1. Gifts of Spirit: Word of Wisdom

This gift is given in order to proclaim the wisdom about Christ and for any particular or special need through the empowerment of the Spirit.

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 Wisdom”

It could be translated as “word of wisdom.”

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.

“of the Spirit … through the Spirit”: Paul is really keen to show that the source of the gifts is the Spirit.

“message”: it is the Greek word logos (pronounced loh-gohss), and it may be the richest word in the NT. BDAG 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.”

Other translations: “word” (KJV, NKJV, NASB); “message” (NIV); “wise advice” (NLT); “ability to speak wisdom” (NCV); “speak wisdom” (CEV); “wise counsel” (MSG); “utterance” (ESV).

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 or the NLT). It is one manifestation among many.

“wisdom”: It is the Greek word sophia (pronounced soh-fee-ah), and it is always translated by the NIV as “wisdom,” wherever it appears in the NT. BDAG is considered by many to be the authoritative lexicon of the Greek NT, and it says: “the capacity to understand and function accordingly”; “transcendent wisdom.” The adjective sophos (pronounced soh-foss) means “pertaining to knowing how to do something, in a skillful manner, clever, skillful, experienced”; “pertaining to understanding that results in the wise attitudes and conduct, wise” (BDAG). Those related ideas apply to the noun in this verse. It is practical. You’ll know what to do and say, right when you need it. Timing is essential. It has an extra surge to it, rather than godly wisdom from above that is gained by experience and a relationship with God over a lifetime (Jas. 1:5). Both wisdoms come from God, but here it is charismatic. Finally, Spirit-inspired wisdom is not abstract or speculative, as the philosophical Greeks supposed.

Defining and Describing the Gift

Let’s appeal to these theologians and Bible interpreters in summary.

J. Rodman Williams

It is the uttering or speaking, prompted by the Spirit, or a message or logos about Jesus Christ. It is an explanation of the mystery of God that centers in Jesus Christ. Jesus himself is our wisdom (1 Cor. 1:30). It is to impart or speak about the wonders of the cross.

And so it is important to note that the manifestation of the Spirit of the message of wisdom is both in the speaking or uttering (operational aspect) and in the message or the logos of wisdom (the content).

To elaborate, 1 Cor. 12:8 says that message of wisdom is a manifestation of the Spirit, which means, first, to receive a revelation from the Spirit about the mystery of Christ’s purpose in his coming, ministry, death and resurrection, ascension and exaltation; and, second, there is the speaking forth of that revelation in which the mystery—now revealed—is made manifest. The Holy Spirit is the revealer of the mystery; he manifests himself by the spoken word through the mind of the human speaker (vol. 2, pp. 349-54).

Wayne Grudem

He sees this gift as nonmiraculous, but are just wise words in a situation (pp. 1080-82). Like Williams, he steers us away from a divinely spoken word to a specific situation; that gift is prophetic. But unlike Williams, he does not take the word wisdom in its larger context, growing in or divinely receiving wisdom about Christ.

Craig Keener

The ‘utterance of wisdom,’ then, may represent the revelation of divine mysteries, based on insight into God’s purposes rather than on mere human reasoning … [Paul] may assume that teachers might exercise this gift as well (Gift Giver: The Holy Spirit for Today [Baker Academic, 2001], p. 115).

David Lim

Teaching, seeking divine guidance, counseling, and addressing practical needs in church government and administration—are the occasions in which to exercise this gift. But it must go beyond human wisdom and human preparation (Systematic Theology, ed. Stanley Horton, p. 465).

Derek Prince

It is a tiny portion of God’s total wisdom directly and supernaturally imparted by the Holy Spirit … This gift is given by supernatural means because the results would not be available by natural means. It is imparted by the Holy Spirit in a way we could not get by ourselves. (The Gifts of the Spirit, [Whitaker House, 2007], p. 57)

Jack Hayford

The word of wisdom—a spiritual manifestation available to any believer as a special and specific need might arise. It is supernatural direction which the Holy Spirit Himself shares with an individual for a certain situation, especially where the outcome of decisions would not be known outside this revelation. Its basis is always biblically revealed wisdom. (Gifts, Fruit, and Fullness of the Holy Spirit [Thomas Nelson, 1993], p. 120)

Paul Walker

The message of wisdom is described as follows: (1) it is a supernatural perspective to accomplish God’s will in a given situation; (2) power for spiritual intuition to solve problems; (3) divine direction; (4) to know how to act appropriately in a circumstance; (5) knowledge rightly applied, with knowledge and discernment (The Spirit-Filled Study Bible [3rd ed. Thomas Nelson, 2018], p. 1947).

My Definition

A word of wisdom is expressed when the Spirit inspires a word or statement or utterance of wisdom that reveals supernatural understanding and know-how, in order to carry out the purpose of God in a real-life situation and to proclaim the wisdom about Christ as we study the Word.

I like what Williams says about proclaiming the wisdom about Christ, but I also follow what Prince, Hayford and Walker say. Why not both proclaiming wisdom and a supernatural word or message to know what to do in a situation?

Scriptural Examples:

Sadducees asked Jesus about levirate marriage at the resurrection. Jesus answered them that they were in error, not knowing the Scriptures. God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is the God of the living, not the dead (Matt. 12:18-27). A word of wisdom, to interpret the afterlife.

Jesus was almost caught in a trap after he arrived at Jerusalem, where all sorts of pilgrims were staying. An antagonist asked whether they should pay a tax to Caesar. Not paying a tax was serious business. Jesus asked for a coin and then asked the questioner whose image was on it. “Caesar’s,” came the reply. Jesus answered: Then render to Caesar what is his, and to God what is his. That is a word of wisdom in a tight spot (Luke 20:20-28).

A teacher of the law asked Jesus who a neighbor was. Then Jesus launched into the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). At the end Jesus asked the questioner who the neighbor was—turning the tables. “The one who had mercy on him.” Speaking a parable ex tempore is God-inspired wisdom.

Stephen was full of the Spirit and wisdom, though he may have acquired this through practice (Acts 6:2-3).

Many times the apostles, while speaking publicly and ex tempore, quoted from the Old Testament to proclaim the Messiah. They applied the Scripture wisely (e.g. Acts 2:17-21, 25-28, 34-35; 4:11; 25-26; 7:42-43, 48-50; 15:13-19, and so on).

1 Cor. 1:21 says about wisdom concerning Christ: “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.”

In this verse, Christ has become our wisdom, so let’s proclaim it: “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30).

Here Paul links the Spirit with wisdom and revelation, signaling that the gift of the message or word of wisdom in 1 Cor. 12:8 is supernatural: “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better” (Eph. 1:17).

RELATED

Word Study: Wisdom

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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