Spiritual Gifts Series
Spiritual Gifts: The Gift of the
Word of Knowledge
Category of Gift: Special Revelation
“For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit;”
1 Corinthians 12:8
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1.1. Introduction. We know that the Spiritual Gift of the Word of Wisdom is the same kind of gift as the Word of Knowledge because of the grouping of the gifts in the list provided in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 (for that grouping, see Spiritual Gifts │ The Word of Wisdom). The Word of Knowledge concerns the application of revelation so that we know God better, and particularly how to apply revelation to accomplish the will of God by edifying the church. Before we go too far, be sure to understand that the Holy Spirit helps every believer understand the teachings of Christ. Every believer has an anointing from God (1 John 2:27). This general anointing to understand and apply Scripture differs from the the Spiritual Gift of the Word of Knowledge. The Word of Knowledge gives new revelation from God about how to apply previous revelation from God, resulting in new, completely perfect and entirely authoritative and verbally inspired revelation from God. So, let us begin this study by reviewing key concepts concerning wisdom, knowledge and revelation in First Corinthians.
Wisdom and Revelation
2.1 Revelation and Coming To Know God. Paul told the Corinthians that “. . . the world through its wisdom did not come to know (“ἔγνω”) God . . . ” (1 Corinthians 1:21). In this verse, Paul shows that the world did not come to know God through worldly wisdom. We need to pause for a moment and consider the link Paul draws between wisdom and knowing God. Paul implies that while the wisdom of the world will not help you know God, the opposite is also true: the wisdom from God will help you know God.
2.1.1 Godly Wisdom. Therefore, we may discern a principle: the right kind of wisdom will help us know God and the things freely given to us by God (1 Corinthians 2:12). Paul’s chief concern for the Corinthians was that they would know Christ, and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). In 1 Corinthians 1:21, Paul tells us indirectly that the wisdom of God helps us know God, and by implication, His will. The Corinthians’ worldly wisdom was useless because it could never lead a person to know God (1 Corinthians 2:8; 1 Corinthians 3:20).
2.1.2 Wisdom and The Mysteries of God. In contrast, the wisdom of God contained new revelations of God, called mysteries (see Spiritual Gifts │ The Word of Wisdom), which allowed the Corinthians to know God and the things freely given to them by God (1 Corinthians 2:6-16). Furthermore, the wisdom from God helps the people called of God to know Christ and Him crucified. In turn, Christ becomes the power of God and wisdom of God to believers (1 Corinthians 1:24; Colossians 2:2-3). Christ crucified becomes a stumbling block to unbelieving Jews and foolishness to unbelieving Gentiles (1 Corinthians 1:23-25). Therefore, the proper application of the wisdom of God transforms the called of God so that they know God. The believers particularly come to know God’s power and wisdom in the person of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. In other words, through the preaching of Paul to the Corinthians, God applies the mystery of Christ crucified and it changes the people called by God (1 Corinthians 1:23). Paul highlights the primary change as knowing Christ as the power of God and the wisdom of God. In a nutshell, we have a nice exegetical explanation of the Word of Knowledge right there in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, and particularly 1 Corinthians 1:21-25. We should keep in mind that the Spiritual Gift of the Word of Knowledge is a revelatory gift, and related directly to the Word of Wisdom because of the grouping of gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10). Therefore, we know that the application of the wisdom of God also concerns revelation.
Word of Knowledge Distinguished
from Word of Wisdom
3.1 A Closer Look at 1 Corinthians 12:8. In 1 Corinthians 12:8, God distinguishes the Word of Wisdom from the Word of Knowledge. Because the Bible has been verbally and plenarily inspired by God, every word in every verse makes a difference.
3.1.1 Through the Holy Spirit. In this case, the Word of Wisdom is given “through” (“διὰ”) the Holy Spirit. As we have seen, the Word of Wisdom was a gift of the revelation of the mysteries of God. A mystery was something hidden in the Old Testament, but now preached and taught by the apostles and prophets (Romans 16:25-27; Ephesians 3:1-13). In this sense, the Holy Spirit revealed mysteries through the Spiritual Gift of the Word of Wisdom to certain believers, particularly prophets and apostles. The Word of Wisdom focuses upon a new communication from God. It is the message itself that God delivers concerning the mystery being revealed now. So we see that the Word of Wisdom is given “through” the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit gives the communication of the mystery to the apostle or prophet. Think of the Word of Wisdom as the message inside the envelope. Once you open the envelope and read the message contained in the envelope sealed up for centuries, you now need to know what to do with that message.
