Words of Knowledge
One way God reveals His will is through a word of knowledge telling about a past or present event. This exciting gift is a rhema—God’s now word to meet a need or give direction. People refer to this as “reading someone’s mail” because of the incredible insight into lives. This amazing overcoming tool changes people, but it can also make us unpopular with those who don’t want us to know their secrets. God reveals this so we can understand “the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:2-3).
That treasure is ours for the asking in Holy Spirit.
People’s responses to words will vary. Sometimes, mouths drop open while they exclaim, “Who told you that?” One morning, I was on the ministry team at church when Jan slipped into my line. As I prayed, I saw a vision of her laughing and running in a field of green wheat. God said simply, “It’s not yet time for the harvest.” She burst into boisterous tears. She’d been diligently praying for a need that week when, as she drove down the street, God spoke into her heart, “It’s not yet time for the harvest.” That morning, God gave necessary confirmation.
Another time, service was nearly over when I felt drawn to a young mother behind me. I’d noticed her a few times but didn’t know her name or anything about her. At first, I thought I was supposed to pray at our seats when the pastor gave the ministry call, but God said to ask her to go forward. I risked her saying no, especially since she didn’t know me, but my job was to obey Holy Spirit. When the pastor asked us to stand, I turned and told her what I felt. She initially hesitated, but she said okay and asked me to go with her. Her eyes teared when the other minister and I prayed and gave words of knowledge. Later, she said she’d felt like going forward for several weeks and again that morning but was too shy. She’d just told the Lord if He wanted her to go to have someone else tell her; then I turned around. Sharing words of knowledge lets people realize their lives are important to God.
That’s not how everyone reacts, though. We’d all like people to jump at each revelation, but often the opposite will occur. Paul’s thorn in the flesh came because satan wanted to fight his rhema (see 2 Cor. 12:7). Keep in mind that when you share words of knowledge, each revelation has potential for trouble because the enemy doesn’t want revelation given. Whether you’re fought by a skeptic or even by trials through people who love you, Paul warned to “recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings” (Heb. 10:32). He understood that with revelation (illumination) come trials (struggles). Many of us have been there, done that.
Words of knowledge occur throughout the Bible. As Mary approached Elizabeth when they were both pregnant, by Holy Spirit’s revelation Elizabeth knew her cousin was carrying God’s Son (see Luke 1:41). When Jesus told Peter and other fishermen that casting their nets to the boat’s right side would produce a great catch, He spoke through a word of knowledge (see Luke 5:4). When the new baby was brought to Anna, she reinforced that He was truly the awaited Messiah through a word of knowledge (see Luke 2:38). After Saul’s Damascus Road experience, Ananias received a word of knowledge that confirmed Saul’s conversion (see Acts 9:10-18).
My favorite word of knowledge story is from Jesus’ ministry. Just like today, when people debate prophetic validity, Jesus was constantly challenged. Once, Nathanael had been sitting beneath a fig tree when an excited Philip told him Jesus was the Messiah. Nathanael couldn’t believe it because Jesus was from a less-than-desirable city, and “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). Can’t you imagine this discussion today? Can anything good come from that city, college, family, occupation? But Jesus changed Nathanael’s opinion when, as he approached the Lord, Jesus made a statement. When Nathanael asked, “How do You know me?” (John 1:48), Jesus replied, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you” (John 1:48). This incident mirrors my experiences. As a result of Holy Spirit’s revelation, people are changed.
The Greek for words of knowledge is gnosis, which means “knowing (the act)…knowledge, science.” References exist to gnosis as spiritual words of knowledge and as literal knowledge. Paul uses this word in 1 Corinthians 8:1 when he explains how people tried to settle a doctrinal dispute with logic rather than love toward one another. He also uses the word in 1 Corinthians 12:8 when he discusses the gifts, “For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit.” Paul’s usages are far apart—one deals with logical knowledge, the other with spiritual knowledge. However, that duality describes us. We’re flesh and blood men and women who allow the Spirit to work as revelation planted into our spirits comes into our physical minds, giving access to spiritual revelations.
