This is one of the gifts of the Spirit that appears in 1 Corinthians 12. Note that it comes between the gift of prophecy and that of tongues. It would seem that the Spirit is pointing out to us by this, that these 2 gifts of utterance are most susceptible to deception and error through the evil spirit. People often say, “God said,” or “God told me.” This gift operates especially in those who have the office or ministry of the prophet. Do all have this gifting? The apostle Paul categorically says, “No,” in 1 Corinthians 12:29-30. This is very clear in the Greek text.
Notice also that the Greek text is a double plural – the discernings of spirits. There are three types of spirits to discern, and an illustration for this appears in 1 Kings 22. Here we see the 400 false prophets of Ahab speaking in the name of Y’hoVAH, the God of Israel. On the insistence of King Jehoshaphat of Judah, King Ahab of Israel calls up Micaiah from jail. He sarcastically from his own human spirit confirms the word of the false prophets who speak by lying spirits. Ahab rebukes him, for he knows that Micaiah always has a word for him that he does not wish to hear. Upon this adjuration, Micaiah gives the true word of the Holy Spirit, which is a vision from heaven. He tells Ahab that his 400 false prophets prophesied by an evil lying spirit, and that when Ahab obeys them, he will die in battle.
It is sometimes very difficult to discern between the lying spirit and the Holy Spirit, for the former can come as an angel of light. If a church is unaware of this possibility, deception is not only a possibility, but an almost certain probability. Then the human spirit often seeks to simulate the Holy Spirit – and some speak in God’s name when God did not even think of the things that He is reported to have said! See examples of this in the book of Jeremiah.
Not only are there 3 types of spirits to discern in the gifts of supernatural utterance – but there are various methods of discernment. Some are by vision as in the case of Micaiah; some are by two or three prophets who together discern. Some are so obviously of the enemy, that it does not require supernatural enablement to discern. It is for the above reasons that this gift appears as a double plural.
PERSONAL TESTIMONY. God revealed Himself to me in reality early in 1944 when I confessed His Son as Lord to a former Communist friend. A former member of my denomination invited me to her new church in Victoria, BC Canada. She told me, “Jimmy, now that you are saved, you need the baptism of the Holy Spirit.” I objected by saying, “Mrs. Hicks, if you need this additional experience, that’s fine – but as for me I have so much of God now through salvation that I couldn't possibly take any more.” She was quite shocked, but still invited me to her church, and then to the prayer room following a Sunday evening service.
God met me in a very powerful way that Sunday evening, and I started regularly attending this church. One of the first Sunday mornings, one of the deacons of this congregation of about 400 members, stood up and gave a “message in tongues.” I shivered because of it, for I discerned it did not have a source in the Spirit of God. Members of the congregation rejoiced that God had spoken. I thought to myself, “Which god? Certainly not the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” Then someone interpreted this message. Again I was confused – how could the Spirit of God interpret a message of the wrong source?
Upon questioning, I discovered that Brother Taylor, the deacon who had spoken, had been saved out of a serious occult connection. When he was delivered, a python spirit came out of him, and during the process he literally slithered on the floor like a serpent. He struck up a friendship with me, and invited me home for dinner after a Sunday morning service. He told me that he was continually in darkness, but when I was present with him he felt some relief. He then asked me if I would lay my hands on his stomach as he was lying on a couch, and pray for him. (Through sin of pride, carelessness and false authority, the spirit formerly cast out had returned.)
I felt a strong repugnance against this, but as a young believer in the Navy during World War II, I also felt that he as an older believer must know better than I – so I forced myself to please him. Immediately I felt a presence go up my arms and into my body. No matter how desperately hard I prayed, I could not prevent this. I ran all the way back to the church for the evening service and went into the prayer room. My Navy chum asked someone – “What is Brother Taylor doing in the prayer room? I thought he was sick.” The brother replied, “That’s not Brother Taylor in there – that’s Jim Watt!”
I had caught the spirit of the deacon, and sounded just like him when I prayed. For the next month I stopped praying audibly, so there would be no opportunity for this spirit to use me.
Later I learned that Jesus laid hands on the sick for healing, but he cast out the evil and unclean spirits with his word, without touching them. Brother Taylor should never have asked me to touch him.
