What does Paul mean when he refers to the ‘ability to distinguish between spirits’?

Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.  (1 Cor 12:1)[1]There is no consensus on what the gift of discerning of spirits really is. There is only a little help from Bible texts which can lead us to what the apostle Paul had in mind. It is an irony that Paul didn’t want the Corinthians to be unaware with regard to spiritual gifts/the spiritual world,  and nowadays, the contemporary reader is in fact largely unaware of them.

One way to establish what the discerning of spirits might be is to find biblical examples of the use of this gift. But the problem is that as long as we are not sure what this gift is, we can’t be sure where to search. In my opinion, the only way to exit this vicious circle is to try to find the most probable definition of the discerning of spirits and then try to match some possible examples of it. This will be the subject of the second part of this paper. In the first part I will review and evaluate the most popular interpretations. This task will help me to have a broad view of academic opinion and decide what I personally find to be the most suitable to match Paul’s thought.  
Christian teaching regarding the discerning of spirits has varied over centuries, but it always oscillated around the same core. It tried to grasp the idea of evaluating one’s motives. Cessationists, denying any spiritual phenomena, narrowed the interpretation of this gift to simple character evaluation. They gained support from impact of the Enlightenment. But this thinking has already been overcome and the difference between spiritual criticism (that can be the domain of people who naturally judge others) and spiritual discernment is clearly distinguished.[2] Later, simultaneously with the emergence of Revivalism, the interpreters were more prone to see some miraculous element in the process of evaluating.[3] The contemporary understanding of this gift constantly tries to grasp the spiritual aspect. It is no longer about human intentions but is about the kind of spirit that is at work. James D. G. Dunn adds to it that Pentecostals traditionally link  “gift of discernment” with exorcism.[4]
An attempt to find the right definition
I am going to evaluate the most probable interpretations. In doing so I shall keep in mind what the purpose of the spiritual gifts is, that is to edify the church.[5] They were given to Christians for the period between Christ’s ascending and return to equip them for hard times.[6]
1.      Weighing the source of prophecy
The first interpretation that I am going to consider comes from the fact that in the list provided by Corinthians 12:8-10, discerning of spirits comes after the gift of prophecy and before the gift of tongues. Hence it can be construed as an ability to judge what kind of spirit stands behind prophecy.
In favour of this view we have verse 29 in chapter 14 where Paul says that others should “weigh carefully” what is said. The Greek word used in this example is διακρίνω, which joined with discerning of spirits – where the word for discerning is also διακρίνω – creates a good connection.
This idea is rejected by some because it seems like discerning of spirits becomes a secondary gift, in a subordinate position to a gift of prophecy. But it cannot be said that by making it subordinate anything is detracted from the gift itself. Is not the interpreting of tongues subordinate to the gift of tongues? Maybe it is better to say that they are tandem-gifts. Some[7] also argue that this interpretation is not valid because it makes the gift too narrow and takes away the opportunity to apply it in other situations outside of prophecy.
James D. G. Dunn is convinced that the order of gifts in Paul’s list in 1 Corinthians 12 is not accidental. The problem of false prophets emerges in the era of Judges and recurs throughout the rest of the Old Testament. The awareness of this problem can be also detected in writings of the New Testament (Matt 7:15, Luke 6:26). He argues that Paul, when writing the list in that precise order, stressed the importance of necessity of evaluating whether a prophet speaks the word of God when he claims to be speaking on behalf of God’s Spirit.[8] I believe that Dunn’s view better fits the category of ‘weighting the source of prophecy’ than ‘discerning of prophetic utterances’ (represented in this essay by Cavanna’) as he stresses the danger of emerging of false prophets while Cavanna speaks rather about prophetic utterances disconnecting them from spirits.
2.      Seeing into the spirit world
The gift of discerning of spirits can be understood as seeing into the spiritual world as Howard Carter argues.[9] For Carter this means that every time someone (or anyone) sees a spirit he or she uses the gift of discerning of spirits. However, it is not the manifestation of a spirit to a human but rather the human ability to see a spirit without it wanting to be seen. Nevertheless, Carter’s definition could be a gift, because it is not ordinary for people to see spirits and also it could be a source of edification to the church, as long as it helps to bring better clarification of what is happening in another dimension.
