spirits, influence, or presence in a person, place, or thing is immeasurable to the health and safety of the church as a whole and the elect individually.
The English word spirits is translated from the Greek word pneuma; which in the context of verse 10 means a spirit-being, influence from the spirit realm, or mental disposition.
The discernment of spirits the Father authorizes a person to use is a mental ability; it is a knowing and understanding beyond a person's natural intuition.
While explaining about Christ being a high priest of the order of Melchisedec forever, the writer to the Hebrews said he had other things to tell them about Christ's priesthood, but could not, because they had not matured spiritually to the level, which would enable them to understand:
"Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing you are dull of hearing. For when the time you ought to be teachers, you have need that one teach you again some of the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that uses milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongs to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (Heb.5:11-14 KJV).
All of the elect should have enough discernment to know and understand the basic differences between good and evil. However, an in-depth knowledge and understanding of subtle differences between good and evil will only come through a diligent and prayerful study of the biblical record, meditation on what one finds there, and insight given through the holy spirit. But as mentioned by Paul to the elect at Corinth, not all of the elect are given the supernatural ability to recognize and identify a spirit influence or presence.
This chapter explores the many reasons that discernment of spirits is important to us in our survival as one of the Father's earthly children and in the performance of our functions and responsibilities in the work we are called to do individually and collectively.
Before the advent of Christ, there are many examples in the biblical record of prophets and other individuals meeting spirit-beings or being led by a spirit influence to do certain things. But, how did these people know that these beings or the spirit influence was good or evil? The answer is that, in the case of individuals whom God was dealing with, he gave them the ability to recognize the difference between good or evil beings or their influence. And so it is in the gospel age of salvation.
The apostles, Peter and Paul wrote the following about the dangers posed to us by evil spirits:
"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, walks about as a roaring lion seeking those he may devour" (1.Pet.5:8 KJV).
"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Eph.6:12 KJV).
Evil spirits and evil influence do exist and people from every walk of life inadvertently or purposefully make contact with evil spirits or their influence in various ways. But, most people do not realize the tremendous danger and the impact that these spirits can have on them, their loved ones, and other people around them.
We of the Father's earthly family should be aware of the extreme danger posed to us by evil spirits and their influence, and we should be able to take the appropriate action when confronted by an evil spirit or influence.
Not knowing and understanding the dangers posed by evil spirits and how to counter this threat to our physical and spiritual life puts us in jeopardy of being abused by these powerful, intelligent, and extremely dangerous spirit-beings who roam the earth exerting their influence into every aspect of society.
Although comparing a person's words, attitude, and behavior against God's standard of righteousness is certainly one way to determine if a person is influenced or possessed by an evil spirit, the method Paul writes of to the elect at Corinth is very different and involves an ability given through the holy spirit by the Father.
The apostle Paul wrote that the use of the holy spirit within a person provides them with the ability to make correct spiritual evaluations and judgements:
"But as it is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of a human [.e., other people], the things which God has prepared for them that love him. But God has revealed them to us by his spirit: for the spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God" (1.Cor.2:9-10 KJV Para.).
It is through the holy spirit that revelation is given and inquiries are made into all things, which include the mysteries of God and the recognition of evil spirits and an evil influence.
"For what man knows the things of a man, if not the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God no man knows, but the spirit of God" (1.Cor.2:11 KJV Para.).
The spirit in man is man and it contains the knowledge of things pertaining to the physical realm of existence. The spirit of God, which is the holy spirit, contains the knowledge of the things pertaining to God and the spirit realm of existence.
"Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teaches, but which the holy spirit teaches; comparing spiritual things with spiritual" (1.Cor.2:12-13 KJV Para.).
Paul reminds the Corinthians they are not like other human beings, because they have been given the Sovereign Father's holy spirit, which gives them access to spiritual knowledge, understanding, and insight. Additionally, in Paul's letters to the Corinthians, he lists many supernatural abilities given by the Father, one of which is the ability to recognize evil spirits and an evil influence.
The English word comparing in verse 13 is translated from the Greek word sugkrino, which basically means to determine the difference between one thing and another.
