The Word of Wisdom and the Word of Knowledge

wisdomLast week we saw the gifts of helps, service, and mercy. Remember that spiritual gifts are supernatural abilities given by God to each believer to be used in the service of the body of Christ – the church. The gifts we’ll look at today can be put in the misunderstood category of gifts like apostleship and prophesy.

Unfortunately as with some of the other gifts, we are simply told in Scripture that the gift exists, but are given little insight as to what it is and how it functions. So we need to look at context and cross references.  I believe the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge get a bad rap in the church mostly due to ignorance and misinformation.

If you can get your Bible, turn to 1 Corinthians 12:6-8. Just like we did with the other gifts, we need to establish some definitions. In the spiritual gift of the word of wisdom, word comes from logos which is an expression of thought, not just the name of an object.  It is the thought behind words and speech. Wisdom is the Greek word sophia.  It is the insight into the true nature of things.  It is acquired knowledge. In Greek culture, wisdom represented an unusual ability or attribute. I think we can say the same thing about our culture. Wisdom is concerned with how someone lives his life.

Based on these definitions, someone with the gift of the word of wisdom would have a supernatural ability to speak the counsel of God’s Word as it applies to specific situations.           Think about the smartest people you know. Are they wise? I’m sure from your personal experience, you know that wisdom and smarts don’t always go together. In fact, one definition of wisdom is the trait of utilizing knowledge and experience with common sense and insight. I’ve got a step-brother named Matt. Matt is one of the smartest guys I know, but since the statute of limitations has passed, I can share something about him. Back when Matt was about 15 or so, he had a curious thought. What would happen if you take a .22 caliber bullet, put it in a vise, and hit it with a hammer? Normally, Matt’s scientific brain would have formulated a hypothesis and predicted a reasonable outcome. Not this time.  He put the bullet in the vise and hit it with a hammer. Not surprisingly, the bullet caused some considerable damage to his hand. Matt the genius exercised absolutely no common sense. He had book learning, but no application.

The Bible has a lot to say about wisdom, so let’s look at some of the highlights.

  • Job said the, “Fear of the Lord, that is wisdom.” (Job 28:28)
  • In Proverbs 1:2, Solomon stated the purpose of the book was to, “Know wisdom and instruction,” and then said a few verses later in v. 7 that “Fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
  • Benjamin Franklin said, “Wise men don’t need advice.  Fools won’t take it.” He got that from Solomon.
  • Psalm 37:30 contrasts this by saying, “The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice.” Remember the old saying, “It is better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.” That has been attributed to Abraham Lincoln as well as Mark Twain, but listen to Proverbs 17:28: “Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise.”
  • Proverbs 2:6 and Daniel 2:23 both say that the Lord gives wisdom.

If you are wise according to the world’s standards are you wise according to God’s standards? James contrasts these two types of wisdom.  Look at James 3:13-18. The world’s wisdom is bitter, jealous, selfish, arrogant, it lies against the truth.  Earthly wisdom is demonic. Godly wisdom is pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.

Again in 1 Corinthians 1:18-30. The world cannot get to Christ through their own wisdom, they must come through Christ. In Christ are all the hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  (Colossians 2:3) When you look at the words of James and you think about what your life is like. If you are living in bitter jealousy and selfish ambition, you’re living according to the world’s wisdom. The life that is, “Pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy” that is the life that evidences God’s wisdom.

While the Bible is full of information about wisdom, little is there concerning the spiritual gift of wisdom so we have to use the information about wisdom to apply it to the spiritual gift. Someone with the gift of wisdom has the ability to communicate the whole counsel of God and apply it to specific situations. Remember the two women in 1 Kings 3? Here’s the short version. There were two women that lived in the same house had given birth within three days of one another. During the night one of the women’s baby died because she rolled over on him. So she takes the other baby and swaps it with her baby. The other woman goes to feed her baby and looks at it and recognizes that it’s not hers. She confronts the other woman. they go to King Solomon and tell the story. Solomon tells his assistant to grab a sword for him. He tells the women that he’d divide the baby in two knowing that the real mother would not allow it. Pretty smart, huh? “When all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had handed down, they feared the king, for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to administer justice.” (1 Kings 3:28) Solomon knew how to administer God’s wisdom based on that specific situation. Today, we’d have a battery of tests to verify whose baby it was. Believers with this gift are the ones that seem to draw others to them for godly guidance. This wisdom is beyond that of the typical believer.

Let’s turn from wisdom to the word of knowledge. Back again in 1 Corinthians 12:8 we see that word here is the same word used for the word of wisdom. It means the expression of thought. Knowledge is from the Greek word gnosis which conveys the idea of a seeking to know or an investigation or inquiry as it pertains to God’s Word. This is knowledge by itself. This is knowing things like what the Ten Commandments are, like the dimensions for the tabernacle. It is knowing facts that are in the Bible.

Someone with this gift would have a desire to investigate the things of the Bible; to know the truth and then be able to communicate those truths to the body of Christ. We find out some interesting things in the Bible if we look at this thing called knowledge.

  • “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.” (Proverbs 1:7)
  • Isaiah told us that Israel went into exile for their lack of knowledge.  (Isaiah 5:13)
  • When compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ, Paul thought everything else was rubbish. Rubbish can also be translated animal excrement.  (Philippians 3:8) That’s a pretty vivid word picture.

There’s a difference in knowledge about God and knowing God. True believers grow in their knowledge about who God is and what He is all about. Remember that in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:3) “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1:3) His divine power grants us everything, but it is through the knowledge of Christ. But this power doesn’t come through knowing facts about Him, you must know Him. Daniel 11:32b says these very clear words: “The people who know their God will display strength and take action.” Wise people make knowledge acceptable by the way they give it according to Proverbs 15:2, 7. This same chapter of Proverbs goes on to say that intelligent people seek knowledge. (15:14) Smart people want to know things. Spiritually smart people want to know about God and how to please Him and live for Him.

Let’s look at spiritual leaders and knowledge – do they go hand in hand? God said He would give Israel shepherds after His own heart who would feed them knowledge and understanding. That’s the kind of shepherd the church needs. Someone that will tell the truth. Malachi said, “The lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 2:7) The use of the word logos indicates this is a written word.  If it were spoken, the Bible would have used the Greek word rhema.  So be careful when someone says to you, “I have a word from the Lord.”

Wisdom and knowledge can appear to be kind of mysterious especially when someone comes up to say and says, “I have a word of knowledge for you.” Wisdom and knowledge do go hand in hand, but they are distinct.

Wisdom is the application of knowledge. Wisdom and knowledge – important and active in the body of Christ today.


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