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May 14, 2011

Spiritual Gifts Series

The Spiritual Gift of

Word of Wisdom

1 Corinthians 12:8

“For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit;”

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The Psalmist tells us that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the LORD (Psalm 111:10).  Fools despise wisdom (Proverbs 1:7), but every believer should seek wisdom from God.  God intends for every believer to come to Him for wisdom (James 1:5):  “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”  God then tied prayer to faith and stated that you will not receive wisdom from God unless you ask in faith, without doubting (James 1:6).  This wisdom which God gives to everyone can be distinguished from the spiritual gift called the Word of Wisdom, because the Holy Spirit distributes the spiritual gifts just as He desires among believers (1 Corinthians 12:7).  Paul speaks of the spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12, and provides a list of some of those gifts.  The way Paul grouped those gifts within the list provides valuable insight into the gifts themselves and their relationships to one another.

       Classes of Spiritual Gifts.  Paul used different Greek words to separate into three groups the spiritual gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10.  He separated the groups with the word “another of a different kind” (ἑτέρῳ“) and distinguished between the gifts of the same group with the word “another of the same kind” (“ἄλλῳ“).

Group One (Verse 8)

     Word of Wisdom (allo)

     Word of Knowledge

Group Two (hetero) (Verses 9-10)

     Faith (allo)

     Healing (allo)

     Miracles (allo)

     Prophecy (allo)

     Distinguishing of Spirits

Group Three (hetero) (Verse 10)

     Tongues (allo)

      Interpretation of Tongues

Word of Wisdom

         Based upon the grouping above, we can see that the Word of Wisdom and the Word of Knowledge must be related to one another as gifts of the same kind.  They stand in contrast to the other gifts.

      Wisdom in 1 Corinthians.  In order to understand the use of the term “wisdom” in 1 Corinthians 12:8 concerning the spiritual gift of “the Word of Wisdom,” we should be careful to review Paul’s use of that term “wisdom” in the rest of the First Epistle to the Corinthians.

      1 Corinthians 1:22, 30.  In 1 Corinthians 1:22, Paul described the Greeks as people who search for wisdom.  While the Greeks searched for wisdom, Paul preached Christ crucified, “the power and wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24).  God chose the Corinthian believers to be in Christ, and Christ had become to them the “wisdom from God.” 

     1 Corinthians 2:1-5.  Paul continued his explanation of his preaching of Christ in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.  He denied that he preached with “persuasive words of wisdom,” but rather his preaching demonstrated the Holy Spirit and His power, so that the Corinthians’ faith would rest not upon the wisdom of men, but upon the power of God.  Compare the cleverness of speech (“σοφίᾳ λόγου“) which Paul disdains in 1 Corinthians 1:17.  We may learn from this passage that God distinguished between the wisdom of men and the power of God.

       Wisdom and The Preaching of Paul.  Paul expressly linked his gospel and also his preaching at Rome with the revelation of the “mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested”.  The eternal God has revealed this secret by His commandment to make it known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith (Romans 16:25-26).  The scriptures of the prophets played an important role in this revelation from God, for the apostles and prophets of the New Testament built upon the work of the prophets of the Old Testament.  The New Testament mysteries furthered and expanded the revelation of the Old Testament prophets with new revelation.  Now at Corinth, Paul spoke to an audience consumed with their own hunt for wisdom.  Paul proclaimed that his message and preaching were not in persuasive “words of wisdom” familiar to the Greeks (1 Corinthians 1:22).  Instead, Paul determined to know nothing among the Corinthians except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.  Paul did not approach them with superiority of speech or of wisdom, but rather in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that their faith would rest on the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).  We can list some of the features of the special wisdom that Paul revealed and preached to the Corinthians as we go through 1 Corinthians 2:6-16. 

       1.  Paul spoke wisdom to the mature (“τελείοις“) (v. 6).

       2.  Paul spoke of wisdom not of this age (v. 6).

       3.  Paul spoke wisdom not of the rulers of this age, who are passing away (v. 6).

       4.   Paul spoke God’s wisdom (v. 7).

       5.  Paul spoke of wisdom in a mystery (v. 7).

       6.  Paul spoke of hidden wisdom. (v. 7).

     7.  Paul spoke of the wisdom which God predestined to be hidden in the past, but revealed now through the preaching of Paul to the Corinthians for our glory (v. 8).

