“For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.” I Corinthians 12:8-10.
The Gift of Discernment of Spirits is the capacity to distinguish the source of a spiritual manifestation – whether it emanates from a good or evil spirit. All Christians have the responsibility to “test the spirits” to see if a message being delivered conforms to the Word of God – “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” I John 4:1. But a person with the Gift of Discernment of Spirits has a special ability to identify deceptive and erroneous doctrine that may otherwise be cleverly disguised as truth.
The gift relates to the ability to identify the spirit of the person (true or false) beyond just identifying false teaching itself which can be accomplished by comparing the message being delivered to scripture. (I John 4:1-3). Even Satan himself can transform into an angel of light and, through false prophets, attempt to use scripture out of context or in a false way to deceive which is not easily discerned without this gift.
Discernment is the gift, along with prophecy, that Paul urged the Corinthians to use in relation to judging the use and interpretation of tongues (1 Cor. 14:29). The gift can be used to settle disputes among fellow Christians rather than going to court (I Corinthians 6:5. Paul used the gift to identify the false spirit of the demon possessed slave girl in Acts 16:16-18 even though she acknowledged Paul as a servant of God.
The Gift of Discernment is a valuable gift to be deployed for the benefit of the Church. A person with that gift can supernaturally identify false doctrines and actions of a person which otherwise might not be readily apparent to a Christian without this gift.