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1 Corinthians 12:4-11 ESV Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

What is the practical difference between these two gifts: wisdom vs knowledge? My understanding of the two words is that "wisdom is applied knowledge", but both gifts are talked about in the form of uttering them, which must mean something.

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It might be fruitful to ask this question at Biblical Hermeneutics SE, since it is about the differences between two words. –  Andrew Jun 24 '14 at 20:24

2 Answers 2

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There are different kinds of knowledge, and according to your comment that "wisdom is applied knowledge," I infer that your definition of knowledge might be

Information that is not yet applied to a situation (for example).

If I'm correct, then I think you're on the right track. Knowledge IS information, and when it comes to spiritual gifts, God is able to give information to the possessor of this gift either prior to the information becoming a fact or at the very moment the word of knowledge is given.

The Gift of Knowledge

The gift of knowledge might be revealed, for example, when a believer tells another believer,

"God is going to heal you of _____________."

You can fill in the blank, above, with the word cancer, or diabetes, or panic attacks, or whatever infirmity you care to name. The imparter of this utterance could be thousands of miles away from a given situation--one in which a missionary who is in danger of being kidnapped by terrorists, for example. During a time of prayer, the person with the gift of knowledge says to himself, "God is going to prevent missionary Jones from being kidnapped."

If the gift is genuine, not only will missionary Jones not be kidnapped, but the person who uttered that knowledge might have the joy of telling that missionary the "good news" a day (or a week, or a year!) later, and the missionary may (though not necessarily) recount to the glory of God how the deliverance came about!

To be sure, there is wisdom involved in the speaking of knowledge, but that wisdom originates in God, and the speaker of that word of knowledge is but a channel for a supernatural, God-imparted word of knowledge. The "test" for whether this gift is legitimate, of course, is if the word of knowledge turns out to be true! (At this point, I will not dare to venture into how this gift can be perverted whenever Satan seeks to insert his counterfeit word of knowledge into a situation, though I'm sure it does happen on occasion. I will suggest, however, that a person with the gift of wisdom could potentially discern such a satanic counterfeit and expose it for what it is.)

The Word of Wisdom

Now to the word, or utterance, of wisdom. The speaker of wisdom can look at a situation which already exists--say, for example, whether or not a local assembly of Christians should seek to plant a sister church, and takes the knowledge he or she has gleaned from God's revealed will and word in the Bible, and applies it to the situation at hand.

If all goes well, the congregation heeds that word of wisdom and it is confirmed by a unanimity among the entire congregation. Situations are at times far from ideal, however. In other words, wisdom imparted is not always wisdom applied!

In conclusion, whether we're talking about the utterance of knowledge or of wisdom, the source and imparter of the gift is God's Holy Spirit. We His children who are privileged to be indwelt by His Spirit are merely the recipients of His gifts. Moreover, we can also be filled with His Holy Spirit, and when communicating His will and word we are but God's mouthpieces, much like the prophets of old.

"For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit . . .. [Both] these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills."

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Great answer! Definitely helped me. Do you know of examples in scripture where knowledge and wisdom are used in this way that you could add to your answer? I feel like that's the only thing missing to make it perfect. –  LCIII Jun 24 '14 at 23:05
@LCIII: Sure. First, however, I must say that "plain knowledge" can also be a gift from God. Whether you're a skilled craftsman (or woman), a rocket scientist, or an expert in 16th century Croatian poetry (I don't know if Croatia goes back that far!), God can use the knowledge you've acquired for His glory. One caveat: "Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up" (see 1 Cor 8:1). As for examples from the Scripture, I recommend a jaunt through Proverbs. In Proverbs (NASB), the word "knowledge" appears 40 times; wisdom, 49 times. There is bound to be crossover between the two concepts, but –  rhetorician Jun 30 '14 at 22:49
@LCIII: if memory serves, there is no warning in Scripture about being too wise or having too much wisdom (except that we are not to be wise in our own eyes!). Happy proverb hunting! Don –  rhetorician Jun 30 '14 at 22:50

Rhetorician's answer outlines what is the common Pentecostal/Charismatic understanding of these particular gifts of the Spirit. They are usually denoted by the KJV terminology - 'word of wisdom' and 'word of knowledge'.

Here are further definitions, descriptions and examples (I have supplied examples for the word of wisdom) as given in this article Overview of the Nine Gifts of The Holy Spirit by Rodney W. Francis and Alistair Taylor:

THE WORD OF WISDOM (1 Corinthians 12:8 ):

Definition: "The supernatural application of knowledge" (Rev. Dennis Bennett, U.S.A.).

"Wisdom" is "skill, cleverness, the right application of knowledge."

The Word of Wisdom gives us the skill in knowing how and when to minister accurately by the Holy Spirit into peoples' lives. It makes the timing right and enables the other Gifts to make a significant impact.

Examples: Joseph's insight as to the appropriate course of action given the interpretation to Pharoah's dream (cf. Gen 41:33-40); Jesus' confounding the Pharisees' 'taxes to Caesar' trap (cf. Matt 22:15-22); and James' direction for what should be done at the council of Jerusalem (cf. Acts 15:13-21)

THE WORD OF KNOWLEDGE (1 Corinthians 12:8 ):

Definition: "The revelation of facts past, present or future which were not learned through the efforts of the natural mind" (Rev. Dennis Bennett).

"God-given disclosures" (Michael Green).


  • Jesus telling Peter where to find his taxation money - in a fish's mouth! (Matthew 17:27 ).
  • Ananias in the conversion of Paul (Acts 9,22 and 26).

  • Cornelius in finding Peter, who then was instrumental in bringing the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles (Acts 10 ).

The Purpose of The Word of Knowledge:

  • To bring supernatural encouragement.

  • To give confirmation to what God has already been saying or doing.

  • To give insight and understanding of what is ahead in the purposes of God.

  • To help in counselling/evangelistic situations.

  • To unlock hindrances to healing/unanswered prayers.

  • To give strategies in spiritual warfare.

  • To reveal where sin is being covered up.

  • To open up a meeting or situation for God to move.

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