Knowledge is a gift from God. The Lord gives wisdom that comes from His own mouth — the Word of God — and that the wisdom of God results in knowledge and understanding. (Proverbs 2:6)
God’s desire is for all to know Him, appreciate Him, and have a relationship with Him; therefore, He grants to all who truly seek Him the wisdom that leads to knowledge. Knowledge is God’s to give, those who reverence Him will receive it.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7
The word fear in this passage is not dread or terror but a reverence for God, respect for His law, His will, His rule in our lives, and the fear of offending Him, which will lead us to obey, worship and praise Him.
The vastness of God’s knowledge and creative power are on display continually and are clearly seen in what He has created. (Romans 1:19–20) Not only is God’s knowledge infinite, but it is absolute:
“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” Romans 11:33
When God came to earth in the Person of Jesus the Christ, He became the embodiment of knowledge: “That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:2–3
There is one spiritual gifts referred to as the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge (1 Corinthians 12:8). There is much confusion as to exactly what these two gifts are. Perhaps the best way to approach it is to describe what these gifts are not.
Some Charismatics/Pentecostals view the word of knowledge and word of wisdom spiritual gifts as the Holy Spirit speaking from one believer to another, giving revelation regarding a decision or situation. Those who use these gifts in that way will often say something to the effect of, “I have a word from the Lord for you.” In doing so, they claim to be speaking on behalf of God and claim that their words are to be strictly obeyed.
This understanding of the word of knowledge and word of wisdom gifts comes dangerously close to denying the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture. If God continues to reveal His will and wisdom through special revelation to individuals, then it questions if His Word is truly sufficient to make us “complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17, 2 Peter 1:3)
This is not to say that God never uses another person to speak to us, but if we often need direct messages from God through other people in order to live our lives, that would challenge the sufficiently of God’s Word as it declares itself to be?
So, if the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge are not prophetic/revelatory gifts, then what are they? We know these gifts are given by the Spirit to build up (edify) the body of Christ, for the “common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). The havoc that so often ensues in churches that practice the word of knowledge and word of wisdom as revelatory gifts, clearly is not for the common good. Confusing, nebulous, and sometimes contradictory “words from the Lord” do not come from God, for He is not a God of confusion or disorder (1 Corinthians 14:33). Nor do they tend to bring Christians together for their edification; on the contrary, they tend to cause division and strife in the body. Often the word of knowledge and/or word of wisdom gifts are used to gain power and influence over other people, to make others dependent on the one who claims to possess those gifts. This misuse of the two gifts is clearly not of God.
With that in mind, consider these definitions of the word of knowledge and word of wisdom was it relates to spiritual gifts:
The word of wisdom — The fact that this gift is described as the “word” of wisdom indicates that it is one of the speaking gifts. This gift describes someone who can understand and speak forth biblical truth in such a way as to skillfully apply it to life situations with all discernment.
The word of knowledge — Also a speaking gift that involves understanding truth with an insight that only comes by revelation from God. Those with the gift of knowledge understand the deep things of God and the mysteries of His Word.
Human knowledge, apart from God, is flawed. The Bible also refers to it as worthless because it isn’t tempered by love (1 Corinthians 13:2). The knowledge man possesses tends to make one proud. “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1). Therefore, the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, without seeking God, is foolishness.
“And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit. For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.” Ecclesiastes 1:17–18
Worldly knowledge is generally a false knowledge which is opposed to the truth, “O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen.” 1 Timothy 6:20–21
Human knowledge is opposed to God’s knowledge and therefore is no knowledge at all; rather, it is foolishness.
For the Christian, knowledge implies a relationship. For example, when the Bible says that “Adam knew Eve his wife” (Genesis 4:1), it means he had a physical union with her. Spiritual relationships are also described this way. Jesus used the word know to refer to His saving relationship with those who follow Him:
“I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.” John 10:14
“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32
By contrast, Jesus said to the unbelieving Jews, “Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying.” John 8:55
Therefore, to know Christ is to have faith in Him, to follow Him, to have a relationship with Him, to love and be loved by Him. (See also John 14:7; 1 Corinthians 8:3; Galatians 4:9; and 2 Timothy 2:19.) Increasing in the knowledge of God is part of Christian maturity and is something all Christians are to experience.
“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18