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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Discerning of Spirits

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(διάκρισις πνευμάτων, discrimination of spirits, 1 Corinthians 12:10). This expression is now usually understood to mean a high faculty, enjoyed by certain persons in the apostolic age, of intuitively probing the heart and distinguishing the secret dispositions of men (compare 1 Corinthians 14:29; 1 John 5:1). It appears to have been one of the gifts peculiar to that age, and was especially necessary at a time when the standards of doctrine were not well established or generally understood, and when many deceivers were abroad (2 John 1:7). This faculty of supernatural insight seems to have been exercised chiefly upon those who came forward as teachers of others, and whose real designs it was important that the infant churches should know. Authentic instances, however, do not appear to show the method of its exercise, although the cases of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:3; Acts 5:9), of Simon Magus (Acts 8:21), and of Elymas (Acts 13:9), are cases in point. (See GIFTS, SPIRITUAL).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Discerning of Spirits'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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