What is the difference between the Word of Wisdom and the Word of Knowledge? There is much confusion and debate about what these words mean, so it may be better to approach this from a different angle – what these gifts are not and how some Christians today are coming dangerously close to ignoring Scripture because of their misuse of these two gifts.
There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:4-8).
First Corinthians 12:8 is the only verse in the New Testament that talks about the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge. So it is important to look at it in context. Notice how Paul is emphasising that there are diversities of gifts, ministries and activities, but it is the same Spirit and the same God who works throughout. The purpose, of course, for the manifestation of the Spirit, is that each one of us should profit by these gifts. For as we have learned, the gifts of the Spirit are meant for building up and edifying the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12).
With that in mind, let us look to the Old Testament for our example on how the Spirit of Wisdom operated. Since God is unchanging we can be confident that the Spirit of Wisdom He bestowed on people in the Old Testament is the same Spirit we see manifested today.
The Spirit of Wisdom:
So you shall speak to all who are gifted [the KJV interprets “gifted” as “wise-hearted” or “skilled”] artisans, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron’s garments, to consecrate him, that he may minister to Me as priest (Exodus 28:3, NKJV, emphasis mine).
The Spirit of Wisdom involved a certain skill, knowledge or understanding on a particular subject. In this case, it was the skill of designing artistic works. The men who had been blessed with this talent, were given an extra measure of wisdom to encompass all manner of artistic workmanship.
The Greek word for wisdom used in 1 Corinthians 12:8 and throughout the New Testament is sophia and it is taken from the root word sophos which means “skilled expert”. This did not just mean someone involved in making things with their hands. A “skilled expert” was a person who had first-hand knowledge and/or talent in a certain field. For example, a “skilled expert” could also be someone who is well-versed in theology. But the Spirit of Wisdom had many characteristics.
Now Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him; so the children of Israel heeded him, and did as the Lord had commanded Moses (Deuteronomy 34:9, NKJV).
Chokmah is the Hebrew word for “wisdom”. It means many things –skill, shrewdness, or wisdom in administration, prudence (in religious affairs) and wisdom in ethical or religious matters. This word comes from the root word chakam which means to “act wisely, teach or instruct.”
And God gave Solomon wisdom and exceedingly great understanding, and largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore (1 Kings 4:29, NKJV). Solomon was given such an overflowing gift of wisdom that he was known far and wide as the wisest man in all the earth (1 Kings 4:30; 1 Kings 4:34; 1 Kings 10:23).
Wisdom, getting it and keeping it, is stressed over and over again in both the Old and New Testaments. Proverbs 4:7 says, “Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.” The Hebrew word for understanding is biynah and means “discernment or knowledge”.
Wisdom is gifted by God to anyone who asks for it:
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him (James 1:5).
The Spirit of Wisdom given to believers is different from those of unbelievers according to 1 Corinthians 1:18-25. In fact, God says the wisdom of this world is foolishness (1 Corinthians 3:19). So the Spirit of Wisdom has many aspects to it and has more insight or discernment than say someone who is “wise” in the eyes of the world. To be clear, there is a difference between intelligence and wisdom. Intelligence is defined as “general cognitive problem-solving skills. A mental ability involved in reasoning, perceiving relationships and analogies, calculating, learning quickly… etc.” Whereas wisdom is defined as “having experience, knowledge and good judgment.” In the case of the Spirit of Wisdom we might also add insight and discernment, especially in areas concerning God’s Word.
So what is the gift of knowledge?
The Hebrew word for knowledge is da`ath and it means “discernment, perception, understanding and wisdom”. In 1 Corinthians 12:8 the Greek word for knowledge is gnosis and means “a seeking to know, an enquiry or investigation, especially of spiritual truth”. You can see how both the word of wisdom and word of knowledge are different, but at the same time complement each other. The gift of knowledge comes with the desire to know. People with this gift love to get to the “meat” of the Bible, digging deeper to understand hidden truths. And the gift of wisdom comes from all that digging. Or in the case of someone with a skill set it comes from the desire to learn more about a certain trade or skill - which would require practice. Do you understand what I’m saying here? Wisdom when applied to a skill set as in the artists who worked on the Temple, comes from years of practising that craft. Wisdom when applied to teaching from the Bible comes from years of reading it. Knowledge produces wisdom. In each case God grants spiritual insight and discernment when using the word of wisdom. Likewise it is the same with the word of knowledge. The word itself means to “seek to know” – it’s looking for answers – and God grants those answers and wisdom is gained.