"But a natural man does not receive the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he is not able to know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But truly the spiritual one judges all things, but he is discerned by no one. For who knew the mind of the Lord? Who will teach him? But we have the mind of Christ" (1.Cor.2:14-16 KJV Para.).
The English word judges in verse 15 is translated from the Greek word anakrino, which means; properly, to scrutinize, i.e., (by implication) investigate, interrogate, determine, i.e., a person who makes a careful analysis before making a decision.
The knowledge taught by Paul, the other apostles, and elders was not obtained from the spirit of man; it was knowledge conveyed to them through one of the functions of the holy spirit which resided within them.
Humans with only the spirit of man can neither receive or understand the things of God, because they are of the original human creation. However, sons of God are not of the original creation; they are a new and different creature and have different potentials and abilities (2.Cor.5:17; Gal.6:15).
All of the elect should be able to recognize the difference between good and evil and know with certainty when individuals are practicing or promoting an evil attitude or behavior, plus have a sense when there seems to be an evil influence.
However, this is not the same as having the supernatural ability to recognize evil spirits or an evil influence. A person with this ability knows with certainty that their judgement is correct.
This person is not merely making an educated guess as to whether or not a person is influenced or possessed by an evil spirit or that there is an evil presence based on an observation of a person's words, attitude, or behavior; this individual has a knowing beyond the normal physical senses.
Matthew and Mark both record the conversation Jesus had with his disciples when he asked them who people thought he was. After getting the correct answer from Peter, he begins to tell them of his impending death and resurrection, after which Peter takes him aside to speak with him privately:
"Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!" But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men" (Matt.16:21-23 NKJV).
Because Christ had the holy spirit without limit, he had the ability to recognize that an evil spirit or influence was present. The holy spirit also gave him the ability to know the thoughts and intent of individuals. See Matt.12:22-25; Lk.6:6-9.
Ananias and Sapphira
The following account shows that Peter had the gift of discernment to know the thoughts and intent of individuals.
Shortly after the beginning of the early church, Ananias and Sapphira, a married couple, dedicated all the money that they had received from a land sale to God. Because this money was dedicated to God, it was considered holy and belonged to God. But, Ananias and Sapphira violated the law of holiness by first stealing a part of what they had dedicated to God, and then lying about the price of the land:
"But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the holy spirit, and to keep back part of the price of the land? While it remained, was it not your own? and after it was sold, was it not in your own power? why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men, but to God. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and died: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him" (Acts 5:1-6 KJV).
About three hours later, Ananias' wife Sapphira came in and Peter questioned her about the price of the land, she also lies to him and then promptly died.
Because Peter had the gift of discernment, he immediately knew that Ananias was lying to him and that it was Satan who influenced him and his wife to make their fatal decision.
Simon the Sorcerer
Acts, chapter 8, contains the account of Simon offering money for the ability to lay hands on people to give them the holy spirit:
"Give me this authority, so that I may do the same thing by laying my hands on people. But Peter said to him, Your money parish with you into perdition, because you think that God's gift can be purchased with money. You have no part or lot in this matter, because your heart is not right in the sight of God" (Acts 8:19-21 Para.).
Peter's reply to Simon shows Peter's discernment of spirits and his ability to know a person's thoughts and intent, which allowed him to know the spiritual condition of Simon.
Paul Harassed by an Evil Spirit
The account of the apostle Paul and others who ministered with him being harassed by a young woman who was possessed by an evil spirit shows that Paul had the gift of discernment:
"Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved." She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, "In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!" At that moment the spirit left her" (Acts 16:16-18 NIV).
Besides showing that Paul had the gift of discernment and that those with God's spirit do not have to tolerate harassment by an evil spirit, this account tells us the following five things:
Evil spirits recognize the servants of the true God.
Some evil spirits will harass the elect until they are removed from the person whom they are controlling.
Authority to remove evil spirits comes through Christ.
Paul was able to speak directly to the evil spirit.
Evil spirits must comply with the legitimate demands of true servants of God the Father and Christ.
A Gift of Discernment
Within a congregation I once attended, there were two men who had a long history of spiritual leadership and were talented speakers in the pulpit; however, there was something about these men that seemed a bit odd and inconsistent with a righteous thought process.