I tried to get help from the minister and others, but no one believed my explanation for my problem. Finally in the light of my desperation, God spoke to me in His still small voice in my spirit – “You will soon receive an unexpected naval leave. Hitchhike home to Port Alberni, sleep as long as you can, and go to church Sunday night. Don’t attempt to tell anyone your problem. When the invitation is given for the congregation to come and pray, go forward with the rest of them, and then I will come down and deliver you Myself.” It happened exactly as He said, and the deliverance was permanent!
In one month I learned more about satan, evil spirits, the occult and spiritism than I possibly could have in 6 years of teaching. I would not wish such an experience upon my worst enemy, but in the wisdom of God He was preparing me for my future ministry. Since that time I quickly pick up which of the 3 spirits are being manifested in a meeting.
Later on I attended 50 of the William Branham healing meetings in different cities. My friend Pastor W. J. Ern Baxter served as his teacher and business manager for 6 years starting about 1949. Later he said – “I am never sure which spirit Brother Branham is operating under – whether the Holy Spirit or an angel of light. He seems to switch from one to another. This is especially evident when he forsakes his healing ministry, and preaches or teaches. I personally walked out on 2 of the Branham meetings, when I sensed he started moving in the wrong spirit.
Then consider the prophet Samuel, King Saul and the witch of Endor. This is not an ordinary séance – for God actually sent Samuel to Saul, not as is the normal case, an impersonating demon. The witch herself discerned this, and then recognized Saul who had forbidden the people of Israel to consult mediums upon the pain of death.
When Jesus traveled around Israel during His 3 years of ministry, the demons consistently recognized Him, and called out, “We know You, who You are, the Son of the Most High God!” His retort consistently was, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” Jesus did not want the testimony from the wrong source – from beneath rather than from above. They immediately obeyed His command, and came out. Rees Howells said that he never knew satan to be real until the Holy Spirit possessed him. Jesus knew all these things, and following His baptism by John, and following 40 days of fasting and prayer in the wilderness, He returned in the power of the Holy Spirit. From then on satan and demons were subject to Him.
Consider too the apostle Paul and Silas in the city of Philippi. A young girl possessed of the wrong spirit followed them for days saying – “These men are servants of the Most High God who show unto us the way of salvation.” Was it a true word? Yes. But it was from the WRONG source and grieved Paul. Finally the Lord had mercy, and let him know that NOW was the time he could do something about it. He immediately turned and rebuked the spirit and commanded it to come out. The owners of the girl lost their means of livelihood, for they made a living by preying on the unfortunate condition of this demon possessed girl. She had a familiar spirit. Note from this that the “discernings of spirits” is not a discernment of the content of the message – it is an understanding of the SOURCE of the message – which of the 3 spirits!
Smith Wigglesworth, an Anglican plumber from England, moved mightily as an evangelist throughout the world. He was fully conversant with the 3 sources of utterance. When a person in his meetings got up and spoke from the WRONG spirit, he immediately told them to shut up and sit down. People, even fellow ministers on the platform, took umbrage with this, and felt he was most unloving and lacked compassion. He curtly replied to them, “I know my business. I know my business!” Later it would be proven to them that he was right and they had been wrong.
Some 40 years ago I met an Irish barber by the name of Jim White. He had been extremely successful as an evangelist both in his homeland and also among the Shaker Indians of the Pacific Northwest. He told me that the medicine men were like the witch doctors of Africa. They became possessed by religious spirits, which he called “White Spirits.” He said they were the most difficult to cast out, but following fasting and prayer one could gain authority over them, and cast them out.
He would walk through a meeting room before the service started, and spoke to each of these spirits ahead of time. He would say – “I see you, and I command you to be quiet and not disturb the meeting to come. I will deal with you afterwards.” After the meeting he would take those possessed to a private room, and sit knee to knee with them. If attendants had brought them in from a mental hospital, he would command the attendants to take off their straitjackets. Then facing the patient he would tell the spirit what God had shown him, but command them not to come out (though they would beg him to let them leave) until the pastor came in, so he could learn what he had been dealing with. Once the pastor clearly could see by manifestation what had been disrupting his services – Jim White then gave the spirits permission to leave. (Often we have trouble to cast them out – Jim White had authority to keep them until he gave them permission to leave!)
