The Word of Knowledge (Part 1)

by Johannes Justus

Wisdom and knowledge are “one pair of shoes” in biblical language. It is not coincidential that Paul puts the word of knowledge directly behind the word of wisdom in his list of spiritual gifts.

To one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit…” (New American Standard)
1 Corinthians 12:8

I would like to point out three observations concerning this verse:

1. Partial knowledge

The term used it not “gift of knowledge” as if someone had permanent knowledge about everything, but it is called “gift of word of knowledge.” This shows again that gifts of the spirit are given for certain occasions: It is in a specific situation that someone receives a word of knowledge through spiritual inspiration. It is a minimal fraction, but by no means the fullness of God-given knowledge. Similarly a single pearl is just a small part, but not the whole necklace. Knowledge is always in part (1 Corinthians 13:9): Concerning ourselves this insight teaches us humility, concerning others it leads us to understanding and sympathy.

2. Knowledge given by the spirit

The word of knowledge is not about intellectual knowledge or facts someone has piled up through diligent studies, but it is about knowledge given by the spirit. Therefore, the Holy Spirit, who is the revealer, is the one who takes the initiative. When Peter confessed him as the Christ Jesus answered: “…flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17). We need such moments of divine insight both in our churches and in our personal lives – especially if we tend to rely solely on reason and our minds. At the same time, we need to emphasize: Words of knowledge must never take the place of thorough bible study. Even in this our discipline and zeal may grow. Therefore, it is not “either – or” but “as well as.” We need both. If the Holy Spirit is the great “reminder” of the word of God (John 14:26), then there must be something in us he can remind us of.

3. Knowledge that confirms the word

Concerning the word of wisdom the text says it is “through the Spirit” (dia tou pneumatos), concerning the word of knowledge we read it is given „according to the same Spirit“ (kata to auto pneuma). The difference is small but mighty: The word of knowledge is given according to the norm of or in line with the Holy Spirit. Therefore a word of knowledge will always confirm the Holy Scriptures which were inspired by the Holy Spirit and make them stand out radiantly (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21). Thus, I would say that a word of knowledge is a deeper insight into the meaning of a verse of scripture. It refreshes the word of God, points out how verses are linked to each other and brings new awareness of its contents.

From knowledge to application

Knowledge and wisdom must work together. Together they are the “pair of shoes” one needs to proceed on one’s path. Mere knowledge does not do much good if it is not applied. At some points in my pastoral career the Holy Spirit revealed to me that I was not lead by my calling but by the needs I perceived. Yet, I was not able to meet all needs. So I faced the challenge several times to make something of this knowledge. To see through a situation I needed knowledge, but to change the situation I needed wisdom. It is so good that the Spirit that abides in me wants to work both things in me!

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! …
Romans 11:33

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