When giving a sermon before the congregation, one of the men would always subtly inject a thought that would question the validity of God and the Bible. The other individual was always subtly promoting controversial subjects, questioning established doctrine, or insinuating things which could cause controversy. Both of these men were very clever in their speech, so it was difficult to detect the deception in their words.
Because of their behavior, several elders suspected they and some other individuals who occasionally associated with the congregation were either highly influenced or possessed by evil spirits, but could not prove this suspicion beyond a shadow of a doubt. Therefore, they could not take the appropriate action without causing chaos within the congregation.
During one of the annual festival days, a man visiting the congregation for the first time came to one of the elders and told him that there were several individuals there who were possessed by evil spirits, and that one individual was highly influenced but not possessed. Hearing this, I asked the elder to have the man write a note documenting his allegations in order to see if his observations matched ours.
Upon inspecting his list along with his comments, we found that what he was able to discern about these individuals matched perfectly with what we had been thinking all along. His list and comments confirmed that he had the gift of discernment of spirits, which is one of the gifts from the Father noted by the apostle Paul (1.Cor.12:10).
"Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write to you of the common salvation, it was necessary for me to write to you, and exhort you that you should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord, and our Lord Jesus Christ" (Jude 3-4 KJV Para.). See also Gal.2:1-7.
Individuals creep into some congregations and cause many problems. Why does this happen? It happens because the ministry and the elect lack the ability to discern the difference between good and evil and/or to recognize evil spirits, evil influence, or an evil presence in a person, place, or thing.
Evil spirits continually attempt to frustrate and disrupt the work of the church and destroy the elect. The historical record of the early church and the church in this age shows that these evil spirits have been very successful in frustrating and disrupting the work of the church and destroying some of the elect.
However, this situation does not need to continue if the elect will pay attention to the instructions in the scriptures regarding how to protect themselves and the church against evil spirits and their influence.
Because one of the abilities given to specific individuals within the Father's earthly family is the ability to recognize evil spirits, individuals influenced or possessed by an evil spirit(s), and when evil is present in animals, places, or things, it is more than evident that both collectively and individually there is a tremendous need for the discernment of spirits in this age of the church.
Because of the many forms of evil present in this world and its extreme danger to us personally, the work of the church, and our loved ones, each of us should ask our heavenly Father to increase our ability to recognize evil in all its forms so that we can more effectively and efficiently perform our calling.
From the accounts of the early church, it is apparent that it was necessary for the apostles to have the ability to recognize evil spirits and an evil influence because of their responsibility to proclaim the good news message and to effectively carry out their other functions and responsibilities.
It is also apparent that elders need this ability if they are overseeing a congregation or are performing the work of an evangelist. Additionally, both men and women of the elect need this ability under certain circumstances.
In his letter to the elect at Rome, the apostle Paul wrote the following about the attitude a truly converted person must have toward all evil:
"Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good" (Rom.12:9 KJV).
In verse 9, the English word abhor is translated from the Greek word apostugeo, which means to detest utterly. The English word cleave is translated from the Greek word kollao, which means to glue, i.e., (passively or reflexively) to stick.
An important point to consider is that Paul is speaking of evil which violates the precepts and principles of righteousness as set forth in the biblical record; he is not saying to detest the person committing an evil act or being influenced by evil, but to detest the act or influence of evil (i.e., all things that are in opposition to God's laws, precepts, and principles).
Along with the warning to beware of evil because it is an enemy that must be resisted, the apostle Peter gave us the following keys to prevent influence from Satan and other evil spirits:
"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world" (1.Pet.5:8-9 KJV).
In verse 9, the English word afflictions is translated from the Greek word pathema, which means something undergone, (i.e., hardship or pain).
Although Peter's warning is directed to the Sovereign Father's earthly family of king-priests, these same dangers also exist for everyone in the world. The reality is that Satan and other evil spirits will destroy anyone if given an opportunity. But, they especially want to destroy those whom the Father has personally called to salvation during this gospel age.
