Deception is one of our greatest human hazards: Centuries before the coming
of Christ, the Prophet Isaiah made a declaration about it that is vital to our
day. He said, "The yoke will be destroyed because of the anointing oil"
(Isaiah 10:27). The "yoke" represents sin and all aspects of its bondage; the
"anointing oil" speaks of the Holy Spirit’s power to destroy evil and its
deceptiveness. As students of Scripture we need this understanding. For
special-clarity, I quote both the original King James (1611) and the current-
English version (1979). First: "The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him
(Jesus) ... and shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord,
And he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the
hearing of his ears." Isaiah 11:2,3. The New King James says: "The Spirit of
the Lord shall rest upon Him ... His delight is in the fear of the Lord, And He
shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, nor decide by the hearing of His ears"
Which translation is correct? Is it "Quick understanding in the fear of the
Lord?," or, "His delight is in the fear of the Lord?" Answer: Both are correct.
Not only so, but the combined message of the two translations is very valuable
to us. Here is why: Translators are faced with choices regarding the words
they use. In this case the topic for both is "discernment." In the New
Testament era, the word "discern" was a Greek medical term which meant "to
cut surgically and look below the surface." This perfectly identifies the
spiritual gift in operation (First Corinthians 12:8). Experiencing it, one does
not merely rely on things as they appear but may know them as they actually
are-- the same way a doctor sees something abnormal. Let me illustrate why
the Isaiah-passage I quoted in two different versions is important: In ancient
Israel, sheep herding was a vital part of life. During the day, it was easy for
the shepherd to see a wolf and protect the flock. Nighttime was a different
story; when darkness fell, the shepherd was powerless. Not so with the dog.
Even in the dark, when he could not "judge after the sight of his eyes or
reprove after the hearing of his ears," the dog could smell a wolf. This may
surprise you but some dogs’ sense of smell is 100,000 times greater than a
human’s. It was this "other sense," one not dependent upon daylight, which
Isaiah said would typify the Messiah.
The key to understanding the operation of "discerning of spirits," is
wonderfully revealed by comparing the two versions of Isaiah 11:2,3. These
two editions use very different language in translating the same word "ruach."
Where the Old King James says, "Shall make him of quick understanding in
the fear of the Lord," the New King James says, "His delight is in the fear of
the Lord." "Quick understanding" and "delight" seem contradictory
translations but each is correct. But here is another mystery: If you are
acquainted with the Hebrew language, you recognized that ruach is the same
word translated as "spirit, wind, or breath" (Genesis 1:1). While the word used
by Isaiah is identical in spelling and very similar in other ways, the two do not
have the same meaning.
The problem translators face in working with ancient languages–as
transposing into modern English–is that they sometimes have a wide range of
words from which to choose. The same is true in English or other languages.
Fortunately, the combined messages of the original King James and the
modern version bring a valuable revelation about discerning of spirits. What I
say may seem technical–but if you want to "cut and look below the surface" it
is vital that you stay with me. When translated as "delight" in the New King
James, ruach refers to the inhaled breath; specifically, as "the delight of
smelling flowers." The original King James, instead of referring to the
pleasure of smelling, refers to the result. In both cases the subject is "inhaled"
breath. When the Scripture says, "The Spirit of the Lord shall ... make Him
of quick understanding," that is, "quick to smell," it figuratively means the
Messiah will be able to "smell a wolf in the dark." That is the clearest, most
perfect illustration of the Holy Spirit's gift of discerning of spirits you will
find. It means that those who operate in this amazing endowment are not left
helpless simply because night has fallen. Not so.
It is this fact that concerns me: I meet Christians who are virtually powerless
in the area of spiritual wisdom and judgement. Many have absolutely no
knowledge about the Holy Spirit’s gift of "discerning of spirits" or its
availability to them (I Corinthians 12:10). These people may excel in their
love for God, are eager to serve Him, sincere in their worship, but do not
possess "quick understanding in the fear of the Lord." They remain spiritually
naïve in detecting Satan's devices. The result is tragic. The high divorce rate
among Christians is primary proof of what I say. Deception tears good couples
apart. Families, individuals–even churches –frequently have long histories of
making wrong decisions. This cannot be the will of God. He is not honored
when the world makes fools of His children. A wise man said: "No one is so
enslaved as he who falsely believes he is free." Please! Reread that statement.
This is why the combined translations of the Old and New King James
versions are important to us.
God wants us to succeed and has provided the truth which makes success-
possible. Jesus said, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free"
(John 8:32). Too frequently, truth and freedom are not what believers
experience. Theoretically, what we observe in daylight hours, we recognize
well. When darkness falls, we are helpless as anyone else, easily victimized by
"those who lie in wait to deceive" (Ephesians 4:14). When the thief comes to
"kill, steal, and destroy" we are quickly exploited (John 10:10).