I was ministering in McMinnville, Oregon in 1963, the place where T. L. Osborn launched his ministry. The pastor of the church I was in also knew Jim White. When Jim was ministering there, this pastor asked him if he would be open for 4 or 5 pastors to come in to hear his insights on exorcism of the white spirit, ask questions and have it all recorded.
The pastor asked if I would like to hear this cassette. I did, and took 36 points down as a result. It has helped me through the years in this area of ministry.
In 1949 I was speaking at a service at North Battleford, Saskatchewan. A young lady was present from Manitoba, who previously had helped my wife Marie as she was coming to a decision to confess Jesus as full Lord of her life. But in the interval, an evil woman had contacted Gwen and through a criminal action brought her into a serious condition of demon possession. The poems she wrote while in this condition were as if from another planet, and her sleepwalking episodes were frightening.
Marie asked me if we could bring her home to Saskatoon and seek deliverance for her. As soon as she fell asleep on the drive home, the demons took over. It was not an easy ride home.
When we got to bed about 2:00 AM, we could hear her tossing and turning in the guestroom, and the demons talking through her. Marie felt we shouldn’t wait till morning, but minister to her immediately. I had preached that night, and was very tired from the weird drive home.
But a few months earlier I had checked a book out of the library of the University of Saskatchewan entitled, “The History of Demon Possession from the Days of Babylon to the Present,” by Oesterreich of the University of Gottingen. He recorded all Biblical examples of Demonism, plus many more through the last 4000 years. It was written in the manner of “Great Religious Experiences” by William James – with this one exception – instead of recording religious experiences and commenting on them, he recorded demonic experiences and commented on them.
He stated that in the Middle Ages, many exorcists dealt with the occult and demon possession. They had 3 main conditions for successful exorcism: Get the demons to talk; get them to explain what the patient did that gave them entrance; and then get them to confess that Jesus is greater than them and satan. Unfortunately according to Oesterreich, the majority of those engaged in this ministry of exorcism, in turn ended up possessed themselves.
In Gwen’s case, we had no problem with the first condition – we couldn’t stop them talking! There were 3, and they gave their names reluctantly. Even more reluctantly they confessed that Jesus was greater. After two attempts at exorcism, we had complete success.
Gwen now, not the demons started to speak. She was asleep, so it was from her subconscious or spirit that she spoke. My wife Marie now took over, about 3:00 AM. She learned much by asking question. Gwen initially said, “It’s gone!” “What is gone?” Marie asked. “The band around my head is gone! And Shiloh has come” (Genesis 49, with Judah)! After an hour she fell into a deep sleep and for the first time in months slept through till noon.
LESSONS FROM DENNIS BENNETT, Former Rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church of Seattle. I visited this church for the first time in the Fall of 1962. I had previously heard of Father Bennett, his experience in Van Nuys, California, and his relocation in Ballard. The first Friday I attended, Father Bennett was teaching on the Gift of the Holy Spirit. He explained that one could not be a candidate for this gift without first renouncing all contact with the occult in the past: ouija boards, tarot cards, horoscopes, seances, palm readers, tea cup readers and much more. Immediately 4 people got up, stomped out of the basement room and slammed the door as they left. Father Bennett said this was not unusual. But those who stayed by meeting this condition, and also came with full repentance of all sin and dead works, and who confessed Jesus as full Lord, they received this Gift through the help of altar workers serving under the minister. On an average 20 received the gift of the Holy Spirit at St. Lukes every Friday night for 10 years, besides all those who received through special meetings conducted throughout the world by Father Bennett. He was a true evangelist, a good friend, and understood thoroughly the danger of the occult and the absolute necessity of complete renunciation of all past contact with it.
J. A. MacMillan, author of “The Authority of the Believer,” tells an interesting story from the Philippines. One of the missionaries of his denomination was in trouble. He would come home from a trip and find his wife unconscious on the kitchen floor. This necessitated keeping him from his missionary duties to attend to his wife. When they queried Dr. MacMillan for any insight he could give, he asked the wife, “Have you ever been engaged in the occult in the past?” “No,” she replied, though when I was a girl we played with a Ouija board, but it was innocent and just a game.” “Nonetheless,” he replied, “Would you confess and renounce this contact as a sin?” “No,” she responded, “It was just an innocent game.” He persisted, “But when I am gone, should you become convicted by the Spirit concerning this, would you confess and renounce it with your husband agreeing with you?” “Yes,” she said, “But I see no occasion for that for the reasons I have already given you.”