3.1.2 According to the Holy Spirit. The proper use of the message revealed by God is provided by the Word of Knowledge. The Holy Spirit directs the believer to use the wisdom from God to know God and His will. In this sense, the Word of Knowledge is given according to (“κατὰ”) the Holy Spirit, because He directs the use of the prior revelation given through the Word of Wisdom. The Word of Knowledge depends upon the Word of Wisdom being given first. We open the envelope, read the message provided through the Holy Spirit, and then apply the new message to know God and His will, with particular focus upon Christ and Him crucified. This application of the message in the envelope is the Word of Knowledge.
3.1.3 Two-Step Process of Revelation. Think of the Word of Wisdom and the Word of Knowledge as related to one another in a two-step process of revelation.
220.127.116.11 Step One. The Holy Spirit reveals a mystery to the person with the Spiritual Gift of the Word of Wisdom.
18.104.22.168.1 The Envelope and the Letter. Think of an envelope being opened now after being sealed for centuries, and the letter inside being read for the first time (“the mystery”). The letter itself has been sent to the person with the Spiritual Gift of the Word of Wisdom. The letter said: “You should not call any man unholy or unclean.” Signed: God.
22.214.171.124 Step Two. The Holy Spirit uses the wisdom of God to help us know God and His will. Specifically, the Holy Spirit first delivers the revelation of the mystery (Word of Wisdom) and then the Holy Spirit uses that revelation to help believers know God and His Will (Word of Knowledge). Therefore, we may say that the Word of Knowledge enables the use of the Word of Wisdom.
126.96.36.199.1 Authoritative Application of the Letter. In Step One, the Holy Spirit communicated His revelation of the mystery “through” (“διὰ”) the letter in the envelope (now opened and read)–think Word of Wisdom. Now in Step Two, the Holy Spirit directs the church to act according to (“κατὰ”) the message provided by the letter (Word of Knowledge). The Holy Spirit first revealed to you the mystery so that you have a new message (given “through” the Holy Spirit–Word of Wisdom) and then the Holy Spirit acted according to that revelation ( given “according” to the Holy Spirit–the Word of Knowledge) so that the church would be free to evangelize Gentiles and receive Gentile believers into fellowship (edification of the church).
The Word of Knowledge in Action
4.1 Peter and the Pigs in a Blanket. As one example of the Word of Knowledge in action, consider the revelation given to Peter at Joppa. Peter had an experience with these gifts in Acts 10. He went up on a housetop in Joppa, and began to pray (Acts 10:1-16). As he prayed, God showed Peter a great sheet lowered from heaven, with all kinds of four-footed animals and creatures of the earth and birds of the air (Acts 10:11-12). God told Peter to kill and eat, but Peter responded that he had never eaten unclean animals like them. God repeated this event three times, and told Peter three times “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” Peter had never eaten pigs nor other unclean animals because of the Old Testament law restricting diet (Acts 10:13-16; Leviticus 11:1-47). Let me try to illustrate this passage with a letter in an envelope, or an attachment to an email. First, think of the envelope as having a particular address, such as the believers listening to Peter explain that God revealed to to him that “You should not call any man unholy or unclean.” Having read the letter from God (“You should not call any man unholy or unclean”), Peter then had to apply that knowledge to the church (the address of the recipient on the envelope). Perhaps a better example would be an email. Peter received an email from God that said: “You should not call any man unholy or unclean.” This original email was a mystery, a revelation of something not revealed to previous generations as it was now revealed to Peter. Peter saved that mystery as an attachment (the Word of Wisdom). Now, Peter forwards that attachment to an email to various people living in different locations, with various email addresses. He uses the new email (the Word of Knowledge) to explain and apply the mystery (attached to the new email). In his new email (the Word of Knowledge), Peter provided God-inspired guidance on how to apply the mystery (the Word of Wisdom) in the church. The mysteries brought radical changes to the believers in the churches. They needed both the letter and the envelope, or in other words, both the original attachment and the new email. You now know God’s will, and you must act. So, you take your letter from God and start showing it to various assemblies and let them know that they should not call any man unholy or unclean. We will walk through Peter’s experience briefly below to illustrate the substance and procedure of a mystery first revealed, and then applied to the church.
