In 1 Corinthians 12:7-10 Paul lists the spiritual gifts... these include the four revelatory gifts: word of knowledge, word of wisdom, discerning of spirits and prophecy. In this teaching we will be taking a detailed look at the the word of knowledge, the word of wisdom and the discernment of spirits. These are known as the revelatory gifts because through divine revelation they allow the believer to see, to understand and to know a fragment of the Lord's heart and perspective.
These gifts often overlap in their usage, but we generally define them for the sake of clarity in the following ways:
Supernatural revelation as to a piece of knowledge which would be naturally unknown to the recipient.
Supernatural impartation of wisdom beyond the natural wisdom of the recipient.
A God-given ability to distinguish the spirit motivating a person or event.
Even though we define them for clarity's sake, as with all the things of God, there is a depth and a mystery about them that goes beyond mere human words and understanding.
God will use these revelatory gifts to accomplish many purposes: to lead people to Christ, to build up faith, to heal, to expose the inner heart of the believer, etc . They will allow you to minister more effectively. As with all the gifts we need to exercise care that we do not go beyond the revealed word from God.
We will now look in more detail at the word of knowledge. Supernatural revelation by the Holy Spirit of a certain fact or facts. These facts can be about the past or the present. It is a word from the Lord that the recipient would have no other way of knowing. It is an instant word for a particular time or person or to accomplish a special purpose.There is no academic or intellectual requirement to receive the word of knowledge. It is a gift operating purely in the spiritual realm. As it is a gift it is unearned.
In the Christian tradition there has always been a distinction between 'reason' and 'revelation' as ways of receiving knowledge.
Human reason is a God-given gift in which all people share. The faculty of reason can be developed through education (from informal socialization processes in early childhood, to the more formal education of the school system).
Revelation is understanding which is directly given as a gift from God to believers and includes an understanding of the scriptures (as the Holy Spirit brings insight) and the revelatory gifts. Simply put, reason comes from 'inside' the human mind, revelation is given from 'outside' by God. The word of knowledge is in this second category.
Bible knowledge can be a matter of reason (merely reading and understanding the text) or revelation (reading the text with revelation given by the Spirit).
- Mark 2:8
- "At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions amongst themselves"
- Jesus knew what they were thinking and saying.
- Luke 1:41
- "When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting the child leaped within her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, 'Blessed are you among woman and blessed is the fruit of your womb'."
- Elizabeth received the word of knowledge about the baby Mary was carrying.
- John 1:47
- "When Jesus saw Nathaniel coming toward him, he said of him 'Here is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit'."
- Jesus knew Nathaniel.
- There are many examples of the word of knowledge in the scriptures. Here are just a few more:
- 1 Sam chs 9-10, 1 Kings 14:2-3, 2 Kings 5:20-27, 6:8-12, John 4 18-29, Matt 9:4, Acts 5 1-11, Acts 10:19.
The word of knowledge can be received in different ways. We will look at these now.
- Physical Symptoms
The word of knowledge can be received through simply feeling the pain as a physical symptom. This is most often felt in association with the gift of healing. Have you ever heard a minister say "The Lord wants to heal left knees and the pain is just about here"? Often the minister simply feels the pain in that area of her own body. Here is a recently observed example of this:
A young man was playing the keyboard as part of the worship team. Suddenly he got a very severe migraine. He recognized that this may be a word of knowledge, so he stopped playing and asked "Has anyone here got a really bad migraine headache? If so we need to pray with you". Two people responded, received prayer and the young man went back to playing his keyboard... migraine headache completely gone!
Of course, as with all revelatory gifts discernment and common sense are necessary... a pain in the chest might be a word of knowledge or it might be a heart attack!
