“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. … to another [is given] the word of knowledge …” 1 Corinthians 12:4, 8a
The word of knowledge is not divine assistance in the accumulation of knowledge, but rather knowledge previously unknown which is supernaturally and instantly imparted to the believer by the Holy Spirit. Jesus often manifested the word of knowledge. In chapter 1 of the Gospel of John, Philip brought Nathanael to Jesus and He said to Nathanael, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” Nathanael responded by saying, “How do You know me?” Jesus said, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you” (John 1:47–48). Now, Jesus had not actually seen Nathanael, but He had knowledge of him. It was information about something that could not have been known naturally.
On another occasion, Jesus manifested the word of knowledge when He sent Peter down to the Sea of Galilee. He told Peter that the first fish he caught would have a coin in its mouth, which would pay the taxes for both of them (see Matthew 17:27).
Elisha the Prophet
In Old Testament times, we see this gift operating in the ministry of Elisha the prophet. He was able to tell his servant the very things that he had done, although he had no natural knowledge of them (see 2 Kings 5:1–27).
He was also able to foil the plans of the king of Syria to such an extent that the king was convinced he had a spy in his midst. A man in the service of the king said that his men were not spies but that Elisha, the prophet in Israel, know what the king said in his bedroom (see 2 Kings 6:12). This was a manifestation of the word of knowledge.
Some people argue that the gifts of the Spirit did not operate in the Old Testament for the Holy Spirit had not yet been given. It is true that the Spirit had not yet been poured out upon all flesh, which was the promise of the new covenant (see Acts 2:17), but He certainly came upon individuals. How else could they have been categorized as prophets?
A Gift for Today
The word of knowledge, manifested in the Old Testament through Elisha and in the ministry of Jesus, is a gift that believers can experience today. I had received the gift of knowledge on several occasions while teaching the Word of God, as the Holy Spirit suddenly illuminated to me the exact meaning of a difficult text. I once received a word of knowledge concerning a strange illness that was afflicting one of my children. The moment I looked at him, I knew what was wrong and I phoned the doctor and told him. He was very skeptical. Nevertheless, he wanted me to bring him into the office to run some tests. Sure enough, the diagnosis the Lord gave to me was accurate, and it saved my son from what could have become a chronic and potentially fatal condition.
To Set Us Free
Many times my wife has experienced the word of knowledge coming through her to benefit others. While leading in prayer at a conference for women, she suddenly had an image in her mind of a small, black bag in which someone was storing bitterness. After describing what she had seen, a woman approached her in tears, saying, “I am the one you are referring to. My mother died recently, and I have been bitter toward God. I have been keeping her ashes in a small black bag!” God used this word of knowledge to assure this woman that He was aware of her pain. It was the knowledge of His concern that set her free.
Let us continue to pray that God will use this gift to bless us, to encourage the body of Christ around us, and to minister to those who have yet to believe in Jesus.