Ask Norm!

By Norman S. Edwards

From SVM – Winter 2013-2

February 4, 2013

Hi Norm,

I am very interested in knowing how I know if I have the gift of knowledge from the Lord. I receive words and feel I want to share them. I have received some and shown them to someone at church and she says they are not always for now. You may need to wait on some of them. I need to talk to someone or get some advice; I would never want to misuse anything from the Lord. I love Him.

I am a Christian and love the Lord with all my heart. Any advice?

God Bless, Roberta


Dear Roberta,

Thank you very much for writing this letter. I would much rather read letters about doing our Father’s work and using His gifts than dealing with church problems— though that is often necessary, too.

Spiritual gifts are an important part of the work Christ is doing in His Body, the Church (Col 1:18). These gifts are discussed specifically in five different passages (1Cor 12, 14; Eph. 4:11-15; Rom 12:6-8; 1Pet 4:8–11) and found in principle many other places. While some church groups believe in them and encourage them, most never officially recognize them and some deny that Christ still gives them. In most congregations, the people give of their wealth (which is a spiritual gift), then a person who has been to seminary receives a salary and does nearly all the spiritual work. Sometimes these paid people are gifted by God—sometimes they are not.  It seems that you may have a gift, but to me, it appears to be a gift of prophecy rather than knowledge. The gift of knowledge is mentioned in this verse:

“For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:8)

The Greek word for “knowledge” here is gnosis, which means knowing facts. It generally refers to knowledge attained through the normal human senses, not something a person receives divinely. We can see this explained in Paul’s writing:

“How that by revelation Hemadeknownto me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ.”(Ephesians 3:3-4).

Notice the sequence: Paul received a revelation which made known a mystery. A “revelation” is a large-scale prophecy—the book of Revelation calls itself a prophecy (Revelation 1:3; 22:7, 18, 19). Then Paul wrote it down for the Ephesians to read. When they read it, they understood it as knowledge (Greek gnosis). It was not supernaturally “revealed” to them, but taught to them.

Some people attach divine inspiration to the phrases “word of wisdom” or “word of knowledge” in 1 Corinthians 12:8, but the Greek for “word” is logos. It is used 316 times in the New Testament and often translated “speech” or “saying”. It is used for bad words as well as good ones: “Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words [logos] unsettling your souls…” (Acts 15:24). Paul is simply saying that some people have the ability to speak knowledge—to explain true principles, and to speak wisdom—the application of knowledge to life situations.

If you have been divinely given messages about the present or future, this is prophecy. Sometimes prophecy comes by dreams or visions, sometimes by angels speaking, sometimes by people hearing a voice— be it directly from the Father and Son or through the Holy Spirit. For example, “Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go near and overtake this chariot’” (Acts 8:29).

Everywhere in the New Testament, where we have the actual message of a prophecy, it is something that was revealed by God—either about the present or the future. When your friend says that your messages are “not always for now”, it indeed sounds prophetic. Prophecies, such as those interpreted by Joseph or Daniel, or the book of Revelation, often are symbolic and need interpretation; knowledge does not.

How can you know if a prophecy is from God? The Bible often warns about false prophets! Paul gives a simple means: “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge” (1 Corinthians 14:29). The other members of your congregation can use the Scriptures or their own prayer to determine if your prophetic messages are from God and if they apply to now or a future time. Even Old Testament prophets had to sometimes pray for understanding of their prophecies, and were occasionally told that they were not going to get it in their lifetime: “And he said, ‘Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end’” (Daniel 12:9).

When one receives prophetic messages, it is very important to separate the prophecy from one’s opinions of its interpretation. Biblical prophets were always careful to accurately state or write exactly what they saw or heard, and then separately give their understanding (or lack of understanding) about the prophecy’s meaning. This writer is aware of people who presently receive prophecies and do the same thing.

One also needs to be aware of the scope of prophecies. Prophets in the Old Testament were sometimes told to take their message to the leaders or to all the people. Other prophetic messages, like Joseph’s warning to flee to Egypt with Jesus, are just for a few people (Matthew 2:13).  If you have received a message about others, but were not told to take it to them, it would certainly be wise to pray again to know if you should take it to them. The Bible does teach the telling of prophecies in local congregations so that the other believers may judge them (1Corinthians 14:29).  It is perfectly normal that you and your friends would have some trouble knowing what to do. Many biblical prophets find their messages difficult to understand and some were punished for delivering them. Yet, as the condition of our world worsens, I believe that it is largely through local prophecy, as in Acts 11:28-29, that God’s people will be able to continue to do His work.

If you would like to more specifically describe some of the messages you have received, we would be glad to try to help you and our readers understand how to deal with them.

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