- Empathetic Feeling
Sometimes a word of knowledge is received as an empathetic feeling. An overwhelming feeling which is not related to our circumstances, often experienced in a ministry situation. Whilst praying with someone there is a strong feeling of sadness, or heaviness, or joy. That is the word of knowledge as the Lord allows us to feel something of what the other person is experiencing. Here is an example of empathetic feeling:
It was a large gathering with several thousand in the congregation. Suddenly one lady started to cry, she wept for a long time. When asked by surrounding friends why she was sobbing, she pointed to a certain man who was part of the large platform party and said "I'm weeping for him, he doesn't know the Lord". Here the word of knowledge operated to bring about intercession for a person.
- With the mind
A word of knowledge can also be received through the mind. The mind and thought processes can be used in a number of different ways. It can be through meditation and study of the scriptures, or God may address the mind through dreams and visions or perhaps through a clear word or thought. Here is an example of God using the mind:
A ministry team member was praying with a man, and as he prayed he received a word of knowledge in the form of a picture of a feather floating in the wind. With the vision came the word lightness. The ministry team member shared the word of knowledge and prayed that all heaviness would leave the man. Later he confirmed the word of knowledge, saying that all the previous week he had felt weighed down by circumstances and the heaviness had lifted with the word of knowledge and the prayer.
- Spiritual intuition
This is when we receive a word of knowledge in the deepest part of our being. We can't explain in words how we received it, we just 'know' it from deep within our being. All we can say is 'we know, because we know, because we know', it is deeper than our rational thought.
Now we will look in more detail at the word of wisdom. Wisdom is the application of knowledge. It is a characteristic which grows with age and experience. For example, a young person may be quite brilliant at solving mathematical equations (knowledge) but will be bereft of wisdom concerning the deeper matters of life. Equally, an older person may not have much knowledge, but because of a long life experience may be quite wise. Like knowledge, wisdom can be natural (the 'becoming wise', over time) and supernatural, a gift imparted by God for a particular situation. The word of wisdom falls into this second category. It is a supernatural impartation by the Holy Spirit of wisdom beyond the natural wisdom of the recipient. It provides insight, guidance and counsel. The word of wisdom also gives insight on how existing revelation and knowledge may be best applied in a given situation. It needs to be sought when a word of knowledge is received because it includes the revelation of how to apply the God-given knowledge. Also this gift may involve application of the scriptures in a way that brings wisdom.
The word of wisdom complements the word of knowledge. In fact, when we receive a word of knowledge it is often necessary to seek the word of wisdom to know how to apply the the divinely inspired knowledge. Maybe the word of knowledge was given to us for intercession or maybe it was given to speak out. We need to seek the word of wisdom.
We may receive it as a flash of revelation in our thoughts. It may come as a vision or dream. Sometimes just through a deep inner 'knowing'. We may receive words of wisdom for ourselves or for others as we minister to them.
A lady had a decision to make. She just did not know which was the right way to go. She asked for prayer explaining the situation. The person ministering did not receive a word of wisdom, so just prayed. The Holy Spirit touched the lady powerfully, and for half an hour she lay in the Spirit. Then she stood up and declared, "Now I know what to do". Whilst soaking in the spirit she had received the word of wisdom.
Someone was ministering in a large meeting. As she prayed for a another lady (unknown to her) she received a word of knowledge. The word of knowledge came that this young woman had been abused by men in her church. Now it was necessary to seek a word of wisdom... how do we apply this knowledge? Do we confront or pray? The word of wisdom came, just pray. The minister prayed, "Lord if this lady has ever received abuse, please lift it off her". The lady started to weep, the minister was then able to pray further, "Lord, if the abuse is from men, please lift it off." At this point the lady went to the floor sobbing. Further, deeper ministry was then able to take place. The word of wisdom had been applied.
Quote from The Harvest by Rick Joyner (pg. 23)"One of the least emphasized but most important gifts of the Spirit is the gift of a word of wisdom. This is the supernatural impartation of the mind of Christ into specific situations. This is a more subtle and less spectacular gift than the word of knowledge or the power gifts, but without it the others may be rendered less effective, or even counterproductive in accomplishing God's purposes."
