I found Gordon Fee’s reading of Paul’s reference to the gift of the “discerning of spirits” in 1 Corinthians 12:10 to be a bit surprising. In God’s Empowering Presence [1] he argues that we have been reading this phrase through the lens of 1 Jn 4.1 when we ought to read it through 1 Thes 5.20-21:

1 Jn 4.1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world (ESV).

1 Thes 5.20-21 Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good (ESV).

He gives legitimate reasons for this argument:

(1) Both 1 Thes. 5.20-21 and 1 Cor. 14.29 are references to prophecy in the church that need to be tested/discerned.

(2) Paul has been using Spirit/spirit language throughout 1 Cor, which means, essentially, that there are some places where Paul is referring to the interface between the Divine Spirit and human spirit (e.g. 1 Cor. 5.3-4).

(3) We may add both are Pauline.

For Fee the discerning of the S/spirits is the gift of the ability to determine whether or not a particular prophecy given in a gathering came from the Holy Spirit or from the person’s human spirit. For the author of 1 Jn the difference is between the Holy Spirit and evil spirits.

Do you agree with Fee’s assessment?

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[1] 171-172.