However, the main argument that contradicts the thesis that seeing spirits is the gift of discerning of spirits is based on the meaning of the word διακρίνω, a word which does not mean to see but to separate, to make distinction, to try and to decide. The sense of this word embraces passive and active aspects of perception, but it does not assume that one has to see a spirit. One can sense its presence or just be aware that it can be present in another dimension. The word διακρίνω stresses the analyzing and synthesizing aspect of perception. But it is still a little bit more complex. As Donald Gee notices, διακρίνω also bears some supernatural thought itself. Namely, it is ‘piercing of all that is merely outward, and seeing through; then forming a judgment based on that insight’.[10] So while it is an insight, judging is still present in the process of discernment and supernatural insight seems to be crucial to it. Therefore, simply ‘seeing spirits’ does not fit the definition of διακρίνω.
3.      Testing the spirits
I can imagine that gift of discerning of spirits can be identified by the ability to test the spirits. It partly bases on understatement of the Bible’s evidence. As long as we do not have written what discerning of spirits concretely is, it is tempting to connect 1 Corinthians 12:10 with 1 John 4:1, where John wrote more vividly what he had in mind, and seeing these two passages as parallels. This gift would then be distinguishing which spirit (demon or the Holy Spirit) is working in a particular situation.
It is a logical assumption that God would give this kind of gift because not only the Holy Spirit is working in this world but also forces of evil and more importantly, forces of evil can imitate miracles and wonders to deceive believers. This gift becomes then a strong arm in the Christian life. Interpreted this way, in what way can the gift edify the church? I think that understanding the gift of discerning of spirits as the ability to determine whether it is the Holy Spirit or a demon working is protection against being deceived.
But there are also things that do not let me easily accept this view. First I would like to mention the stance of Peter Cavanna, which though I do not consider as the most probable, I think that every attempt to solve the mystery of the meaning of διακρίσεις πνευμάτων deserves a look.
Cavanna is not willing to agree with the classical Pentecostal view because he sees a danger of misusing this gift. No doubt it can be misused – as any other gifts – and no doubt it can be wrongly taught. His main apprehension is based on a hypothetical situation in which someone claims this gift for himself or herself but in fact he or she might have a suspicious nature or genuine ability to weigh up others.[11] He then does something that I personally found surprising. He opposes the spiritual-world-insight interpretation (which he considered earlier in his booklet) and after saying that discerning of spirits is putting them [spirits] in the correct category, he does not evaluate the view in which discerning of spirits means to test the spirits. He jumps over it and says that πνευμάτων means not spirits but prophetic utterances, without giving any examples of New Testament writers using the term in this meaning. I will return to Cavanna in the next paragraph.
Although I like the testing-of-spirits interpretation, I found it hard to adopt into my thinking. The difficulty that makes it difficult for me to accept comes from the fact that the testing of spirits doesn’t have to be supernatural. Spiritual gifts, by definition, are supernatural, while every believer can test the spirits on his own, even the ones without any supernatural gifting. If fact, John in 1 John 4:1 commands everyone to test spirits. This commandment is addressed to brothers, not only elders or teachers.[12] Donald Gee thinks in the same way when he writes that: ‘It must be remembered that there are also other scriptural standards for ‘trying the spirits’ (Matthew 7:15-23; 1 Corinthians 12:3, 1 John 4:1-6), by which all pretensions to an accurate gift of spiritual discernment can be checked. Moreover, the use of these tests for the supernatural are open to all believers, and do not imply the possessions of any particular gift of the Spirit’.[13] The Scripture gives us sufficient amounts of tools for this task and they will be summarized in the next chapter.
4.      Discerning πνευμάτων (prophetic utterances)
This is one of the newest interpretations represented by Peter Cavanna. In this case discerning of spirits is the power of discerning between prophetic utterances. Cavanna suggests that πνευμάτων in 1 Cor 12:10 means not spirits but prophetic utterances and he supports this by giving examples of passages where prophesying is mentioned with weighing the prophetic word and then he connects it with recommendation to validate the prophet’s words. There are a few passages from the New Testament that are sometimes connected to 1 Corinthians 12:10 when reference is made to the discernment of spirits. They are: διακρίσεις διαλογισμῶν (Rom. 14:1); διάκρισιν καλοῦ τε καὶ κακοῦ (Heb 5:14); and δοκιμάζετε τὰ πνεύματα (1 Jn 4:l).[14] But in none of these cases is the discerning or distinguishing considered as a supernatural gift of grace.