- John 4:16-17
- "Jesus said to her, 'Go call your husband, and come back'. The woman answered him, 'I have no husband'."
- Note the word of wisdom in how Jesus talked to this lady. He did not directly confront her with the knowledge of her lifestyle.
- 1 Kings 3:16-28
- The story of Solomon and the two women who were disputing who's son had died. Solomon operated in wisdom to settle the dispute.
Now we will take a more detailed look at the discerning of spirits.
"Discerning of spirits enables believers to distinguish---by means of a spiritual insight---the motivating spirit behind certain words or deeds, be it human, demonic or divine."
TACF Use of Revelatory and Spoken Gifts of the Spirit (pg. 2)
This gift is a God-given ability to discern which spirit is motivating a person or an event. We will ask questions such as: Is it demonic? Is it the Holy Spirit? Be careful with this gift that you do not set yourselves up to judge or criticize.
Discerning of spirits is not based on what we see but more on what we sense in the spiritual realm. It is not keen insight into human nature nor is it our understanding of a situation. It is through revelation by the Holy Spirit. We can often know what a person is thinking or feeling just by looking at facial expressions or body language. This in itself can be used by the Holy Spirit.
As always be cautious when operating in this gift. In this time of intense spiritual awakening we see many differing manifestations of the spirit, God is setting his people free. Never immediately judge something that looks a little different or bizarre as demonic. We need the gift of discernment more than ever before.
- Luke 4:34
- "'Let us alone! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.' But Jesus rebuked him, saying 'Be silent, and come out of him'."
- Jesus recognized the spirit which was speaking to him.
- Matthew 17:18
- "And Jesus rebuked the demon and it came out of him."
- Again Jesus recognized the spirit behind the young boy's epileptic fit.
- Although in this case Jesus saw the cause of the epileptic fit as being a demonic presence we cannot form a doctrine that says that every one who has an epileptic fit is demonized!
We thought it would be useful to include under the heading of discernment of spirits a small section on how we can recognize demons.
There are differing levels of demonization. At the lowest level 'accusation'; feelings of unworthiness. Then 'temptation'; thoughts disturbing to the mind leading towards sin. Also 'oppression'; an overall inability in spiritual things causing apathy and irrational fear. Please note here that being attacked by demons is not sin, only if we take the temptations and accusations and give into them do we fall into sin. Then, lastly, 'severely demonized' (some refer to this state as 'possession', thought most in deliverance ministry prefer not to use that term) -- here demons enter through an open door. They are invited to enter through the occult or drugs or sexual abuses, etc.
We may sometimes see demons manifest during a time of spiritual worship or prayer. Demons recognize spiritual authority (Acts 19:15) and then the demons become disturbed and manifest (Mark 9:20). Demons will always seek to draw attention to themselves and to take the focus off the Lord.
Please note even if you discern demonic presence it may not be appropriate to immediately start deliverance. Demonic deliverance requires pastoral oversight and after-care. Carol Arnott once said, "If a person has had a demon for 20 years another week isn't going to make much difference". A wise piece of advice!
"Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts, and especially that you may prophesy" (1 Cor 14:1).
"Those who prophesy speak to other people for their up-building and encouragement and consolation" (1 Cor 14:3).
The more we seek to hear God and use these gifts the more readily we will see them flow. Most of the time when we are operating in these revelatory gifts we will be dealing with other people.Therefore we need to take care, we are imperfect people and sometimes we will mishear the Lord's voice... we may be wrong! We need to speak our words in a way that will not cause offense. Also in a way that allows the recipient the freedom to judge and, if necessary, to reject the words. At all times we need to manifest the love of Christ to those to whom we speak.
God is releasing the church prophetically in this time. Never before have we seen such an abundance of prophecy and such a release of the words of knowledge and wisdom. It is an exciting time to be in!
Each lesson is accompanied by an activation exercise, or workshop, designed to help you more fully develop your prophetic gifting. These activations start simple, and each week's activation builds on the previous ones. To see the activation for this week's lesson, click here.