To prevent Satan or any other evil spirit from having an opportunity to destroy us, we must resist evil and pay careful attention to our surroundings and how we conduct our lives. We must make sure our surroundings, our associations, and the various situations in which we find ourselves do not place us in jeopardy of being influenced or controlled by Satan or other evil spirits.
In 1.Peter, chapter 5, verse 9, the English words resist, steadfast, and faith are translated from the Greek words anthistemi, stereos, and pistis, which respectively mean to stand against (i.e., to oppose), be solid or stable, and persuasion (i.e., credence; moral conviction of religious truth).
In order to resist the devil as instructed by Peter, we must not only be well grounded in the faith but also able to know when evil is present in a person, animal, place, or thing.
If you are well grounded in the faith, you will be able to resist an evil spirit or evil influence with the assurance that you have the authority and power to successfully protect yourself from being harmed or corrupted by it.
Note: In certain situations you will also be able to protect others from being influenced or harmed by an evil spirit or evil influence. For details about this issue get a copy of the Book Our Place in the Spirit Realm Gods, Angels, and Demons, ISBN 987-0-9844608-7-8 or visit www. bibleresearch.org.
When dealing with Satan, other evil spirits, an evil influence or presence, passive resistance is no resistance at all. There can be no neutral response to evil. Either you accept evil into your life or you resist it. To not resist evil is tacit approval of evil.
For resistance against evil spirits to be effective, you must be armed with the proper knowledge and weapons which will enable you to successfully resist and thwart evil. Resistance must be well thought out and swiftly executed.
After the apostle James lists a number of attitudes which are in opposition to righteousness, he notes that these attitudes are the result of the pulls of human nature and he gives the following advice:
". . . Therefore he says, God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore, submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded" (Jms.4:6-8 KJV Para.).
In his letter to the elect, the apostle James sets forth the following seven important principles to which each of us should pay close attention in order to successfully keep ourselves from being controlled by Satan or other evil spirits, or being influenced by an evil presence:
God opposes a person who has an arrogant, superior, or disdainful attitude.
God is gracious toward a person who has a humble attitude.
We must live in obedience to God's laws, precepts, and principles.
We must resist evil.
We must draw near to our Father if we want him to draw near to us.
Sin creates a barrier to a harmonious relationship with our Father and our Savior; therefore, sin must be eliminated from our lives.
If we want to have a harmonious relationship with our Father and our Savior, we cannot vacillate between good and evil.
Be Proactive in Resisting Evil
In his letter to the elect at Ephesus, Paul gave them a long list of attitudes and behaviors to cultivate and to discard. In the middle of this list, he says, "Neither give place to the devil" (Eph.4:27).
One of the keys to successfully defeating an evil influence is to first recognize its presence, be it an evil spirit, or an evil influence in a person, animal, place, or thing. If evil cannot be recognized, it cannot be resisted, controlled, or conquered.
Peter, James, and Paul all make the point that proactive opposition to Satan, other evil spirits and an evil influence is necessary in order to make sure evil avoids contact with us.Proactive resistance is the opposite of acceptance or tacit approval.
Although knowing there are evil spirits who are intent on influencing, harming, controlling, or possessing humans is extremely important, the most important thing to know is how to recognize evil and eliminate the possibility of being influenced or controlled by it.
The absolute best way to make sure we do this is to be proactive in our resistance to evil and resolve to maintain our righteousness through drawing near to our heavenly Father and the way of life he wants us to practice.
Stir up the Gift of God
Paul reminds Timothy of the spiritual gifts he had been given through the holy spirit and encourages him to increase this power in his life:
"For which cause I remind you to fan the flame of the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give a spirit of fearfulness to us, but of power, and love, and of self-control" (2.Tim.1:6-7 Para.).
This is also good advice for us in this age of the church. Because evil in all its forms is ever present and is on the increase.
If we are serious about our salvation and performing the work to which the Father called us, each of us needs to stir up and increase the spiritual gifts we already have and also ask the Father to give us individually and collectively the ability to recognize evil spirits and their influence in order for us to more effectively perform our functions and responsibilities as his earthly children.
By B.L. Cocherell b14w8