Blogging the Gifts – The Word of Wisdom

Blogging the Gifts – The Word of Wisdom February 28, 2006

I have spent more than thirty years of my life in charismatic churches, and these reflections try to summarize that experience. This particular series is not an attempt to justify the continuation of the gifts theologically as I have done that elsewhere and in my debate with Dan Phillips. Nor is this post intended to persuade you – I want you to be persuaded by the Bible, not mere experience! Instead, here I want to simply answer the question, “What do the gifts look like in practice in places that claim they exist today?” I did, however, begin the series by looking at the context of 1 Corinthians 12 in five posts (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 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.” 1 Corinthians 12:7-11

My series on 1 Corinthians 12 finally continues, and thanks to all of you for your patience. Today I finally start my discussion of the gifts themselves and what they look like in my experience. I will speak from my global experience, and may change certain details or give hypothetical examples to protect people. If you think yourecognizee yourself here, you could well be wrong!

The word of wisdom is understood by most charismatics I have been around as a divinely inspired piece of wise advice or a wise statement. This can sometimes be something that a person is conscious of having been dropped into their mind – possibly by God, or it might be something that spontaneously springs to mind.

Words of wisdom might occur in a counseling session, in a sermon, in an ordinary conversation, or in a discussion about leading a church. The wise pastor will somehow “know” exactly what the congregation or individual needs to hear. Sometimes the supernatural is very obvious in this gift, and at other times it is far from clear where the wisdom has come from.

In common with many of the gifts, I am not so sure that being 100 per cent certain of the mode by which wisdom is received is important. If the wise words are both helpful AND biblically sound, what does it matter if it was purely the workings of a sanctified mind, or if there was an element of a direct divine authorship?

I know that some of my most memorable illustrations when I preach are dropped into my mind on the spur of the moment despite many hours of careful consideration of what to say. Does my brain simply work better under pressure, or is it (as I believe) that I am carried along by the Holy Spirit? Arguably even such a question reveals an unhelpful dualism. God MADE my mind, and if He chooses to use it to produce an utterance of wisdom that helps others, how is that somehow inferior to the wisdom that comes direct from God?

The clearest biblical example of the gift of wisdom is, of course, Solomon. There are many examples in his life of this, one of which is of course how he dealt with two women who both claimed a living child as their own. His immediate command to kill the baby and divide it revealed which mother was telling the truth (i.e. the one who wanted the child to be given to the other mother instead of allowing the child to be killed). The fact that this quick-witted wisdom seemed to come at just the right time makes me feel it may have been immediately given by God.

Wisdom is a rare gift, and those that have it do well to remember that however it comes, true wisdom is always a gift from God, and as such any kind of wise utterance is given to us by God. In the context of this passage, however, it seems we can expect a kind of wisdom to be given from time to time that far exceeds the natural wisdom that a man may possess. Such supernatural wisdom is, of course, often associated with the gift of leadership.

Like other revelatory gifts, “words of wisdom” will often be given in reformed charismatic circles without much fanfare, and with a clear sense that the word can be “taken or left” – thus it may well not be identified as a word of wisdom or a spiritual gift at all.

An example might be: “I was thinking and praying about you the other day and it suddenly struck me that perhaps the best way for you to become a policeman, given that you failed your last interview, would be to try for a job as a civilian behind a desk in the local police station, and then study to get another qualification before trying again – what do you think?” Of course words like this might be offered without any sense of being directly inspired by the Spirit, and the wise counselor will often offer words that he thinks may have been given to him by God in a way that leaves the hearer free to reject.

Actually, often the word of wisdom isrecognizedd as such, not so much by the speaker as by the hearers who suddenly embrace the spoken words as the “right” thing to do or say.

Ultimately wisdom is just that – knowing the right way of applying unchanging truths to a changing world.

Blogging the gifts series next:
Blogging the gifts the word of knowledge
Blogging the gifts – some sermons to keep you going
Blogging the gifts – more on the Holy Spirit
Piper on using charismatic gifts today
Sola Scriptura and the gifts
Blogging the gifts – an interlude on receiving the Spirit
Reclaiming fraternal love
Blogging on the gifts 1Corinthians 12 part 3

From a reader on gifts of the Holy Spirit
Blogging the gifts 1Corinthians 12:1-3
Blogging the Gifts 1Corinthians 12:1

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