       8.  Paul spoke of wisdom which none of the rulers of this age had understood (v. 8).

       9.  Paul spoke of wisdom that would have prevented the rulers of this world from crucifying Jesus (v. 8).

      10.  Paul spoke of wisdom which eye had not seen before (v. 9).

      11.  Paul spoke of wisdom which ear had not heard before (v. 9).

      12.  Paul spoke of wisdom which had not entered the heart of man (v. 9).

       13.  Paul spoke of wisdom that involved all that God prepared for man (v. 9).

       14.  Paul spoke of wisdom that only God revealed to us through the Holy Spirit (v. 10).

      15.  Paul spoke of wisdom which only the Holy Spirit knows, because He searches the depths of God (v. 10-11).

      16.  Paul spoke of wisdom not taught by the spirit of the world (v. 12).

      17.  Paul spoke of wisdom to people who have received the Spirit who is from God (v. 12).

      18.  Paul spoke of wisdom, one of the things freely given to us by God (v. 12).

      19.  Paul spoke of wisdom not taught in words of human wisdom (v. 13).

      20.  Paul spoke of wisdom taught by the Spirit (v. 13).

      21.  Paul spoke of wisdom combining spiritual with spiritual (v. 13).

      22.  Paul spoke of wisdom which natural men do not accept (v. 14).

      23.  Paul spoke of wisdom which natural men considered foolishness (v. 14).

      24.  Paul spoke of wisdom which natural men cannot understand (v. 14).

      25.  Paul spoke of wisdom which is only spiritually appraised (v. 15)

      26.  Paul spoke of wisdom to believers because they all have the mind of Christ (v.16).

          We can see from this list of characteristics of the wisdom underlying Paul’s preaching that it defines “wisdom” in a special way.  We can see that Paul’s doctrine concerning the wisdom of God has many important and distinctive features.  All of those features characterize the Word of Wisdom as a spiritual gift.

         The Content of the Word of Wisdom.  Please keep in mind that in the New Testament, a mystery always means some truth not well developed in the Old Testament, but now preached by the apostles and prophets of the New Testament (Ephesians 3:5).  Paul emphasized that only believers, that is, spiritual people born again by faith in Christ Jesus, can accept the things of the Spirit, because they are spiritually appraised.  Unbelievers simply treat all things taught by the Spirit as foolishness, and they are incapable of receiving the things taught by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 1:14-16).  Jesus also drew a distinction between the disciples and the crowds: the disciples had been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but the crowds were only taught in parables (Mark 4:11-12; Luke 8:10).  So far, we should understand that the Holy Spirit reveals mysteries to spiritually mature believers through the preaching of the apostles and prophets in the New Testament.  One of those mysteries relates directly to the wisdom of God, underlying the preaching of Paul at Corinth.  Notice that the Word of Wisdom concerns divine revelation of something new and previously hidden.  It also involves communicating now that new wisdom hidden from prior generations.  Indeed, Paul emphasized that Paul, Apollos and Cephas should be regarded as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of the God (1 Corinthians 4:1).  The New Testament reveals several mysteries through the preaching and teaching of the prophets and apostles.

       Peter’s Vision of Animals.  In Acts 11:5, Peter also received the vision that all of the animals were clean to eat.  He interpreted this vision to mean the Gentiles were welcome in the kingdom of God.  This constituted a significant change in the practice of the early church, and signaled a time of spiritual regeneration for Gentiles, while the Jews were provoked to jealousy (Romans 11:11).  No longer would the Jewish believers in Christ consider the Gentile believers unclean, but rather fellow members of one people of God in Christ.

       Paul Wrote by Wisdom.   Peter linked wisdom to the writings of Paul.  Peter wrote: “. . . just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.”  Peter understood that Paul’s letters were Scriptures, on a plane with the Old Testament and the other books of the New Testament.  Furthermore, Paul wrote according to the wisdom given to him.  This wisdom represented a revelatory gift of direct communication from God.  Notice that the “these things” which Peter mentioned, and which Paul wrote about, concern salvation and future events (2 Peter 3:11-16).  We see here that the Word of Wisdom involved receiving a revelation from God of something previously hidden, but now revealed for our glory.  God unveils mysteries by the Word of Wisdom.  It always involves new revelation from God, on the same plane as the Old Testament Scripture.  So, we may see that God used the Spiritual Gift of the Word of Wisdom to communicate the mysteries of the New Testament through the Apostles and Prophets to the early church, to our glory (even the Old Testament prophets eagerly sought to understand what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow–1 Peter 1:10-11; those prophets served us, the church age believers, and even angels longed to look into these things–1 Peter 1:12).  Now let us look briefly at some of the mysteries communicated by the Word of Wisdom.

