Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What's the Word?

Re-Posted from "Meditations of a Charismatic Calvinist Who Does Not Speak in Tongues"

The Bible does not say much of the spiritual gifts of the word of knowledge and the word of wisdom. In fact, all we have is their names in a list (1 Corinthians 12:8). What are these gifts about? (I am going to deal specifically with the word of knowledge, as it is the one I am most familiar with, but I suspect the word of wisdom works the same way.)

The traditional charismatic approach is to see this gift as God's dropping statements into our minds without any previous basis for such knowledge. I have no problem in principle with this; I have had it happen to me on occasion. (There are limitations of privacy that prevent me from describing the circumstances.) Others, trying to avoid a blatantly miraculous understanding of the gift, have seen it as a gift of working with knowledge.This would be the type of gift you might find, for instance, in a seminary professor . I do not violently object to this either. After all, seminary professors need gifts too. Might I suggest something in the middle that perhaps would incorporate the extremes? Could the idea be that God leads you to the knowledge He wants you to have? It could mean the knowledge coming totally out of nowhere. But it could also mean  picking up just the right book or just the right article to answer something you needed to know, even if it was not what you went to the book or article for. Or God's bringing to mind the right thing to say at the right time. Now it should be noted that some knowledge is valuable even if you do not know where it comes from, while other knowledge is only useful if you know the source. I realize this is highly conjectural, but it seems to fit with my experience and the substance of the text.

Now the one thing it clearly does not mean is that we can trust every impulse or thought that runs through our mind as being from God. We are commanded to test all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21).Nor should the word of knowledge be equated with full, inspired revelation; it is in the same verse as prophecy, and why would there be three different terms for the same thing? It also clearly does not mean a person will know everything they want to know. Even full-blown prophets are sometimes not told everything (2 Kings 4:27). But I do find this approach helpful in understanding these two gifts.


  1. Excellent exegesis Mike! I have seen some pretty bad stuff said and done when the God card is played.

    1. I have seen this too, which is why I urge caution for all involved.