United in Power: The Spiritual Gift of the Word of Wisdom




The Corinthian church struggled with two things that lead them to a problem in this passage...

1. the Sufficiency of Scripture.

2. Syncretism with the world.

They had a lot of Jewish converts to Christianity, but the body was largely made up of gentile converts.

Historically, we know Mystery religions were popular in Corinth. They consisted of strict, secret cults that had elaborate initiation rituals and religious ceremonies known only to those formally those groups. They had mystical experiences that bordered on the magical… ecstatic transe-like experiences where they might communicate with the underworld… in explosions of gibberish, they would communicate from their gods… In the church, some of this seems to carry over, although we dont know to what degree.


We are the church if the resurrected Christ. We need to operate like the living spiritual organism we are not like a secular organization people want us to be…


In our passage… this has affected the way they see spiritual gifts. It's become a competition, and Sunday morning has become a magic show.


1 Corinthians 12:8 ESV

For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,

The Spiritual Gift of Wisdom

1. Problem with definitions

John MacArthur has a great practical point —

“One should be careful not to over define the gifts. Because they may resist over-classification.”

Example: Institute for Basic life Principles has it neatly packaged: https://iblp.org/questions/what-are-three-categories-spiritual-gifts


“At the beginning of this discussion it must be understood that these two gifts (Utterance of Wisdom and Knowledge) are mentioned nowhere else in Scripture,and no other early Christian literature outside the Bible has been found to use these phrases of any spiritual gift either. This means that the only information we have about these gifts is contained in this [section of scripture]: we have the words used to describe these two gifts, and we have the context in which the phrases occur. No interpreter anywhere has any more information than this to work with. This warns us that our conclusions will probably be somewhat tentative in any case.” — Wayne Greudem, Systematic Theology.

a. Examples often given:

i. Samuel regarding Saul's donkeys -- 1 Samuel 10:2 -- from God

ii. Jesus at the well with the woman -- John 4:18 -- from God.

iii. John on the Isle of Patmos -- Revelation 1: 10-20 -- vision.

iv. Ananias about Paul -- Acts 9: 10 - 12 -- vision.

v. Peter in Joppa -- Acts 10: 9 - 19 -- vision.

vi. Ananias and Sapphira -- Acts 5: 1 - 4 -- from God.


PROBLEM: How do you determine in the examples of scripture which ones are words of knowledge, wisdom, or prophecy? Which ones are based on the unique offices of the people, or if the practice is to be normative?


1 Cor 12:8 “For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,”

1. Context: This gift of “Utterances of Wisdom”, is mentioned in four places in Scripture, all deriving from this passage in 1 Corinthians 12:8: 1 Corinthians 13:1-3; 1 Corinthians 13:8, and 1 Corinthians 14:6.


Note: The gift is neither defined nor explained in any of these places (it is not the primary focus of these passages).

ii. Translations:

1. NASB, NKJV“word of wisdom … the word of knowledge”

2. NRSV“the utterance of wisdom … the utterance of knowledge”

3. TEV“a message full of wisdom … a message full of knowledge”

4. NJB“the gift of utterance expressing wisdom … the gift of utterance expressing knowledge”


a. We learn a lot from the context of Corinth.

i. They struggled with “Worldly Words of Wisdom”

1. 1 Cor 1:17 “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”

a. They were understanding it as skill or eloquence (1:17, 19, 20; 2:1, 4, 5), or as a worldly sophistication (1:20, 22; 2:5, 6, 13; 3:19).

2. Pauls Example of Wisdom

a. Aids in preaching the Gospel 1:17

b. Demonstrates the Spirits power: 1 :18

c. Helps in discernment 1:19

i. Implied in 1 Cor 13:2 “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”

d. Encourages personal knowledge of God 1:21a

e. Empowers preaching 1:21b; 2:1-5

f. Enables a discernment of the call of the Gospel: 1:24

g. Confirms the strength of God to those who hear. 1:25ff


Note: These first two gifts do not indicate direct revelation or prophecy from God. This gift seems to be given to communicate and aid in understanding of God's truth, not to reveal NEW, or UNKNOWN truth that would add to or take away from Scripture.


Acts 4:13 “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”


Paul prayed for the Ephesian church with this in mind:

Eph 1:17–23 “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”


b. We learn a lot from the meaning of the text:

a. “Utterance”, or “Word”: Logos indicates this is a speaking ability. (matter, message, news, reason, saying, statement, utterance) (3056)(logos from légō = to speak with words; English = logical) means something said and describes a communication whereby the mind finds expression in words or reasoning expressed by words. Logos is the word or outward form by which the inward thought is expressed and made known, or 'the inward thought or reason itself'

i. It is a speaking Gift: The fact that this gift is described as the “word” of wisdom indicates that it is one of the speaking gifts.


1 Peter 4:9–11 “... As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies...”


“Wisdom”: Sophia indicates that it is that practical application of truth to life situations: is the ability to judge correctly and to follow the best course of action, based on knowledge and understanding. For the believer, sophía ("God's clarity, wisdom") conveys the Lord's solution for problem-solving, i.e. what He reveals is His preferred-will.


Wisdom here is related to “Word of Knowledge”, and “Prophecy” 1 Cor 13:2 “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”


“Some of my friends good-humoredly—and some a little bit severely—have called me a ‘mystic.’ Well I’d like to say this about any mysticism I may suppose to have. If an archangel from heaven were to come, and were to start giving me, telling me, teaching me, and giving me instruction, I’d ask him for the text. I’d say, ‘Where’s it say that in the Bible? I want to know.’ And I would insist that it was according to the scriptures, because I do not believe in any extra-scriptural teachings, nor any anti-scriptural teachings, or any sub-scriptural teachings” (transcribed from “What Difference Does the Holy Spirit Make?” delivered January 1, 1960, and accessed on sermonaudio.com, 8/23/19).

Luke 12:10-12 “...And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.””

Any believer can be so gifted, and there is no indication in the text that a person is locked into this gift permanently.


3. It is grounded in the attributes of God: He is wisdom

“A man gives another a piece of bread or a piece of money. He gives it away and has nothing further to do with it. It is not so with God’s gift of the Holy Spirit. No, the spirit is God. God is in the Spirit who comes to us, even as he was in the Son. The gift of the Spirit is the most personal act of the Godhead. It is the gift of Himself to us.”– Andrew Murray

Wisdom is from God: “only wise God” (Rom. 16:27)

wisdom and power belong to Him… He gives wisdom to wise men, and knowledge to men of understanding. It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him” (Dan. 2:20-22)

b. God gives wisdom.


James 1:5-6 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.”


The Character of Christ

Is 11:2-3 “And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.”

b. 1 Cor 1:30 “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,”

i. He was the LOGOS: John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

5. But it is through....“By” or “Through” the Holy Spirit. It is a speaking gift that involves communicating truth with an insight that only comes by from God.

a. Uniting all the gifts in the work of the Spirit, but uniquely “by the spirit, not “according to” the spirit as in knowledge.


b. This wisdom in the moment of need is not out of natural abilities, but by way of the Holy Spirit.


“Fundamentalism has stood aloof from the liberal in self-conscious superiority and has on its own part fallen into error, the error of textualism, which is simply orthodoxy without the Holy Ghost. Everywhere among conservatives we find persons who are Bible-taught but not Spirit-taught. They conceive truth to be something which they can grasp [merely] with the mind."— A.W. Tozer

Conclusion: So what does it mean, and how do we apply it.