        The Mystery of the Partial Hardening of Jewish Hearts.  To the Romans,  Paul explained the mystery of the partial hardening of the hearts of the Jews.  The Jews had crucified the Lord of Glory, and had rejected the Messiah and His Kingdom.  Paul then places their partial hardening of heart into the larger plan of God.  Paul develops the relationship of the Gentiles to Israel and explained that God communicated wisdom to dispel ignorance of God’s plans concerning Israel and their partial hardening of heart (Romans 11:25).  Over three chapters, Romans 9:1 through Romans 11:36, Paul expounded this mystery and explained that through the partial hardening of Israel, the time of the Gentiles, and their salvation, has come in (Romans 11:25).  Paul expounded upon God’s plan for the period starting with Israel’s rejection of the Messiah and His crucifixion, and ending with His return in the clouds (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).  The world then will fall under the severe judgments of God for seven years, and experience tribulation (Matthew 24:1-51; Revelation 5:1-19:21).  Then Israel will look upon Christ whom they pierced (Zechariah 12:10), and will as a nation turn to Christ and experience the blessings of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:27-34), with Christ ruling the earth in His millennial kingdom (Revelation 20:1-3).  Notice particularly Romans 11:33, where Paul links up this revelation to the wisdom and knowledge of God.  Remember, both of those spiritual gifts are of the same type in the chart above.  They are both gifts of revelation from God. 

       The Mystery of the Resurrection.   To the Corinthians, in chapter 15, Paul  explained the mystery of the resurrection of all believers (1 Corinthians 15:1-58).  By means of the Word of Wisdom, Paul received this new and broader revelation of resurrection, mentioned in the Old Testament, but not fully developed until God revealed it to Paul, and the Apostles and Prophets of the New Testament preached it to the church.

      The Mystery of God’s Will.  To the Ephesians, Paul declared that in all wisdom and insight (“φρονήσει“) God made known to us the mystery of His will, so that we would understand the “administration suitable to the fullness of times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth” (Ephesians 1:8-10).  This sweeping revelation allows us not only to know about the redemption we have in Christ, but also the outworking of the plan of God for the Church and His people.

       The Mystery of the Gentiles.  Also to the Ephesians, Paul described the mystery that the Gentiles are follow heirs and fellow members of the body of Christ, and fellow partakers of the promise of Christ Jesus through the gospel (Ephesians 3:3-6).  We see that God now reveals the participation and role of the Gentiles in the program of God.  To make that revelation, God used the spiritual gift of the Word of Wisdom with Paul, and worked through the vision to Peter at Joppa concerning unclean animals (Acts 10:9 through Acts 10:48), which may be an example of one way God communicates the Word of Wisdom through a vision.  Please keep in mind that Paul told the Galatians that he received the Gospel by direct revelation from God (Galatians 1:12).  Through Paul, God brought “to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 3:9-10).

       The Mystery of Christ and the Church.  Also to the Ephesians, Paul wrote about the great mystery of Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32).  This mystery concerns the way that Christ is the head of the church, and lives as the Savior of the body of Christ, in the same way that a woman submits to her husband (Ephesians 5:22-23).  In that way, the church should be submissive to Christ (Ephesians 5:24).  Furthermore, Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify the church, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word (Ephesians 5:25-27).  Christ intends to present the church to Himself in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she would be holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:27).  Christ loves the church (His body), and nourishes and cherishes her, because believers in the church are members of His body (Ephesians 5:28-30).

       The Mystery of the Gospel.  Finally to the Ephesians, Paul revealed the mystery of the Gospel and requested prayer for His preaching of it (Ephesians 6:19).  As Paul taught, the Gospel consisted of the glad tidings of Christ dying for sinners, and being raised from the dead by the power of God.  For everyone who believes in Christ and receives forgiveness from Him, it is the power of God for salvation, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Romans 1:16-17).

       The Mystery of Christ in the Gentiles.  To the Colossians, Paul preached the mystery of Christ in the Gentiles, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).  Paul told them that God willed to make known to his saints the riches of His glory, that Christ would be in them.  This knowledge had been hidden from the past ages and generations, but now has been manifested to His saints (Colossians 1:25-27).

