Sexagesima Sunday Morning Service (20 February 2022) Acts 6
Last week, we meditated about Stephen the martyr. We also meditated about the verse in John 12:24 which reads, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit”. Saul was a pharisee who was involved in persecuting the early Christians. Saul was present when Stephen was stoned to death. He guarded the witnesses’ garments. When the LORD God met Saul, the Pharisee Saul transformed to become the Apostle Paul. Stephen died as a corn of wheat and brought much fruit when Paul established the kingdom of God among the gentiles. He established many Christian churches. Jesus sent two disciples together to every town before he went. Following Jesus’ teachings, most of Paul’s ministry was with other apostles.
In our reading passage today, we read about Paul and Barnabas’ ministry. When Paul and Barnabas ministered together, the gospel was preached and the LORD’s name was glorified. But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts. They shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium. When Paul and Barnabas ministered in Iconium, the city was divided. One part of the people followed the apostles and another part followed the Jews. When Paul was preaching the gospel at Lystra, a lame man was listening to him. Paul also stedfastly looked at him and perceived that he had faith to be healed. Paul said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And the lame man leaped and walked.
Here, we read that Paul recognised the lame man had faith to be healed. Paul had the gift of discernment of spirit. Identifying or distinguishing the work of Holy Spirit or human or evil spirit by the grace and help of LORD Jesus is the gift of discernment of spirits. I would like to meditate on this very important quality of Paul based on our New Testament Reading, the Acts of Apostles, chapter 14, verses 8-10: “there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother's womb, who never had walked: The same heard Paul speak: who stedfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed, Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked”. There are at least two other instances where Jesus and Paul discern spirits.
- In Acts 16:16–18 we read about Paul using this gift of discernment. When Paul was ministering in Thyatira, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination cried and said, “These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation”. She did this for many days, which grieved Paul because he knew that the testimony was not from the LORD God. Acts 16:18 says, “Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour”.
- In Mark 1, we read about a man with unclean spirit in the synagogue. When Jesus went to the synagogue, the unclean spirit shouted and said, “Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God” (Mark 1:24). The spirit in the man knew Jesus is the King of kings and LORD of Lords. The spirit knew and proclaimed Jesus came as Messiah to save humans from eternal death. Jesus did not accept the praise from the unclean spirit. He did not allow him to speak but condemned the unclean sprit and asked to go out of him.
We can read about the gift of discernment in the Old Testament also. When the LORD God was pleased with King Solomon’s offering, He wanted to bless Solomon. The LORD God asked him what he wanted. In 1 Kings 3:9 Solomon said, “Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?” The Lord was pleased with Solomon asking for the discernment spirit to distinguish between good and bad. The Lord blessed Solomon with earthly blessings also that he didn’t ask.
Jesus explained the importance of discernment through the parable of sower and seeds. A sower went forth to sow. A few seeds fell on the way side, some fell upon the stones, some fell among thorns and some fell on good ground. Only the seed that fell on good ground brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. The sower refers to those who spread the gospel. They need to sow the Word on good ground to get the yield in thirtyfold, sixtyfold and hundredfold. Particularly in these last days, they must discern where to sow the gospel to reach the unreached and get a good yield.
This gift of discerning spirits is very important in every Christian’s life. Adam and Eve listened to the serpent, the fallen angel, because they did not have the gift of discernment. There are many theologies or teachings in the Christian world. We are struggling to differentiate the wolf in sheep’s clothing. We know that the false preaching and false prophets are becoming more popular every day. We need the gift of discernment of spirit to keep us away from false teaching and false preachers.
We have heard about the many miracles that Jesus performed when He ministered in this world. In Matthew 10:1, we read that Jesus gave his twelve disciples “power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease”. Jesus promised in John 14:12, “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father”. Paul believed in Jesus, and because He followed Jesus and His commandments, he received the power to perform miracles. He was anointed with the Holy Spirit to do mighty works for Jesus. He bore difficulties and endured until the end. Have we received the Holy Spirit’s anointing to discern spirits? The Jews who did not accept Jesus were the barriers preventing the people from following Jesus and his teaching. They confused the early churches with their doctrines. Are we a barrier preventing others from finding Jesus? Are we propagating teachings that are comfortable to us? When Solomon asked for discernment, He received other blessings also. When we received the gift of discernment, we will receive other blessings also. Are we sowing the word of God in right place? Are we able to discern where we should sow to receive a good yield? Can we differentiate between truth from the Word of God and false teaching that is pleasing to hear?
Gift of discernment of spirits is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In his first epistle to Corinthians, chapter 12, Paul tells about the gifts of spirit and its importance and encourages us to covet earnestly the best gifts. Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you”. When we ask, when our prayer knocks the doors of heaven, the LORD Jesus will pour His blessings upon us. He will fill us with the anointing of the Holy Spirit and give us authority to use the gifts of spirit to establish the kingdom of heaven in this world. Let us grow in spirit and use the gifts of spirit to bring many people to the kingdom of God. Amen!