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First Corinthians The Epistle of Sanctification - Book 3

An in-depth commentary/study on chapters 12 and 13 of First Corinthians.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Chapter 3

Wisdom and Knowledge

Paul continues in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, saying,

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries [or services], and the same Lord. 6 And there are varieties of effects [or in-workings], but the same God who works all things in all persons.

This is an outline of topics that Paul intended to discuss shortly. The “varieties of gifts” are discussed first in 1 Cor. 12:7-11. The “varieties of ministries” are discussed next in 1 Cor. 12:27-31. The “varieties of effects” (i.e., the different ways that God works within people) are discussed last, beginning with the “Love Chapter” in chapter 13 and into chapter 14.

Nine Gifts

Paul lists nine gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10,

8 For to one is given the word of (1) wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of (2) knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another (3) faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of (4) healing by the one Spirit, 10 and to another the effecting of (5) miracles, and to another (6) prophecy, and to another the (7) distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of (8) tongues, and to another the (9) interpretation of tongues.

The gifts of the Spirit are a believer’s tools by which he may bring forth fruit. So the nine gifts seems to parallel the nine fruit of the Spirit that Paul lists in Gal. 5:22, 23,

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is (1) love, (2) joy, (3) peace, (4) patience, (5) kindness, (6) goodness, (7) faithfulness, 23 (8) gentleness, (9) self-control; against such things there is no law.

There are also nine beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-11.

Nine is the biblical number of visitation, a legal term indicating an investigative delegation that is sent to gather evidence at a possible crime scene. In the New Testament story, the issue was whether or not Judah had brought forth the fruit of the Kingdom, which is essentially the same as the fruit of the Spirit.

John the Baptist was sent to see if the “fig tree” (Judah) had brought forth fruit (Luke 3:8, 9). When he was cast into prison and later executed, Jesus Himself took over the investigation. He gave His report in the form of a parable in Luke 13:6-9.

Neither John nor Jesus found fruit on the tree, and the final verdict was given in the week before Jesus’ crucifixion. He found a fruitless fig tree near the place where He was to be crucified, and he cursed it saying, “No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you” (Matt. 21:19). Was He later crucified on that same tree?

In Luke 19:43, 44 Jesus pronounced judgment upon Jerusalem “because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”

The divine requirement since the beginning has been to bring forth fruit from the vineyard (Kingdom) that God planted in Canaan in the days of Joshua (Isaiah 5:1-7; Matt. 21:33-44). If there is no fruit, then, as John the Baptist said, it will be “cut down and thrown into the fire” (Luke 3:9).

The gifts of the Spirit are given to help believers bring forth the fruit of the Spirit. If we do not bear fruit as individuals, we will be treated as a fuel tree, rather than as a fruit-bearing tree. John the Baptist told the people not to think that they will be immune to such judgment on account of their genealogical connection to Abraham (Luke 3:8), for that is not a factor in this visitation.

The law forbids cutting down fruit-bearing trees in time of war (Deut. 20:19, 20). The same holds true in time of spiritual warfare. Fruit is the issue, and gifts are the aids to bring forth fruit. For this reason, when the church lost the gifts of the Spirit, it became virtually impossible for the church to bear fruit that was fit for God’s consumption. Some church leaders told the people that the gifts had ceased—but would God take away His tools to bring forth fruit?

If I owned a vineyard, would I not supply my employees with all the tools necessary to bring forth fruit? What if I removed their tools shortly after the vineyard had been planted? That is how the Cessationists explain the lack of gifts in the Church. It makes no sense, but their view seems to explain why there is so little fruit in the Church.

The Word of Wisdom (Chokmah)

The first mention of this spiritual gift of wisdom is found in Exodus 28:2, 3,

2 And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. 3 And you shall speak to all the skillful persons whom I have endowed with the spirit of wisdom [chokmah], that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him, that he may minister as priest to Me.

The spirit of wisdom is a gift that is necessary to construct the holy garments for all of God’s priests. Today, we are endowed with the priesthood of Melchizedek, but the pattern is the same. The garments of transfiguration are currently being reserved for us in heaven (2 Cor. 5:1), but we are to construct suitable temporary garments using the heavenly garments as a pattern.

This is similar to the fact that the true Temple is in heaven (Rev. 15:5), but we are to construct a temple here on earth on the heavenly pattern (1 Cor. 3:10-16). So also is it with these garments.

The lesson is that it takes the spirit of wisdom to construct (or weave) the holy garments. A person may put on the garment of salvation as a Passover believer, but Pentecost has given us the spiritual gift of wisdom in order to bring us to the feast of Tabernacles, where we are “clothed with our dwelling from heaven” (2 Cor. 5:2).

Yes, the gifts of the Spirit are important. Not everyone is given the gift of wisdom, of course, but God has distributed all the gifts among His people. The distribution itself is designed to make us dependent upon the body when we need gifts that we ourselves do not have.

Wisdom is knowledge with understanding that gives skill.

The Old Testament is not devoid of the knowledge of spiritual gifts. The problem is that often we have failed to recognize them or to connect them with the list in 1 Corinthians 12. But see, for example, Deut. 34:9,

9 Now Joshua the son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him; and the sons of Israel listened to him and did as the Lord had commanded Moses.