This failure is not the will of God for us. Instead, He has provided adequate
protection against this hazard through the Holy Spirit's gift of "discerning of
spirits" ( I Corinthians 12:10). But this gift does not operate automatically; it
has to be sought, nourished, and lovingly protected. A casual attitude toward it
will produce superficial results; an earnest seeking of it will bring remarkable
discretion and judgement. The choice is ours. While we are told to "seek ...
desire ... pursue" spiritual gifts many believers spend their entire lifetime
knowing nothing about them (I Corinthians 12:31; 14:1, 39). Though Paul
exhorted, "Concerning spiritual gifts brethren, I would not have you
ignorant," there is probably no other subject in which churches are more
illiterate and in the dark ( I Corinthians 12:1 ).
I will never forget the Sunday morning service at Central Baptist Church, near
Chattanooga, Tennessee, when I was doing the "hands-on" ministry and a
woman visitor dropped at my feet in wailing intercession. After she regained
composure, she said in a fearful voice, "You are in danger on your flight this
afternoon." I paid careful attention because I had not told her I planned to fly
home that day. Whether the gift operating in her was a "word of knowledge,"
"prophesy" or "discerning of spirits," I cannot honestly say. I do know in that
moment she was able to "cut and look below the surface." Finally, she told me
to take spiritual authority over the problem when I boarded the aircraft.
That afternoon I carefully obeyed her instruction. But the plane went nowhere.
An engine failed before take-off, the flight was cancelled, and everyone was
put off the plane. When I returned to the church for the evening service an
usher told me, "The lady who warned you about your flight is here. She said
the Lord told her the flight would be cancelled, you would be back for the
service– she brought her husband and wants you to pray for him." The
knowledge this woman had did not come from human ability; she experienced
the Holy Spirit’s miraculous gift of "seeing below the surface" and was able
to give me warning. She had "quick understanding" in the darkness of that
A similar story is told about a group meeting in an old English Armory: A
lady in the congregation interrupted the speaker to warn that they needed to
leave the building. She couldn’t explain but everyone filed out and had gotten
a short distance away when the building exploded. Gunpowder stored in the
building detonated and demolished the structure. Had they remained inside
everyone would have been killed. Did the woman experience a discerning of
spirits or a word of knowledge? I don't know. I only know I want whatever she
had. Nor will I argue with God that such miraculous gifts "passed away." You
shouldn't either–unless you want to blow up.
Besides exposing things that are evil and dangerous, the gift of discerning
spirits also discloses the good and beautiful. Soon after my Baptism-in-the-
Spirit in the late 1970's, I returned to a small congregation in Florida where I
felt isolated and in need of friends. Because of my theological changes, my
former pastor-friends deserted me. One morning I made my first visit to a
pastors' meeting in West Palm Beach and then went alone to a large cafeteria
for lunch. As I sat at the table, trying to fight-off feelings of abandonment, a
young man appeared in the serving line whom I had never seen. In that instant,
the Holy Spirit spoke distinctly: "He is your brother. I want you to meet him."
When I finished my meal, I went to his table, asked if I could join him, and
explained, "The Lord told me you and I are 'brothers'." He gripped my hand,
"Praise God!," he said, "I am glad to meet you! Sit down!" Instantly, we
experienced a fellowship as deep as if we had been friends for years. While
we talked, the Holy Spirit told me to show him a business card in my pocket.
Another pastor had given it to me at the meeting a few hours before.
Removing it, I handed it to him, "Do you know this man?," I asked. He looked
back at me and exclaimed, "Yes!, he is my prayer-partner and brother in the
Lord. Where did you meet him!? How did you get his card?!" Briefly, I
The significance of that event was not about the man at the table, the card, or
the person who gave it. Rather, the Holy Spirit was showing me how His gifts
could bring new friends into my life, bless, protect, and direct me even in the
smallest ways. He was demonstrating that I need never be afraid, feel alone, or
think I was helpless. As with Philip and the Ethiopian meeting in the desert,
(Acts 8:26-39), He could cause men’s paths to cross in crowded cafeterias.
Please hear this: Had that man been in the restaurant been a "wolf" whom I
was planning to trust in some vital way, the Holy Spirit could have cautioned
me. In California one time, while praying for a friend whose office was on
Wall Street in New York City, the Holy Spirit accurately gave me names of
two men in his New York office who were plotting against him. I had never
heard of either of them but my friend confirmed that both were there and he
had worried about their motives. That day the Holy Spirit protected him by
allowing us to "look below the surface." The lakefront house where I have
lived in Florida the past 20 years was a gift to my ministry that came through a
miraculous "word of knowledge;" without that miraculous word I would never
have received the house (1 Corinthians 12:8).
