Summary: Part 6 of our spiritual gift series examines the gifts of discernment, knowledge and wisdom.

Spiritual Gifts Series

Part 6 – Discernment, Wisdom and Knowledge

Rev. Bruce A. Shields

First Baptist Church of Tawas City Michigan


We’re continuing our series on the Spiritual Gifts this week.

This week I would like to talk about a few more gifts that are kind of related, Discernment, Wisdom and Knowledge.



This is the ability to separate truth from error and perceive variance from God’s word, sometimes called discerning of spirits.

We see en example of this in;

1 Timothy 4:1

“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.”

Demons are teaching in churches today.

The devil is hard at work.

1 John 4:1-6

“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. 2This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3but 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.

4You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit[a] of truth and the spirit of falsehood.”

This is discernment.

If you have discernment, you will know whether someone is of the Spirit[a] of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

Whoever is of God will listen to us and God’s council and whoever is of the world will not listen.

I had a person who I was counseling, and they had come to me many times for guidance.

From the first time I met them my discernment told me of what spirit they belonged, and I later received confirmation of this from someone else whose discernment I trust.

But I gave them the word of God even knowing what my discernment told me.

Of course they didn’t listen. It was all a show. It was always a show with this person, never any true commitment to Christ.

They would come for direction, but not follow it. Then they would come again for direction but not follow it.

Years have gone by now, and this person is still the same unchanged person they were. Living their will and never truly committing to Christ.

Exactly what my discernment had warned me of.

Does this mean they can never change? I don’t believe so.

Discernment is not prophecy, although you may receive a prophetic word for a person.

Discernment tells you where the person IS, present tense.

A couple years ago when Kelly and JJ first met, she brought him over to meet Terri and I.

He looked older than he was; he was in trouble at school, getting poor grades, in trouble with the law at the time, on probation, etc… by the way he was also an atheist.

In fact, Terri was warned by some teachers to keep JJ away from Kelly because he was bad news.

Although all of that was going on, that was what we can see.

No one but God can see the heart of man.

We are not supposed to go by sight.

When I first met him, although I didn’t care for his behavior and the trouble he was in, my discernment told me something else about JJ.

Through the Holy Spirit, God revealed to me in the form of a spiritual gift called discernment, that JJ was a good kid.

So although everything else pointed to trouble, I listened to God instead.

Now look, a couple years later and no more trouble with the law, good grades (well, most of them anyways), and not only has he accepted Christ, and been baptized, but he is always talking about God with his friends.

This is the JJ God saw a couple years ago, because God sees our hearts, not our flesh.

This is why we are not to judge one another.

What if I would have listened to what common sense was saying?

Looking at the trouble he was in.

But instead, discernment was my guide.

By the way, Spiritual Gifts are not parlor tricks. We cannot conjure up the Spirit of God at our will. This would be man controlling God’s Spirit.

God gives us gifts when He wants, and fills us when He wants.

A couple of my gifts are Prophecy and Discernment, and people will come to me asking questions sometimes, and I can’t give them answers.

I wish I could, but I can only have what God gives me.

And that only happens when He decides to.

It’s the same for all of the Spiritual Gifts. We cannot control God.

Another example of discernment;

Acts 16:16-18

“Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved." 18She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, "In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!" At that moment the spirit left her.”

Paul knew that she was filled with an evil spirit. He knew the words coming from her mouth were from an evil spirit. So Paul did what any good Christian should do when they are being attacked by an evil spirit, he rebuked that spirit in the name of Christ.

KNOWLEDGE (A Word from God or God laid this on my heart)

The gift of knowledge is the ability to have an in-depth understanding of a spiritual issue or situation.

This gift is used along with the gift of wisdom.


The gift of wisdom is the ability to make decisions based on the spiritual gift of knowledge and give guidance that is in accordance to God’s will.

This gift of wisdom is usually used with the gift of knowledge and would be considered the application of that knowledge.

NOTE: Wisdom CAN be used without knowledge, but knowledge can not be used without wisdom.