It differs from weighing the source of prophecy interpretation in the sense that the latter clearly stands for a spirit inspiration of the prophetic word. Cavanna wants to speak about the discerning of prophecies rather than the discerning of spirits behind a prophet. The difference then is based on rejecting the idea that a demon can inspire a prophet. In fact, the Scriptures nowhere say that it is possible for a Christian to be possessed by a demon.[15] But, as I will try to show in the next paragraph, this reservation by no means disallows the possibility of a person to speak revelatory words from evil spirits.[16]
James D. Hernando admits that it is possible that Paul could use the word πνευμάτων as another way of referring to prophecies but he points out an important clue that makes it difficult to accept this identification. In 1 John 4:1-2, the spirits from verse 1 are contrasted with the Holy Spirit in verse 2.[17] If πνευμάτων are prophetic utterances then by the rule of contrast, the Holy Spirit should also be degraded to some non-personal abstract. But if the Holy Spirit is a person then πνευμάτων should also be regarded as spirits. Cavanna rejects the possibility of a prophet being inspired by a demon (and I agree with that) but he seems not to have understood 1 John 4:1. The first verse says that many false prophets came to the world and they prophesy by the inspiration of evil spirits. This is the logical implication from these verses.
Another reservation is proposed by Clint Tibbs who argues that πνευμάτων indeed means spirits. If it meant prophetic utterances then by implication, a prophet would be judged by what he says. And this does not endure assumption that a prophet speaks not of himself but of some spirit or God.[18] Moreover why would not Paul have used the word προφητεία if he meant prophetic utterances?
πνευμάτων can also mean spiritual gifts, as Paul uses the same word in 1 Corinthians 12:10 and in 14:12, and it seems that in the latter he talks about Corinthians’ zeal for spiritual gifts.[19] However, he does not use the word χαρίσματα nor πνευματικά. James D. G. Dunn suggests reading ‘spirits’ instead of ‘spiritual gifts’.[20] On the contrary, the context of the fourteenth passage leaves no doubt that the case is about spiritual gifts. Therefore, if we see that the context is at times more important than the words used, we can assume that Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:10 writes about spirits, not spiritual gifts. Had  he had spiritual gifts in mind, he would then have written that Christians should have a special gift from God to distinguish in a supernatural way if others have gifts too! This would be untenable.[21]
5 Discerning of πνευμάτων (spirits of God)
There is also another way of understanding this gift. I personally found it very interesting though I still have some reservations. This is an interpretation that can be built on what Clint Tibbs said about usage of πνευματικν in 1 Corinthians 12:1, πνεύματι θεοin 12:3and πνευμάτων in 12:10. He strongly argues that πνευματικν stands for spiritual or spirits and nothing more. So the first verse in chapter twelve should sound ‘Now, concerning spiritual, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant’. Tibbs writes that when Paul wants to speak about spiritual gifts he uses the word χάρισμα μν πνευματικν (Rom 1:11) or just χαρίσματα with specific purpose (e.g. healing) (1 Cor 12:9). In all places in 1 Corinthians when he uses πνευματικν he means spiritual.
Next he suggests that in verse 3 πνεύματι θεοmeans ‘spirit from God’ not ‘The Spirit from God’ which makes a change in the understanding what author meant here. Tibbs spends a lot of space in his article on arguing that we should not put late dogmatic formulations (e.g. about the Trinity and The Holy Spirit) into writings of Paul because he did not formulate spiritual reality that way. Being free of late dogmatic formulations lets us to take a fresh look at the text. If Paul did not mean the Holy Spirit in verse 3 but a spirit from God, which can not be denied, then it is easier to understand what διακρίσεις πνευμάτων means.