I am not saying that we will function perfectly in any of the gifts; I certainly
do not. At best, we are imperfect vessels. What I am saying is that we can
function much better than we are presently doing. Nor do we seek gifts of our
own choosing. We seek the Giver, then we are free to tell Him the areas in
which we feel our greatest need. It is my understanding that when we receive
the Baptism-in-the-Spirit we receive all the charismatic gifts (I Corinthians
12:4-11). From that time on, all are potentially present in us but not all are
active. Instead, the Holy Spirit distributes "to each one individually as He
wills." Paul is very emphatic in telling us to "desire spiritual gifts," but
"especially to prophesy," and to "come short in no spiritual gift," (I
Corinthians 1:7; 14:7). My point is this: If you are one of those whom the
devil has deceived, made gullible and naïve, you do not have to stay that way!
Perhaps I should ask you another question: Have there been times when you
made imprudent, costly mistakes, because you depended on your eyes and
ears and not your spirit? The answer, of course, is yes. We are all guilty. Were
there other times when you had a deep, deep "sense of warning" which you
ignored? Again, all of us must admit we have. Had you known that God had a
provision to protect you from many of those blunders, would you have
accepted it? Before you answer, let me explain that "discerning of spirits" is
only part of the Holy Spirit's package (Acts 1:4-. I Corinthians 12-14). Other
endowments come with it. All are wonderful, good, precious blessings from
Heaven. Even so, some well-intended, but wrongly motivated Christians scorn
them. Not every church or denomination believes in the "package"–the
Baptism-in-the-Holy Spirit. Many churches have been victimized by
deception, stripped of power, left in a spiritually-dead state--but still
adamantly insist nothing is wrong. Year after year, they continue their
downward spiral. Seemingly, they cannot see the presence of this crippling
deficiency in themselves.
In fighting spiritual gifts, we Christians merely wound ourselves. God wants
us to have them. They are part of Jesus' provision for the Church. In our
denial, we leave ourselves open for more deception by the wolf (Acts 20:2). If
you want spiritual gifts, they are yours for the asking--provided you will love
them, protect them, nourish, and encourage them. That requires submission to
the total New Testament message. It requires time in prayer, fasting,
communion with the Holy Spirit. Pride, ego, self-seeking, carnal ambition,
I was ordained to the ministry in 1949 but came into an incredible "renewal"
of the Spirit in 1977. At that time all the "Gifts of the Spirit" became available
to me in a new and wonderful way. Previously, I understood little about their
importance in my ministry and only rarely experienced them. That
immediately changed. "Discerning of spirits," and casting out demonic spirits
became a routine part of my ministry ( First Corinthians 12: 10). Drug addicts,
alcoholics, the emotionally depressed, etc., experienced complete deliverance.
Significantly, many of these were in exact replication of instances described in
the Bible. People sometimes fell to the floor frothing, growling, fighting, in
the pattern scripture depicted. Ugly? Yes! But people were set free and Jesus
glorified. I can illustrate what I mean by this letter. It is typical of countless
others people have written:
"My Dear Brother Charles, During the Fall Conference in which you and Jack
Taylor preached at our church in Groton, Connecticut, the Spirit of God came
through you so powerfully that I was healed from years of manic depression,
lupus, and emotional scars from a lifetime of abuse by my mother. I grew up
in her constant criticism and verbal attack. The last time I saw her alive,
August, 1997, she wouldn’t even look at me. My father, whom I dearly loved
and needed, died when I was only eleven years old. The morning he died, he
was upset about something, and when I asked for his blessing (we were Puerto
Rican and that tradition was important to me), he snapped at me and told me
never to ask him again. He died later that same day. When you came to our
church I was desperately sick and had attempted suicide many times. In 1993,
after my son’s birth, I developed post-partum depression and it never went
away. In time, my son was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
and was given medication for it. We could not get away from the demons that
haunted us." She continues:
"Brother Charles, this is where you came into my life. On the day you prayed
for me I was about to divorce my husband of twelve years. I did not love him
any longer–or so I thought. That same day he was to speak to the lawyer
about the divorce when I went to the Conference at Pleasant Valley Church. I
had just come out of the psychiatric hospital and when you saw me crying,
you called me to come forward, laid your hands on me, and prayed for the
Holy Spirit to come. And He sure came! I fell to the floor and began coughing
and gagging. You explained that my manic-depression was coming out in that
way. After the coughing ended, the most wonderful, sweet peace came upon
me. Never in my life had I felt such beautiful mercy and grace shower upon
me. I cried out in happiness! I had never known so much love.
"That day, God spoke into my heart to stay in my marriage; He said to put it
all in His hands and He would take care of everything else. My husband re-
dedicated his life to Jesus and now attends church with me. We go to church
as a family! There are no words to express the love I have for my husband.
Our relationship was completely restored. My son is healthy and off all
medications! Glory to God! We are happy! Thank you for allowing God to use
you in such a powerful way. --- Your sister in Christ," L.H., Groton,
Benefit by this wonderful testimony! You too can be delivered! If a wolf
comes to you, your family, your business, your church, under cover of
darkness, you can still know who, what, and where, he is. To achieve that you
must turn loose of your opposition to spiritual gifts. Let God impart
"understanding," making you "quick to smell" when eyes and ears cannot help.
Tell Him you want to be able to "cut and look below the surface." You will be
very glad you did!