God will not give you knowledge of a spiritual issue and situation and not give you the wisdom to deal with that knowledge.

It may be that all you are supposed to do is pray for that situation.

But God will give you the wisdom to make a decision on how to handle the knowledge He gave you.

Sometimes God will just give you wisdom with no knowledge of why.

Sometimes God doesn’t want us to be concerned with details. Sometimes He just wants us to move in a certain direction without knowing or understanding why.

Sometimes if we know too much, we tend to think God needs our help in certain matters, and we tend to get too involved with OUR understanding and try to accomplish God’s tasks.

If God ever needs your help, He’ll ask for it. But don’t hold your breath.

God works through the Holy Spirit in us so that we may be part of His kingdom. But He doesn’t NEED us to accomplish His will on earth.

He just lovingly ALLOWS us to be part of it.

Wisdom used without knowledge could be called “being led by the spirit” or some people say “I was moved by the spirit to …”

The spiritual gift of wisdom gives you the ability to make Godly decisions without knowing all of the details.

The spiritual gift of knowledge allows you to have details of a spiritual issue or situation FOLLOWED by the wisdom to apply a decision to that situation.

Here is an example of knowledge;

Acts 5:3-6

“Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God."

5When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.”

A great fad swept across the land in the first century.

Giving all you have to God’s ministry.

Ananias sold his land to be in the IN crowd, to jump on the bandwagon.

God didn’t ask him to sell his land. But Ananias wanted everyone to see what he was doing.

God didn’t want him to give all of his money, but Ananias wanted everyone to think highly of him for giving so deeply.

But the truth was, Ananias lied and SAID he gave it all.

He could have given all, some or even none! This was his doing. But he lied saying he gave all.

How did Peter know Ananias was lying?

Paul had an in-depth understanding of a spiritual issue here. Ananias was lying to the Holy Spirit.

When Ananias came before a man of God and opened his mouth, the man of God recognized the lies coming out.

Here’s a good example of how God cannot stand a liar.

Lies are from the devil, and when you open your mouth you better understand that you cannot lie to God.

Now you see, Paul had the wisdom to confront Ananias about his lying to the Holy Spirit.

That doesn’t mean every time we receive a word of knowledge it’s to confront someone.

But it shows that God does give us the wisdom after a word of knowledge.

Remember, sometimes God just wants you to pray about situations.

The knowledge was Ananias was lying to the Holy Spirit, the wisdom was Peter was to confront Ananias.

Here is a scripture on wisdom;

James 3:13-15

“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

17But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.”

Spiritual wisdom, the ability to make Godly decisions based either on the spiritual gift of knowledge, or directed by God’s will, is PURE, PEACE-LOVING, CONSIDERATE, SUBMISSIVE, FULL OF MERCY, BEARS GOOD FRUIT (OR RESULTS), IS IMPARTIAL AND SINCERE.

If you act on what you think is the spiritual gift of wisdom in a situation and your wisdom does not fit into God’s description here, then your wisdom is earthly, not from heaven.

Here is an example of wisdom without knowledge;

Acts 13:1-3

“In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 2While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." 3So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.”

Wisdom through the Holy Spirit to “set apart” Barnabas and Saul for the work God had called them for.

But God doesn’t tell them WHY He chose Barnabas and Saul, that would have been knowledge of a spiritual issue or situation.

He simply gave them the wisdom to set those two apart from the others.

Led by the spirit, they obeyed.

Acts 16:7-10

“Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." 10After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”

Paul was led by the Holy Spirit through the gift of wisdom NOT to preach the word in Asia.

He had no knowledge why, just the wisdom to move on.

Then again when they tried to enter Bithynia, the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them. But He gave no knowledge why.

Then, after being led by the Holy Spirit through the gift of wisdom twice, Paul had a vision.

In this vision God gave him knowledge.

In Macedonia they were ready to receive the Gospel!

When he woke, they left immediately.

Discernment, knowledge and wisdom, just three of God’s many Spiritual gifts.