In ministry, the gifts of word of knowledge and wisdom, respectively, do not always function together. Some people function well in word of knowledge who lack a corresponding function of wisdom and discernment. While the Bible doesn’t specifically say that we should pray for gifts other than prophecy and interpretation of spiritual language, activating wisdom and discernment or providing the function of these gifts along with knowledge or in concert with knowledge through a team approach can be beneficial.
A word of knowledge is more a particular, a detail, known by revelatory means that provides an insight of an existing condition. A word of wisdom is more a strategy about what to do or how to proceed about an existing condition. They are obviously different spiritual capacities. People do function in one without the other.
Personally, I like to see leaders function with discernment and wisdom even more than knowledge; however, I don’t wish to sound like I am diminishing the capacity to receive knowledge of particulars and details. I am not providing an heirarchy of gifts list; notwithstanding, the Scripture does make prophecy a capacity of spiritual grace to be desired more than others. The point is that some gift functions are more strategic than others in terms of their scope of application.
Wisdom as Strategy
I am using the term, “strategy,” in the sense of a means or plan of accomplishing a goal or fulfilling a purpose. “Knowledge” might be “what” while “strategy would be “how” and “when.” Wisdom tends to fit the particular or particulars into a process. Immediately a word of knowledge arrives, something needs to be done with it. Often, the particular itself presents an obvious response: knowledge of a person’s sickness presents the obvious response of releasing God’s healing power. Or, a word of knowledge that someone in a service “running from God” presents the obvious response of calling to “run toward God.” All this can occur, and often does, without an accompanying word of wisdom because the word of knowledge happens with an existing strategy in place.
The word of wisdom is a specific strategic way of releasing grace – the gifts are capacities of grace, charismata, based upon the word charis. Grace is an enabling capacity or power. Paul speaks of his ministry as a grace, his personal transformation that has produced his personal condition as “by God’s grace,” and allows that grace capacities like those listed come to us from Holy Spirit as enabling capacities only available from God.
I would point us to Ephesians and Paul’s statement of God’s “manifold wisdom” as an example of what I mean by wisdom as strategy. In his discussion of God’s hidden plan, a plan He has been working out since the Beginning, God’s purpose is now on display in the spiritual realm through the Ecclesia. Paul says, “God manifold wisdom.” God’s plan and purpose hearken back to His many-faceted wisdom, a varieties of a basic, motivating strategy revealed in many ways, a underlying presupposition that gives sense to all the plans and purposes in terms of what to do, when to do it, and how to do it so the plans produce the purpose.
In a much simpler way, the word of wisdom gives us a much simpler “what to do, when to do it, and how to do it” approach to accomplishing by this enabling spiritual capacity. The strategy arrives through our spirit, presenting a way to do something that we could not expect to discover through our natural mind. After the word of wisdom functions for a time, we will recognize some of these strategies by experience or varieties of them because we have heard God use this wisdom before.
At no time, however, is this wisdom a result of our natural mind or experience. It is always an archive of spiritual wisdom, a result of God’s revealing, not our ability or capacity without Him. In this way, I mean to say that we do not appropriate spiritual capacities to train ourselves and eventually outgrow the need to activate our spiritual gifts. Instead, we appropriate this source more and more through maturity, able to function with increasing reliance upon spiritual capacities of grace and less and less upon our own abilities!
In this sense, the revelatory gift of Paul caught him up into Paradise but the experience did not diminish the function of grace in his life; rather, a hellish messenger began delivering fist-a-cuff messages that drove Paul to surrender to more grace and appropriate God’s ultimate strength in his ultimate weakness.
If you function with word of knowledge, you should ask God for the capacity of word of wisdom. This is different from wisdom in this way: the word of wisdom is not an ocean but a good gulp from the wellspring. It is a strategic portion of wisdom arriving at the moment and situation in which it fits as God’s hand in your glove. In this way, a word of wisdom makes you wise enough to lean more on God, not to assume that your experiences with words of wisdom has accumulated to a PhD of Divine Wisdom. The gift will help you avoid programming Divine wisdom even when God assigns you to arrange accumulated revelations into a ministry format.