       The Mystery of Christ Himself.  Also to the Colossians, Paul unveiled the mystery related to the full assurance of understanding God’s message, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ Himself (Colossians 2:1-2).  In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3).  So we see again this pattern of the mystery of God being linked directly to the wisdom and knowledge of God, just as the Spiritual Gifts of Wisdom and Knowledge are linked as spiritual gifts of the same kind in 1 Corinthians 12:8).  Paul considers Himself imprisoned for the speaking forth the mystery of Christ (Colossians 4:3).

       The Mystery of Lawlessness.  To the Thessalonians, Paul warned of the mystery of lawlessness (2 Thessalonians 2:7).  This mystery concerned the future and the apostasy preceding the Day of the Lord.  Before the Day of the Lord, the man of lawlessness must be revealed.  He will oppose and exalt himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4).  This mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but is restrained in the present.  In the future, when this restrainer will be taken out of the way, he will be revealed.  Finally, the Lord will slay him with the breath of His mouth and bring an end by the appearance of His coming (2 Thessalonians 2:8).

       The Mystery of Faith.  To Timothy, Paul wrote about the mystery of faith (1 Timothy 3:9).  Deacons must be men of dignity, holding to the mystery of the faith (1 Timothy 3:8-9).  The Bible describes faith as the “assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).  By faith we not only receive Christ, but the righteous shall live by faith (Romans 1:17; Galatians 2:20).

       The Mystery of Godliness.  To Timothy, Paul also spoke of the mystery of Godliness in the life, death, resurrection and glorification of Christ Jesus, and the spread of faith in Christ among the nations.  Paul declared: “He who was revealed in the flesh, was vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory” (1 Timothy 3:16).  Paul proclaimed this mystery as a matter of common confession (1 Timothy 3:16).

       The Mystery of the Seven Stars.  In Revelation, Jesus revealed to John that the seven stars John saw were in fact seven churches (Revelation 1:20).  Jesus again reveals Himself, and explains the destiny of the seven churches of Asia Minor.

      The Mystery of the Finish.  Also in Revelation, God revealed the finish of the mystery of God, as He preached to His servants the prophets (Revelation 10:7).  We see that some mysteries pertain to events today, and some mysteries pertain to events still future.  In all cases, the mystery focuses upon knowledge revealed today, for our glory and understanding. 

       The Mystery of Babylon the Great.  Also in Revelation, God revealed the mystery of “Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and of the abominations of the earth” (Revelation 17:5).  God devoted two chapters to the destruction of Babylon, and discloses the mystery of her identity and destruction (Revelation 17-18).  He speaks of the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns (Revelation 17:7). This judgment upon Babylon, and the related mystery of the woman and the beast,  remains yet future, but God wants us to know about it now.

       With all these mysteries, we see how God uses the apostles and prophets to disclose truths to us we would not have known otherwise, for they are from the depths of God.  Particularly with the mysteries outside of the Book of Revelation, the Word of Wisdom constituted God’s chosen gift for revealing mysteries to the Church and recorded His revelation through the Spiritual Gift of the Word of Wisdom in the New Testament.

        So we learn more about the Spiritual Gift of the Word of Wisdom.

      ●  The Word of Wisdom concerns the revelation of something not well developed in the Old Testament, but now is proclaimed by the apostles and prophets of the New Testament.

       ●  The preaching of Paul rested upon the Word of Wisdom, and the Spiritual Gift of the Word of Wisdom was bestowed upon the apostles and prophets to disclose the mysteries of God.   The gift of the Word of Wisdom always contained a revelation from God, and the content of the Word of Wisdom was equal to the authority of the Old Testament.

       ●  The Word of Wisdom allows us to know about Christ, and Him crucified.  Jesus forms the very center of God’s revelation in the Word of Wisdom, and allows us to see Jesus triumph over sin and evil in all its forms.  God predestined this revelation through the Spiritual Gift of the Word of Wisdom to our glory. 

Application for Today

        Jesus revealed Himself for our glory and salvation.  He meant for us to know Him, and to be a part of His church family forever.  Through the Spiritual Gift of the Word of Wisdom, the apostles and prophets explained the mysteries of God for our benefit and glory.  Jesus wants our life to rest upon His revelation, and for us to know about Him through the gifts provided by the Holy Spirit.  As you read His Bible today, will you be praising God for the Word of Wisdom that provided it to you?