Spiritual Gifts: Knowledge and Wisdom
If any of you need wisdom, you should ask God, and it will be given to you. God is generous and won’t correct you for asking. -- James 1:5
What is meant by a “word” of knowledge or wisdom?
Some interpreters hold that this refers to a single word, and identify such single words as “words of knowledge” or “words of wisdom” but the Greek word here “logos” can mean message as well.
The distinction between these gifts and prophecy is not in the number of words or the amount of information, but in the circumstances.
A word of knowledge is a message that provides particular information that is needed by the church body at a particular time. It may provide direction in ministry, or it may provide information on possible traps or danger.
A word of wisdom brings together knowledge that already exists and gives direction in its proper use. Just because we know certain things doesn’t mean we will use them in the best possible way. Especially in committees and groups we can become focused on a course of action, and no matter what problems or alternatives are suggested, people may be set on a particular path. A word of wisdom, spoken properly, can restore clear vision and good sense.
What is the relationship between a word of knowledge and prophecy?
While many Christians treat prophecy as though it was a source of information to satisfy their curiosity about the future, that is not its primary purpose. Prophecy gives a message about God’s will or his intentions. That word can be corrective as in a rebuke or encouraging. It may give information about the present or the future, but the information it gives is intended to direct our actions.
A word or message of knowledge, on the other hand is just that! It gives us information, and we can choose to do what we want with that information.
Some examples of messages of knowledge include:
Sometimes God will speak in unexpected ways. Don’t limit the functioning of this gift by failing to recognize when God is speaking because you are not accustomed to the method.
What is the difference between wisdom and a word of wisdom?
Wisdom is one of the few things that God has promised absolutely if we ask in faith (James 1:5).
A word of wisdom is not different from wisdom in general except that it comes supernaturally at a critical moment. A word of wisdom sometimes makes up for a failure of wisdom, but it also makes up sometimes for things that we could not possibly foresee.
How are words of knowledge and wisdom to be used in the church?
These gifts should be used in the same way as any other gifts. You need to listen to the Holy Spirit and use the gifts to build up the body. This means working with cooperation between leadership and laity.
Discernment should be applied in the same way as with prophecy. We always need to decide whether something is a word from God or comes from a person’s own agenda. When something is from God we need to follow God’s command, or take action based on the information we have. If something is not from God, we need to be aware of it, and sometimes to speak a word of rebuke.
To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit. - 1 Corinthians 12:8
All scripture quotations taken from the Contemporary English Version, Copyright © 1995 American Bible Society.