2. Gifts of the Spirit: Word of Knowledge

This manifestation of the Spirit can reveal who Christ is more fully and give you information that you could not have without the Spirit revealing it. It does not come by study and research. It is a gift of the Spirit, not of your own mental faculties.

Let’s begin with my (tentative) translation:

4 There are a variety of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are a variety of services, and the same Lord. 6 And there are a variety of workings, but the same God who works everything in everyone. 7 To each the manifestation of the Spirit is given towards the common benefit. 8 For to one person is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom; to another person a message of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9 To a different person faith by the same Spirit; to a different person the gifts of healings by the one Spirit; 10 To a different person workings of miracles; to a different person prophecy; to a different person discernings of spirits; to a different person kinds of (prayer and praise) languages; to another person an interpretation of (prayer and praise) languages; 11 The one same Spirit works and distributes all these things to each particular individual as he wills. (1 Cor. 12:4-11)

For other translations, please click here: biblegateway.com

For my commentary on how to classify these gifts, please click on:

Gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 and 12:28

Exegetical Commentary of “Message of Knowledge”

It could be translated as “word of knowledge.”

Some theology: Above are three great verses (4-6) on the activity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Triunity is not an abstract doctrine, but the three persons want to invade your space and gift you, so that you can reach and help people.

Click here The Trinity: What Does He Mean to Me? and at the end of that linked ten-point post, you can click on other articles on the Trinuity.

“another” it is the Greek word allos (pronounced ahl-loss) and it can easily be translated as “other” or “different.”

“person”: it too is supplied.

“message”: it could be translated as “word of knowledge.”

“message”: it is the Greek word logos (pronounced loh-goss), and it may be the richest word in the NT. BDAG, considered by many to be the authoritative lexicon of the Greek NT, devotes six columns of fine print to defining it. It can mean Jesus, who is the Word (John 1:1-3). It can also mean, depending on the context, “communication whereby the mind finds expression—word”; “statement”; “subject under discussion, matter”; it can even be a business accounting term: “computation, reckoning”; or it is really elevated: “an independent personified expression of God, the Logos” (Jesus was the Logos (John 1:1).

I like “message,” “statement” or “utterance.” But the deeper point is that the logos has to be spoken; the Spirit gives an utterance or a word or a statement. It is not multi-session counseling, one on one, over six weeks, when a wise man tells someone how to have a happy marriage (i.e. not as it is implied in the Message Bible or the New Living Translation). It is one manifestation of the Spirit, among many other manifestations.

“knowledge”: it is the Greek word gnōsis (pronounced g’noh-seess, and be sure to pronounce the “g”; and we get our word know from it too!). Like logos, it too is very rich. It is invariably translated by the NIV as “knowledge,” “knowing,” or “understanding,” but by far most often as “knowledge.” Formally it can mean, depending on the context, “comprehension or intellectual grasp of something, knowledge, as possessed by God”; “the content of what is known, knowledge, what is known” (BDAG). In other words, the “official” dictionary definition says it is the content of knowledge—what is known. Now when we apply the gifting and revelation of the Spirit to this definition, it is elevated. The person exercising it know things not by his mind, but by the Spirit.

See my post Word Study: Knowledge

“by the same Spirit”: It could be translated as “according to the Spirit.” Once again Paul really intends the readers to get that the Spirit inspires all these gifts. They do not come by study and research by the strength of one’s mental faculties.

Defining and Describing the Message of Knowledge

Let’s appeal to these theologians and Bible Interpreters.

J.. Rodman Williams

[A] word of knowledge is essentially an inspired word of teaching or instruction that occurs within the context of the gathered community. To be sure, there are also those who hold the office of teacher and thus have a unique place in giving instruction. However, the gift of the word of knowledge is that which is expressed from within the community itself [Col. 3:16]. … Yet, I must immediately add, this gift is not just mutual teaching. It is, in addition, a special impartation of teaching that is given by the Holy Spirit through a particular person. It is the speaking of inspired knowledge, an articulation of truth, that in its very utterance edifies the one who so speaks to declare truth in a way totally beyond his own natural capacity or experience. The words, while being framed by the mind of the speaker, spring from a higher source. Accordingly, they are oracular utterances. (vol. 2, pp. 356-57)

Williams goes on to note that in charismatic circles the word of knowledge is believed to impart special knowledge about a specific person or need, such as cancer or trouble in the family. He says this kind of information is uplifting and of much value, but should be viewed as prophecy or revelation, instead (p. 357, footnote 56).

