The Sign Gifts – Wisdom and Knowledge

God’s Spiritual Gifts to Believers at the Beginning of the Church Age

1 Corinthians 12:1-11


I.         Introduction


A.      Spiritual gifts have a two-fold purpose within the church: 


1.        To glorify God, the giver of the gifts - 1 Peter 4:10-11. (The proper use of spiritual gifts never draw attention to self, but—as the Holy Ghost Who gave them—points to Christ!) 

2.        To enable believers to edify one other in the church - Ephesians 4:11-15


B.       Before getting into the gifts individually, we need to see the special nature of these gifts.  In order to rightly divide the Word of Truth, we need to understand four things.


1.        First, the time frame of 1 Corinthians.  This particular book was written during the period of the Book of Acts.  The Acts of the Apostles ran from app. 33 A.D. to 63 A.D.  A period of about 30 years beginning with the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ and ending just prior to the death of the Apostle Paul in app. 66 A.D. in Rome.  The Gospels and the Book of Acts are what we call a transitional period in history.


a.        It was a time of great change from the Old to the New Testament.  In the Old Testament, the Law of Moses was the guide and rule for the Jewish people.  In the New Testament, the rule would be the law of Christ.

b.       It was a time of change, from the Jew to the Gentile – from fear to grace – from the temple, to the Church

c.        This time of transition would have some things happen that will confuse anybody – so be ready to be confused a bit until you have learned how to study the truths out


2.        Sign gifts were given to win the Jews to Christ (1Cor 1:22; 14:21-25) – remember, that on the Day of Pentecost – 3,000 JEWS were saved

3.        Thirdly, many of these gifts of the Spirit were passing gifts and, by the time of the writing of 1 Corinthians, these particular gifts were already passing off the scene.  Men, like the Apostle Paul, with the gifts of miracles, healings, prophecy (foretelling), and tongues with interpretation were already losing the ability to perform these particular gifts.  We will deal with this, a little more in-depth in another message.

4.        Fourthly, these passing gifts were to be replaced by “that which is perfect” in chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians.  This is in reference to the completed canon of Scripture.  Many erroneously interpret that verse in 1 Corinthians13:10 to be the Second Coming of Christ, but both the context and wording of the passage make it perfectly clear that this is a reference to the completed Word of God and not the Second Advent.  The word “perfect” carries the meaning of being brought to its end, finished, wanting nothing necessary to completeness, or being brought to full age.  The Word of God had always been perfect in the sense of absolute perfection because every word of God is pure, but had not been brought to completion.  We have in our hands today the perfectly complete Word of God and, therefore, “that which is in part” (the special sign gifts) has now been done away with.


C.       Tonight we will start looking at the first two Sign Gifts: The Word of Wisdom, and the Word of Knowledge


II.       Message – The Sign Gifts – Part 1


A.      The Word of Wisdom


1.        This is a gift of speaking and teaching (notice “the word”).  The gift of “The word of wisdom” is to be differentiated from wisdom itself.  Much is said about wisdom in the Bible and we are to constantly seek wisdom.


a.        WISDOM - The meaning of what we learn, and what we know; the right application of what we know.


1)       There is knowing stuff

2)       And there is the wisdom of understanding what we know


b.       Wisdom is to be sought by every believer, and it is given liberally (abundantly, without restraint) by God through patient prayer (Jam 1:5)


2.        The word of wisdom includes the thought of a special revelation from God.  It is the gift of explaining a spiritual mystery that could not have been understood apart from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.


a.        Romans 11:33  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!

b.       2 Corinthians 12:1  It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.

c.        2 Corinthians 12:7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

d.       Paul constantly had revelations, and special wisdom was given to him to explain those revelations


3.        In the Old Testament, this gift was an ability to interpret dreams. 


a.        Genesis 40 – Joseph’s interpretation the dreams of the butler, the baker, and then Pharaoh’s dreams of corn and cattle.

b.       Daniel 2:19-23, 30.  Daniel’s interpretation of the dream of Nebuchadnezzar.


4.        This gift of the Spirit was a passing gift as we now have the complete revelation of God’s Word and it is no longer needed.  These mysteries are now explained in the Bible. 

5.        We are to still seek the wisdom of God in our lives in order to discern God’s will, but not this gift


B.       The Word Of Knowledge – this is a speaking gift (“the word”). 


1.        This is more than mere acquaintance with facts or acquired knowledge. Here are references to general knowledge


a.        1 Timothy 2:4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

b.       2 Peter 1:2 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,

c.        2 Peter 1:5-6  And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;

d.       2 Peter 1:8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.


2.        Example of this gift of knowledge  - Elisha knowing that Gehazi lied to Naaman (2 Kings 5:20-27)

3.        It simply means, a Word that was equal to Scripture, but not yet written down as Scripture (1Thes 2:13)


a.        A word of knowledge

b.       A teaching that a prophet would know, and yet was not publicly revealed


4.        Charismatics believe “the gift of the word of knowledge is the transcendental revelation of the divine will and plan of God.” Knowing something that only God could give to you, like God’s will for a person – very dangerous thing to claim if not for today!

5.        This gift was a divinely inspired utterance of a truth not yet revealed by the Old Testament. 


a.        Remember, the New Testament had not been written down much by 1 Corinthians – here are the dates of the writing of Scripture that were written before 1 Corinthians (written around 55 AD):


1)       Matthew and Mark were written around 40-60 AD

2)       Luke was written AFTER 1 Corinthians around 65 AD

3)       And the Gospel of John was written WAY AFTER 1 Corinthians in 95 AD


b.       Every time a person prophesied, it was by a supernatural “word of knowledge”


1)       2 Peter 1:21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

2)       Ephesians 3:4-5 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;


6.        This gift was a passing gift according to 1 Corinthians 13:8.   “The word of knowledge” is not in use today because we have the completed revelation of God in the Scriptures (1Cor 13:2)


III.     Conclusion


A.      Summary of the first set of sign gifts


1.        Word of Wisdom – a spiritual understanding about situations, and able to teach that awareness to others

2.        Word of Knowledge – knowing the mind of God and speaking it even though not written down in Scripture yet


B.       Next week, the Gifts of faith and of Healing

C.       Don’t think that Wisdom and Knowledge are outdated – just the special gifts of the words of wisdom and knowledge.

D.      Learn the difference, and live the reality – not the dream!


Craig Ledbetter

Bible Baptist Church

Ballincollig, Cork, Ireland