4.1.1 Gentiles Admitted to Full Fellowship. At Joppa on the rooftop, Peter experienced the use of the Word of Wisdom followed by the use of the Word of Knowledge.
188.8.131.52 Mystery Revealed: God Has Cleansed. God had revealed a mystery to Peter through the Word of Wisdom. What mystery was revealed? Mystery revealed: “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” Now for step two.
184.108.40.206 Application of Mystery: Gentiles in Christ. Peter has already received his knowledge of the mystery through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Peter moves on to Caesarea, under the leading of the Holy Spirit, and tells many people assembled there: “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean” (Acts 10:28). In step two here, the Holy Spirit works according to the prior revelation of the mystery concerning God’s cleansing of the Gentiles. That revelatory wisdom must be used to know God’s will for the Gentiles, and applied to the churches’ programs of evangelism, discipleship and fellowship. The Gentiles were welcomed by God into the church–Word of Knowledge.
The Relationship of Prophecy, Mysteries, and Knowledge
5.1 Prophecy, Mysteries and Knowledge. In 1 Corinthians 13:2, Paul expounds upon the vitality of love. Without love, we are nothing and have nothing. He links prophecy with knowing all mysteries and all knowledge. As we have seen, the Word of Wisdom concerns the mysteries, and the Word of Knowledge concerns the application of the revelation provided through the Word of Wisdom. This verse confirms our understanding of the relationship between the revelatory gifts of the Word of Wisdom and the Word of Knowledge. It also opens the door to our understanding the spiritual gift of prophecy, but that is for another day.
5.2 Other Uses of the Word of Knowledge. The New Testament also contains examples of the Word of Knowledge used without the Word of Wisdom. In some instances, the Word of Knowledge was used with previous revelations provided through: (a) Old Testament prophets; and (b) New Testament apostles.
5.2.1 The New Testament Application of Previous Revelations. The Word of Knowledge generally concerns the application of previous revelation to a specific situation. The new application amounts to new revelation also. Consider a few examples. We will consider the New Testament authoritative application of: (a) Old Testament revelations; and (b) New Testament revelations.
220.127.116.11 The New Testament Application of Old Testament Revelations. The Old Testament prophets had provided revelations concerning the Lord (2 Peter 3:2). Peter specifically applied those Old Testament prophecies (revelations in themselves).
18.104.22.168.1 Mockers Will Come. In 2 Peter 3:1-9, Peter illustrates the divine application (Word of Knowledge) of Old Testament prophecies to the present problem of mockers disparaging God’s plans and disturbing God’s people. In 2 Peter 3:7, Peter explained that the holy prophets of the Old Testament and apostles of the New Testament had spoken about the mockers that would come. The result of Peter’s application of Old Testament prophecies amounted to new revelation (Word of Knowledge) for confronting mockers.
22.214.171.124.2 Avoid the Idolatry of Israel. Likewise, in 1 Corinthians 10:6-11, Paul authoritatively applied the example of Israel’s past actions to the Corinthians so that they would avoid idolatry and immorality.
126.96.36.199.3 The Veil of Moses. In a similar way, Paul also used the Old Testament picture of the veil of Moses obscuring his fading glory from the mountain top experience with Yahweh. Paul applied that Old Testament event to the veil that lies over the face of the Jews when they read the old covenant (2 Corinthians 3:12-18). He expanded upon that application by showing that the Spirit of the Lord provides liberty and lifts the veil, and the Jewish believers are transformed into the same image, from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).
5.2.2 The New Testament Application of Apostolic Prophecies. In this same sense, Jude also demonstrated the Word of Knowledge without reference to the Word of Wisdom. Jude, like Peter, applied the teachings of the New Testament apostles.
