The Word of Knowledge
By David K. Bernard
The apostle Paul identified nine supernatural spiritual gifts in I Corinthians 12:8-10, and every church today needs them in operation. The second gift in the list is “the word of knowledge.”
The Greek word for “knowledge” here is the standard one, gnosis. “Knowledge” means “familiarity, awareness, or understanding gained through experience or study; … the sum or range of what has been perceived, discovered, or learned” (American Heritage Dictionary). This gift involves a revelation of divine information to someone who does not know it by natural means. While another person may know it, the recipient obtains it from the Spirit.
Like the word of wisdom, the “word” of knowledge is not all the knowledge of God, but a portion of God’s knowledge. From the text and context of I Corinthians 12-14, we can define the word of knowledge as the supernatural gift of a portion of divine information for a particular need.
Acts 5:1-10 (NKJV) provides an example of this gift: “But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.’ Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last…. Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter answered her, ‘Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?’ She said, ‘Yes, for so much.’ Then Peter said to her, ‘How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.’ Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last.”
Here, God miraculously revealed to the apostle Peter secret information known only to Ananias and Sapphira. They pretended to give the total price of their land to the church when actually they gave only a part. While it was their right to keep some or all of the money, they sinned by lying to the church, and God disclosed the truth to Peter. After Ananias died, God revealed to Peter that Sapphira would receive the same judgment.
As pioneer missionaries in Korea, my parents had many experiences of the word of knowledge. On one occasion, my mother and two other ministers were walking to a remote coastal village to pray for a pastor who was seriously ill. (My father had to attend an important meeting with the Ministry of Cultural Affairs and Education, which had jurisdiction over missionary work.) The ministers took a shortcut through the rice paddies, a path unknown to my mother. Soon snow began to fall heavily until visibility was almost zero. The travelers began falling into the irrigation ditches along the sides of the path. What should have been a forty-five-minute walk turned into two hours with no end in sight. The party was completely lost.
My mother began to pray earnestly, and the Lord impressed her to go in the opposite direction. Her companions strongly objected, saying that path would lead to the Yellow Sea, which would be dangerous. My mother insisted that God had spoken to her and she would go that direction. Reluctantly, the others followed. After another hour of walking they spotted the lights of the village they sought. Their hands were so numb that they could not knock on the door, but they had arrived safely by a word of knowledge.
While in Korea, my parents conducted English services for American soldiers in addition to their full time missionary work among the Koreans. One day a soldier and the teenage son of a sergeant major came to their house for prayer. As they entered the door, God revealed to my father that the soldier was a homosexual. In private counsel with my parents, the man admitted his homosexuality, and my father took steps to ensure that he would not be alone with any of the young men.
At the close of an evangelistic service one Sunday night in Louisiana, my mother was strongly impressed of God that someone needed to make a definite decision that night. She told the congregation, “There is someone here who should not leave this building without talking to God. I feel a heavy burden about this.” A few weeks later, a construction worker who was in the service was injured on the job and died.
On another occasion in Louisiana, my mother was counseling a woman who had received the Holy Spirit but who continued to live a sinful life. The Spirit of God came upon my mother and revealed that something serious was going to happen to the woman if she did not repent. Within one week she was in the hospital with a paralyzed arm and leg. After she repented in the hospital room and fully dedicated her life to God, God healed her.
A number of times I have felt impressed to make specific requests while praying with people. Later some have told me, “You prayed exactly according to my needs,” even though I had no human knowledge of them or their situations. At a retreat for ministers and wives, the Lord moved powerfully in the last session, and I began praying for various people. Afterwards a senior pastor told me, “I noticed that you walked straight to a young minister from our church, passing everyone else, and laid your hands on him. He faces a crisis and must make an important decision. The words you prayed matched his situation exactly.”
A first-time visitor with an urgent need came to our church in Austin. The church she usually attended taught the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but most of the members had not received this experience. The previous Sunday the pastor and entire congregation had prayed with this woman, but she had not felt the power of God. When she visited our church, I was led to pray with her personally. Later she told the person who had invited her, “He prayed exactly according to my needs, and God touched me. I know God directed his prayers.”
While I was preaching one Sunday morning, in the middle of my message I felt to say, “If there is someone here today who does not know whether God exists or not, God will reveal Himself to you if you will ask Him to do so.” Unknown to me, a first-time visitor had walked in late, just before I made this statement. After service, she told me, “I was raised in a traditional denomination, and I know how to use all the correct religious language. No one else, not even my own family, has any idea of what I am going to tell you, but I do not know if God exists or not. Do you think He will truly reveal Himself to me?” I answered that He had already begun to do so, for He had spoken to her through my message. Later she had a personal encounter with God, was baptized in the name of Jesus, and was filled with the Holy Spirit.
These experiences should not be unusual among us; we should expect God to impart the word of knowledge as He wills and as needs arise. As apostolic Christians, we are to “come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 1:7).
Brother Bernard is president of the Urshan Graduate School of Theology and pastor of New Life United Pentecostal Church in Austin, Texas. This article has been excerpted and adapted from his book Spiritual Gifts, published by Word Aflame Press.
The Above Material Was Published By The Pentecostal Herald, October 2001, Pages 20, 21. This Material Is Copyrighted And May Be Used For Study & Research Purposes Only.xc