Within our local church context of Cornerstone, I have begun to pick back up on the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12-14. I had shared much back in the autumn time on the empowering of the Holy Spirit, as well as on prophecy and tongues. But I wanted to go back and look at the 6 other gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 – message of wisdom, message of knowledge, faith, healings, miracles and discerning of spirits.
Last Sunday I began by looking at the message of wisdom. So I wanted to post an article along the same lines.
Specifically, in 1 Cor 12:7-11, we read these words of Paul:
7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 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. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
There are different ways to translate the Greek word logos – word, message, utterance. I suppose that when we consider this particular gift in the context of its use, the Greek could be more faithfully translated as ‘message of wisdom’, in that there is usually more than just one word given. Hence, we have message of wisdom in the NIV text quoted above. The ESV translates as utterance of wisdom. But the more traditional expression of the word of wisdom is just as fine, as Christ is the Logos/Word. This is a small case of semantical preference.
Though I will touch on this more when I post an article on the word/message of knowledge, I think it would be good to initially note the connection between the message of wisdom and the message of knowledge. If anything, in more ‘natural’ terms, knowledge and wisdom tend to work together very well, with knowledge being kind of like the information one receives and wisdom being how to apply that information.
But within the biblical context, the two gifts are quite connected. If anything, they are mentioned right next to one another in the Corinthian passage. I suppose it is like tongues and interpretation being mentioned next to one another, and it is even easier to see the link between those two. In many cases, a message of wisdom can help with understanding how to practically apply a message of knowledge. But I think I’ll reserve sharing more on this in my post on the gift of the message of knowledge.
This gift of the message of wisdom, as a specific manifestation of the Spirit, should not be equated with wisdom that comes through living life and being advanced in years, as we read about in Proverbs. Nor is it equivalent to understanding that comes through our more regular reading and study of Scripture. Both of these are important in life, no doubt. We should not neglect them. But the Scripture does distinguish this gift from other more ‘regular’ methods of growing in our knowledge and understanding of God and his ways.
Let me also just go ahead and note that this gift has nothing to do with gnosticism. This is something the church has been fighting against for almost two millenia, and still today. Of course, in one sense, knowing Christ does point to having a special wisdom. Christ is the wisdom of God himself (1 Cor 1:30), and to be in Christ is to have the wisdom of God. But this is a privilege of the children of God in Christ. And with this specific gifting of the Holy Spirit, or any of his gifts, we should steer clear of creating arrogant groupings of the have’s against the have not’s. Such is unacceptable! We are to use these gifts ‘for the common good’ (1 Cor 12:7), to edify and build up the body of Christ. Creating have’s and have not’s does the exact opposite.
When the gift of the message of wisdom comes forth, I do believe we are enabled to live more in line with the revelation of God. Again, not to create the in-group and out-group. But I believe we see Paul’s desire for such in this prayer:
16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. (Eph 1:16-17)
Our call is to know him better. And, at times, we need the Spirit of wisdom and revelation to bring us into a deeper knowing of our Father, a deeper wisdom and revelation. Again, I can only reiterate that this is not to create gnostic superior spirituality in the church. But this is a gift, a good gift, given so that we might know God and his ways.
Therefore, I might define a message of wisdom as a Spirit-directed statement that brings a specific revelation of God’s wisdom into our lives and situations. This could be given as a shorter, verbal communication, i.e. into a personal situation, or it could come through an expounding on Scripture. As I have mentioned, I don’t believe a message of wisdom is the exact same as wisdom that comes through more regular study of Scripture. But it could be that in the midst of our reading and study, or another’s teaching of Scripture, that a specific revelation of God’s wisdom comes.
Matter of fact, I think this happens in the lives of those who would possibly confess that these gifts no longer take place today, or no longer take place on any kind of normative basis. They might call it illumination of Scripture, or general guidance of God, or identify it by some other name. But I believe the Spirit enables God’s people with this gift even when we least expect it.
Where might we find a couple of biblical examples?
I think one is found in regards to Solomon’s decision concerning the two women and what to do with the child in 1 Kgs 3:16-28. Do you remember the account? Two women have new born babes. One baby dies. The mother of the dead baby switches the babies. They come before the king each arguing that the baby is theirs. In that moment, Solomon receives a word, or message, of wisdom – cut the baby in half. Of course, the real mother decided to let the baby go so that it might live. The one who wasn’t the mother responds with, ‘Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!’ And in these responses, Solomon was able to determine who the real mother was.
Or we have an example with Jesus’ answer in regards to giving taxes to Caesar (Luke 20:20-26). The teachers of the law and chief priests ask if they should pay taxes to Caesar. As was normal, they were trying to trap him. Jesus asks to look at a coin and then asks them whose inscription is on the coin. Of course, it was the image of Caesar. Jesus simply, yet wisely, responds – Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s. I believe this is an example of a word/message of wisdom (if not also a bit of discerning of spirits to note their intention). Jesus, in his humanity, had to rely upon the Father and Spirit. He was a perfect example of how we are to live. More than example, yes. But nonetheless, I believe he was relying at all times to hear from the Father rather than having an already uploaded bank of information at his disposal. And here we find a case of a message of wisdom in responding to the religious leaders.
This week, I believe my wife was given a word/message of wisdom with regards to a situation with our son.
We have just moved house. Whereas we are completely excited about a new and larger home (though a bit tired from all the moving), it hasn’t been easy for my 2-year old son to adapt to all the changes – a new home, a new room, a new play area, new people around, etc. Not to mention that his naps were thrown off for a few days. He had really struggled in this time.
One night my wife put him to bed, but my son was crying and crying, louder and louder. He was hysterical. In the moment, as my wife lay on our bed trying to rest after putting him to bed, as the crying and loudness increased, she really wanted to respond with anger. She was exhausted (she is also 7 months pregnant) and it was just too much. But in that moment, right then and there, when she greatly needed it, God spoke – Cat, how would I deal with you in that circumstance? I would love you and be patient with you.
So my wife got up and went into our son’s room, picked him up while he was still hysterically crying, and said in a sweet, soft tone – Caleb, look at me. Look at me……..I love you. I love you, Caleb. And she just held him as he began to calm and quite himself. After a moment, she laid him back in bed and he went to sleep.
My wife needed that specific wisdom. Right then, right there. And God spoke a word, a message, of wisdom with how to respond to our son in that situation. It doesn’t always perfectly happen. We still see in part, we still know in part (1 Cor 13:9, 12). Sometimes we miss it. Sometimes we aren’t listening. Sometimes I think God might decided to hold back a little to let us deal with difficult situations (all for our growth). But here was an instance of God giving my wife a message of wisdom into parenting our little son.
We want to grow in wisdom as we live life. We want to grow in wisdom as we study Scripture, relate to the body of Christ, and walk with him on a daily basis. And while we don’t want to put a great divide between the different ways in which God unveils and reveals his wisdom, we must recognise that there are times when this specific (maybe more spontaneous) measure of God’s wisdom comes through the gift of the message of wisdom.
We need it. And I’m glad our all-wise God is willing to give it to us, personally and through others in the body.