After the departure of Dr. MacMillan, the Spirit DID convict the missionary’s wife. She knelt with her husband and confessed and renounced this sin. From that point on, she did not have another attack!
An Englishman became engaged some years ago with the occult, and became a spiritist or medium. He practiced for 10 years hours every day until he perfected his ability to manifest ectoplasm, in which spirits came and gave prophecy and healing in his seances. Following this, he became a believer. But he protested that not all spirits were bad. There were evil spirits indeed, but there were white spirits as well, and they were all right. He couldn’t convince those who led him to the Lord.
Then one night shortly after he was saved, some of the white spirits attempted to choke him to death! So much for evil spirits and white spirits!
When dealing with principalities and powers, be especially careful. Do not move unilaterally in this area. Always move in a team-way, even when dealing with the occult. It can happen to you what Oesterreich records concerning the exorcists of the Middle Ages. But with the high spirits, it is well for an eldership functioning in the gate of a city, representing some 12 or more churches or congregations, to confront them. Recently one man and his sons met his death in drowning under unusual circumstances. Some think he was taking on the principality of the State of Washington. Another pastor in the Lynnwood area went out to unseat the leading satanic ruler of that area, and was found face down in the water beside his canoe – drowned.
The American church is somewhat naïve concerning this area. When action is taken against a spirit in a person, an “offence is taken up” on behalf of the person in need, and against the one doing the confronting, as being unloving and unkind. Wigglesworth would not countenance such. This area of ministry is not for novices or for those inexperienced. One church in Chicago went against the principality of that city, alone. It took them 2 years to begin to come back to normal. A Scottish preacher who ministered in Chicago used to say, “You can always tell the blow you hit the devil with, by the one he returrrrns to you. (He maintained his Scottish burr.)
A Jewish visitor came to a church in Florida. A man at the back of the church was saying, “Ask me about any verse in the Bible you care to, and I’ll prove to you it is wrong, and that there is no god.” The Jew asked the pastor, “How long has this been going on?” “Too long,” he replied, “but if you can do anything about it, please feel free.” The Jew approached this man, who immediately put forth his challenge. “Yes,” said the Jew, “I would like to ask you a question concerning a verse in the Bible – Have you ever read that it is written, ‘The fool has said in his heart, there is no god?’ You, sir, are worse than a fool – you blab it all over the place!” That was the last appearance of the emissary from the pit in that church.
In the same church, there was a man who would get up and give a message in tongues every service, and before any one could interpret, he would give a wimpy word, “My little children, if you will obey me I will bless you – but if you disobey me, I will judge you.” The people groaned every time he started up.
Then the pastor got an idea. He asked this Jewish man if upon a given signal one Sunday, he would quote Psalm 23 in Hebrew. Upon the given signal, the Jew complied. Immediately this other brother jumped up and gave his regular interpretation starting, “My little children…..”
Following the service the pastor and the Jew confronted him and said, “You are a false prophet – your interpretation did not correspond with the message (Psalm 23). From now on do not contribute in this church.” That was the last they saw of him.
If you want rrrevival – before additions, must firrrst come subtrrractions! Our Scottish pastor also gave this saying from Chicago. Truer words were never spoken! Church leaders should ponder this challenge most carefully.
One last point. When one has touched the occult in the past, and has taken on a familiar spirit – usually he is the last one to know it. He will know something is amiss, but the true nature of the problem escapes him. It is here that the gift of “discernings of spirits” is most necessary, plus the gift of faith for deliverance.
Much more can be said on this subject – but good books are available. One of the best is “Between Christ and Satan” by the German Lutheran, Kurt Koch. Many books on deliverance are quite frankly “spacey,” and tend to be sensational. But if you will be like Jeremiah, and take the precious from the vile – then you too can be like God’s mouth!
Above all else, in the realm of exorcism and deliverance – KEEP YOUR EYES ON JESUS. Make Him your GAZE, and all else merely glance at. This will give you a context for ministry much like living at all times in Psalm 91! - J.A.W.