I don’t agree with his broad application (teaching on the knowledge Scripture and Christ)), but let’s move on to the next theologian.

Wayne Grudem

He sees this gift as nonmiraculous, but we can grow in our knowledge about various issues by knowing Scripture and fellowshipping together. Like Williams, he steers us away from believing that the word of knowledge is a specially and divinely given information in a specific situation. Rather, that gift is prophetic. A word of knowledge is much more ordinary than that.

Once again, I don’t agree with his “ordinary” definition.

Craig Keener

He writes that the message or word of knowledge can be translated as “speech with knowledgeable content.” He continues:

In the original context, non-Christian speakers gave extemporaneous speeches on a variety of subjects. And so the Corinthians Christians claimed to have special doctrinal knowledge from God, which puffed them up (1 Cor. 8:1-3). But knowledge will pass away and is now only partial and sometimes inaccurate (1 Cor. 13:8). Yet Paul encourages this gift in its positive form (1 Cor. 14:6; 2 Cor. 8:7; 11:6). It is to impart knowledge about God by the gift of teaching. Keener also notes that in charismatic circles the words of knowledge—or special revelations about someone or something (1 Kings 21:17-18; 2 Kings 4:27; 5:26; 6:12; Mark 2:8; Acts 14:9)—should be considered as prophecies or revelations (1 Cor. 14:26, 30). (Gift Giver: The Holy Spirit for Today [Baker Academic, 2001], p. 116)

He again restricts this gift to teaching knowledge. I don’t agree with his restriction.

David Lim

This gift teaches the truths of the Word of God, but it does not come by study. It is flashes of insight beyond the unaided intellect (Systematic Theology, ed. Stanley Horton, p. 466)

Derek Prince

It is a tiny portion of God’s total knowledge supernaturally imparted by the Holy Spirit … supernatural knowledge does not come by natural reasoning, education, or training but directly by the Holy Spirit, and it is operated only under God’s control … but whether he gives it is ultimately in His hands. (The Gifts of the Spirit, [Whitaker House, 2007], p. 73).

In his examples of words of knowledge, he believes that they are special revelations about the directions and needs of the people—he furthers the standard charismatic practice that Williams and Keener (and probably Lim) are eager to steer clear from.

I agree with Prince.

Jack Hayford

“The word of knowledge,” then, is a gift of the Spirit giving supernatural insight or information which one would not have known apart from the Spirit’s revealing it, such as with Peter and Ananias and Sapphira. It differs from general biblical knowledge in that it’s spontaneously revealed rather than through study or acquired by experience; however, it must always be tested against revealed biblical knowledge. (Gifts, Fruit, and Fullness of the Holy Spirit [Thomas Nelson, 1993], p. 123)

In his further notes, he also says that the word of knowledge reveals mysteries that had been unknown before, so it is “big picture” truths about the revealing of Christ and ushering in the new kingdom. However, in Hayford’s examples, like Jesus’s knowledge about the woman-at-the-well’s other husbands, he goes along with the tradition exercise of the gift in charismatic circles.

I agree with Hayford.

Paul Walker

The word or message of knowledge can be described as follows: (1) supernatural revelation of the divine will and plan; (2) supernatural insight into circumstances and sets of facts without human resource, but only by divine aid; (3) a deeper and more advanced understanding of the acts of God (presumably in Scripture); (4) moral wisdom for right living and relationships; (5) objective understanding divine things in human duties; (6) knowledge of God or things that belong to God as revealed through the gospel. (The Spirit-Filled Study Bible [3rd ed. Thomas Nelson, 2018], p. 1947).

His definition is broad and seems to incorporate all of what the previous theologians and Bible interpreters have said. He may be right.

My Definition

A person gifted with the word or statement or utterance of knowledge knows something that the speaker of the word did not know by natural means. (If he did know it by natural means, then why would the Spirit needed in such a clear way? Rather, this manifestation has to be supernatural revelation.)

I like what Williams says that this manifestation of the message word of knowledge is about our fuller knowledge about Christ Jesus, but I also agree with Prince, Hayford, and Walker state.

The Spirit gives us information or knowledge that we cannot possess or acquire on our own by study or by the strength of our minds. It is a charisma (gift) of the Spirit, after all, not a personal mental talent.

