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Basic Biblical Principles of Discernment

Discernment Principle 4: Confirm with Experience

Does this teaching, practice, or manifestation have confirmation from real life experience?[iii] A person should never base his or her discernment solely upon experience apart from the Word of God, but Spirit-inspired experience may confirm the validity of the teaching, practice, or manifestation. Mark notes the importance of confirming the Word of God by experience, writing, “And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed” (Mark 16:20). The Word was confirmed by the testimony of Spirit-inspired experience—the signs that followed.

The author of Hebrews emphasized the role of experience in developing discernment: “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Heb 5:14). The Greek word hexis, translated “practice” means habit, constant use, or repeated experience,[iv] a discernment that guided by the Spirit through the experience of the senses that have been repeatedly exercised (the Greek word for train is gymnazo—to exercise). It is through repeated training and repeated experience through practice that discernment is learned.  Yes (if in harmony with Scripture)—green light; maybe—blinking yellow light; no—red light.


Discernment Principle 5: Examine the Fruit

Does teaching, practice, or manifestation bear good fruit? This was one of the key discernment principles used by Jesus: “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit” (Matt 7:16-18). Some of the fruit-bearing questions we can ask are:

  • Is Jesus Christ lifted up and glorified?
  • Does it edify spiritually?
  • Are people saved, and/or are lives transformed?
  • Does it bring people closer to Jesus?
  • Does it build godly character?

Green light if the answer is “Yes”; Red light if the answer is “No”; Blinking Yellow light if there are continuing questions or the answers are mixed.

Discernment Principle 6: Receive Supernatural Discernment

Image: Harshal Desai

Pray for the gift of discerning of spirits to shed light. “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. …  to another the distinguishing of spirits” (1 Cor 12:8, 10). Many times the Holy Spirit gives a witness or a check where Scripture says nothing. You intuitively in your spirit through the Holy Spirit sense a peace (green light) or lack of peace (yellow light or red light). Robert Jaffray, pioneer missionary statesman of The Christian and Missionary Alliance, called it “a supernatural God-given instinct.”

A biblical example of this gift is demonstrated by Peter when he tells Simon the Magician: “For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity” (Acts 8:23). Even though Simon had made a confession of faith in Jesus Christ, Peter perceived supernaturally that something was still not right in Simon’s inner being. Through discernment of spirits, he specifically “saw” a spirit of bitterness and chains of sin remaining in Simon’s life.


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Category: Biblical Studies, Summer 2019

About the Author: Paul L. King holds a D.Min from Oral Roberts University and a D.Th. from the University of South Africa. He served for 16 years on the faculty of Oral Roberts University as Coordinator of Bible Institute programs and Adjunct Professor in the College of Theology and Ministry. Author of 12 books and more than 60 articles, he was ORU 2006 Scholar of the Year. He has also served as Scholar-at-Large for the D.Min. program at Alliance Theological Seminary, Doctor of Ministry Mentor for the Randy Clark Scholars program at United Theological Seminary and Global Awakening Theological Seminary, Leadership and Church Ministry Consultant and Trainer, an ordained pastor with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, Interim Consulting Pastor for the Plano (Texas) Chinese Alliance Church, and Faculty Director of Purdue Ratio Christi/Christian Faculty and Staff Network. His books include God's Healing Arsenal: A Divine Battle Plan for Overcoming Distress and Disease (2011), Anointed Women: The Rich Heritage of Women in Ministry in the Christian & Missionary Alliance (2009), Only Believe: Examining the Origin and Development of Classic and Contemporary Word of Faith Theologies (2008), Genuine Gold: The Cautiously Charismatic Story of the Early Christian and Missionary Alliance (2006), Binding & Loosing: Exercising Authority over the Dark Powers (1999), and A Believer with Authority: The Life and Message of John A. MacMillan. Twitter: @PaulLKing.

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