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What is the Gift of Faith? »« What is the Word of Wisdom?

What is the Word of Knowledge?

Continuing our series on the gifts of the Spirits we now come to the gift known as the ‘word of knowledge’ or in some translations the ‘message of knowledge’.

What do we understand by the term ‘word of knowledge’?

In the 1980s John Wimber popularised the term of a ‘word of knowledge’ as a supernatural insight into a person’s heart or situation. In practice what it often meant was someone getting up in a worship gathering and saying, “There is someone here with…” and describing a certain illness or injury. It is still often used in this way today.

What does the Bible say?

But is this popular idea really what the Bible describes as a ‘word of knowledge’? We can read stories such as Jesus and the woman at the well where God reveals facts supernaturally but what reason do I have to call this a word of knowledge?

Apart from 1 Corinthians 12 the phrase ‘word of knowledge’ doesn’t appear in the Bible. So in order to answer this question two authors I have much respect for Mark Stibbe in Know Your Spiritual Gifts and J Rodman Williams in Renewal Theology both look at the immediate context of what Paul meant by knowledge.

To Paul knowledge didn’t involve finding out about other’s people’s secrets. It involved receiving insight into God’s secrets now revealed – into the “unfathomable depths of God’s grace”, the wonderful truths about “his gracious gift of his son”, this grace that is now available to us his church.

This is not to say that God doesn’t speak supernaturally to people about situations just that they can’t see any justification for calling that a word of knowledge. They both suggest it would be more Biblical to call such experiences prophecy as Bible passages indicate that this is how the prophets spoke and never use the term ‘word of knowledge’.

So how should we define ‘word of knowledge’?

Perhaps it would be more accurately to use the term ‘word of knowledge’ to describe the sharing inspired insights into God’s purposes and grace with those we talk to.

What do you think?

Further Reading

Word/Message of Knowledge on Prodigal Thought – Scott Lencke sees it as including both these ideas.
Know Your Spiritual Gifts – a summary by Alison Morgan of Mark Stibbe’s out of print book

August 21, 2012 at 6:00 pm
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