What the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge are not:
They are not prophetic or revelatory gifts. There are some who believe that the word of knowledge and the word of wisdom is the Holy Spirit giving them a special message speaking from one believer to another, or to the congregation as a whole. For example, they will often say something like, “I have a word from the Lord for you.” They believe that these gifts are used to give special revelation regarding a decision or a situation. But by using these gifts in this way they are effectively claiming to be speaking for God and that their words are to be obeyed or considered as directly from God’s mouth. Unfortunately, by doing this they are denying the sufficiency of Scripture. For God’s Word says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
So if someone says they are getting a word from the Lord the focus is now taken off of the Scriptures and put on the person with the message. Be wary of people who say they have a word from the Lord for you. For there is no way for you to verify it. It is their word against God’s Word. Always turn to the Scriptures for guidance. For if God has truly given us His Holy Spirit and His Holy Spirit fills us and leads us into all truth (John 16:13) why would we need or require other individuals to give us special revelation from God? This is why God freely gives wisdom to all who ask (James 1:5) so that we do not have to doubt.
Scripture confirms that the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge are not revelatory gifts. The Greek for “word” in 1 Corinthians 12:8 is logos and it means all manner of things. From something someone has said or declared in a speech, to someone coming alongside and saying “May I have a word?” Logos is used in talking about the sayings of God, to teach doctrine, to reason, to give an account, or it is used for the actual act of speaking. It is also used in reference to Jesus as being The Word of God (John 1:1). Which makes sense because Jesus “speaks forth for God and about Him.” He was and still is God’s voice for us through Scripture. In short, “the word of wisdom” and “the word of knowledge” would be more accurately translated in today’s language as “speaking with wisdom” or “speaking with knowledge”.
To be clear, I am not saying that God doesn’t use people to help us when seeking His will, because He does. For it is often people, combined with circumstances and Scripture, who help us see the way we should go in a certain matter. The Holy Spirit will often cause someone to pray for or reach out to another. That individual might not know why they feel compelled to pray – but in obedience they do and later find out from the individual they prayed for why God nudged them. Have you ever experienced that? I know I have. I have woken up in the middle of the night with a strong impression to pray for a certain person. Then I find out the next day what that person was going through and how desperately they needed prayer. So, yes, God does use His people to nurture and care for each other. Since all believers are linked via the Holy Spirit, we are more attuned to respond to His promptings when another in the body is in need.
This is why all spiritual gifts are to be used for the edification of the entire church body – to build them up in the Lord. That is their purpose. And it is why the gifts of wisdom and knowledge are given to all who ask and seek. For God wants you to know Him and promises that those who seek will find Him and those who ask for wisdom will receive it (Matthew 7:7; James 1:5).
4/17/2017 08:53:42 am
4/17/2017 01:18:13 pm
Sherry, my dear friend I am sorry I have grieved you. I did not mean this as "bashing" Pentecostals. I myself come from a Pentecostal background so I struggled whether to say anything at all. But my reason for saying anything at all is based on my own experience with people who have misused this gift to the detriment of others and even myself. Again, it wasn't meant to bash Pentecostals. If anything it is meant as a warning to not misuse these gifts.
7/23/2018 10:29:20 pm
I realized this is where gotquestions got their answer to my question the difference between the gifts of wisdom and knowledge . I stumbled upon your website to look for a better answer because I myself am so grieved with what I have read there. It grieves me that Christians think of the prophetic gifts that way. I was saved 23 years ago and until now, I always tell other people of my own experience when I was a very young Christian receiving prophetic words that until now I keep telling people about these incidents. I have never once doubted that God hears our prayers due to my experience with a prophet who told me of the EXACT words I prayed in silence, by myself including the very gesture I did as I prayed. Yes, it was very personal for me. Was it beneficial for the church? YES! For 23 years I’ve been sharing my experience to people. I’m an effective evangelist in my workplaces because I have EXPERIENCED God through many ways but the prophetic is a significant part of it. I used to be a receiver of prophesies now I have learned to be on the other end. I pray you yourself experience the power of God through prophecy. I guarantee you you’re going to change your mind and rewrite your article.
1/7/2020 08:06:45 pm
4/19/2017 01:12:18 am
Thank you Geoff.
Laura, I always know I am going to get a great teaching when I come to your site. Love the depth of knowledge and wisdom with which you write! This one truth: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God..." seems to be so under attack in our society and is a foundational truth.
4/19/2017 10:50:57 am
Thank you Crystal!
4/5/2018 09:18:58 am
Thanks God for this article.
5/20/2018 11:50:59 pm
Thank you so much for this truth! I know it is not easy to stand up for Biblical truth when it contradicts certain church culture or tradition. We must look to God's Word for answers and not our own (vain) experiences. Your words helped me understand more clearly these gifts. I believe my husband and I have them because we love to learn and research constantly and love seeking God's truth to know Him and teach others about Him.
2/28/2019 10:19:27 am
Thank you for your explanation and I agree with what you wrote. I too came from a Pentecostal background and I saw so much abuse coming from people that thought they heard God speaking to them or had a message for someone. It’s true, we will be known by our fruits! The main way that God speaks to us today, is through his word, he might confirm something to us through someone else but be ware of people who claim to be prophets. I myself was given prophecies that came against what the Lord had been saying to me and later were confirmed by someone who was truly a spiritual brother or sister in the Lord.