Going to 1 Corinthian 12:10 Tibbs notes that πνευμάτων should mean spirits (not prophetic utterances) and argues that spirits which are to be considered fall in the category of “holy” or at least “good”. He bases this on the usage of the word πνευμάτων in chapter 14 where Paul says that the Corinthians were eager for πνευμάτων. Paul does not use the word χαρίσματα. So what he meant was that the Corinthians were eager for spirits. The same position is held by James D. G. Dunn.[22] The Vulgate renders this verse in light of this interpretation ‘sic et vos quoniam aemulatores estis spirituum ad aedificationem ecclesiae quaerite ut abundetis’. What kind of spirits was Paul thinking of? Good spirits because he used the imperative ζητετε, and it is said that some of them can edify the church.[23] Then a question arises, what does it mean to desire a spirit in practice? To desire a spirit seems to be confusing if we think of it as desire an angelic being. But let us compare this desire with the desire the Holy Spirit. Why we desire the Holy Spirit? Because He does something in us. It is not about simply being in relation, but this relation affects our life and changes it. The same can be said about spirits from God. If Corinthians were eager for them, they were eager for things which spirits can bring. So in the end I made no difference between χαρίσματα and πνευμάτων (understood as spirits). As I noted above, the context of chapter 14 clearly shows us that Paul was addressing the problem of spiritual gifts.
I would also like to stress that ‘a spirit from God’ does not necessarily have to be good or holy. The Scriptures give us clues that spirits from multiple categories can come from Him, as everything comes from Him. 1 Samuel 16:14,15,23 say that evil spirits can come from God as well as good spirits (1 Sam 16:14).
Tibbs notices that διακρίσεις πνευμάτων is very often connected by scholars with the testing of spirits and telling the right from the wrong. In his opinion they are too quick to join them so easily. He would rather say that the  χαρίσματα of διακρίσεις πνευμάτων means not to discern between evil spirits, but good spirits. And he honestly admits that he does not know what purpose it could have but he stresses the necessity of evaluating that possibility.
Personally I think this interpretation is very interesting because it is based only on what is written and not on what fourth-century scholars said about The Holy Spirit and Trinity, not that they said something wrong, but their formulations where late conclusions.
And I can see how διακρίσεις πνευμάτων formulated that way can edify the church. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14:12 that we shall seek these πνευμάτων which edify church and this assumes that not every πνευμάedifies. It makes sense taken together with my note that a spirit from God does not have to be good. Then a person with the gift of discerning the spirit could seek spirits from God that can edify the Church in the best way.
Testing spirits
In this chapter my attempt is to demonstrate that every believer can test spirits. And in result it will prove that the testing of spirits is something different from the gift of discerning of spirits. This separation is also present in Donald Gee’s[24] and David Petts’[25] position’s.
David Petts in Body Builders suggests three methods of telling if a spirit is from God. These are: the test of their fruit, the test of their doctrine, and the test of their attitude to Jesus Christ. I will describe them briefly. Fruit is a metaphor of human deeds, and they are good if a person does the will of God. We are not saved by good works, but by grace, nevertheless good works are inseparably joined to grace. If one is not producing good fruit, then questions concerning his or her salvation should be raised. It is not possible for one to be in Christ and bear bad fruit of faith. Then, if a person claims to speak on behalf of God but his or her life is in a contradictory position to the will of God, that person fails the test.
The second test relates to doctrine. The Scriptures clearly say that demons have their own doctrines and that they are busily occupied in the task of spreading them.
The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.
(1 Timothy 4:1)
Christians are given the Scriptures which contain true doctrines from God. Demonic doctrines come from the father of lies, and can be simply detected by the test of doctrine. 1 John 4:1-3 gives us this test and leaves no vagueness.
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
(1 John 4:1-3)
The crucial doctrine for Christians is the doctrine of Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah. He came to earth in flesh, died on the Cross, after three days was resurrected by His Father and after fifty days ascended to heaven. If a spirit’s doctrine does not confess this faith then it fails the test.
Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, „Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, „Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.(1 Corinthians 12:3)
The third test is a test of attitude towards Jesus Christ. In a way, this test is related to the previous. Only persons whose life is truly dedicated to Jesus can say that He is the Lord and only then can faith in the crucial doctrine be confessed. It is not so much about the words, but rather about the heart. One can say that ‘Jesus is Lord’, but if these words do not stay in tune with life of the owner of these words, then this creed is meaningless and worthless. Bob Dewaay adds to this that the nature of the confession of Jesus as Lord is supernatural and comes from Holy Spirit who motivates a person.[26]
This short review gives us a look at the methods by which we can test spirits. They are simple, definitive and objective. But none of them require supernatural powers to use them. It is clear to me that they are not the same as the gift of discerning the spirits. These tests are logical and scripturally based. I think that every believer with little mental effort can use them with success.
