8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
(1 Corinthians 12:8-10, KJV; all Biblical quotations are from the KJV)
Yesterday my family and I began reading from “Chapter 53: Gifts of the Holy Spirit (2): Specific Gifts” of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994) in our after-breakfast Bible reading time. In my first post after we began reading the book’s Chapter 52, I wrote:
In preparation for our reading the two chapters, I read several articles and book chapters on spiritual gifts. Two books that I found helpful regarding both general considerations and specific gifts were J. Rodman Williams’ Renewal Theology (Grand Rapids. Michigan: Zondervan, 1996; Chapters 13, “The Gifts of the Holy Spirit,” and 14, “The Ninefold Manifestation”) and Anthony D. Palma’s The Holy Spirit: A Pentecostal Perspective (Springield Missouri: Logion Press, 2001; Part 3, “Spiritual Gifts”). However, although I plan to consult both of them and the comments on 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 in my commentaries (especially those by Gordon D. Fee and David E. Garland) as we read Chapters 52 and 53, I haven’t been sharing from them in our family reading and won’t likely share from them here.
Since then I’ve changed my mind about how we’d read Chapter 53 and thus what I’d report on here from the chapter. In it Grudem considers a selection of spiritual gifts from 1 Corinthians 12:28 and 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 in an order determined by him. I’ve decided for us to consider instead just the spiritual gifts of 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 (but all of them) and to consider them in the order in which Paul lists them there. I’ve also decided to share with the family comments on some of those gifts from other books that I’d consulted in my personal reading about them to supplement what we read from Grudem’s presentation.
In this post I’ll consider the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge. In subsequent posts I’ll consider the other spiritual gifts listed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10–faith, the gifts of healing, the working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, divers kinds of tongues, and the interpretation of tongues.
The Word of Wisdom and the Word of Knowledge
These two gifts aren’t referred to anywhere else in the Bible and thus all that we know about them is contained in this statement by Paul, “For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:8).
Two main approaches are taken to understanding the two gifts. The commonest is that they are the miraculous ability to receive a revelation from the Holy Spirit that results in the using of wisdom or the giving of knowledge in dealing with specific situations. The other, which is followed by Grudem, is that they are the natural ability to use wisdom or to speak with knowledge in dealing with specific situations.
In our family reading we read Grudem’s explanation of the two approaches, but instead of our reading his extensive argument for the second approach (pages 1080-82) I read Donald Gee’s argument for the first approach (Pentecostal Experience: The Writings of Donald Gee, compiled and edited by David A. Womack, Springfield, Missouri: Gospel Publishing House, 1993). Pointing out that the two gifts are placed in a list of “manifestation[s] of the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:7), he claims, “There is only one way to deal consistently with the whole subject of these spiritual gifts: to regard them as each involving some measure of a supernatural operation of the Holy Spirit” (page 132).
Then I read the explanations of “the message of wisdom” and “the message of knowledge” given by Donald C. Stamps in his article “Spiritual Gifts for Believers” in The Full Life Study Bible, New International Version (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992, pages 1770-71) and we read the examples of each for which references are given below.
Stamps defines the word of wisdom as “a wise utterance spoken through the operation of the Holy Spirit. It applies the revelation of God’s Word or the Holy Spirit’s wisdom to a specific situation” (page 1770). Examples are the Jerusalem church’s choosing of seven to serve needy widows (Acts 6:1-6) and its deciding to limit what was required of Gentile converts (Acts 15:13-29).
He defines the word of knowledge as “an utterance inspired by the Holy Spirit that reveals knowledge about people, circumstances or Biblical truth” (page 1770). An example is Peter’s knowledge of and dealing with Ananias and Sapphira’s dishonesty (Acts 5:1-10).