4/3/2019 06:31:44 pm
5/6/2019 09:55:41 am
You had me up until saying these are not revelatory gifts. If I now have a word of knowledge about something because I was seeking God to know about it more clearly/deeply, and He's supernaturally given me understanding/knowledge beyond what I can accomplish in my human mind.. this is a revelatory gift. I did not go searching for an answer in my own power or will but by praying in the Spirit (gift of tongues) and God revealing it to me as supernatural revelation of this new knowledge. I also believe these can be words of revelation/confirmation to other people. God has literally shown me something that I could not have known on my own, and when I shared it with a particular person they confirmed those things as true in their personal circumstance (not a prophecy about what is to come but a word of knowledge). I did appreciate your differential on word of knowledge versus word of wisdom but to say these are not revelatory gifts is to take the Holy Spirit out of the equation, whom the Word said teaches us all things. Your thinking will limit how God can use you through these gifts. That's where discernment comes in. I agree alignment with scripture is extremely important but God also gives kairos words to speak life to people in the moment.. things that will reveal His goodness and love that we could not have known without revelatory knowledge from Him through this gifting. May God continually give us the Spirit of wisdom and understanding to grow in our knowledge of Him!
11/9/2020 06:07:09 am
Kelly you were spot on and thank you very much. Hence we call them gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:3 Therefore I make known to you, that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus is accursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit). If you take out the Holy Spirit and substitute with yourself then clearly it can never be the Revelatory Gifts but humanly acquired. But that knowledge/insight with which is revealed by the Holy Spirit that was previously unknown is definitely a Revelatory. There's quiet distinction between prophhecy and these two revelational gifts. I suggest and recommend a book for Laura by Kenneth E. Having "How you can be led by thr Spirit of God. In conclusion: Deut 29:29 secrets things belongs to Lord our God and those that are revealed belong to us and to our sons forever that we may observe all the words of this law. It is the glory of God to conceal a matter but the glory of Kings to search for it. Only concealed matters or secrets can be revealed through the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
7/15/2019 06:26:52 pm
Thanks for this post it was very helpful. Recently my pastor and a sister have told me they see me developing in gift of knowledge or wisdom linked with discernment. After reading further I believe perhaps knowledge more then wisdom. I say as I LOVE digging really deep into scripture, studying the language and related text. I see how it all links. As an example the other day I was praying after reading and I saw the connection between Psalm 23 and the gospel.The Lord is my shepherd -
7/15/2019 07:37:33 pm
Laura, how very interesting that you chose Psalm 23! I too have found comfort in this Psalm and talked about it here https://www.laurajdavis.com/biblestudies/god-our-shepherd
7/15/2021 11:16:56 am
Ability to link scriptures together is a function of a Believers Leve anointing which you have in you of the Holy Ghost that teaches you all things (1John 2:27) plus your diligence search and study of the scriptures.
5/13/2020 11:23:47 am
Being able to delve into scripture and see how it all links and connect to each is the anointing of the Holy Spirit in operation who the Bible says will teach us all things. However this is different from the gift of the word of knowledge and wisdom. The Prophet of a friend of mine once gave a word to her tell me about someone from very close to me and plan of the enemy was thwarted, Glory to God. He doesn't know me and I have never met him before but he had a word of knowledge for me from the Lord. I have had countless encounters like that and I know many who have had the same experience. There are false prophets who abuse this gift but that doesn't mean we should cast them aside because of a few who abuse their usage. We will be letting the enemy achieve his which is to stop us from using this gifts because they expose him.
8/11/2020 04:01:25 pm
Was just doing a study on this chapter, and this verse especially, and ran into this article you posted. Right good one as well, thank you for this, really helped me quite a bit, appreciate the time you took to write it out and post it. Thanks!
8/11/2020 10:13:37 pm
Thank you Arthur.
8/17/2020 10:11:46 am
Thank you for your time and for putting the grace of God at work in your life here. We shall all continue to learn and be guided of Him.
11/2/2020 08:51:39 pm
This sure has enlightened me more about this specific aspect. Thank you!
12/14/2020 05:40:48 pm
God bless you ma'am
3/12/2021 05:08:59 am
Thank you Laura for putting this together and doing so has given way to others sharing their thoughts and challenging us . I'm unlearning and learning. My prayer is that as we share that we continue to do so with humility, love and we will examine our motives. May we continue to die to our flesh and it's desires and may we conrinueb maintain a childlike attitude as we delve into scriptures.
12/14/2021 10:07:34 am
Laura I read your post carefully. I ve seen in my experience as a Christian since over 25 yrs now, that sometimes those who operate in the prophetic gift speak false prophecies.
12/15/2021 11:38:45 am
Elizabeth, I would agree with the Pastor you wrote to, who encouraged you stand on the Scriptures and leave this abusive relationship. This man who said he saw symbols from God is a false prophet. You cannot confirm anything he saw, you can only take his word for it. Anyone who claims to speak for God through a special revelation only they got, is not someone I personally would listen to. You have the Holy Spirit and you have the Scriptures. I think you know the answer to your dilemma already. You only need to take the first step.
Your comment will be posted after it is approved.
Leave a Reply.