Donald Gee in an article titled Testing Spirits keeps the same scheme. He writes about the moral test which corresponds to the test of fruit, about the doctrinal test, and also about the verbal test which corresponds to the test of attitude towards Jesus Christ. He adds that these methods are to be used by everyone in the Church and should be defensive tools in eschatological times. Trying the spirits mentioned in 1 John 4:1 is a passive process. A person who tries the spirits does not need to ask them questions, the verdict is gained only by watching and hearing. Gee is lead to this conclusion by the word δοκιμάζω used in 1 John 4:1. This word ‘does not carry the thought of challenging; the sense is rather to prove or to examine’.[27] The Scriptures give us no example of a person challenging a spirit. There are situations where the Lord Jesus or the Apostle Paul addresses a spirit, but the purpose was not to challenge them.
It is worthy to add that there can be one more method of telling if a spirit is talking from God or not. Smith Wigglesworth formulated it. In his sermon from 1922 entitled ‘The Gift of Discerning of the Spirits’ he said that ‘Never desire to be anything, for in the true Christian’s life no man wants to be anything but desires Christ to be his all and in all[28]. So if a spirit encourages one to be the best preacher, the best speaker or missionary, one must judge if it does not turn his or her motives from edifying the church to realizing one’s own ambitions.
In my opinion these tests are available to all believers, even the ones without any gifts of the Holy Spirit. They can be taken from the Scriptures which were given to all and they are to be used with reason and mental effort. I think that the gift of discerning of spirits has to be supernatural and operates on different rules. While the testing of spirits can be operated using the Scriptures, the gift of discerning of the spirits can be operated using only the Holy Spirit’s insight. I will try to prove this in the next chapter.
Discerning of spirits
1 John 4:1a: Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.
This is a recommendation for every believer to test spirits.
1 Corinthians 12:10: For to one is given (…) To another  (…)  discerning of spirits (…).
This is a statement carrying the thought that some of the brethren are given a special ability to discern the spirits and it is a gift. It is hard to expect that the Apostle Paul could say something like ‘Beloved, don’t believe every spirit but use the gift of discerning the spirits’ while not every of the brethren possess that gift.
I suggest that both verses deal with the same phenomenon of spirit manifestations with the difference that they can manifest themselves overtly or pretending to be of God. The second needs revelation to be discovered. This revelation can only be attained by the grace of God, by the spiritual gift of discernment. Thus we have two ways of detecting the presence/works of spirits, the usual one (testing the spirits) and the unusual (discerning of spirits).[29]
Spirits speak by prophecies and prophecy does not need to be spoken by a prophet. Ordinary believers also can speak on behalf of God and then they are prophesying but they are not prophets. This distinction is being made by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:3 where he writes: ‘But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation’. Here prophesying should be understood in the broader sense because of the context surrounding this verse. In 1 Corinthians 14:31 the author writes that: ‘you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted’ and he assumes the possibility of every of the brethren speaking of God. So all members of the Church can have prophecies and they can originate from The Holy Spirit or spirits. As I mentioned above spirits have their own doctrines (1 Tim 4:1) and they put them in the mouths of believers. That is why John urges believers to test the spirits, but what he has in mind is: ‘Test every word you heard from a person who claims to speak on behalf of God, because an evil spirit may speak through him as well as the Holy Spirit’.
But I can imagine that evil spirits may also come in other ways not so easily discerned. Spirits may work without verbal expressions or without claiming that they are prophesying. They may be present in a person or motivate someone’s will. Examples of such incidents are present in the Scriptures.