Words of knowledge provide much for Spirit-filled Christians.
They enrich lives and give understandable revelations (see 1 Cor. 1:5; 2:10). They make us conquerors (see 2 Cor. 10:4-5). Those words are beautiful smelling. Like a costly perfume, Holy Spirit “through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place” (2 Cor. 2:14). Think of that. Through us, God brings that beautiful fragrance everywhere we go, and the gnosis knowledge creates the sweet savor of God. When you come into a room, do you bring Holy Spirit’s fragrance?
From DNA to hair follicles, everyone and everything is different, and the same applies to gifts. Though a limited number exists, every person “has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that” (1 Cor. 7:7). Once, a friend had a vision about one vine growing with other vines attached, each containing multicolored leaves. Those leaves represented the gifts. We come from the same vine and even have the same gifts, but our gifts operate differently with each person’s own nuance of color. Others’ gifts aren’t like mine, nor are mine like theirs, by God’s design. It’s “one and the same Spirit [who] works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills” (1 Cor. 12:11).
Because gifts function differently, controversy may occur. Once, Wade and I visited a church and received several words of knowledge resulting in miracles. One woman still tells how Holy Spirit gave me such a specific word about her pain that though she hadn’t witnessed words of knowledge before, she knew the revelation was for her. She responded, and her excruciating pain was healed. Later, someone from that church told me I was faking that gift. I was stunned.
“Well, not exactly faking it,” he said, “because you believe it yourself. But my pastor hears from God, and he said how you get messages isn’t how that works.” Though administrations of gifts, ministries, activities, and forms differ, it’s the same Spirit working His way. Although we must determine if someone is legitimately operating in the Spirit, no one can judge another’s administration of the gifts or even choose how Holy Spirit decides to use us. I’m glad He determines who does what and how because He’s so much smarter than we are.
How It Operates
Because of people’s varied administrations of the gifts, covering every possibility for how someone may receive a word of knowledge is impossible. The main ways God communicates through words of knowledge are unctions, visions, and dreams (usually words of wisdom). How people receive words of knowledge varies from person to person or revelation to revelation. Sometimes, revelation comes through a simple word we either see, hear, or feel, though we may not know what it means. For instance, God once spoke synapse to me. A lady raised her hand immediately, eyes wide. Her young child had been to a doctor, who told her the girl’s problems were with her synapses. The lady had never heard that word before, so she was shocked when God spoke it to me. Words of knowledge let people see God’s majesty and care for them.
Like with our physical bodies, we become accustomed to how our gifts work. My mother, a William Branham follower in the fifties, said he once told them that when his hand tingled, he knew an angel was there for a miracle. You’ll discover other ways of revelation by trial, error, and experience as words of knowledge are revealed to you. When a tingling or oil comes in my hands, I know God’s going to do a miracle. Sometimes my palms get so hot they’re uncomfortable as I lay them on someone. When that happens, God wants to infuse healing power into that person.
Wade and I also both get words about needs by feeling another person’s physical sensation. One day, before Wade preached a funeral in Hamilton, Ohio, we were talking to a pastor. The longer we stood beside him, the worse my back felt. Finally, I turned to that pastor, put my hand on my back where I was hurting, and asked if he had back problems. Tearfully, he nodded. He’d come home early that day from vacation because his back had been bothering him so badly. As we prayed, the pain stopped.
This aspect of experiencing pain of people near me has proven itself time and again. I sometimes feel it for someone at the next table in a restaurant, in the pew beside me, or even as I write on Facebook. I really appreciate this administration of words of knowledge because it’s precise. I’ve heard scoffers denigrate words of knowledge by saying that having an accurate word is an accident or people getting lucky and guessing what to pray for. That statement shows inexperience with how Holy Spirit works; but even if that were true, this administration of this gift tells exact symptoms and location. Arguing with that is difficult.
Connie Hunter Urban, author of Your Holy Spirit Arsenal