Spiritual Gifts- The Word of Wisdom
“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.” 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, NIV
This is the first article in a series about the spiritual gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12, These gifts are often called “Manifestation Gifts” because their operation is a sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit. Each believer is able to operate in all of these gifts from time to time according to the need of the moment and the faith of the believer.
In the NIV, the first of these gifts is described as the “message of wisdom”, while the NLT translates it as “the ability to give wise advice.” Both of these are problematic because they suggest that this wisdom is human wisdom. The original Greek term is literally “word of wisdom.”
The gift of the word of wisdom may be defined as a special impartation of wisdom or knowledge of how to act in a current situation. This is not human wisdom but God’s wisdom given in a particular context.
This seen in many situations in the Old Testament where people are facing a dire situation, but a prophet comes along and tells them how to act at this moment in order to see God’s rescue. Often God’s wisdom runs exactly opposite to human wisdom or common sense. This is because human wisdom is rarely directed at exalting God and is constrained by experience.
We see this exemplified in 2 Chronicles 20. King Jehoshaphat received word that a huge army is coming to invade his country. His first response is to pray, “Lord we do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” Then while he is consulting with his leaders, a prophet tells him not to be afraid because this battle belongs to the Lord. Jehoshaphat then does something remarkable: he sends out his army, but with musicians and singers at the head of the army singing praises to God. The Lord causes the invading army to turn upon itself and it is completely destroyed without the army of Judah even lifting a weapon.
Nobody would come up with a plan like that, but it was the wisdom of the Lord.
In practice, the word of wisdom comes as a deep conviction of what needs to be done next. When a person or a church feels like they are under siege and surrounded by enemies, it may seem impossible to determine what needs to be done. The word of wisdom may come from the least qualified person, but it will show clearly the way ahead, which may not even have been considered. The word will carry the conviction of the Holy Spirit and it will be confirmed by others as being genuinely from God.
The word of wisdom is a gift that individuals and churches need to exercise often. We are the poorer in every way because we do not listen for God’s wisdom.