Scriptural Examples

One day, Jesus got into a boat to teach. When he finished, he got out and Simon and others got in. Jesus asked Simon to push the boat out a distance and lower the net. Simon complained skeptically that they had already tried it. But he gave in. The nets were filled. Simon fell on his knees and said how sinful he was and that he was not worthy. Jesus called him into the ministry (Luke 5:1-11). For sure this was a word of knowledge, but was it also a miracle—Jesus caused the fish to accumulate in that area? Yes.

In John 4:1-16 Jesus dialogued with a Samaritan woman at the local well. He told her that she has had five husbands and the man she was with was not her husband, either (vv. 16-18).

Jesus was again questioned about paying the temple tax. Yes or no. Simon was concerned about it. Jesus told him to go to the lake and throw out his line. He caught a fish that had a four-drachma coin in it, enough to pay the tax (Matt. 17:24-27). This was certainly a word of knowledge, but was it a miracle too? Did he cause the coin to appear in the fish and lead the fish to catch the hook? Regardless of the miraculous element, Jesus did not know this by any means other than by the Spirit and Father’s help.

Certain Bible teachers may object that Jesus was also God in the flesh, so he knew this anyway. No, the last half is overdrawn. Yes, he was God in the flesh, but he was still anointed by the Spirit, and the Father and the Spirit revealed this coin to him. Likewise, if the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit revealed to their followers about a fish like that, it would still be a word of knowledge.

Here Paul prays for the Colossians saying that the Spirit gives this knowledge, much as he does in 1 Cor. 12:8: “We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives” … (Col. 1:9). From this verse a word of knowledge could flow, but it is given by the Spirit.

How does this post help me grow in my knowledge of God?

You can exercise this gift, as God through his Spirit wills, when he sees a need. If he has given it to me on occasion, on an as-needed basis, then he can do the same for you. You must be empowered by and filled with the Spirit. Then he will give you pieces of information that you could not know on your own or by study.

One day, while I was on a Christian retreat, I was chatting with someone I barely knew. Suddenly, and only for a second, my mind was filled with a thought about his mother–something was wrong. So I asked him, out of context, “May I ask how your mother is doing”? He looked surprised and asked how I knew. I replied, “I think I just got a word of knowledge.” So he told me his mother had cancer, just diagnosed (if I recall). So we prayed together about her. That’s the end of the brief story. Since I barely knew him, I never heard of the outcome for his mother.

To me, this is different than just a prophecy. It was a tidbit of information that I could not know by learning or researching (this was also the days before the web). I have received prophecies on occasion, and prophecy and the word of knowledge are different.

In any case, you too can receive the charisma (gift) of knowledge, as the Spirit gives it to you.

Be cautious, however, about the belief that this gift flows automatically, as if the Spirit is a frequency, and all you have to do is tune in to it. The Father, Son or Holy Spirit is not a chatterbox. He is not always talking to you. Yes, the three persons are talking to one of their followers on the planet somewhere, for what the man or woman needs. But you cannot listen in as if God’s voice is on a shortwave radio, always talking. Not even the OT prophets could do that. God initiated a “word from the Lord” and they received it and spoke it. “Isaiah, you must speak a prophecy about Babylon.” “Joel, you must speak this word of restoration about my people. I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.” “Ezekiel, you must prophesy this word about Tyre.”

And so it is with you. God initiates, when he sees the need in humanity. He loves people, and when he sees that you are open to hearing from him to help humanity, he will give you the gift needed at the moment.

However, God wants to speak with his children more often than they know. Repeat: he is not a chatterbox, but he does want fellowship with them. And usually his words for you personally happen when you die daily (Luke 9:23). Then you won’t confuse your own thoughts with his, as often as you do. Then his words through you for other people will be given, as the people need them.

Die to self, live for God. Then fellowship with him gets sweeter and more intimate every day. The Spirit will distribute this gift to you, in order to meet the needs of the people, because he loves them.

RELATED

Word Study: Knowledge

What Is the ‘Anointing’?

ARTICLES IN THE SERIES

1. Gifts of Spirit: Word of Wisdom

2. Gifts of the Spirit: Word of Knowledge

3. Gifts of the Spirit: Faith

4. Gifts of the Spirit: Gifts of Healings

5. Gifts of the Spirit: Workings of Miracles

6. Gifts of the Spirit: Prophecy

7. Gifts of the Spirit: Discernings of Spirits

8. Gifts of the Spirit: Spirit-Inspired Languages (‘Tongues’)

9. Gifts of the Spirit: Interpretation of Spirit-Inspired Languages

SOURCES

Works Cited

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