It is not hard to equate “the spirit of wisdom,” which was administered when Moses “laid his hands on him,” with the spiritual gift of wisdom in 1 Cor. 12:8. Further, Paul says in 1 Tim. 4:14,

14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed upon you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery.

We see, then, that spiritual gifts did not begin with Pentecost in the New Testament, nor was it a new practice to endow men with spiritual gifts by “laying on of hands.” Such practice has enjoyed a long history that goes back at least to the time of Moses and Joshua.

Solomon, too, had a divine gift of wisdom (1 Kings 4:29), which gave him the ability to administer righteous judgment (1 Kings 3:28). Exodus 35:31-34 lists more spiritual gifts:

31 And He has filled him [Bezalel] with the Spirit of God, in wisdom [chokmah], in understanding [tabuwn, “understanding, intelligence”] and in knowledge [da’ath, “knowledge”] and in all craftsmanship [melakah, “work, occupation, business”]34 He also has put in his heart to teach [yarah,”to shoot arrows, to teach”]

There are more gifts of the Spirit than the ones listed in 1 Corinthians 12. In fact, James 1:17 tells us that “every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above.”

The important thing is to know that spiritual gifts were not introduced at Pentecost, nor are they limited to the New Testament. Spiritual gifts have been with us from the beginning, because the Holy Spirit has been with us from the beginning of time. Knowing this, it is plain that we should also define these words according to their Hebrew definitions, for although Paul wrote in Greek to a Greek audience, he was using Greek words to express Hebrew thought patterns.

Wisdom, then, is revealed in judgment, that is, one’s ability to discern the truth and to render a proper verdict according to the mind of God, as set forth in the law. So it is with Solomon, whose ability to discern the truth amazed the people of his day. Chokmah is intelligence in judgment, to be insightful and discerning. Like all things Hebrew, chokmah is rooted in the law, because it comes from God and is an expression of His own character.

Recall from Paul’s earlier discussion in the first two chapters of his letter how Paul found it necessary to distinguish between “the wisdom of this world” (1 Cor. 3:19) and “God’s wisdom” (1 Cor. 2:7). The wisdom of this world is from “the spirit of the world,” (1 Cor. 2:12) whereas the gift of wisdom is from the Spirit of God.

There is soulish wisdom and knowledge, and there is spiritual wisdom and knowledge. Since Paul already distinguished between the two in the earlier chapters of his letter, he does not discuss this further in chapter 12. However, we ought to read chapter 12 with this in mind, for this understanding of soul and spirit is foundational to chapter 12.

The Word of Knowledge (da’ath)

The second gift of the Spirit is the word of knowledge. Knowledge is information, and the gift of knowledge goes beyond learning. It is a supernatural knowing, whereby the Holy Spirit gives information that the person could not have known. Such knowledge often comes without any understanding. If it is accompanied by understanding, then both wisdom and knowledge are operating simultaneously. Gifts often operate in pairs when they function practically.

Biblical knowledge essentially refers to the acquisition of truth. In the early 1900’s, when Pentecost was reintroduced to the Church on a large scale, it came in the midst of much dead knowledge from the school of Higher Criticism. Many carnally-minded scholars picked apart the Bible and concluded that it was written by uninspired men. Pentecost revolted against this and the pendulum swung in the opposite direction. Many discarded knowledge in favor of inspired ignorance.

Knowledge was discredited, and truth was cast down with it. Many equated knowledge with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden, and they wanted no part of it. In their rejection of knowledge, they also rejected truth, which the Holy Spirit was offering to them. Without truth, such people lacked much knowledge of God. Prov. 1:22 says, “fools hate knowledge.” On the other hand, Paul cried out, “that I may know Him” (Phil. 3:10). Knowing God does not require some level of natural ignorance. Rather, we are to subordinate our soulish knowledge to that which our spirit conveys from the Holy Spirit.

We have already seen from 1 Cor. 2:14, 15 that knowledge comes from two main sources: the soul and the spirit. Soulish knowledge of God can be obtained by reading the Bible, but spiritual knowledge comes by hearing the word. As long as we understand the difference, we will be able to discern the quality of knowledge by which we live.

One of the functions of the Holy Spirit is to convict of sin, as we read in John 16:8,

8 And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment.

So we read in Leviticus 4:23 (KJV),

23 or if his sin, wherein he hath sinned, come to his knowledge, he shall bring his offering…

 There are some who teach that the knowledge of sin is a bad thing. If they sin, they would rather not know about it. Ignorance is bliss, as they say. They avoid reading the law, because, as Paul said in Rom. 3:20, “through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” They read this as a warning not to study the law, lest we wallow in guilt all of our lives. But this is a misrepresentation of Paul’s intent, for how can a man repent (change) without first acknowledging that which must be changed? How can the Holy Spirit convict us of sin if we refuse to acknowledge that lawless acts are sin and fall short of God’s glory?

There are those who refuse to acknowledge anything negative in themselves. They have been taught not to “confess” anything negative, because they have been told that such confession somehow creates the condition. But 1 John 1:8-10 says,

8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

This is how we “walk in the light,” as he says in verse 7. This is how we acknowledge truth and deal with it. We were never expected to wallow in guilt all of our lives. But if we do not have the knowledge of sin in our lives, how can we apply the blood of Jesus to it? How can we grow spiritually? How can we bear fruit? What will He find in the day of His visitation?

We need the word of knowledge as a spiritual gift.