First let’s look at Acts chapter 16. In verses 16 to 18 we have a strange scene with the Apostle Paul and a mysterious girl following him. She was saying about Paul and his companions that they were servants of the most high God. That was not a lie, nevertheless Paul was grieved, as the Scriptures say, with her crying out after them and when he could take it no longer, he cast the demon out of her. How did he know that she was demon-possessed? I reject the idea that she was fortunetelling. There are two possibilities. One is based only on what we have written in contemporary translations of the Scriptures. The girl’s message could originate from a supernatural source, it could be revealed to her by some spirit. A little clue helps us to determine what kind of spirits could stand behind her. Her words might have been a confession if they were spoken in first person. But it was just pure information that they were of God spoken in the second person. Evil spirits can not confess Jesus as their Lord, because their lord is Satan. I think it is possible that Paul had doubts whether she was a demon-possessed prophet or not and that would explain why he hesitated. Finally, he used the gift of discerning of spirits and being confident that she was possessed by a demon, he cast it out of her. Anastasios Kioulachoglou says in his study of Acts 16 that indeed Paul used the gift of discerning of spirits, because he named the spirit so directly, but he also adds that there is something more to know and it is very important to understand this passage. At first it seems like the girl is advertising Paul’s work. And it is hard to imagine how it could disturb Paul. But when we reach to more ancient versions of this passage, we are surprised that there is nothing mentioned about her being a fortune-teller or that she had a spirit of divination. Many ancient versions say that she had πνεμα πύθωνα[30] or πνεμα Πύθωνος[31] (the spirit of Python). Python was the Greek name given to the mythological serpent or dragon that lived at Pytho beneath Mount Parnassus and guarded the Delphic Oracle. The name then became the surname of Apollo, the god of divination in Greek mythology, and hence applied to all oracular and divinatory spirits.’[32] So what she was doing was not advertising but perverting the paths of Lord. Her words “They are the servants of the most high god” were not to confirm that indeed they are God’s people but that they are servants of her most high god, that is Apollo.[33] I believe that was the case. Paul, when he received his revelationary insight, addressed the spirit in her and cast him out.[34]
Peter Cavanna focuses on another interesting aspect of this incident, namely the delay in Paul’s acting. He remarked that the girl was following them for many days, and asks why Paul didn’t act immediately? He contrasts this unexplained delay with Jesus’ encounters with demons in which He acted straightaway. Cavanna does give some possible explanations, but he doesn’t press any of them. What he is doing is putting in doubt the necessity of the supernatural in this occasion. His main argument comes from the meaning of the word διαπονέομαι (to be managed with pains, to be troubled). Paul tolerated the girl for some time but after he reached his limit he acted.[35] But this interpretation doesn’t seem to be fair. Why would Paul cast out the demon just because he was διαπονηθες? In my opinion this explanation detracts from Paul’s character and motivation. I still think that he had to wait for guidance from the Holy Spirit.

Another example of the possible usage of the gift of discerning of spirits can be found in Acts 13 5-12. Paul and Barnaba went to the isle Paphos and were asked to preach the Word of God for Sergius Paulus. Immediately after Paul started talking Elymas opposed them. In this point I have to add that Lukan writings contain idea that the Holy Spirit filled a person every time something supernatural needed to be done. And this is the case here, verse 9 and 10 say that Paul: ‘filled with the Holy Spirit, set his eyes on him, and said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, [thou] child of the devil, [thou] enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?’. We should not use the KJV for this text. It is obvious that the Holy Spirit was involved and spoke through Paul with revelatory words exposing Elymas. David Petts writes that there is no certainty that Paul needed the gift of discerning of spirits to act. He might be able to tell what spirit stood behind him the moment when Elymas sought to dissuade Sergius from becoming a Christian.[36] But I am convinced that this is an example of the usage of the gift because of the words in verses 9 and 10. Paul full of the Spirit described Elymas’s spirit in detail and this would not be possible, in this case, without revelation.


I think that by this study I was brought nearer to what Paul meant by διακρίσεις πνευμάτων. Just as the scholars who studied this subject I rejected ‘testing the spirit’ and ‘seeing into spiritual world’ interpretations as they are irreconcilable to the idea of spiritual gift or meaning ofδιακρίνω. Weighting the source of prophecy gained my sympathy but I still consider the gift to have wider application. My personal position is that διακρίσεις πνευμάτων is an addition to testing the spirits method to detect the activity of spirits. They can be from God, it can be The Spirit of God or they can be demons. This is supernatural insight into spiritual world which can be only operated by the grace of God. Two passages from Scriptures which I presented are consider good examples of usage of this gift. Theory fits the practice.