188.8.131.52 The Apostles Prophesied about Mockers. Jude applied the prophecies of the New Testament apostles to overcome the present attack upon the church by mockers (Jude 1:17-18). His divine application of previous revelation (prophecies of the apostles) pictures the Word of Knowledge in action. Jude declared that the New Testament apostles prophesied that “in the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.”
184.108.40.206 The Application of the Apostle’s Prophecies. Jude applied the prophecy of the apostles in several ways.
220.127.116.11.1 The Mockers Exposed. Jude first exposed the mockers as causing divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit (Jude 18). Jude authoritatively applied the revelation previously given to the apostles to the trouble-makers in the local assemblies.
18.104.22.168.2 The Believers Encouraged. Jude then encouraged the believers to be building themselves up in their most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, and to keep themselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. He further encouraged the believers with instructions about helping the weak.
Love, Knowledge and “The Perfect”
6.1 The Tapestry of Love. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul develops the theme of love, but intertwines the spiritual gifts into his tapestry of love. We have seen above the link between prophecy, mysteries and knowledge (1 Corinthians 13:2), and Paul also refines our understanding of knowledge, prophesy and “the perfect.”
6.2 The Temporal Nature of Some Spiritual Gifts. Paul tells us that while love never fails, prophecy will be done away (“καταργηθήσονται”); tongues will cease (“παύσονται”); and knowledge will be done away (“καταργηθήσονται”) (1 Corinthians 13:8).
6.3 The Partial Done Away. Paul then declares that “we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away (“καταργηθήσεται”)” (1 Corinthians 13:9-10). He illustrates this teaching with the analogy of growing up. The adult, analogous to “the perfect,” has done away (“κατήργηκα”) with what the child used to speak (“ἐλάλουν”), used to think (“ἐφρόνουν”), and used to reason (“ἐλογιζόμην”) (1 Corinthians 13:11). The New Testament, combined with the Old Testament, perfectly equips the man of God for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). As believers, we may all rest assured that every authoritative application of every revelation from God has been preserved for us in the New Testament, and we may know God, and the things freely given to us by the Holy Spirit.
Key Attributes of The Spiritual Gift of
The Word of Knowledge
7.1 Application of Previous Revelation. So we learn more about the Spiritual Gift of the Word of Knowledge. The Word of Knowledge concerns the authoritative application of the revelation provided by previous revelation, including, without limitation, the Word of Wisdom, for the edification of the church. The Word of Knowledge produces new, inspired revelation from God, built upon the previous inspired revelation from God.
7.2 The Word of Wisdom and the Word of Knowledge. The preaching of Paul rested upon the Word of Wisdom and the Word of Knowledge. By the wisdom of God, we know God, His plans, and His great love for us. By the Word of Knowledge, we know how to use the revelations of God.
Hallmarks of the Spiritual Gift of
The Word of Knowledge
Please review this entire chapter to understand The Spiritual Gift of the Word of Knowledge. Because this spiritual gift involved revelation from God and produced the New Testament, the Holy Spirit has concluded His revelation of the New Testament and therefore this spiritual gift apparently ended with the completion of the New Testament. When operative, The Spiritual Gift of Word of Knowledge had the following hallmarks.
♦ Word-of-Knowledge gifted believers received direct revelation from God.
♦ Word-of-Knowledge gifted believers rendered authoritative applications of previous revelation from God.
♦ Word-of-Knowledge gifted believers bless believers by explaining what to do with the mysteries of God now revealed by The Spiritual Gift of the Word of Wisdom.
♦ Word-of-Knowledge gifted believers bless believers by explaining how previous revelations of God now apply to specific situations.
The Spiritual Gift of the Word of Knowledge works according to The Spiritual Gift of the Word of Wisdom. Those two spiritual gifts work in tandem. Even so, the scope of The Spiritual Gift of the Word of Knowledge also includes the authoritative application of previous revelation provided through The Spiritual Gift of The Prophets. It appears that The Spiritual Gift of the Word of Knowledge and The Spiritual Gift of the Word of Wisdom passed away with the closure of the New Testament, but I keep an open mind about its use today, provided we test every use against the Scriptures.