- To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice (λόγος σοφίας, 1 Cor 12:8)1Wisdom is the ability to use knowledge for correct behavior, insight, understanding (Col 4:5), or in a clever way, skill, cleverness (1 Cor 1:17); here it denotes enlightenment given through divine revelation (2 Pet 3:15).
Nature of the Gift
First, we may note that it is not shallow “words of human wisdom” (1 Cor. 1:17). This gift doesn’t qualify anyone as a resident answer-man; rather, it is a particular occasion where God grants someone supernatural insight rather than a gift of resident wisdom. That it is a “message” may indicate temporary rather than resident nature; it certainly does not make you the guru for a local congregation. Thiselton speaks of “articulate utterances relating to ‘wisdom,’” putting wisdom in quotes because the term σοφία/sophia (“wisdom”) is a catchword for a key controversy throughout 1 Corinthians.2Thiselton, 1 Corinthians, 938–39. See 1 Cor 1:17, 19ff., 24, 30; 2:1, 4ff., 13; 3:19; 12:8. And Paul uses it elsewhere quite a bit too, Rom 11:33; 2 Cor 1:12; Eph 1:8, 17; 3:10; Col 1:9, 28; 2:3, 23; 3:16; 4:5.
This, along with the message of knowledge, might form a two-part breakdown that further specifies the content of the more diverse term, prophecies.
The Bible gives some examples of those who exercised this gift. We think of Solomon, who showed this wisdom in particular messages of wisdom such as the case with the two women claiming the same child. We think of Jesus amazing the elders and confounding his opponents with his words.
I can think of a personal occasion where I thought a fellow pastor in our district exercised this gift. We had a rather heated exchange in our district council on an issue that divided the young pastors from the older pastors. The younger pastors were arguing for spending more money on youth work; the older pastors were arguing that we needed to be good stewards of the finances of our district and not try to do more than we could. We had reaching an angry impasse when someone invited the district youth director to speak to the issue of whether we should attempt this new and expensive form of youth ministry. He said, “Well, of my friends are for it, and some of my friends are against it; I’m with my friends.” The delegates at the council chuckled, looked at each other a little shamefacedly, resolved the issue peacefully, and move on to other business. We had been reminded, by a humorous word of wisdom, that we were all co-laborers in Christ—and friends.