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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Various Gifts of the Holy Spirit (Part Two)

Don Stewart :: What Is the Gift of the Word of Knowledge?

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What Is the Gift of the Word of Knowledge?

The Various Gifts of the Holy Spirit (Part Two) – Question 19

In listing the spiritual gifts, the Bible speaks about the gift of the “word of knowledge.” Paul wrote the following to the Corinthians.

To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:8 NIV).

This gift is mentioned in four places in Scripture – 1 Corinthians 12:8, 1 Corinthians 13:1-3; 1 Corinthians 13:8, and 1 Corinthians 14:6. It is neither defined nor explained in any of these places.

There Is Uncertainty about the Exact Nature of the Gift

Bible-believers are not united on the nature and purpose of this gift. There are various ways in which the gift is understood. They include the following.

  1. It was given for the specific purpose of communicating divine revelation.
  2. It has to do with God giving divine knowledge and insight into certain situations.

The support for each position is as follows.

Option 1: It Is the Supernatural Ability to Know Divinely Given Truths

It is argued that the gift of the word of knowledge was a supernatural ability to understand what was divinely inspired Scripture and what was not. This gift is linked directly to the apostles and the New Testament prophets. The gift was only available when the doctrinal foundation of Christianity was being laid. The Apostle Paul spoke of this gift being done away with. He wrote the following to the Corinthians.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away (1 Corinthians 13:8 ESV).

Once the Scripture was completed the need for this particular gift of knowledge vanished.

All Bible-believers will agree that if this gift was only given for the distinct purpose of confirming divine revelation before the New Testament was completed, then the gift is no longer available. However this is what is at issue. Was the gift limited in this way?

Option 2: It Is the Ability to Supernaturally Know Certain Facts

There is another way of understanding of this spiritual gift. The gift of the word of knowledge refers to the ability to know facts about a situation, or a spiritual principle, that could not have been known by natural means. This allows someone to see a situation as God sees it. It is still much needed in the church today. The following observations can be made.

The Gift Works with the Word of Wisdom

There are times when the gift of the word of knowledge works with the gift of the word of wisdom. First, God gives the believer supernatural knowledge into a particular situation, and then He gives wisdom on how to apply that knowledge.

The Spirit of God Provides the Information

This word of knowledge is exercised when the Spirit of God provides information to someone about the condition of another person. It does not have to come with fanfare. In fact, it can be exercised without the person being aware of it. The gift must be used with a humble heart.

It Is Not an Occultic Gift

The word of knowledge is not the same as the occult gifts that some spiritual mediums claim. It is not an occult power, but a God-given ability to build up the body of Christ.

We Are Not to Take Advantage of It for Personal Gain

Like all the other gifts of the Spirit, the word of knowledge is never given for a believers’ own personal advantage, to take advantage of another believer, or to embarrass someone. It is to build up the church – the body of Jesus Christ.

It Is Not for Public Display

This gift should only be used in private contexts. There is no place for some public display of this gift in a flamboyant way. If the Holy Spirit is working, then it will be consistent with the way He always works. He will glorify Jesus Christ and Him alone. Indeed, He will never glorify any human being exercising a spiritual gift.

Believers Need the Knowledge of God

Scripture speaks of knowledge in a variety of areas. First there is the knowledge of God. Paul wrote the following to the Corinthians.

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him (2 Corinthians 2:14 NRSV).

We can have some limited knowledge about the God of the Bible.

Paul also emphasized that unbelievers oppose the knowledge of God. This could refer to knowledge about God or knowledge which God possesses. He wrote.

The weapons we use in our fight are not made by humans. Rather, they are powerful weapons from God. With them we destroy people’s defenses, that is, their arguments and all their intellectual arrogance that oppose the knowledge of God. We take every thought captive so that it is obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4, 5 God’s Word).

Those who do not believe in Jesus Christ are living in opposition to the knowledge of God.

There is also the knowledge that belongs to God alone. Paul wrote the following to the Romans.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (Romans 11:33 ESV).

He, of course, knows all things while our knowledge is severely limited.

Paul wrote to the Ephesians about his desire that they experience the knowledge of the Lord. He put it this way.

May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God (Ephesians 3:19 NLT).

Knowledge of God is essential. This is why the apostle wanted the believers to understand it as much as possible.

We Need Knowledge of the Christian Faith

The Bible stresses the necessity of knowledge about the Christian faith. Paul wrote to the Romans the need for the following.

You think you can instruct the ignorant and teach children the ways of God. For you are certain that in God’s law you have complete knowledge and truth (Romans 2:20 NLT).

We are commanded to have knowledge about Christianity. Paul also wrote to the Romans concerning the encouragement which knowledge of the Scripture provides.

For whatever was written before was written for our instruction, so that through our endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we may have hope (Romans 15:14 HCSB).

The Scriptures instruct us in a number of ways.

False teachers bragged about having “higher knowledge.” Paul warned Timothy about them. He said.

Timothy, guard the Good News which has been entrusted to you. Turn away from pointless discussions and the claims of false knowledge that people use to oppose the Christian faith (1 Timothy 6:20 God’s Word).

In contrast to them, the mature Christian behaves in a humble manner.

The Bible also emphasizes knowledge about right living. Peter wrote the following to the believers about the various virtues work together.

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:5-8 ESV).

Notice how important knowledge is in living rightly before the Lord.

Scripture speaks of knowledge of how to relate to others. Peter also wrote.

You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered (1 Peter 3:7 NASB).

Believers should always act with knowledge. The example in this case is the knowledge that a husband should have toward his wife.

The New Testament Provides Examples of the Word of Knowledge

We have seen the importance which the Bible places upon knowledge. The New Testament also provides us with some examples of the supernatural exercise of knowledge.

Jesus Exercised This Ability with Nathaniel

Jesus knew things about a man named Nathaniel. We read the following account in the gospel of John.

Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you” (John 1:48 NKJV).

He told Nathaniel things that could not have been known on a natural level.

Jesus Exercised This Ability with the Woman at the Well

When Jesus met a Samaritan woman at a well, we find that He exercised the word of knowledge. John records the following.

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!’” (John 4:16-18 NRSV).

This is another example of the exercising of the gift of supernatural knowledge.

Simon Peter’s Confession Was Miraculously Revealed

Simon Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Messiah was another example of this gift. Jesus said to Peter.

And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven“ (Matthew 16:17 ESV).

It was God the Father who revealed Jesus’ identity to Peter.

In sum, at times, the Lord provides supernatural knowledge to believers. This knowledge is never for personal gain but rather to further the work of the Christian ministry.

Summary – Question 19
What Is the Gift of the Word of Knowledge?

The Bible speaks of a spiritual gift called the “word of knowledge.” This particular gift of the word of knowledge is a spiritual gift that allows the believer to supernaturally know something about a situation or a person.

It is not to be used to take advantage of the circumstances of others. Neither is it for public display.

There are some who believe the gift is no longer available for the church. They link it to the apostles and prophets who had unique ability to understand what was divinely inspired revelation as well as what was not. Because the New Testament Scripture has been written there is no longer any need for the gift.

However, others argue that this gift is absolutely necessary today. They see this gift as more than merely determining which prophetic words were from God and which were not. Instead it is supernatural insight into certain facts. Thus, the gift is much needed.

What Is the Gift of Discernment, or Distinguishing, of Spirits? ← Prior Section
What Is the Gift of the Word of Wisdom? Next Section →
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