As I am content with the effect of my work as far as the meaning of διακρίσεις πνευμάτων is concerned, I found myself interested in the issues that emerged during reading literature of the subject, such as what πνευμάτων in 1 Corinthians 14:10 actually are. Are they, as we usually assume, spiritual gifts or are they spirits? Maybe Paul, when he wrote διακρίσεις πνευμάτων, really meant discerning of spirits? Let us go further, perhaps Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:1, where he also used the word πνευμάτων, meant spirits too? Interesting implications might ensue. We know that he used the word χαρίσματα and πνευματικά when he wanted to talk about spiritual gifts, why do we add another expression of the same thing to this group? It would be interesting to investigate what shifts in Paul’s thought may occur when we change our translation of πνευμάτων. Do we gain these special abilities of tongues, miracles, healing by using divine powers or are they the effects of being in relation with spirits from God?

[1]All Bible quotations are from NRV.
[2] Donald Gee, Spiritual Gifts, Gospel Publishing Mouse 1972, p. 55.[3] Harold Horton, The Gifts of the Spirit, Assemblies of God Publishing House, Tenth Edition 1976. [4] James D. G. Dunn, The Christ and The Spirit, Volume 2 Pneumatology, T&T Clark Ltd 1998, p. 312. [5] David Petts, Body Builders, Mattersey Hall 2002, p. 19.
[6] Wayne Grudem, Biblical Doctrine, Inter-Varsity Press 1999, p. 397.
[7] Petts, p. 209.[8] Dunn,  p. 314.
[9] Peter Cavanna, Discerning the Spirits, Grave Books Limited 2006, p. 4.
[10] Gee, Spiritual…, p. 57.
[11]Cavanna, p. 4.
[12] Kevin Kay, Prove the Spirits, 1 John 4:1, Expository Files 1.1; January, 1994, www.bible.ca/ef/expository-1-john-4-1.htm, accessed 26 Apr 2010.
[13] Gee, Spiritual …, p. 58.[14] Jospeh T. Lienhard., On „Discernment of Spirits” In The Early Church, Theological Studies, Regis Appel 1980,p. 508.
[15] Donald Gee, Trying the Spirits, in: Paraclete 1970, volume 4, number 1, p. 20. Collin Warner, Miraculous or Magical? – Guidelines for testing the spirits, C.P. Warner, 2002, p. 113.
[16] cf. Grudem, p. 179.
[17] James D. Hernando, Discerning of Spirits, in: Paraclete 1992, volume 26, number 2, p. 7-8.
[18] Clint Tibbs, The Spirit (World) and the (Holy) Spirits among the Earliest Christians: 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 as a Test Case, The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 2008, number 70, p. 323.
[19] Petts, p. 209.
[20] Dunn, p 233.
[21] cf. Grudem, p. 401.
[22] Dunn, p. 233.
[23] Tibbs, p. 324.
[24] Gee, Trying …,, p. 27.
[25] Petts, p. 207-223.
[26] Bob DeWaay, The Discerning of Spirits The Objective, Biblical Means to Discern Spirits, Critical Issues Commentary, 81 – March/April 2004, www.cicministry.org/commentary/issue81.htm, accessed 26 Apr 2010.
[27] Gee, Trying …, p. 26.
[28] Smith Wigglesworth at Union Pentecostal Meeting, Chicago, Nov. 3, 1922, from: smithwigglesworth.blogspot.com, accessed 26 Apr 2010.
[29]Warner, p. 112.
[30] Textus Receptus.
[31] Morphological Greek New Testament.
[32] Spiros Zodhiates, The complete word study dictionary, AMG publishers, 1992, p. 1253.
[33] Anastasios Kioulachoglou, Acts 16:6-40, The Journal of Biblical Accuracy,  www.jba.gr, accessed 26 Apr 2010.
[34] Change in the text from spirit of Pytho to spirit of divination does not do much harm to it, as long as we are not interested in gift of discerning of spirits. The nature of spirits remains the same so in this sense everything is fine, but in the end, difference between repeating words of Paul and walking after him is not the same as trying to deceive the hearers that might be in the range of her words.[35] Cavanna, p. 7.
[36] Petts, p. 222.