Q. Is there such a thing today as the gift of discernment? I’ve heard people talk about it, as though only certain believers have that gift. Or does every Christian have the gift of discernment?
A. First Corinthians 12:10 mentions “discerning of spirits,” and we need to consider the context.
The apostle Paul listed various gifts of the Spirit, which included sign gifts he said would cease (13:8–10). The gift of discernment had to do with divine revelation. At the time of Paul’s writing, the canon of Scripture had not been completed yet, so during that period it was essential that people be able to discern what was truly revelation from God and what was not.
Today we have the completed canon of Scripture, so believers can test what is truly from God and what is not by comparing the words of people with the Word of God.
All believers should have discernment. It is available to all believers who are willing to grow in the knowledge of God’s Word and to depend on the Holy Spirit. As we do, we develop a frame of reference by which we discern what is true from what is false. But we must differentiate between this ability and the specific gift of discernment in the early New Testament church before the canon of Scripture was completed.
I have learned to be wary of individuals who say they have an exclusive gift of discernment that other believers do not have.
This article appeared in the “Q & A” column of the Baptist Bulletin by Norman A. Olson.